By on July 3, 2020

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison

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.

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.

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison

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.

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison

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.

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison

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.

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison

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.

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison

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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45 Comments on “2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison Review – Slow and Steady Rock Crawler...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Pokey? Don’t want no “pokey” truck :(

    I agree on the interior, that is the same dash layout as my 2006 Tribute, so yeah, a bit dated, but I do like the no nonsense look of it overall

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “Pokey? Don’t want no “pokey” truck :(”

      The irony of that statement is seeing guys on this site pine away for Ford’s 300 inline six or Chevy’s 250 inline 6. Those were pokey especially in a one ton truck. I had a F250 with a 195 hp 5.0 V8. Empty it was fine. Loaded? Well, pokey is one way to put it.

      I don’t care about a “dated” interior or “soft touch” plastics. As long as the ergonomics are sound and I don’t get achy sitting in it for long periods of time.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Pokey is fine if everyone else is pokey too, but I don’t want to be the only pokey truck on the block

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          I was next to a diesel Canyon yesterday. He must have thought I wanted to race. It took of reasonably fast. It didn’t appear too pokey. We are spoiled by 400 hp V8’s.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “We are spoiled by 400 hp V8’s.”

            Yeah, ain’t it great? :)

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Yeah why NOT just put a V8 in it?? It’s a hellava lotta trouble for a complicated yet stupid diesel, assuming great reliability (not!).

            And for what? 22 mpg Hwy?? That Coyote V8 F-150 territory!

            Maybe a 4.8 V8. It doesn’t have to set the world on fire, just 300/350 hp/tq. No need for fire breathing, SS trim, skunk stripes, etc.

            Just enough to get it up to speed efficiently without demanding the pedal deep in the carpet loops. It’d probably a get 20+ mpg average with a conservative tune/gearing and current double overdrive 8 to 10-speeds.

            But we’re too smart for that. I guess.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @Lie2me – It’s great. We are spoiled.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @DenverMike – in the Colorado the little diesel and 6 speed has been more reliable and less problematic than the V6 8speed.
            I’m not too concerned about saving fuel. That just happens to be an added benefit. The diesel 6sp combo by all accounts performs better offroad in all setting short of high speed desert running and highway acceleration.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @Lou_BC, Great points and really, anything but the V6. But doesn’t the little diesel just mimic the qualities of a normal V8? The hard way??

            Or that of a turbo V6? The small diesel just seams like a long answer to what could be said in one word: “V8”

          • 0 avatar
            Maymar

            Mike, FWIW, that 22mpg is exclusively for the ZR2, and the normal diesel is rated for 28. In addition, it looks like the ZR2 diesel is good for 22 real world mpg (based on Fuelly, the normal ones are 25 or so). There aren’t many Silverado TrailBosses (the closest V8 model GM makes?) Yet, but they seem to be averaging 15 or so, so figure 16 in a Colorado ZR2?

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      Fact: if you drive off road 500 miles over the life of a vehicle (your ownership, well over 100,000 miles), you are absolutely hitting it out of the park.
      Or, you don’t have a job.
      But go ahead, buy the vehicle for the life you wish you had, divorced from reality. Although I’ll bet the diesel provides a nice driving experience, they usually do.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @imagefront – All depends on what you mean by “off road”. In my province there are 729,000 km of roads. Only 8% are paved. I can easily rack up 800 km (500 miles) of driving on dirt roads. There are plenty of those old industrial roads that are now single track. I routinely put 160-180km “off road” on my dual sport. I could travel those same trails with something like the ZR2.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        I guarantee I have more than 500 miles off road in our RWD Durango. Most of that off road is not even gravel roads. Fishing, hunting, canoes, kayaks. Got to get there somehow.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I’m looking at buying a ZR2 Diesel. All the guys that I talked to that have test driven Colorado’s with the diesel said the same thing as here. On road it makes for a “slow” truck. The V6 feels more lively. On the flip side, virtually everyone complains about the V6 8 speed not being able to find the right gear and gear hunting like mad. The diesel on the other hand shines off-road in any slow speed crawling or tight trail settings. An added bonus off-road is better fuel range. The diesel tows a small trailer better. The V6 8 speed will gear hunt towing or once tow/haul is engaged you might as well get used to staring at the tach needle around 5,000 RPM. The diesel has an engine brake which is handy in the mountains.
    The diesel’s torque peak is around 2,000 rpm which is great for off-road. It taps out around 4,000 rpm. One long term test put the diesel’s fuel savings at 19% better than the V6. I’m not looking at that. I want good off-road manners.
    Unfortunately, the closest diesel ZR2 to me is a 4 hour drive away.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Those 19% matters when tanks are small.

      And I bet it is only 19% if driven in exactly the same manner. As soon as you start hitting the go pedal, the V6 will start going, and burn more fuel. While the diesel, won’t really go much either way, hence won’t burn any more fuel. So on top of the difference in optimal, tested, fuel economy, you can add the practical fuel economy. Kind of like the Prius, vs Toyota’s more powerful hybrids. Or why Subarus ted to have good fuel economy despite their standard awd.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Here we go again with a console shifter. It doesn’t even fold out of the frickin’ way!

    I can see it finally got the cassette player though.

    I can’t see the armrest but I assume it’s adequate. More like an elbowrest. Well, one elbow, the passenger has to fend for his/herself.

    I know there’s not much else that can be done with the space (what, 7 inches across?), but I’d rather have 4 cupholders (and column shifted) or a spot to put down or hold the triple cheeseburger (instead of on my lap, dash or passenger seat), while I answer the phone, take a drink, etc.

    OK I don’t expect the reviewer to live in the truck for a whole day and or eat their lunch there (how were the seats on your butt/back after many hours?), but they should at least spend the night in it.

    The interior is a very important part to get right or wrong. And it doesn’t matter if it looks dated. How does it perform?

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @DenverMike – this isn’t a very good review. It doesn’t talk about comfort or ergonomics. It doesn’t tell me anything that I’m interested in knowing. How does it run with a 1,000 lbs in the box?

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        There’s a few excellent reviews on YouTube, TFL Truck, and that chick in Tucson. But CarAdvice in Oz has done more than a few reviews on the (Holden) Colorado, it’s basically the same and since ’08, and including on the 2.8 (Isuzu) Duramax.

        Down there its payload is rated at a whopping 1,500 kgs, when properly equipped, and 1 tonne for the Z71.

        I remember they tested all their (Down Undah) Utes side-by-side, all crew cab 4X4s with a 660 kg brick pallet (iirc) in the box and the Colorado held its own. Others varied and the Mitsu was downright scary.

        And by the looks of it, their Colorado crew cab is about 3 inches shorter (wheelbase), and no “long bed” available.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          I’ve looked at them all. Thanks.

        • 0 avatar
          karonetwentyc

          “…it’s basically the same and since ’08, and including on the 2.8 (Isuzu) Duramax.”

          One correction: the A428 Diesel in the Colorado is actually a VM Motori design, not Isuzu. It’s a development of the R428 motor that debuted around 2001, and was seen in the North American market on the 2005 & 2006 Jeep Liberty CRD.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      Im not a big stickler for interiors, but this one is absolutely terrible and definitely not appropriate for a $50k vehicle. Take a look at the Palisade or Telluride interior that Hyundai can cram into a vehicle that is $10000.00 less and its ridiculous how much better the Hyundai interior is.

      Honestly, the Colorado interior looks like someone giving birth through the center stack.

      Someone had mentioned that modern GM interiors are assembled from plastic knock-down kits that are made in China for pennies. It might just be true – and this would be okay for a $25k truck but not for the price they are asking on these.

  • avatar
    FThorn

    I drove that last year and it’s the most dog slow car I’ve driven since my 1979 Olds Cutlass Diesel.
    Stay the heck away. Drove back to back with Gladiator. Gladiator all day.

  • avatar
    karonetwentyc

    The thing that really annoys me about the Colorado / Canyonero: the only trim level that you can configure with the diesel, 4WD, and an extended cab (there are some of us out there who don’t want a four-door truck) is the ZR2. This automatically makes the truck a $46K proposition, and about $10K more than what I’m willing to pay for a truck in this segment. It’s also exactly why I’m no longer considering it as a potential Jeep replacement.

    It’s dumb. Clearly the drivetrain elements are there to make it possible; why can’t this configuration be ordered on a lower-spec trim level?

    By the way, the skidplates on the ZR2 Bison could be ordered aftermarket directly from AEV for considerably less than Chevrolet is charging for them. Been about three months since I checked on that, but nearly $6K for bumpers, skidplates, wheels, and some rock rails is insane.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Agreed. Factory markup on someone else’s work. Ram did the same with the RamRunner kit.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Agreed. Factory markup on someone else’s work. Ram did the same with the RamRunner kit.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      And not just price. As is the case with the Raptor, the dessert racer suspension make the ZR2 much less useful for truck work at the heavy end of the scale. Tow ratings are lowered, and it’s just less stable with a load.

      I’ve gotten a ride in one, and it is a pretty sweet logging/dessert road package, though; if you don’t care about heavier hauling and towing.

      I tend to like vehicles which stand out in some way and offer something others don’t (Nissan NV…..), and the Diesel ZR2, and even more so the Bison, does that.

      It’s “slow”, but slow is the only way to get decent offroad range out of a platform with limited tank capacity. And range is darned near THE most important attribute for something like the Bison, as overlanding, rather than purely technical offroading for its own sake, is really its forte.

      Also, compared to most other “slow” vehicles (I6 Land Cruisers……), turbodiesels don’t get nearly as much “slower” in the places where being slow is at its most detrimental; steep grades at altitude, and towing grades in high heat. Pulling a trailer out of Death Valley on a sunny day with 120 degrees at the valley floor, this slow Duramax could well end up outperforming Ford’s anything-but-slow 2.7 Ecoboost………

  • avatar
    Brumus

    Why the emphasis on the interior (four paragraphs) to the detriment of reviewing other aspects / capabilities of this truck?

    Not everybody lights scented candles, puts on a thong and caresses the interior bits of vehicles for hours on end…

  • avatar
    N82u1nn

    IMOP the reviewer just doesn’t get it. He’s complaing about a lack of modern tech and driver aids…that bison has more tech and “driver aid” features than any other midsize truck. Steel bumpers, skid plates, locking differentials, excellent traction control; dssv dampers;”Pokey” is how he described the 2.8 LWN…if you’re looking for zippy, buy a gasser. I bet he’d enjoy the ridgeline…Ive put a hard 50k on my zr2 diesel; its not pokey, there’s plenty of power and rev range left when it cuts off at 100mph. My complaints? Lack of a proper handbrake. No rebuild support for the ($$)multimatic dampers (which handle phenomenally when pushed on and off road); The shape of the fender wells prevent 33″ tires. Overall its proved to be a capable, reliable, fun, work/trail truck. He didn’t scratch the surface of what makes the zr2/bison special and a deal when compared to the rest of the segment. Oh and the U.S. Army Awarded GM a Contract For a Colorado ZR2-Based Infantry Squad Vehicle. If its good enough for the troops, its good enough for me. Happy 4th!

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Lou_BC–You might want to not wait too long if you want the diesel in the Colorado. According to GM Authority the 2.8 diesel might not be available for the 2022 MY.

    https://gmauthority.com/blog/gm/chevrolet/colorado/2022-chevrolet-colorado/

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Lou_BC–Agree but V-6s in midsize pickups are likely to be replaced with turbo 4s as efficiency standards become higher. I am reluctant to buy any vehicle with a turbo 3 or 4 because long term I have concerns about their longevity. True the Ecoboost Ford engines have been out long enough that they have a history of reliability but longevity for any gas engine with turbos is still questionable regardless of manufacturer. The next generation of Toyota Tundra will only have a turbo V6 and the next generation of Colorado in 2023 will definitely have a turbo 4 and it is likely that GM will discontinue not only the optional diesel but the V-6 and non turbo 4. Shorter truck beds and more turbo engines makes usefulness and longevity for those of us who actually use a truck for utility not so good.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

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

    Since that is where 95% of them will spend almost 100% of their time, I guess we could call this an imaging purchase?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    You have to take this review with a grain of salt in that a car reviewer is reviewing a diesel midsize truck with off road capabilities. This is not a sports car or muscle car with 5 to 6 second acceleration. My guess is that this truck has decent acceleration for a diesel truck and the buyers of this particular truck are less interested in rocket acceleration than its off road and towing capabilities. I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in this review for the target audience of this truck. It would be better to have a truck writer do this review to get a more accurate assessment of this truck.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    If you go midsize, there is only one vehicle you want to own. Toyota Tacoma.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    If you are looking for a midsize diesel pickup in the US then its a Colorado or Canyon.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Fast Lane Truck did the V6 vs Duramax with the GM twins, at 10 seconds 0-60 this truck would feel like a slug compared to pretty much any modern vehicle.

    The Ranger is currently the front runner to replace my aging 4.7 V8 Dakota Quad Cab. I had a 4.0 V6 Ranger back in the day and it struggled to tow my 16 foot boat which why I got rid of it. The Ecoboost on paper should be even better then my V8 with more TQ and HP. By all accounts the Ranger is downright quick with the 10 speed.

    I don’t care about off roading, for me its all about towing in ruler flat Florida. My biggest grip with my current Dakota is the 11 MPG I get while towing. However at 18 years old (and just 118K) the truck owes me nothing, its basically been flawless other then some wheel well rust and A/C work.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    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.

  • avatar
    zipper69

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

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