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  • This or That: Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 or Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro?

This or That: Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 or Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro?

Which Would Be the More Desirable Midsize Off-Roader?

Nov 21, 2014
At the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show, Chevrolet pulled the wraps off the Colorado ZR2 “concept,” testing the waters for market reaction to a more deliberately off-road–oriented version of its new midsize truck. The ZR2 trim was offered on the mid-late ’90s S-10 truck and Blazer SUV and gained a dedicated enthusiast following for those that appreciated its chunky, purposeful styling and off-road capability. Although Z71 may have more mainstream recognition, there’s no question that ZR2 carries a certain amount of credibility with off-road enthusiasts.
But for now, the undisputed king of the midsize segment is the Toyota Tacoma. In overall sales, it’s by far the best-selling model in the segment, and even with the entry of the new Colorado and Canyon, it’s likely to retain the title for some time to come. There have been multiple off-road–oriented versions of the Tacoma over the years, perhaps the best known being the two-wheel-drive PreRunner trim, as well as the TRD T|X Baja. But the new king of the Tacoma hill is the TRD Pro model, which joins the Tundra and 4Runner for 2016, giving Toyota’s truck and SUV lineup more aggressive off-road options following the discontinuation of the retro-styled FJ Cruiser for 2015.
A strict apples-to-apples comparison of the Colorado ZR2 and the Tacoma TRD Pro is not entirely possible, since one is a one-off concept and the other is a series production model. However, let’s do a little armchair quarterbacking and look at a hardware comparison for each.
Suspension
The Tacoma TRD Pro features a 2-inch lift with specially tuned front coil springs and Bilstein remote-reservoir shocks. The ZR2 concept features King remote-reservoir shocks and a 2-inch lift. The ZR2 mounts the front shock reservoirs in an attractive, but potentially vulnerable, horizontal plan just aft of the custom-fabricated front bumper. Included as part of the ZR2 transformation are new suspension control arms to maintain proper suspension geometry and more sure-footed off-road handling. Although the Chevy’s presentation and packaging is a little more artful, at least on the concept, the two trucks are pretty similar when it comes down to the details.
Drivetrain
The Tacoma TRD Pro offers a locking rear differential, but the ZR2 concept goes one better by offering a locker for both the front and rear differentials. If Chevy wants to legitimately trump Toyota, it had better offer a front locker, at least as an option.
Engine
Under the hood of the Tacoma TRD Pro is Toyota’s well-proven (and arguably, a little dated) 4.0L V-6, rated at 236 hp and 266 lb-ft. On the Pro, the truck gets a TRD cat-back exhaust that adds a little more rumble but an indeterminate bump (if any) in power over the stock exhaust. Keep in mind you can get a dealer-installed supercharger at the time of purchase that will bump power up to 304 hp and 334 lb-ft and still lets you keep your factory powertrain warranty. The ZR2 concept featured the upcoming 2.8L Duramax I-4 diesel, with a preliminary rating of 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. In terms of which engine is better for off-roading, it depends on what type of off-roading you plan on doing. If you’re going to do wide-open-throttle blasts across the desert at high speed, the Toyota’s V-6 will undoubtedly be more rewarding than the Chevy’s low-revving diesel. But if you plan on doing low-speed, technical trails, the little Duramax’s torque will provide more than enough grunt to get you up trails and over boulders. And there’s no doubt which engine will get better fuel economy: Chevy by a mile.
Pricing
Toyota has announced pricing for the Tacoma TRD Pro, and it’s not exactly what we’d call cheap. Prices will start at $36,410 for the Access Cab with a manual transmission and $38,300 for a Double Cab with the automatic. Since there’s not an exact equivalent Colorado yet, we’ll have to speculate on what a hypothetical ZR2 model would roll out the showroom for. A Colorado Z71 extended-cab 4x4 starts at $32,430, with a CrewCab long bed starting at $35,290. The Chevy reps we talked to at the Los Angeles Auto Show threw out a hypothetical package price of around $5,000 for the ZR2’s hardware, which would put the price over $40,000 for a CrewCab. That also does not include the inevitable price premium for the diesel engine, which will likely range anywhere from $2,500 to as high as $4,000. Truck buyers so far have shown an almost insatiable appetite for high-trim fullsize trucks as much as $60,000 or more, but is the world ready for a $45,000 midsize?
We would love to see something like the Colorado ZR2 come to market as close to the concept as possible, but we have to wonder if there’s going to be a bit of price resistance with midsize buyers. It’s not hard to get a loaded Colorado or Canyon above the $40k mark now, and that’s before the introduction of the diesel. Ideally, we’d like to see the ZR2 diesel come to market for around $35,000, but we know that’s nothing more than a fantasy. If it could come to market in the $37,000-$38,000 range for the gas V-6 version, we think that would be a reasonable starting point for an off-road Colorado. Diesel lovers will just have to suck it up and come to terms with the reality of a $40k-plus midsize truck.

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