Making its namesake proud
If you’re most Americans, the only place you’ve ever seen an American bison is in a picture of the West or on a menu. These days, the vast majority are on private ranches and raised for food, but for most of the last 400,000 years prior to Manifest Destiny, bison could be found all over the U.S., Canada, and northern Mexico. It’s a proud heritage, one perfectly suited to the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison.
Like most bovines, Bison spend a lot of time standing around or meandering about, but they can cover ground when they want to. They’ve been found at altitudes up to 10,000 feet and can run at up to 40 mph (64 km/h) and jump 6 feet high when properly motivated. The ZR2 Bison can go anywhere it pleases and do sick jumps, too, though it’s considerably more reliable than its notoriously temperamental namesake.
The Bison treatment requires a fresh ZR2 to make a trip over to American Expedition Vehicles for extra underbody armor, tubular steel bumpers, and cool new wheels (plus a snorkel, if you option it). Boron steel plating isn’t light, adding 144 pounds (65 kg) compared with a 2018 Colorado ZR2, per our scales. Similarly equipped with the four-door Crew Cab and V-6 engine, the slightly heavier ZR2 Bison is predictably slightly slower than the standard ZR2.
The good news is, 144 pounds (65 kg) doesn’t make much difference on a truck that weighs 4,904 pounds (2224 kg), so the change in performance is basically within the margin of error. For example, the ZR2 Bison needs 7.2 seconds to get to 60 mph, a tenth slower than the standard ZR2. Likewise, it’s a tenth of a second and 2.1 mph (3.4 km/h) behind in the quarter mile at 15.6 seconds at 87.9 mph (141.5 km/h).
Like a charging bison, it carries its weight well. So well, in fact, the ZR2 Bison pulled slightly higher average g on the skidpad at an average of 0.72 g compared with 0.70 g for the regular ZR2. Same on our figure-eight test: 28.2 seconds at 0.59 average g for the ZR2 Bison and 29.1 seconds at 0.58 average g for the ZR2. The ZR2 Bison even stopped 2 feet shorter from 60 mph in just 133.
With both trucks wearing the same 265/65/R17 Goodyear Wrangler DuraTracs, our best guesses to explain these results include the ZR2 Bison’s tires being a bit newer and its transmission programming being a bit fresher. Previously, we’ve found V-6 Colorados of all trims to be soggy on the bottom end and suffering from transmission programming that always seeks out the highest gear. The ZR2 Bison, though, has been cured of that gearbox ill. Now, the GM-built eight-speed does a much better job of keeping the engine in the meat of its powerband and the improvement in drivability, on-road and off, is palpable.
That’s particularly great news, because your truck is bound to spend far more time on the road getting to and from the trailhead than it is in the dirt. Out on the open road, you’ll appreciate the newfound responsiveness from the powertrain, and you won’t be upset about it in the dirt, either. Think back to our epic Trans-Labrador Highway road trip and comparison test from two years ago (or better yet, go give it another read), and you’ll recall that the lousy transmission kept the standard Colorado ZR2 out of first place. No longer.
With the one thing you used to have to worry about now taken care of, the ZR2 Bison feels unstoppable. Its 8.9 inches of ground clearance isn’t record-setting, but with excellent approach, breakover, and departure angles, it’ll get you where you want to go. Throw in the peace of mind granted by skidplates, rock sliders, bumper reinforcements, and locking front and rear differentials, and you’ll never worry whether the ZR2 Bison will get you through. To make sure, we took it for a 160-mile (257-km) off-road jaunt in the Mojave Desert, which you’ll read about in an upcoming comparison test. Up and down rocky hills, through sandy riverbeds, and over miles and miles of dirt two-track later, we never even had to use the differential locks. Heck, we only used four low twice out of an abundance of caution. American expedition vehicle, indeed.
|2019 Chevrolet Colorado V6 ZR2 AEV Bison|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$49,745|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck|
|ENGINE||3.6L/308-hp/275-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,904 lb (58/42%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||212.4 x 76.7 x 72.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.2 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.6 sec @ 87.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||133 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.72 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.2 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||16/18/17 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||211/187 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.15 lb/mile|