Diesel Power’s editor discusses his experience with Chevy’s all-new, 2017 Colorado ZR2.
Let me start by making it as clear as possible that I’m not trying to get into any theological debates with anyone, and I’m also not interested in the cosmos to some ridiculous extent, or anything like that.
But, with that being said, I cop to the fact that I’ve always lived by the notion that there is definitely some type of higher power, a force—human, spiritual, or whatever—that doesn’t necessarily dictate our actions but does have an impact on almost everything we do. Sometimes that role is positive. And, in other instances, the affect can be the most negative thing you ever experienced. For this discussion, I have to say I’m convinced that my ever-growing relationship with Chevrolet’s 2.8L Duramax-powered, ’16-to-’17 Colorado is a preordained act of something other than myself! Seriously, while I say this with an element of sarcasm, I also truly mean every word.
As a former dyed-in-the-wool Ford guy of many years, I can’t believe how closely I’m linked with Chevy’s midsize pickup. From my first opportunity to drive a diesel-powered Colorado and give impressions about the experience (Particulate Matters—My Turn, March ’16) to our purchase of Rocky, the ’16 LT model my wife drives every day (Particulate Matters—Brand New, January ’17 issue) to the cool performance upgrades I’ve been checking out and experimenting with (there’s a stout set of Carrillo connecting rods available now for the 2.8L powerplant—and be sure to check out our report on Screamin’ Diesel Performance’s bad-ass, compound-turbocharger setup for the Baby Duramax), I’m sure my interest must baffle the folks who know me as a Ford-blue bleeder.
Well, my affinity for the little Chevy really is “one hundred,” and it’s enhanced even more by the quality time I got to spend with the highly anticipated ’17 Colorado ZR2 (2.8L diesel powered, of course) out in Gateway, Colorado, in May 2017. For those of you who are not familiar with this all-world version of the little pickup (and I’m betting that’s only a small handful of folks), let me be the first person to tell you that ZR2 is one heck of a legit rig! Formally billed as an “Off-Road” edition, the newest Colorado is as official on the street as it is crawling over rocks, barreling (well, as much as the torquey but not speedy 2.8L Duramax LWN will allow the truck to barrel) across and definitely getting “slideways” in the dirt (being able to electronically shut off the locker for the front differential makes this two-wheel-drive fun possible), and flying through the air. Are you wondering what qualifies me to make this assessment? Well, I had a chance to do the aforementioned stunt driving—and ZR2 handled it all with ease.
Unique, new hardware, highlighted by Multimatic’s Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve shock absorbers (dampers feature three separate spool valves instead of shims to control fluid) and outside-the-box engineering give ZR2 more than 8.5 inches of independent-front-suspension travel and a full 10 inches of upward movement in the rear, which, along with the shocks that react ridiculously fast, promotes landings that result in consistent speed and no loss of stability.
The ZR2 drive experience also gave me my first crack at rockcrawling, the low-speed, highly strategic exercise that takes place, well, anywhere there are rock faces and tables to climb and navigate over. In the quarry where we got to play, the all-new ’17 Colorado’s wide track, clearance, underbelly skid plating (seriously, in sections where I anticipated hearing the transmission pan being sheared open, ZR2 made it up, over, and across with plenty of room to spare), and fully engaged front and rear lockers made this particular Rookie of the Rocks look like I actually knew what I was doing.
While the whiz-bang suspension’s performance in the desert and on the boulders was somewhat expected, the on-road portion of the ZR2 drive was the big surprise. Seriously, despite having tires (265/75R17) that are much more aggressive than our four-wheel-drive Rocky’s 255/60R17s, the ZR2’s ride quality is dramatically superior on a paved surface. Actually, it’s so much better that I wish it could all be transferred to the ’16 model: “a ZR2-in-LT’s-sheetmetal” style.
Designers have really given the off-road Colorado its own identity in that area, with control arms and other pieces that just can’t be swapped onto a base unit (well, not easily). That’s a bummer for sure, as is the fact that the diesel engine hasn’t been treated to any ECM-calibration changes to give this special edition just a little more horsepower and torque over base Colorados. But, as I stated earlier, the 2.8L Duramax-driven, does-it-all (truck manufacturers like to use the word “capable”) ZR2 has enhanced my fondness for the Chevrolet midsize as a whole, and as it enters its first full production year, I’m really looking forward to seeing how it fares in the truck marketplace, especially in a segment that’s becoming more competitive.