2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Diesel Review - Digging in the Dirt

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

Fast Facts

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Crew Cab

2.8-liter turbocharged diesel I4 (186 hp @ 3,400 rpm, 369 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm)
Six-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
18 city / 22 highway / 19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
13.0 city / 9.1 highway / 11.2 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
18.9 (observed mileage, MPG)
Base Price: $43,495 US / $49,595 CAD
As Tested: $47,490 / $54,280 CAD
Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $1995 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2019 chevrolet colorado zr2 diesel review digging in the dirt

I sheepishly handed the keys over with an apology. Life conspired to keep me from the car wash before the truck was due to go back, and as you’ll see in the photos below, I was not bashful about making this truck properly dirty.

“Not a problem. Trucks are supposed to get dirty,” the friendly driver from the Detroit press fleet office responded. Still, I was ashamed. He’s likely delivering that truck to another journalist and would need to spend a good bit of time dislodging the mud.

But, goodness, did I ever enjoy getting this Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 absolutely caked in muck. It’s what I do for you, my dear readers – taking myself outside my usual routine to properly test each new vehicle as it’s meant to be used. That means, in this case, four-wheelin’.

Unfortunately, central Ohio is not known for rugged terrain. It’s known, rather, for corn fields made of concrete, and for suburban malaise. Public lands where one might go full-bore offroad are limited. I had to improvise, scoping out some out-of-season hunting trails along a nearby lake in a state park. The paths ranged from well-groomed gravel to rutted dirt speckled with exposed roots and sharp rocks. No sweet jumps, however.

Not completely certain as to the legal status of my excursion, I exercised a bit of discretion in my driving. It’s not a good look to have a press vehicle impounded, I’m sure. But the Colorado ZR2 handled this journey with aplomb.

The reasonably-compact dimensions of this midsized Chevrolet, paired with excellent visibility to all corners, made placing the wheels on some of the more poorly-maintained ruts a simple proposition. Likewise, on one of the better gravel trails, I was treated to a bit of controlled higher-speed drifting while in two-wheel drive.

The on-road manners of the Colorado ZR2 are surprisingly good, considering the truck’s off-piste focus. The Multimatic spool-valve shocks seem to be the reason here – these high-tech dampers automatically adapt the compression and rebound settings while driving, without requiring electronic controls on the dash to toggle between “road” or “off-road” damping settings. Further, the knobby, 32-inch tall Goodyear Duratrac tires are surprisingly civilized. There is a bit of road noise, but it’s less noticeable on the interstate than one would expect.

With the diesel engine fairly wheezing out 181 horsepower, it’s not exactly quick, but the substantial torque helps spin the tires up to merging speed with little drama. The six-speed automatic transmission is slow to respond when encouraged to shift either by rapid throttle application or by the shift-knob-mounted manual shift buttons, but all that torque means shifting isn’t as necessary or frequent.

The interior, while rather plain by typical passenger car or crossover standards, is one of the best I’ve found in the midsize pickup competition. Seats are comfortable – though I’d like a bit more seat bolstering when driving irresponsibly – with plenty of rear seat room for the kids on this crew cab model. Those rear seats have just enough recline to the rear seatback to keep them comfortable for long drives without compromising legroom. It’s a very useful truck for day-to-day commuting with the family.

My only dislike is the old-school key-start for the ignition. I’m spoiled, certainly, by the number of new cars that arrive with a push-button start – but I love the convenience of leaving my key in my coat pocket when I go to drive. It’s minor, but worth mentioning.

One annoyance: the indicator lights on the shifter do not dim, no matter the ambient light. Thus, while driving at night, a distracting white glow catches you in the right eye. See my wonderful cell-phone photo for an example. It’s nothing that a bit of tape wouldn’t fix, but it’s irritating.

I’m not completely certain which engine I’d select were I to order my own Colorado ZR2. The torque from the diesel is so welcome when crawling through the nasty stuff, and the fuel economy is a bit better out of the diesel versus the V6 gasser – a 2 mpg improvement in the city, and 4 mpg on the highway. But, as I mentioned above, there aren’t many opportunities for me to fully use the capabilities of this truck anywhere near home. The $3,500 diesel option would take some time to recoup – heck, according to fueleconomy.gov, the diesel would only save the average driver fifty bucks a year.

Then it’s settled. I’m picking a Crew Cab Colorado ZR2 with the gas V6. I’d add a soft folding tonneau cover (partially because any time I can see my last name in the name of an accessory I have to have it), the rubber/vinyl floors and the extra-price Crush paint. At $44,985, I’d have a truck that will do everything I’d ever possibly throw at it.

And then I’d need to head to the home center and buy a pressure washer.

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn, screenshot via Chevrolet.com]

Join the conversation
2 of 28 comments
  • APaGttH APaGttH on Apr 30, 2019

    Great pic of the Colorado logo caked in mud.

  • TFLorida1 TFLorida1 on Nov 21, 2019

    "The $3,500 diesel option would take some time to recoup – heck, according to fueleconomy.gov, the diesel would only save the average driver fifty bucks a year." It always amazes me when that's someones comment regarding whether or not to buy a diesel engine. That comment is particularly bizarre coming from someone who is doing the review of the vehicle. So much for better towing with the diesel, the diesel exhaust break that comes with the 2.8L Duramax engine that really improves towing, the torque benefit with the diesel when towing, the gas mileage benefit when towing using a diesel versus gas engine, etc. Sad that the reviewer just focuses on one tiny variable when there's lots of others he could have considered.

  • Lou_BC Stellantis sales are down even with Ram and Jeep? That's more typical of a constrained economy. Those products tend to be more expensive to purchase and fuel. Mind you, Ford and GM are heavily reliant upon trucks and SUV's but are doing okay. Time to break out the solar powered popcorn maker ;)
  • SCE to AUX Due to the terrible economy, I thought Americans were huddled in their leaking shack homes, eating moldy bread and cold tomato soup. /sBut somehow, millions are still spending an average of $48k per vehicle, and $53k for EVs:https://www.coxautoinc.com/market-insights/kbb-atp-july-2023/Average income of a new car buyer range is $44k - $54k, so basically equal to the price of the cars they are buying:https://www.salary.com/research/salary/recruiting/car-buyer-salaryThat last figure boggles my mind. I recall reading here (years ago) that people prioritize their car payments over their house payments.Just as Americans are willing to pay anything for a gallon of gas, I'm convinced they'll also pay anything to get a new car.
  • MaintenanceCosts Why? What is appealing enough about this car to put up with the reality of owning a 50-year-old Italian car? I get that different things appeal to different people but I can't see why this particular one would be appealing at all, even to someone else.(Meanwhile, in "reality of owning an old car" news, my '95 Acura Legend has developed a persistent misfire that I suspect is at least one and maybe two failed coils. Amazon just sent me new OEM spark plugs and a set of coils, non-OEM and of questionable quality, because new OEM ones are NLA. Now I have to find a bit of time to go install them.But when I'm finished, I'll again have one of the most appealing sedans Japan ever built, rather than an ugly rust bucket.)
  • Kwik_Shift Overpriced used cars and high interest rates not so good. That will eventually tank for many of these chain dealer lots with millions invested to sell at a loss.
  • Tassos Why has anybody found a 50 year old POS with a long list of problems, whose owner, with a straight face, asks.. $8,000 US dollars (even worthless 2023 devalued Idiot Joe Briben Dollars), worth looking up, may also explain necrophilia.