PHOENIX, Ariz. — I was standing on top of a boulder, just to the right-hand side of a trail somewhere deep inside the Tonto National Forest. Giant saguaro cacti and grey-green shrubs cover the rocky hillside for miles and miles. There's no grass anywhere, just rocks and dirt and smaller ankle-gouging cacti filling in the space between the saguaros. It's a place where you have to watch your step, whether you're on foot or behind the wheel of a 2019 Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison. I should have worn boots. When we first drove the Colorado ZR2 back in 2017, we were impressed with the sophisticated Multimatic Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSV) dampers (a finalist for our 2018 Technology of the Year award), rugged exterior styling and the optional powertrains. Chevy's offer of multiple cab configurations — extended cab/long box and crew cab/short box — was another huge plus. It may not have the ground clearance or approach angle of something like the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro (or even the standard Tacoma for that matter), but the diesel engine and trick dampers can't be replicated with aftermarket parts. The ZR2 Bison is essentially a production version of a 2017 SEMA concept vehicle and gets its name from the charging animal on Michigan-based American Expedition Vehicles' logo. AEV is an aftermarket supplier mostly known for supporting the Jeep and Ram communities, so it was a bit of a surprise to see the company working with GM when the Colorado ZR2 AEV concept debuted. The production version expands on the ZR2's solid foundation with a slew of upgrades, though there are no changes to the basic driveline components or the truck's overall capabilities. The standard powertrain is a 3.6-liter V6 paired with an eight-speed automatic. It makes 308 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. A $3,500 2.8-liter turbodiesel inline-four makes 181 horsepower and a healthy 369 pound-feet of torque. The Tacoma might offer a six-speed manual, but its 3.5-liter V6 is a snooze compared to Chevy's engines. Other standard features on the ZR2 include two locking differentials, an increased track width, unique bumpers that significantly help off-road, and a cool hood scoop. For $5,750, the Bison adds five boron-steel skid plates to protect the engine oil pan, fuel tank, transfer case and front and rear locking differentials. Grey 17-inch aluminum wheels replace the ones on the regular ZR2, though it's disappointing they're strapped with the same 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires (the concept had 35-inch BFGoodrich KM2 Mud Terrains). Larger fender flares help protect the sides of the truck. New front and rear bumpers add integrated recovery points, fog lights and space for a winch. It all adds up to a robust package that's backed by a factory warranty. Except for the AEV logo in the truck's headrests, the Colorado's lackluster interior carries over unchanged. It's a bummer that afflicts all Colorados — the truck's grey and black plastic isn't exactly welcoming. Since there were no changes to the engines or suspension either, …
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|MPG||18 City / 25 Hwy|
|Transmission||8-spd auto w/OD|
|Power||308 @ 6800 rpm|
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