The aftermarket mends all ills. The ZR2 is still pretty new, though. And while a lot of truck folks like wrenching on their trucks, it's sometimes nice to have everything sorted and properly developed, ready to go, out of the box. The ZR2 Bison, co-developed with AEV, fits into that category. It represents what we'd characterize as a package of good mild upgrades, the kind of stuff you'd buy yourself to take the ZR2 one notch harder-core.
It looks a lot like the ZR2 AEV concept we saw at SEMA 2017 (and then spied on the road later — this truck has been a poorly-kept secret). But some details are different. The aggressive, almost tactical grille carries over, and it's arguably an improvement over the stock ZR2's less extreme version. The new front bumper still carries a winch, but the exact styling is a bit different. The rear bumper looks almost like a cut-down factory unit with added tubular corner protection. It looks neat, and also has real recovery points built in, something the regular ZR2 didn't have (if you don't count the integrated tow receiver). And you can install the AEV snorkel as an option (actually, this applies to any Colorado, not just the ZR2) – it's covered by its own warranty, and more importantly, won't void the factory powertrain warranty.
The wheels are, Chevy claims, a design exclusive to the Bison and are no longer beadlock-type. They're wrapped in Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires in 31-inch diameter, instead of the concept's awesome 35-inch BFGoodrich KM2 Mud Terrains — that is to say, the Bison's rubber is the same as the stock ZR2, which is mildly disappointing, but they'll do the job, and it's easy to upgrade later.
The Bison also features high-strength steel skid plates for the oil pan, fuel tank, transfer case, and both differentials. The marketing material says it's a boron alloy, but we don't have thickness or durability information. We're assuming it's an upgrade — and you should note that in the standard ZR2, the plastic fuel tank does not have any skid protection. Chevy told us that the standard ZR2's tank is tucked up under the frame rails enough that it wasn't damaged in extensive off-road testing. But that extra skid plate should provide some extra reassurance.
We don't know how the new bumpers change the approach and departure angles, a bit of a weak point with the stock ZR2 — its approach angle is only 30 degrees, compared to the Tacoma TRD Pro's 36-degree angle. The (JL) Wrangler Rubicon, for comparison, is 42 degrees.
But most important, we don't know the price of this package, which goes on sale in January 2019. Since it's more a combination of useful features and appearance rather than a massive capability upgrade, the price point it comes in at will be important. But whether you think of it as a special-edition ZR2 with AEV branding or a pre-modified, factory-warrantied ZR2 you can bolt a winch into and hit the trail, it seems like a good move. We can't wait to try this truck out for ourselves.