– Landers, California
The sun is high in the sky over Johnson Valley and I’m behind the wheel of the 2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison. Rocky trails known as the Hammers surround me on the hills above, but I’m concentrating on cutting through the creosote bushes on the valley floor. I can see the undulations, but it’s tough to gauge how deep they are. I switch to Baja mode to keep the revs up, the throttle sensitive, and the nannies at bay. Deep breath, and let's go.
Just a regular ZR2 with 10.0 inches of travel in the front and 11.6 in the rear paired with the Multimatic DSSV dampers would kill in this section, but the Bison adds front and rear jounce control dampers. These little guys soak up the harshest impacts so that even when I hit something too hard and reach full compression on the shock, the ol’ butt dyno never goes into Code Brown mode. At 35 miles per hour, I’m not even close to touching the limits, but I find them around 50 miles per hour. I’m sailing through the whoops like the off-road goddess I am. This is heaven.
|Quick Stats||2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison|
|Engine||Turbocharged 2.7-Liter I4|
|Output||310 Horsepower / 430 Pound-Feet|
|Ground Clearance||12.2 Inches|
|Price As Tested||$55,000 (est.)|
|On Sale||Late 2023|
Gallery: 2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison First Drive
Mid-Size Truck, Max Off-Road
I’ve always preferred the off-road Colorado over the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro or the Ford Ranger with the Tremor package, but this next-generation model gets it sooooo right. Under the hood is a high-output turbocharged 2.7-liter four-cylinder with enough torque that I ain’t even mad at the loss of two cylinders. There is a bit of turbo lag to be sure, but with 310 ponies and 430 pound-feet, I can live with it. The powerplant is well-suited to an eight-speed automatic transmission and I have my pick of five drive modes.
To test the Bison’s rock climbing ability I head over to Little Johnson trail, one of the many routes used in the King Of The Hammers off-road race. With steep ledges, big boulders, and a path that gets narrower as I climb to the top, this is where I’ll use all the extra armor and geometry the Bison has on offer. Despite the approach angle of 38.2 degrees, a departure angle of 26 degrees, a breakover angle of 26.9 degrees, and 12.2 inches of ground clearance on my tester, I know the five steel skid plates and rocker panels will be scraped by the time I reach the top.
Since I’m talking about numbers here, I’d like to point out that the Bison has more ground clearance and a way better breakover angle than the one mid-size truck actually made for rock crawling: the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon. The Bison can’t beat the Gladiator’s massive 43.4-degree approach angle, but I’m surprised how well-matched the rest of the numbers are.
At any rate, I put the truck in low-range four-wheel drive and select Terrain mode. This enables one-pedal driving, a great feature for newbies who might have a hard time keeping a smooth forward motion at slow speeds. Lift off the throttle and the truck applies the brakes on its own. I can even dial in how much braking I want. It works well, but I enjoy a challenge and turn it off after a few moments.
The rear differential is locked as I head up; I switch my gaze from the windshield to the clear view of the forward-facing camera and back again. I cut things a little too close and drop my rear driver’s side tire into a deep hole. Despite the 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler tires, I can’t get enough traction to get out of the hole now that I’m stopped. No worries – I have a front locker. I engage it, ease onto the throttle, and the ZR2 Bison scraps its way out like I chose the perfect line.
Yeah, I’d buy this truck. Not only does it perform, it freaking looks great. The 3.0-inch lift and wider stance give it a “you talking to me” vibe, and I dig the Chevrolet “flowtie” badge on the grille. Inside there is some cool contrasting stitching as well as AEV branding on the seats and floor liners. There is a fair share of hard, shiny plastics, but I like the slightly camouflaged aesthetic of the dash, and the knee pads are a thoughtful touch when driving close to the limit. Seats here are comfortable and taller drivers should have enough adjustments in the front seat to squeeze in.
An 11.3-inch touchscreen does infotainment duties with Google built-in. It’s nice to have Google Maps in the native navigation system instead of relying on Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, although both are here as well, and wireless. I like the robust off-road pages with information on pitch and roll, altitude and GPS coordinates. There is even a compass with numerical headings, not just the generic NW or SE. For a map nerd like me, this kind of detail is heaven.
However, for some inane reason, Chevrolet has seen fit to discard the headlight stalk and bury the controls deep in the infotainment. Sure, drivers can set the lights to Auto and forget it, but I’m old and cranky and I distrust auto. I also like to have my lights on during the day sometimes, such as, oh I don’t know, when off-roading in Johnson Valley. I shouldn’t have to take my eyes from the road to faff about on the screen. Just give me a darn mechanical switch, Chevy.
The bummer here? Towing and hauling capability. Emphasizing off-road ability above all else, the ZR2 Bison takes a hit in utility for sure. The standard Colorado can haul around 1,600 pounds and tow up to 7,700 pounds. The Bison? Just 1,050 pounds can be transported in the bed and the tow rating is a mere 5,500 pounds. Yikes. Folks who need a bit more can look at the standard ZR2 with 1,280 and 6,000 pounds of capability respectively, and then there’s always the heavy-hauling Silverado 2500HD ZR2 for really big off-road toting, but it’s a shame to lose the Colorado Bison’s jounce bumpers.
Chevrolet hasn’t announced pricing for the 2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison, but the 2023 Colorado ZR2 starts at around $48,000 and the Bison package on the Silverado is $7,895. We expect a mid-size Chevy with the full Bison package to start somewhere around $55,000.
If you want to buy the best all-around off-road truck, the 2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison is it. However, we’ll soon see a go-fast Ford Ranger Raptor that might unseat it, and the Tacoma TRD Pro is set to hit showrooms with a powerful hybrid powerplant. Still, I can’t help but consider adding a Bison to my own stable of vehicles. It’s not often I walk away from a first drive wanting to buy, but honestly, I’m halfway to sending Chevy a down payment. You should be too.
Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison Competitors
2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison