2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison: Hitting the Trails That Hit Back

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Forget about the mythical Ranger Raptor for a few minutes. Ford's been vague and waffling about whether that forbidden overseas fruit is coming to the U.S., and we're just about beyond caring because now we get to play with this: the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison. It's Chevy's mid-size, ultimate rock-crawling pickup taken to the next level with some additional parts and customization via a joint venture with off-road parts expert American Expedition Vehicles.

Related: 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison Will Start at $48,045

Built to Thrash

So what's the difference between a normal ZR2 and the Bison? Well, there are a number of parts upgrades that come with the package, as well as some exclusive cosmetic changes. Five skid plates protect the undercarriage of the Bison, covering the oil pan, fuel tank, transfer case, and front and rear electronic locking differentials. They're constructed of hot-stamped Boron steel, so while they look concerningly thin, AEV President Dave Harriton assured us that they're incredibly resilient. Boron steel is commonly used by automakers for improving crash-test results through its use in vehicle bodies; this is the first application of this material in a non-safety-related part, Harriton said.

In addition to the new skid plates, AEV-designed stamped-steel front and rear bumpers are fitted — with the front bumper including standard foglights and mounting provisions for an aftermarket winch. Recovery points are integrated into the rear bumper, and both front and rear bumpers allow for significant approach and departure angles. You might see some Bisons sporting an air snorkel in various press materials — that's an aftermarket part that's not included with the Bison package and serves only as a "dust snorkel." It doesn't provide the Colorado with any greater water fording depth than it already has, so don't go fitting one and charging into your local rivers, expecting to emerge dry ... or really emerge at all.

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I recently drove the new 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison at the launch event held by Chevrolet in the deserts above Scottsdale, Ariz., the perfect environment to test the off-road, rock-crawling abilities of Chevy's latest rig. And I can tell you from a half-day of moderate-speed washboard running and snail's-pace bouldering that what the Bison can do is extraordinary.

Hitting the Trails that Hit Back

Our drive began at a trailhead at one of Arizona's thousands of miles of public off-road trails. If you haven't experienced this, you need to — Arizona is an overlander's desert wonderland, with the ability to just drive off the main roads at various places all over the state (provided you have the proper inexpensive permits and registration stickers on your vehicle) and onto semi-maintained trails that can take you from town to town all over the state. After about 45 minutes of lower-speed trail driving showing how well the Colorado's Multimatic Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve off-road dampers handle terrain that would immediately halt anything less capable than a dedicated off-road pickup or SUV (no stock Subaru Outbacks out here, thank you very much), we came upon a moonscape.

That's really the best way to describe it. There was no obvious visual way forward through this 100-foot-long rubble-strewn wash, which featured high, sharp rocks and boulders that were challenging for anyone to make their way through on foot, much less in a truck. But make our way forward we did — the ZR2 features electronically lockable front and rear differentials, an exclusive feature on a mid-size pickup, although we really only needed to lock the rears to get us through successfully.

Related: 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison Photo Gallery: Ready to Rock

And we were successful: With the ZR2's 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires on Bison-exclusive 17-inch wheels sitting under wider-than-stock flared fenders, the grip exhibited by this truck was astonishing. Throttle control of the 3.6-liter V-6 engine was a little tricky, as often the engine revs didn't quite correlate with what our right foot was doing, but in Off-Road mode and in a 4-Low setting on the transfer case, the Bison crawled over everything with minimal fuss or drama. We did experience instances where the skid plates did their thing — clangs and scrapes over rocks that were taller than the Bison's ride height were plentiful, but an inspection after the drive revealed no damage to the plates aside from some scrapes to the paint.

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The same cannot be aside for some of the truck's other exposed bits. While the 3.6-liter V-6 is standard, the turbocharged 2.8-liter Duramax diesel engine is an option. On one occasion while a diesel Bison was traversing the boulder field, we observed that it came down hard and squished the diesel version's coffee-can-sized tailpipe tip almost flat. The location of the pipe might be something overlanding diesel truck owners might want to investigate for relocation, or perhaps petition Chevy to offer a relocated cat-back exhaust system to avoid having to replace the tip or pry it open again after every off-road excursion.

Or perhaps there's something already in the massive catalog of parts that Chevrolet is planning to offer for the Colorado. Chevy has been developing in-house accessories and working with outside vendors to offer all kinds of bits for the Colorado, from tubular rock rails to auxiliary lighting packages. They'll all available at your Chevy dealer when you purchase the truck — making a buyer's ability to include these parts as part of the new purchase and finance them along with the rest of the truck a much easier proposition.

Available Soon

The new 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison will go on sale in January 2019 with the ZR2 Bison adding $5,750 to the cost of a standard ZR2. In addition to the aforementioned mechanical upgrades, the ZR2 Bison also includes embroidered AEV-badged head restraints and floor liners as well as a new Chevrolet-lettered flow-through grille that is also appearing on a few other new Colorado special editions. The Bison will be available in extended- or crew-cab models, giving buyers an advantage over the competing Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, which is only available as a crew cab with a short bed and one gasoline powertrain (although you can specify a manual transmission on the Tacoma; the Colorado is automatic only). The extended-cab ZR2 Bison I drove on my test rang in at $48,045 including destination fee, or a couple thousand dollars more than the Tacoma TRD Pro. Add the ZR2 Bison to a loaded crew-cab diesel model, however, and you're going to be looking at more than $55,000, which is a lot of money for any mid-size pickup, regardless of abilities. And don't forget the heavier crew cab and diesel motor, along with the extra weight of the AEV gear, means your payload capacity will drop as well. Also, consider that the Ford F-150 Raptor, a much larger, even more capable truck in many ways, starts at $54,350. But then again, the Colorado can fit places that the bigger, heavier Raptor can't quite squeeze into ... like your home garage.

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Related: 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Ups Its Trail Cred

Both the Tacoma TRD Pro and the Colorado ZR2 Bison have some compelling, unique selling points, with the Tacoma featuring its electronic off-road Crawl Control to get you out of sticky situations and the ZR2 adding an electronically locking front differential for much the same purpose. The additional underbody protection of the ZR2 Bison is definitely a value-added feature and proved its worth to me several very loud, clanging, cringe-worthy times. What will be truly interesting in 2019 when the new 2020 Jeep Gladiator pickup arrives is seeing how that dedicated off-road truck based on the new Jeep Wrangler JL SUV platform works against trucks like the ZR2 Bison and the Tacoma TRD Pro. Perhaps a comparison test is in order?

Cars.com photos by Mark Williams; manufacturer images

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Comments

Bison = Raptor Recovery vehicle.

I have been roll'n tall and climbing high for more than three
plus decades

I can assure you this vehicle offers nothing in terms of raising the bar for performance, capabilities, safety or creature comforts

Bison = Gay Man's Chariot

The Bison has been lipsticked to a level of being priced out of the market.

It should be fun (or funny?) watching guys making comments on this site today---guys who have never driven on anything bigger or rougher than pea gravel their whole damn life.

We can also try to ignore any comments questioning the idea of spending more than $50k for a sports truck. Welcome to the 21st century, the average MSRP comes close to exceeding 50k without even checking all the boxes.

As to the tailpipe issue, there are numerous after market options diesel owners are using to aleviate the problem of a crushed tail pipe.

You can buy complete under body skid plates for less then a grand for the Colorados' whether ZR2 or a WT.

The Grill has been out for more then a year and came standard on the Colorado Centinial edition, I think it cost $230 and will fit any Colorado.

The ZR2 and Bison should have had a different motor in it then the standard V6 that is in all the twins, excluding the 4cyclinder,

this should have been designed/built in house, would have been a $2k option at most...

to me where it shines is wash board roads at speed, not 20mph but 40-60mph, My brothers F-150 was rattled to death on the wash board roads and I just cruised over them drinking my coffee

Its a nice off road package but at that price it makes changes the Raptor from an insane toy to fiscally reasonable and you get ALOT more EVERYTHING with the Raptor. So if you got the money to burn on your off road ability / image ego then go all the way to the top.

This is a very nice off roader, not like the desert running Craptor

Yes, the price is alittle crazy. Just wait for rebates

Motor trend also did a review and praised the bison for its off road worthiness!

Great job GM

Bison = Raptor Recovery vehicle.


Posted by: GMSRGREAT | Dec 5, 2018 7:30:25 AM

HA! That's if they an get the airbags not to deply during off-road.

IT'S CRAP!

It's the tendency of an old person to go off on a long-winded rambling speech about no subject in particular at the drop of a hat. Somehow the old man never seems to actually get boring, though for some reason, he has a hard time staying on topic. You know how some old people get... it's not really their fault, really. It's hard to keep things straight when you're that old, and sometimes a lifetime of experiences just seem to intrude on the thought processes.

Keep in mind that some men simply have lower-hanging balls than others. Skin elasticity, which refers to your skin’s ability to stretch and return to its normal state, varies widely from person to person. Skin also loses elasticity as you age, causing wrinkles and, for many men, saggy balls.

Oops, wrong forum. Sorry guys.

Nice truck, way more capable than the crapter. At least you can go through snow and mud with it, something the craptor is not able to do without getting stuck.
Some day Frank and Clint will see the light.

Oops, wrong forum. Sorry guys.


Posted by: TNTGMC | Dec 5, 2018 12:45:43 PM


I knew the impostor was gay.


I knew the impostor was gay.


Posted by: GMSRGREAT | Dec 5, 2018 2:30:00 PM

It takes a Gay Man to find out another man is gay.

Way to go dumb@$$

It takes a Gay Man to find out another man is gay.
Posted by: Frank | Dec 5, 2018

@Frank

Tell us how you'd know that, sir---looks like the joke's on you.

@ Frank

Your so stupid u walked into your own "so called " burn

What a f@$k!ng !d!@t you are. Lmfao

@ Papajim
'Welcome to the 21st century, the average MSRP comes close to exceeding 50k without even checking all the boxes.'

The companies should reveal the breakdown of MSRP - how they construct those skyrocketing MSRP - based on what categories: a) parts, b) labor ...........z) Profit to Investors - takes the lion share.

If you purchase a bottom feeder, apply those 'upgrades that come with the package, as well as some exclusive cosmetic changes' you will still have dough remaining.

It takes a Gay Man to find out another man is gay.

Posted by: Frank | Dec 5, 2018 3:27:58 PM

Frank, look at you defending your kind. But Frankly, no pun intended, I don't want to hear any of yours and fake TNTGMCs relationship experiences.

No thank you! GM h ates U.S. workers!

I will keep my stock 2016 Tacoma with 32's and my 2010 with 33's and destroy this dumb animal off-road!

Profit to Investors - takes the lion share.
Posted by: David Robertson | Dec 5, 2018

Why don't you take that proposal to the board of directors at Ford or GM? Be prepared to blush.

Investor profit to the manufacturer on sales of new trucks after all expenses/costs are netted-out are pretty thin.

How do we know that's true? Take a look at Ford's recent financial statements. Ditto GM. It's all there in black & white.

Ford clowns are just still mad their junk mall Claweing rangers still aint for sale yet LMBO!!!!!!!

@aaron bragman

"The new 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison will go on sale in January 2019 with the ZR2 Bison adding $5,750 to the cost of a standard ZR2. In addition to the aforementioned mechanical upgrades, the ZR2 Bison also includes embroidered AEV-badged head restraints and floor liners as well as a new Chevrolet-lettered flow-through grille that is also appearing on a few other new Colorado special editions."
Posted by Aaron Bragman | December 5, 2018

Mechanical upgrades?? Hahahahahaha!! Not one single mechanical upgrade in powertrain or chassis....

Is mechanical upgrades what you call dressing up a truck with the JC Whitney catalog???

Is mechanical upgrades what you call dressing up a truck with the JC Whitney catalog???

Posted by: FullSize_only | Dec 6, 2018 8:07:49 AM

Will it certainly more mechanical then the mythical Ranger. HAHAHA! Still can't buy one. HAHAHA!

@johnny doe

You have saggy balls too huh.

@Frank

Tell us how you'd know that, sir---looks like the joke's on you.


Posted by: papajim | Dec 5, 2018 4:09:39 PM


fvck, you're really an idiot, damn rednecks can't read

I'll tell ya whats gonna hit back is that spare tire hangin 10 feet down when it pops on a sharp rock.

The Bison has been lipsticked to a level of being priced out of the market.

@cryto

Totally agree. Instead of aiming at the center of the bullseye and the top 2 percent, the automakers should be targeting the 85-90% who buy most of their stuff.

They must be so conceited as to think they can solve all their sales and financial problems by picking-off a few M-Class BMW buyers or AMG guys. Look how well that worked for Audi and Volvo. NOT.

A midsize pickup with middlin' straight line performance---like the new Ranger and the various GM midsizers in recent years---is not going to whet the appetites of guys who buy German or Japanese sporty cars that do zero-60 in under five seconds.

Detroit (apart from a very few exotic Mustangs, Chrysler/dodges and Corvettes) has forgotten how they used to OWN that space. If you read any of the crap coming from their marketing departments these days you'd assume that muscle car afficianadoes are all wet with anticipation over EVs and the latest hybrids. Good luck with that.

The Bison has been lipsticked to a level of being priced out of the market.



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