2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison Review

Midsize truck sales are booming, and pre-accessorized trucks sell faster and with more margin than their regular counterparts. Chevrolet knows this, which is why you can now get its ZR2 off-road truck upgraded with parts from American Expedition Vehicles.

Called the Bison, the hopped-up ZR2 features some serious kit to help you on the trails. Boron steel skid plates that are stronger than the standard units help protect your undercarriage from even the sharpest of boulders.

Steel bumpers, with the front being winch ready, help protect the truck from obstacles you might run into. Rock rails protect the sides and truck bed. You can even spec a snorkel, so your truck can get the cleanest air possible.

AEV-specific wheels and off-road tires round out what is already a capable off-roader. Remember that standard ZR2s have front and rear lockers, plus a trick DSSV spool valve suspension setup from Multimatic.

On paper, the truck is a recipe for success. But does it all work? We hit up some trails outside of Phoenix to find out.

On the road, the Multimatic suspension shines. Like most pickup trucks, the Bison has a leaf spring rear suspension setup. But the DSSV shocks smooth out the ride. That’s the beauty of the tech; it can handle the rigors of off-road without sacrificing any on-road capability.

The dirt and gravel trails leading to the off-road area of our journey were no match for Bison or the suspension. What is smooth on the highway is also smooth across the bumps. The shocks react quickly to the changes in the terrain so your teeth and falling out.

Steering is also responsive with enough feel that you can tell what type of pavement you’re on. Chevy trucks always have had some of the better steering feel of modern systems, and the Bison is no exception.

But none of this is Bison-specific. In fact, the DSSV suspension is standard on a regular ZR2. So what really makes the Bison worth it?

Protection. While I made every effort to not scrape the underside of the truck when rock crawling, the fact of the matter is that it happens. The skid plates are there for a reason and in really complicated terrain, they’re worth their weight in gold.

The rock rails also help prevent damage, and while I did find myself off the regular path in a field of boulders, there was very little noticeable scraping on steel bumper for when I got hung up without a spotter.

A wider track with 31-inch Goodyear Duratrac off-road tires also finds grip where you wouldn’t expect to have grip. If you plan on actually off-roading your midsize pickup truck, the ZR2 Bison is the way to go.

The model I drove also was outfitted with a sports bar, LED lighting, and a tonneau cover. It definitely looked the business of off-roading, and is designed to show you what some of the upgrades you could make to the truck.

At the time of this publication, this is the off-road midsize truck to buy. Bar none.

Starting next year, there’s competition for the Bison. Chevrolet during its presentation talked about how the Bison competes with the Wrangler. Well, now there’s an elephant in the room. Or rather, there’s a Gladiator.

Jeep’s Gladiator pickup is more than a Wrangler with a truck bed. It tows 7,000 pounds in Rubicon trim – 2,000 more than ZR2 – and has similar off-road hardware. While we don’t know pricing yet, expect it to be competitive with the Colorado ZR2 when it goes on sale.

As for pricing of the Bison, it starts at $48,045 U.S. for the extended cab model or $49,645 U.S. for the crew cab. Both pricing includes the $995 U.S. destination charge.

The truck goes on sale in January.

a version of this review first appeared on AutoGuide

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