2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison Review - Slow and Steady Rock Crawler

Fast Facts

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison Fast Facts

2.8-liter turbocharged diesel four-cylinder (186 hp @ 3,400 rpm, 369 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm)
Six-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
18 city / 22 highway / 19 combined (EPA Estimated Rating, MPG)
13.3 city, 10.6 highway, 12.1 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$42,900 (U.S) / $47,798 (Canada)
As Tested
$53,245 (U.S.) / $59,363 (Canada)
Prices include $1,095 destination charge in the United States and $2,000 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared. 2020 Canadian pricing shown.
2019 chevrolet colorado zr2 bison review slow and steady rock crawler

On paper, a midsize truck with a diesel powertrain and bad-ass off-road gear sounds like a recipe for fun.

And based on our first drive of the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison, it is – provided you actually get an opportunity to leave the pavement behind.

On road, however, in an urban environment — well, you get a truck that’s not much fun at all.

The 2.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine is torquey – 369 lb-ft, to go along with 186 horsepower – but that torque doesn’t translate into swift acceleration in this package. A six-speed automatic transmission is the gearbox on offer.

At least the off-road tires don’t screw with ride too much. I noted this on my first drive and it held true later – the Bison’s off-road mission doesn’t make it a chore to drive around the city. It’s pokey but otherwise not a pain.

(Get Chevrolet Colorado pricing here!)

Like I said previously, the Bison’s biggest flaw isn’t its on-road ride. Nor is it off-road capability – I saw on that first drive just how well the Bison could perform, even seven miles deep in the desert. Nah, the flaw here is something that GM needs to fix NOW in all its trucks, from the cheapest Colorado to the most expensive GMC Sierra Denali. It’s the cabin – which is way behind the times.

It’s true that Toyota Tacoma interiors look a bit dated, too, and the Ranger’s interior isn’t exactly awe-inspiring, either, but the Colorado’s cabin feels so far behind the times it might as well be wearing Zoobaz unironically. Chevy asks a lot of dough for this truck, and while that’s in large part because of its off-road specs, one would like nicer switchgear and materials at this price point.

This truck even has an old-fashioned key, fer cripes’ sake (although for some people, that’s not a complaint).

It’s not all bad inside – I appreciate large control knobs, and the infotaiment system isn’t bad in and of itself. The problems here are the small size of the infotainment screen and a lack of overall pizzazz. That makes the interior feel more dated than any one element. It’s not so much that the Colorado lacks the buttons we expect in modern trucks, it’s that Chevy went for a simplistic look but didn’t bother to make it sleek. Simplistic is good, but it’s better with at least a dash of creativity. Chevy just seems to have let function lead the way, without even considering form.

It’s fine for form to follow function, to borrow an old ad tag line, but form can’t just be an afterthought.

Especially in a truck that rings the register furiously. Just to start with the Colorado ZR2 crew-cab short box platform, you’re dropping $42,900. Add $3,500 for the diesel (which does have an exhaust brake), and you’re in the mid $40Ks.

The Bison package adds $5,750, and includes a different grille, off-road bumpers, fog lamps, 17-inch wheels, 31-inch tires, Boron-steel skid plates, embroidered headrests with the AEV logo (American Expedition Vehicles), fender flares, and floor liners.

The suspension has Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve shock absorbers from Multimatic and cast-iron control arms.

Of course, the ZR2 base package also provides off-road goodies such as fully locking front and rear differentials, a trailer brake, all-terrain tires, a towing package, and protection for the rockers. The rear-axle ratio is 3.42:1.

The truck also gets a 2-inch lift, while the front and rear tracks both widen by 3.5 inches. Other standard and available features that have nothing to do with off-roading include Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, satellite radio, in-car Wi-Fi, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, multiple USB ports, and wireless cell-phone charging.

Another way in which the Colorado is a bit behind the times is that it lacks most of the driver-aid tech that’s now common in the industry. Then again, that’s a good thing in the eyes of some customers, who prefer things to be old-school.

Still, this is a $53K truck that doesn’t offer modern tech. That will be a hard sell for some.

Some will appreciate the Colorado for its throwback simplicity. Some will be bothered by its lack of new tech and aging cabin. Others won’t care because of what it can do off-pavement.

That last bit may be the key. For what it can’t do on road, the Bison more than makes up for it on the trail, sleek design be damned.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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2 of 45 comments
  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jul 07, 2020

    It sounds like your Dakota has been a faithful reliable truck and 118k miles are low for its age. For towing in Florida the Ranger should do well. The Duramax is for those who really want a diesel and not everyone wants a diesel but it is good to have the option of a diesel.

  • Zipper69 Zipper69 on Jul 08, 2020

    The terrible MPG stats for a mid-size is a sale killer for me

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  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.
  • FreedMike It's not that consumers wouldn't want this tech in theory - I think they would. Honestly, the idea of a car that can take over the truly tedious driving stuff that drives me bonkers - like sitting in traffic - appeals to me. But there's no way I'd put my property and my life in the hands of tech that's clearly not ready for prime time, and neither would the majority of other drivers. If they want this tech to sell, they need to get it right.
  • TitaniumZ Of course they are starting to "sour" on the idea. That's what happens when cars start to drive better than people. Humanpilots mostly suck and make bad decisions.