The ZR2 package first debuted in showrooms almost 30 years ago (insert shocked emoji face). Specifically, the ZR2 “Regular Production Option” (the 3-digit standardized code used by GM to designate specific options and modifications) first debuted on the 1994 Chevrolet S-10 and the GMC Sonoma pickup trucks. By 1996 you could get a Blazer ZR2 and even a Tracker ZR2. It lasted until 2005 when it was phased out and didn’t return to a GM vehicle until 2017 when it landed on the Chevy Colorado. Now, Chevrolet is ramping up the ZR2, as of the 2022 model year it became available on the Silverado 1500, and in 2023 the ZR2 option is even available on the 2500HD. Does this new “ZR2 all-the-things” philosophy make sense? Well, Chevrolet upped the ante for 2024 with the new Bison edition of the ZR2 and invited Hooniverse out to the California desert to put the Colorado and HD through their paces and find out.
2024 Colorado & HD ZR2 Bison: Overview
If you click through the build and price tool for the 2023 Colorado and HD you’ll find the current ZR2 trim available, but soon you’ll be able to opt for the Bison version. Built-in partnership with off-road company AEV, here are some of the basic specs for the Colorado and HD ZR2 Bison.
2024 Colorado ZR2 Bison
- 2.7L Inline-Four Turbo High-Output DOHC VVT DI with Active Fuel Management and Stop/Start
- Horsepower (hp / kW @ rpm): 310 / 231 @ 5600
- Torque (lb.-ft. / Nm @ rpm): 430 / 569 @ 3000 (GM est.)
- Transmission: Hydra-Matic 8L90 eight-speed automatic
- Front Suspension: Independent coil-over-shock with Multimatic DSSV dampers; Multimatic Jounce Control Dampers on Bison
- Rear Suspension: Solid axle with semi-elliptic two-stage multi-leaf springs and Multimatic DSSV dampers; Multimatic Jounce Control Dampers on Bison
- Rear axle: Power-locking front and rear differentials
- Steering: Electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion
- Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel discs with Duralife™ long-life brake rotors; standard ABS; hill descent control
- Wheels: 17 x 8.5-in. aluminum (ZR2 Bison)
- Tires: LT315/70R17 MT – 35-in. OD
- Ground Clearance (in. / mm): 12.2 / 311
- Approach Angle (deg.): 38.2
- Departure Angle (deg.): 26.0
- Breakover Angle (deg.): 26.9
- Max Payload (lb. / kg): 1050 / 476
- Max Trailering (lb. / kg): 5500 / 2495
2024 HD ZR2 Bison
- 6.6L V-8 gasoline or E85 FlexFuel
- Horsepower (hp / kW @ rpm): 401 / 299 @ 5200
- Torque (lb.-ft. / Nm @ rpm): 464 / 629 @ 4000
- Duramax 6.6L V-8 Turbo-Diesel
- Horsepower (hp / kW @ rpm): 470 / 350 @ 2800
- Torque (lb.-ft. / Nm @ rpm): 975 / 1322 @ 1600
- Transmission: Allison® 10L1000 10-speed automatic
- Front Suspension: Short long arms independent front suspension with torsion bars
- Rear Suspension: Semi-elliptic, two-stage multi-leaf springs
- Steering: Hydraulic power-assisted recirculating ball
- Brakes: Hydraulic power-assisted Hydroboost brake booster, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Stabilitrak electronic stability assist
- Brake Rotor Size (in. / mm): Front: 14 x 1.6 / 355 x 40 Rear: 14.1 x 1.3 / 360 x 34
- Wheels: 18 x 9-in. aluminum
- Tires: LT305/70R18 MT
- Ground Clearance (in. / mm): 11.8 / 299
- Approach Angle (deg.): 29.8
- Departure Angle (deg.): 25.7
- Breakover Angle (deg.): 22.6
- Payload (lb. / kg): 3013 / 1367 gas, 2811 / 1275 diesel
- Conventional (lb. / kg): 16000 / 7257 gas, 18500 / 8391 diesel
- Fifth-Wheel/Gooseneck (lb. / kg): 16900 / 7665 gas, 15570 / 7062 diesel
So, enough of the specs and features, it’s time to get the trucks out on the trails and see what’s what.
Our day started early as we had an hour-and-something drive from Palm Springs out to Johnson Valley the Mojave Desert. Their off-road area is spectacular, with slow rocky trails and miles of open sand. My copilot in a black Colorado (above left) was Tim from Pickup Truck and SUV Talk, which was great not only because he’s a good dude, but also because admittedly I don’t know much about trucks. We got to relax in an air-conditioned tent (no, no shrimps) while the Colorado and HD trucks got aired down for trail driving. Then it was time to mount up!
2024 Colorado & HD ZR2 Bison: Rock Crawling
My first outing was in a Colorado, and it started with a fairly high-speed drive out to the trail. Even with the tires aired down, the CO is quite stable at speed if you select “Baja” on the circular drive-mode selector. Following a cloud of dust, I played it safe on the drive out until I got a feel for the truck. Then it was time to drive over some shit, and the ZR2 Bison was epically good right out of the box.
Chevy worked with the Chad Hall Racing (CHR) team that racked up 12,000 racing miles in a ZR2 race truck. That resulted in tons of testing in a variety of off-road hardcore off-road situations. Everything from the frame, engine, suspension including the trick Jounce Control Dampers, cooling system, axles and transfer case, front skid plates, and rock sliders are all shared with the race truck. The Colorado also has steel bumpers which help strengthen against the never-ending battle between lots of hard things that want to hurt your truck.
I selected 4-Low and Terrain mode and got to it. Spotters kept us on track, as you would imagine, and the Colorado made short work of everything we threw at it. There is a quick video below showing some more angles and how the ZR2 Bison scrambled over rocks with ease.
As we neared the midway point of our trek, it was time to swap to the big 2500 HD ZR2 Bison. The group ahead of us was a bit slow to come down from their trail, a less technical set of trails than we tackled in the Colorado. It turns out the drivers were uninstalling some of the HD’s retractable steps. More on that in a little.
HD Rock Crawling
The HD is a big thing. It has a 159-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 252 inches. That’s 21 feet long, so you can likely understand how the side steps were removed by standing rocks. Still, put the HD in 4 LO, opt for Terrain mode, and set the hill-descent mode to like 1 mph (max) and the HD will easily navigate some pretty impressive trails. Now, most owners won’t do with it what we did, but it’s cool that it’s an option. Just keep an eye on your side steps.
I’ll pause here for a quick Ticky Tocky video showing some of the fun we had on the rocks and out on the flat plains.
2024 HD ZR2 Bison: Bonus Baja Mode Baby!
Now, this was not part of the program, but man was it fun. My friend Jake from Out Motorsports wanted to get an HD sideways out in the desert, and I happily went along with this marvelous plan. Tim had noted that if we wanted to do donuts, we should put it in 4 LO which turns off all the traction and stability control nannies, and he was…100% correct. The HD ZR2 Bison used its massive Duramax torque to get all slidey and it would easily bomb across the desert floor in pretty impressive comfort.
In the end, the ZR2 Bison trim is a fantastic addition to the Chevy truck lineup. It should sell quite well for a mix of those looking to do some overlanding, trail driving, or just posing at the local… wherever people pose with trucks. I have no idea. Jake did note that, while towing a 30-foot trailer that Chevy provided on day one, the HD ZR2 Bison wasn’t quite as comfortable as a non-off-road version. That is to be expected, so buyers looking to add a ZR2 should take a nice long test drive and consider the ride quality compared to a non-ZR2 version. I’m sure the market alone for ranchers who do tow off-road will be huge, so the likely $90,000 MSRP (my guess) on the HD ZR2 Bison won’t be a deal breaker. Meanwhile, the likely $60,000 sticker on the Colorado ZR2 Bison delivers a rock-ready off-roader as capable as anything I’ve driven.
With either truck (as well as the 1500 ZR2 we drove briefly) you’ll get a well-integrated off-road package tested by a racing team and built off of great AEV bits. So the Bison should definitely be a must-add to any off-road buyer’s test drive list.