2019 Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison is built for survivalists
Created in conjunction with noted off-road specialists AEV, the Bison was designed for long off-road excursions.
Emme HallFormer editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
Folks who think Chevrolet's off-road-minded Colorado ZR2 midsize pickup just doesn't go far enough may finally be satisfied come January, because this just-announced 2019 ZR2 Bison promises to be even more extreme.
Designed in conjunction with high-end off-road aftermarketer American Expedition Vehicles, the Bison (a silhouette of the American buffalo is part of AEV's logo) promises to be an even more capable ZR2 that's kitted out for long overland trips.
Think of overlanding as the off-road equivalent of that largely bygone pastime, van life. Just you, your pals and your vehicle, off the grid for days or even weeks at a time. We saw an overland ZR2 concept at the 2017
show, complete with an on-board air compressor, water storage and a killer bed rack for mounting all your gear. While the Bison doesn't go quite that far, it still looks to be an excellent starting point for off-grid adventures.
2019 Chevy Colorado ZR2 gets more epic with AEV's help
Most importantly, the Bison's skid plates are beefed up. Five hot-stamped boron steel plates cover the oil pan, fuel tank, transfer case and front and rear differentials. As I found out last year while competing in the Rebelle Rally, the skid plates on the ZR2 are not as robust as some trails require. Hopefully, this new protection will keep all those necessary parts from any rocky, day-ending impacts.
Bumpers get the Bison upgrade to stamped steel, as well, all the better to protect against unavoided obstacles. Fog lights and rear recovery points are standard and there is room for a winch.
Not standard on the Bison, however, is the cool-looking snorkel seen here. Made more for air-cleaning than deep-sea exploration, the snorkel filters out dirt so the 3.6-liter V6 or optional 2.8-liter Duramax diesel engine can breathe fresh air when churning around in the dust and sand. The snorkel is only available through AEV and fits on all Colorado
The Bison gets a few cosmetic tweaks, too. Taking a styling cue from some newer Ford and Ram trucks, the front Bowtie badge is gone, replaced with proud C-H-E-V-R-O-L-E-T lettering across a model-specific grille. There are plenty of Bison and AEV logos scattered throughout, as well.
Chevy kept the same 31-inch Goodyear Duratrac tires as on the standard ZR1, though the 17x8-inch wheels are specific to the Bison.
The ZR2 has been a favorite of Roadshow, thanks to its standard front and rear locking differentials and sophisticated Multimatic DSSV suspension, which keep the truck poised on pavement without sacrificing off-road performance. Add to that a 2-inch lift and 3.5-inch wider tracks front and rear, and the ZR2 is healthy competition for Toyota's popular Tacoma TRD models.
General Motors declined Roadshow's request to ballpark pricing, but a standard 2018 ZR2 starts at $43,495, and the Bison will only go up from there. Considering AEV components don't come cheaply, a nearly $50,000 ZR2 does not seem out of the question.