2019 Colorado ZR2 Bison Review

Terry Box | July 16, 2019
2019 Colorado ZR2 Bison Review

The last off-road pickup I drove, a dusty three-ton earth-shaker, felt only slightly smaller than my first apartment.

I kept looking for the kitchen and bathroom, in fact.

I probably had a better shot at jumping narrow ravines and small creeks on 60-something legs than Big Foot did – particularly if you gave me a nice long running start.

However, I might attempt them and more in the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison, a right-sized off-roader that even behaved reasonably well on big-city concrete where it will likely live most of the time.

Based on the highly capable Colorado ZR2, the truck’s $5,750 Bison option added boron steel skid plates, butch-looking dark-gray wheels, black bumpers with tow hooks and other equipment from American Expedition Vehicles.

AEV, a Montana-based company, also works with Jeep, performing much of its testing in brutal Moab, Utah, and on the axle-busting Rubicon Trail.

The lifted, bright-red ZR2 Bison I had recently certainly looked rock-ready.

Actually, I thought it was the toughest, best-looking Colorado four-wheel-drive truck I’ve seen, which seemed only appropriate given its Ford Raptor-like $53,000 window-sticker.

Getting back to nature ain’t cheap, kids – even in a mid-size truck. You will get plenty of attention, though.

A broad black horizontal grille on the Bison, for example, sported “CHEVROLET” in large open letters across its width, just like the Raptor does with its “FORD” moniker up front.

Beneath the grille and purposeful headlamps, a sturdy black-and-silver bumper had a serious skid-plate under it, while a raised power dome on the truck’s broad hood flashed a “Duramax Diesel” badge.

It radiated testosterone, even if it gave a bit too much credence to the under-powered Duramax.

Although the sides of the Bison were mostly truck-flat, large black fender-flares provided macho shoulders to house the mudder-looking 265/65 tires on slotted 17-inch wheels.

Bend down a little and you’ll also notice the Bison’s massive Multimatic DSSV shock absorbers, which look capable of dealing with the spine-wrecking terrain of Baja.

Moreover, the truck’s extra armor from AER included graceful tubular steel reinforcement beneath its lower rocker panels.

I not only rode higher, I walked taller when driving the barroom-brawler Bison – a real necessity considering the 19-inch step from the street into its cab.

Much to my surprise, though, the tough-guy image – something the mid-size four-wheel-drive truck has earned off-road – eased up some on urban streets.

As you would expect, the ride felt stiff with some bouncing over the worst patches of our sketchy streets, but the Multimatic dampers did a fine job of controlling the rebound, so the truck didn’t feel especially harsh or flinty.

Likewise, the steering was slightly truck-slow, but in keeping with General Motors’ growing expertise with electric power steering, had nice heft and decent road-feel.

The optional 2.8-liter four-cylinder Duramax Diesel, meanwhile, fired off with a muted growl and a touch of clatter, adding to the Bison’s gritty appeal.

It was bolted to a smooth, time-tested 6-speed automatic.

But with only 181-horsepower and 369 lb.-ft. of torque to push around nearly 5,000 pounds of pickup, the turbocharged engine struggled at anything past half-throttle.

Thanks to its flat diesel torque-curve that peaked at a low 2,000 rpm, the Bison felt eager in city driving, accelerating smoothly with a bit of authority.

However, 60-mph takes 9.7 seconds to arrive, according to Motor Trend, which is adequate for merging with city traffic but gives the manly Bison about the same oomph as a Toyota Prius hybrid.

In addition, while the diesel’s solid low-end torque can help in off-roading, it delivers only average fuel economy – 18 mpg on the road and 22 on the highway, compared with 16/18 for the standard V-6 gas engine.

Interiors, as you probably know, remain kind of a challenge for GM and the black interior in my Bison looked pretty basic.

Its black dashboard, for instance, was cast in average coarse plastic, rolling down to an unremarkable center-stack with an 8-inch diagonal touchscreen.

Still, like the truck itself, the interior felt durable and was highly functional with knobs and tabs for the stereo and climate systems.

Buttons at the top of the center-console controlled the Bison’s various off-road features, such as hill descent and locking the front and rear differentials.

Just as important, the truck’s smooth black-leather seats sported sectioned centers and supportive bolsters.

In back, though, head room was acceptable but leg-room was pretty tight.

The real jolt, of course, comes in that lofty window-sticker. My truck groaned under the weight of two high-dollar options: the well-developed Bison off-road and appearance package ($5,750); and the Duramax Diesel ($3,500).

Clearly inspired and influenced by the stellar Ford Raptor, the Bison has quickly established itself as a highly credible off-roader, but it is aimed more at serious off-roaders than the more-civilized Raptor. If you’re a casual, occasional off-roader, the still-impressive Colorado ZR2 might be a better choice.

Just get a slightly smaller tattoo to go with it.

2019 Colorado ZR2 Bison

  • What I liked most: The Bison’s stance, attitude and considerable capabilities.
  • What I would change: The interior, which needs to be more distinctive, and if Chevy wants $3,500 extra for the Duramax, give us more power and better fuel-economy.
  • MSRP: Base price, $42,900; as equipped, $53,245.
  • Official color: Red Hot
  • Fuel economy: 18 miles per gallon in town, 22 on the highway and 19 mpg overall with filler on the left.
  • Odometer reading when tested: 4,103 miles.
  • Spare tire: Full-size.
  • Weight: 4,955 pounds.
  • Length-width-height: 212.4 inches tall/74.3 inches wide/72.2 inches tall.
  • Fuel-tank capacity: 21 gallons.
  • Towing capacity: 7,600 pounds.
  • 2019 Colorado ZR2 Bison in a few words: An impressive pickup that would be more appealing if it were $5,000 cheaper.
  • Warranty: Three-year, 36,000-mile overall warranty and five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain protection.
  • Final assembly location: Wentzville, Mo.
  • Manufacturer’s website: www.chevrolet.com
  • E-mail me at terry@carprousa.com
  • Up next: 2019 Mazda Miata

Photo Gallery Credit: Chevrolet

Tags: Chevrolet, Colorado, ZR2
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