With the exception of a brief two-year pause (2013-2014), General Motors has been a presence in the mid-size truck segment since the launch of the Chevrolet S-10 and GMC S-15 in the early 1980s.
But while the company certainly had some degree of success, it never really gave the impression that it was all in in terms of offering the best possible product. This is no longer the case, however: the new Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 can lay a serious claim to being the best truck in its class.
THE launch of 2017
The ZR2 variant is the big new unveiling for the second-generation Chevrolet Colorado, which otherwise remains unchanged for its third year of production. With this new edition, Chevrolet is stating its clear intention to reclaim its position at the top of the heap – a position held for a long time now by Toyota. And no efforts have been spared to attain that objective.
A quick reminder before getting into detail that the Colorado is still available in multiple configurations, including extended cab and crew cab models. Engine choices remain the same as well, including the 2.5L 4-cylinder, the 3.6L V6 and the 2.8L 4-cylinder turbodiesel. Only the first of these is not available with the Colorado ZR2.
What is the ZR2?
Unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2016, the new truck was pitched as the ultimate off-road model. But everything you hear at an auto show does not necessarily translate to the real world. The art of selling is one well-mastered by the auto manufacturers, but delivering is less of a sure thing.
Last month, however, Chevrolet invited North American automotive journalists to Grand Junction, Colorado (where else, really?), to discover and put to the test the new ZR2 model.
From talk to action
The program included turns on three different playgrounds: a speed-oriented off-road circuit punctuated by turns and bumps, another more-forbidding trail that was the preserve of only the most adventurous of us, and lastly an on-road test run.
We started out piloting the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 onto to the first of the circuits, on which it was possible to get up to 80 km/h. We quickly understood how much serious effort and dedication had gone into the new model. Whenever we expected to be hit with some adverse reactions from the vehicle and its suspension, we were treated to smooth sailing instead.
Over dinner at day’s end, we had occasion to chat with the folks from Multimatic, a Canadian company located in Markham, Ontario that provided the ZR2 version with its shock absorbers, developed in collaboration with the engineers at Chevrolet to meet the vehicle’s specific needs.
And this, of course, is the secret to the ZR2’s success. We could point out that the rear track has been widened by 90 mm, that the Colorado ZR2 sits 50 mm higher than the regular version, that protective plates keep the sump and transfer case safe from disaster, and that the front end allows for an approach angle of 30 degrees. But in truth all the feats this Colorado is capable of would be impossible without the presence of the new Multimatic shocks.
Tried and tested technology
The technology behind the Multimatic product is complex, but we’ll summarize it for you thusly: the shock absorber includes a separated chamber which houses two cylindrical drawers known as spool valves. These serve to distribute and properly allocate the liquid in the shock chamber. The allocation can change while the shock is working, depending on speed and the force with which the shocks are absorbing a knock.
When you land after going over a bump, for example, the suspension will be as firm as required to avoid a loss of control but no more, in order to provide the gentleness needed to spare the occupants’ bodies when the moment of impact occurs.
Potholes? Mini-craters? Mere quibbles. When we were driving it at 70 km/h over a pocked, pitted and thoroughly inhospitable trail, the sensation was akin to driving a compact sedan around on certain major arteries of a major city. It really is that impressive.
And when we say that the technology has been tried and tested, we’re not kidding. Multimatic has been toiling away for years in the car-racing domain; its products have found their way into Indy series champion cars, the Red Bull of 4-time Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel, Mercedes-Benz-AMG’s GT, the Camaro Z/28 and ZL1 from Chevrolet and Ford’s new GT.
Need we say more?
Ready for the worst
After this dedicated attempt on our part to mistreat the Colorado ZR2, we took it out both on the road and on the daunting off-road track. In the latter case, we already knew what to expect from the suspension, and this time the revelation was the module for locking the rear differential.
It’s possible with the ZR2 to lock the axle you want, either in sequence or together at once, depending on what’s needed to ensure the best traction possible faced with a certain obstacle. Add in the hill descent assist system and you’ve got yourself a truck able to finagle its way out of the worst scenarios. Check out the photos we’ve added to see some eloquent proof.
An excellent diesel engine
As for the mechanics, they remain subject to preference and budgetary constraints, of course, but in our case we were particularly seduced by the Duramax. While it serves up less raw power (181 hp), the 369 lb-ft of torque it can deliver is most often what you’re looking for in a truck like this. What’s more, fuel consumption is actually quite reasonable (10.7L/100 km/h on highway according to GM’s figures).
To benefit from that fuel economy, though, requires laying down extra cash, to the tune of $4,000. More precisely, the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, which has a starting price of $44,215, costs $48,215 when equipped with the turbodiesel engine.
While the price point rightly gives reason to pause, for the rest this is one extremely competent truck. We’d go so far as to say that this is the most serious effort put together by GM in many years in this market segment. The manufacturer has, quite literally, turned talk to action.
Undeniable off-road capabilities
Improved ride smoothness on pavement thanks to the Multimatic shocks
Hefty price tag
Flavorless interior presentation