Yes, I drove a Colorado in Colorado.
When launching a new vehicle, car companies try to match the experience with the ride. So, for example, we first got to drive the brutal and exotic Lamborghini Aventador S on a racetrack in far-off Spain. Families were invited along for the debut of the kid-friendly Honda Odyssey minivan. It stands to reason, then, that Chevy brought us to the dusty desert outside Grand Junction, CO, to show us what their new off-road beast, the Colorado ZR2, is capable of.
The midsize pickup—available in crew or extended cab configurations—is a direct response to the mighty Ford Raptor and Toyota’s equally capable Tacoma TRD Pro. As we learned when the ZR2 was announced late last year at the L.A. Auto Show, the souped-up Colorado (starting MSRP is $40,995) features a wider track, a two-inch lifted suspension with cast-iron control arms, steel tube rocker panel protectors, and front and rear bumpers with tapered ends for increased tire clearance. (Trust us when we say you’ll want to stare at all 31 inches of the off-road Goodyear Wrangler Duratracs wrapped around sweet new 17-inch aluminum wheels.)
In other words, it’s pretty much built to race in the desert—and that’s exactly what Chevy had us do.
We got all four wheels off the ground while zipping around the two-mile “trophy course,” a medium-speed Baja-style off-road track with multiple dirt ramps. The truck gets up to speed quite quickly for a 5,000-pound piece of machinery, thanks to the standard 3.6-liter V6 with 308 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque. Heading toward blind jumps at over 40 mph is surprisingly terrifying, despite the fact that I was wearing a helmet. (Note: said helmet made taking selfies surprisingly difficult.)
At the moment of impact I was sure I’d be concussed like an NFL lineman, but the ZR2’s Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSV) dampers—originally developed for Formula 1 cars by racing manufacturer Multimatic—absorbed all the shock, protecting the noggins of both me and the brave Chevy engineer sitting shotgun.
Next we journeyed into the somehow-even-more desolate mountain area near the Utah boarder to experience the ZR2’s rock-climbing abilities. This time I eschewed the gas model for the optional 2.8-liter Duramax Turbo-Diesel that’s capable of 186 horsepower and a monstrous 369 lb.-ft. of twist. I felt like I used all of it while inching up over dramatically ragged pieces of earth.
I flipped on the pickup’s front- and rear-locking differentials, which bind the wheel pairs together and force them to spin at the same speed. Friction, baby! This effectively prevented any spinning wheels while I climbed up super-steep rock walls and, generally, felt like an off-road badass.
Finally it was time to return to the mountain resort where Chevy was putting us up, so I got to spend some QT on both long flat straightaways and twisty mountain roads. As capable as the ZR2 was launching off dirt ramps and climbing up sheer rock, its most surprising ability is just how solid and effortless it is to handle on boring-old public roads.
Those nifty DSSV dampers seamlessly adapt to street driving, rock crawling and off-roading alike, making Chevy’s new midsize monster the perfect pickup for whatever your lazy Sunday has in store.
Just don’t throw grandma in the back.