First Drive: 2019 Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison
Chevy’s New AEV Equipped ZR2
It’s named for the largest mammal in North America, one that is surprisingly agile and quick. The ’19 Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison combines the talents of Chevrolet’s high-performance, off-road Colorado ZR2 that came to GM’s midsized lineup in 2017 with an upfit from highly regarded American Expedition Vehicles (AEV), one of the world’s leading suppliers of aftermarket parts and accessories for 4WD adventuring and competition. AEV, known for add-on packages and toughened turnkey adaptations of Jeep and Ram vehicles, in particular, uses an image of a charging bovine as its logo.
Carried over from the Colorado ZR2 is a full suite of off-road technology with class-exclusive front and rear locking differentials and Multimatic DSSV dampers, off-road rocker protection, cast-iron control arms, and Chevy’s Autotrac transfer case. The all-new Bison, a production version of a 2017 SEMA Show concept, targets off-road, desert-running, and rockcrawling enthusiasts looking for a factory-warranted pickup with more robust capability. It adds five AEV-designed skidplates constructed of hard, durable high-strength stamped steel to provide undercarriage cover for the engine oil pan, fuel tank, transfer case, and front and rear differentials for protection over rocky and rugged terrain.
To visually differentiate the Bison on the outside, AEV adds stamped-steel front and rear bumpers while an exclusive flow-through “CHEVROLET” lettered grille replaces the traditional Bow Tie on the front end. The front bumper is designed with winch provisions and standard foglights, and the rear has recovery points integrated into the bumper. At the corners, 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac off-road tires sit below larger fender flares and wrap all-new, ZR2 Bison–specific 17x8-inch gray aluminum wheels. “Bison” decals adorn the bedsides while an “AEV Bison” logo punctuates the tailgate. The interior gets AEV logo embroidery on the floor liners and front head restraints. A desert air-intake snorkel is available as an option through AEV. The truck comes in crew- or extended-cab configurations with short- and longbeds, respectively.
Like the ZR2, the Bison is powered by a standard 3.6L V-6 engine capable of producing 308 hp at 6,800 rpm and 275 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm and is mated to an eight-speed transmission. Optional is a 2.8L Duramax turbodiesel four-cylinder engine that punches out 186 hp at 3,400 rpm and 369 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm and is paired with a six-speed automatic. Bison gets the same modified rear axle with a 3.42:1 ratio, front and rear tracks widened by 3.5 inches, and a factory suspension lifted 2 inches over a Colorado Z71. The maximum payload capacity is 1,548 pounds, and maximum tow rating is 7,600 pounds for the 2.8L diesel powertrain and 7,000 pounds for the V-6.
Our first drive of the Bison gave us the opportunity to try out both powertrains on roadways in the Phoenix environs and over a collection of hard-packed dirt trails, as well as through areas of dry wash and rough, technical track in the Tonto National Forest. Our takeaways? Good road manners similar to lifted midsized pickups and a bit of a choppy ride over rough terrain at higher speeds. The new bumpers increase the approach and departure angles slightly, although Chevy says it’s not a significant improvement over the ZR2. The skidplates add confidence, as we rubbed them often over technical sections of the trail with large obstacles and found ourselves wanting taller tires and a bit more ground clearance. For most practical purposes and many everyday buyers, the upfit truck adds value and some cool looks.
“More and more enthusiasts are discovering that Colorado is ideal for off-roading, especially overland travel,” said Sandor Piszar, director of Marketing, Chevrolet Truck. "Bison offers customers an even more extreme turnkey off-road truck ready to tackle your next adventure."
On sale now, pricing starts at $48,045 for the V-6 extended cab and $49,645 for crew-cab models (both include $995 destination), $5,750 more than the ZR2; as on the standard ZR2, diesel versions will add $3,500 to the sticker. "It would be very easy to spend that amount on aftermarket front and rear steel bumpers, full skidplates, and fender flares from a reputable company. Bison offers high-quality components from American Expedition Vehicles, a full factory warranty from Chevrolet, and includes installation."
2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 BisonVehicle type: Midsize pickup
Base price: $48,045
Price as tested: $49,645
Engine: 3.6L V-6/2.8L I-4 Duramax Diesel
Transmission: 8-speed automatic/6-speed automatic
Horsepower: 308 @ 6,800 rpm/186 @ 3,400 rpm
Torque: 275 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm/369 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm
Curb weight: 4,750 pounds
Towing capacity: 7,000 pounds/7,600 pounds
EPA mileage rating (city/hwy/comb): 16/18/17; 18/22/19