Driven: 2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2

Written by: 
Justin Kaehler
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When it comes to factory-built bro trucks, two machines promptly come to mind: Ford’s Raptor and Toyota’s Tacoma TRD Pro. The Raptor is a massive, overbuilt machine that’s as comfortable hauling ass across the desert as it is hauling Costco-sized cases of Monster Energy Drink. Toyota’s Tacoma TRD Pro is a milder build – essentially a stock Tacoma with a couple of extra parts – but comes packed with the Toyota’s decades of off-road cred.

However, there’s a third truck that plays in this space that’s just as cool, but lesser known for some reason: Chevrolet’s Colorado ZR2.

Chevy hooked us up with a Colorado ZR2 Midnight Edition Crew Cab for a week, and if we were to equate these three trucks to the Three Bears – making us Goldilocks, we guess – Chevy’s truck is the one we find “just right.” It’s easier to drive than the Raptor, and feels like more of an aftermarket build than the TRD Pro. 

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Dusk and Midnight Editions

But since we’re all about parts porn, let’s talk about what separates the ZR2 from the standard Chevy Colorado. The first thing one notices is the height: the ZR2 rides about 2 inches taller than stock, and the beefy suspension features a segment-exclusive Multimatic DSSV suspension and cast-iron control arms. Speaking of things segment-exclusive, Chevrolet also claims that this is the only truck in its segment with front and rear electronic locking differentials. Up front, a unique front bumper helps maximizes approach angle, and wider fenders front and rear provide a stylish home for the knobby 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires. Crawl underneath and you’ll find functional rock sliders to help protect the oily bits below.

Our Colorado ZR2 Midnight Edition takes this “basic” platform and dials up the “bad ass” factor with its black-on-black-on black color scheme, ZR2-branded roll bar with LED lighting, and a full-size bed-mounted spare. For us ‘80s kids, it looks like the modern-day version of the truck Marty McFly lusted after in the first Back to the Future movie. So yeah, based on looks alone, this truck really speaks to us.

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 underbody

Thankfully, it’s nice to drive, too. Our test mule came equipped with the standard, 306-horsepower 3.6-liter DOHC V6. Torque output is a respectable 275 lb.-ft. at 4000 rpm, and when properly equipped can help this Chevy tow up to 6,000 pounds. Like gears? The Colorado ZR2 has lots of them, giving you 8 forward speeds to give you more low-down grunt, more top-end efficiency, and more of everything in between.

What’s most noticeable about the way this truck drives is how completely normal it feels. Off-road builds often feel soft and squishy – lazily scraping their door handles through turns – as their bouncy bits are tuned primarily to soak up aggressive terrain. The Chevy, thanks to its Multimatic suspension, feels poised when taking on everything from the freeway to the mall parking lot. Well, as poised as a body-on-frame truck can be. Even the road noise is minimal, which is shocking as the tread on those Goodyear Duramax tires are aggressive enough to rattle out teeth.

Thing are functional – but nice – inside as well. Seating is covered black leather, and the center display features a high-res screen and integrated Apple CarPlay. There’s not a lot of “wow” factor here, but as the Colorado first and foremost is a pickup truck, the simplicity of the cabin just works.

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 interior

Interior space is great for everyday drives, but taking a longer trip in this Colorado can pose a problem. That bed-mounted, full-size spare takes up a ton of room, making it impossible to carry bikes, bags, or anything larger than a Yeti cooler. Also, this truck’s imposing height looks cool, but presents a problem when driving through the city. Driving around downtown Los Angeles, we had to enter, and then back out of more than one parking garage – much to the dismay of the cars waiting behind us. But that’s a small price to pay for looking this bad-ass, we guess.

As we get older, and as it gets harder to get in and out of our ground-scraping JDM rides, we can’t help but find trucks like the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 immensely appealing. It’s fun to bomb through potholes and speed over train tracks and not have to worry about destroying our undercarriage. Also, we’ll never complain about being able to buy what is essentially a “parts catalog” car with a full warranty.

The only big complaint we had is that we didn’t have the time to take this hard-core Colorado off-roading. Oh well, that gives us an excuse to ask Chevy for one again.

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2