A new performance variant of the Chevrolet Colorado – ZR2 – was revealed in Los Angeles with claimed excellence in tight two-tracks, technical rock-crawling, fast desert running and – oh yes – on pavement.
Compared to a standard Colorado, the ZR2 has a much wider track and a lifted suspension. Functional rockers have been added for better performance over rocks and obstacles, and the front and rear bumpers have been modified for better off-road clearance.
Claimed class-exclusive features include front and rear electronic locking differentials, an optional diesel engine, and the first off-road application of the badly named Multimatic Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSVTM) damper technology. Thus, Chevy claims that the Colorado ZR2 delivers exceptional performance in a variety of scenarios – from technical rock crawling to tight two-track trails to high-speed desert running to daily driving.
“Our engineers have been incredibly successful developing Corvette and Camaro performance variants with broad performance envelopes,” said Mark Reuss, executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain at GM. “The ZR2 applies that same philosophy to off-road performance. You can go rock crawling on Saturday, desert running on Sunday, and comfortably drive to work on Monday. This truck can do it all, and do it all well.”
Multimatic DSSV Dampers
Multimatic Inc., from Markham, Ontario, is the maker of high-performance Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSV) dampers used in motorsport vehicles, including recent Formula One winners. The first volume production vehicle to use DSSV dampers was the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28. The 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 will be the first application of Multimatic DSSV damper technology to an off-road vehicle.
“From our experience on Z/28, we knew the performance advantages offered by DSSV dampers,” said Mark Dickens, executive director, Performance Variants, Performance Parts and Motorsports Engineering, Chevrolet. “We also know that Multimatic’s motorsport development mentality would allow us to bring a uniquely precise and repeatable custom damper to market even more quickly than a traditional damper system.”
Compared to deflected-disk valving common on most dampers, aka shock absorbers, the ZR2 has spool valves that offer increased precision and manufacturing repeatability along with claimed enhanced ride and handling performance both on- and off-road.
The Colorado ZR2’s DSSV dampers are position-sensitive. Their aluminum bodies each house two spool valves providing both compression and rebound damping optimized for everyday driving. During extreme off-road use, a third, piston-mounted spool valve delivers additional, uniquely tuned, compression damping. The front dampers also employ a separate rebound valve, which works when the suspension approaches full extension.
“A traditional, deflected-disc damper only offers two force-velocity curves for tuning,” Dickens said. “The ZR2 dampers offer six tuning curves for the front, four at the rear. For the driver, this translates to greater confidence and control in a wider range of driving experiences.”
Visually, the production version of the Colorado ZR2 closely resembles the concept shown at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. Consumer response to that concept was said to be so overwhelming, Chevrolet tried to carry as much of the original design into production as possible.
“For both the concept and the production versions of ZR2, the exterior design was shaped by the desire to improve capability driving over mud, sand and rock,” said Rich Scheer, director of design for Chevrolet Truck. “The wider, more aggressive stance, modified front and rear bumpers, and even the optional bed-mounted, spare-tire carrier all improve performance driving over rough terrain.”
Compared to a Colorado Z71, the ZR2 has a more aggressive side profile, with the suspension lifted two inches for greater ground clearance. The steel-tube, functional rocker protectors are standard equipment on the ZR2, and are strong enough to protect the body side while dragging the truck against a rock face.
The ZR2 has 17 x 8-inch aluminum wheels, in a pattern exclusive to the ZR2, wrapped in 31-inch Goodyear Duratrac off-road tires for exceptional traction.
The front and rear track has been widened by 3.5 inches, with new cast-iron control arms for greater durability off-road. Thus, the ZR2 offers greater wheel travel and stability while traversing steep grades.
The front bumper of the ZR2 has tapered ends to increase the tire clearance when approaching obstacles. The bumper also has a thick, aluminum skid plate protecting the radiator and engine oil pan, while the transfer case is protected by an additional shield. Above the bumper, the ZR2 features the clichéd “a more aggressive grille and hood,” with black insert – to “complement the other exterior changes.”
A bed-mounted spare tire carrier, seen on reveal vehicles at the Los Angeles Auto Show, will be available as an accessory. “The bed-mounted spare tire adds a rugged look to ZR2, and serves a functional purpose. By relocating the spare to the bed, ZR2’s departure is improved and prevents any damage to the spare when you’re crawling over obstacles,” said Scheer.
The ZR2 also has a sophisticated four-wheel drive system, with class-exclusive, electronic-locking differentials front and rear and Chevrolet’s AutoTrac transfer case, the ZR2 offers nine drive configurations:
- 2WD, locked rear differential
- Auto 4WD
- Auto 4WD, locked rear differential
- 4WD Hi, locked transfer case
- 4WD Hi, locked transfer case and locked rear differential
- 4WD Lo, locked transfer case
- 4WD Lo, locked transfer case and locked rear differential
- 4WD Lo, locked transfer case, locked front and rear differentials
Chevrolet says that extensive work was done to integrate the electronic lockers and allow them to interact with the traction control, stability control, and hill-descent control. In addition, a new “Off-Road Mode” button, in combination with the traction control switch, allows the anti-lock brakes, traction control, and stability control calibrations to be tailored to different driving conditions. Off-road Mode also alters the throttle progression and shifts calibrations to give the driver better control and responsiveness.
The ZR2 shares its powertrains with the 2017 Colorado, and it will be the only extreme production off-road truck to offer the choice of gas or diesel engines.
The all-new 3.6L V6, mated to a class-exclusive Hydra-Matic 8L45 8-speed automatic transmission, is rated at 308 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque, while the class-exclusive Duramax diesel engine produces 181 horsepower and 369 lb.-ft. of torque.
Even with all the off-roading upgrades over the base truck, the ZR2 can still tow up to 2,268 kilograms (5,000 lbs.) – enough to pull a camper, trailer dirt bikes, jet skis, snow mobiles and other toys – or carry 499 kilograms (1,100 lbs.) of payload.
As such, the Colorado ZR2 offers a distinct position in the market: Compared to other midsize trucks, the Colorado offers an unrivaled suite of powertrain technologies; compared to full-size off-road trucks, the ZR2 is about a foot narrower and 227 kilograms (500 lbs.) lighter, enabling greater agility over obstacles and better trail access.
“It’s amazing what a difference a foot of width makes off road,” said Dickens. “The smaller size of the Colorado is a huge enabler for taking the ZR2 more places, and getting it through tighter spots than you could access with a full-size truck.”