Off road ready – are you?
Trucks used to be simple devices used to transport things from one area to another. Merriam-Webster defines a truck as “a device used to move heavy objects from one place to another.” If that is the case, then the Chevy Colorado ZR2 Midnight Special Edition is more of a highly capable vehicle that carries people across irregular land with all the comforts of home. Carrying heavy loads is not the forte of this vehicle as accessorized. A mid-sized more affordable platform than its big brother the Silverado, the Colorado can be had in a wide variety of shapes and sizes including extended cab with both short and long boxes as well as the four-door Crew Cab with the same choices of truck box/bed.
For power, the Colorado comes with three different engine choices including the thrifty 2.5-Liter Double Over Head Cam Variable Valve timing four-cylinder 200hp/191 ft./lbs. torque) and Direct injected 3.6-liter engine (308hp/275 ft./lbs.) with similar Valve timing internals. For a change of pace and a lot more torque, a 2.8-liter inline four cylinder Turbo Diesel (181hp/369 ft./lbs.) has become very popular with folks who need supreme pulling power and love diesel engines.
Transmission offerings include 6-speed manual, 8-speed automatic and, for the diesel engine application, a 6-speed automatic. For those who love the sound of a truck on decent, the Diesel offered an exhaust brake to slow you down loudly (honestly it’s not really that loud – but you can hear it in the cab).
The Colorado can be equipped with an assortment of Silverado gear including automatic locking differential, hill decent controls, StabiliTrak electronic stability control and all-speed traction control. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes are standard along with 6-airbags, daytime running lights and a tire pressuring monitoring system. For those with young drivers, the Teen Driver system keeps a lid on the speeds youthful drivers can achieve (as set by the vehicle owner) and place a curfew volume of their music.
So that brings us to our Chevy Colorado with the ZR2 upgrade and a host of dealer-installed pieces. I can tell you from personal experience that you can’t hide in this Chevy. With the oversized tires, shaved back front bumpers for added clearance and bed mounted spare tire with high-intensity trail-lights make for one highly capable truck. Our Midnight Special Edition featured 17-inch all black wheels, Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires, dealer-installed “style” bar and black-out emblems just for starters. This more than trail-ready machine cuts a very cool profile – but is only available in all black. So that means every time you go off-road, a trip to the car wash is definitely in the near future.
The ZR2 package also includes a host of necessary off-road parts including GM’s high tech “Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve dampers. These shocks are built by Mulitmatic and feature a reservoir to keep the fluids cool for best operation on rough roads. These shocks are highly sophisticated, far beyond just getting a set of the local shop and popping them in. These electronically controlled shocks adjust the fluid flow as they hit the road delivering six different damping “curves” to control the front axle and four curves for the rear.
But you don’t have to go offroad to appreciate the abilities of the suspension. On rough roads, the shocks do a great job tempering the tough terrain of LA’s freeways – and there are plenty around town. Body roll is cut to a minimum with this sophisticated suspension damping and backed with excellent braking courtesy of a purpose-built disc and caliper combination.
The ZR2 can only be had with a V6 engine, be it gasoline or diesel. In testing with the V6 gasoline engine, we found that the truck is not a rocket but I have to believe that the gasoline-powered trucks are faster than the diesel due to the steeper rear gearing found with the latter. Transmission shifts were solid but kick down on hard acceleration should have been more impressive. In highway driving, we achieved as much as 23mpg.
Inside the ZR2 is quiet and comfortable. The Instrument Panel is well laid out with lots of stuff to look at including such key elements as body roll and pitch readouts along with all the right gauges to keep tabs on all vehicle attributes. The center-mounted monitor is easy to read and features all of the standard stuff that comes in all Chevy’s today. Apple Car Play and Android Auto are both there. Seating is comfortable on long drives and overall we like our overall experience.
The Chevy Colorado ZR2 with the Midnight Special exterior is an amazing value for the enthusiast looking for a capable and comfortable off-road machine. For most folks, it is more than they will need in a highly stylish and “off-roadable” dual purpose machine. With a price tag of $47K as shown here, it is well under the Ford Raptor that many folks who like this Chevy may aspire to and should be ready when the Ford Ranger Raptor comes on the scene. While the Colorado can’t compare to the big Raptor in performance, it is significantly less money making it affordable to most truck buyers. Remember that a base Raptor starts at $52K and most well-optioned Fords are well into the $70K realm.
As with everything it comes down to money. The new Colorado ZR2 is an amazing vehicle with more than enough “stuff” stirred in the mix to handle any off road – or on road challenge. For the common man wanting something to stand out from the crowd, this could be your machine.