Thursday, November 21, 2019

Midsize Off-Road King

With the Colorado ZR2, Chevrolet has created a midsize off-road king. Drop in a turbodiesel, and it becomes a torque and fuel economy wizard. Over a far too-short week, Smarticd took the Colorado ZR2 Duramax both on- and off-road and came away wanting more time behind the wheel.

2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Duiramax Diesel

We wished we had more time to explore the Colorado ZR2’s capabiltiies

Power, Torque and Fuel Economy

The 2018 Chevrolet Colorado AWD Duramax is powered by a 2.8-liter double overhead cam (DOHC), direct-injection I4 turbodiesel engine, pumping out 186 horsepower and 369 pound-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque. With the Hydra-Matic six-speed automatic transmission, the EPA fuel economy is rated at 19 city/22 highway/20 combined. In 432 miles we averaged 24.1 mpg, which included freeway miles but also some semi-serious off-roading. Out on the freeway over 242 miles, with the cruise control set at 65 mph, we averaged a very impressive 28.2 mpg. When driving your Colorado ZR2 AWD turbodiesel sanely on the open road, the 21 gallon fuel tank could take you more than 575 miles before needing a refill.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The Colorado ZR2 Duramax is stable and quiet on the road, belying the off-road equipment that makes it so competent in the dirt, snow or on rocks. Acceleration is smooth, but not fast, with 0-to-60 times right around 9.7 seconds. Freeway onramps and passing on the freeway were accomplished with confidence, as was cornering, where there was little body roll. The ZR2 off-road suspension package was tuned so that driving on-road was not stiff or jarring.

2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Duiramax Diesel

The turbodiesel came into its own off-road (non ZR2 shown)

The engine is quiet and smooth, partly due to the Centrifugal Pendulum Vibration Absorber that balances out undesirable engine torsional vibrations. General Motors says the Duramax 2.8L is the cleanest diesel truck engine they have ever produced, meeting the toughest U.S. emissions standards. Look for turbodiesel engines in trucks to become

more standard in the coming years.

Stopping was solid with four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, featuring four-piston front calipers and Duralife brake rotors, which Chevrolet says will double the service life over a normal rotor. Street driving stops were straight and true with excellent pedal feel. On dirt, it was easy to use the brakes to control slides and come to an abrupt halt when necessary.

2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Duiramax Diesel

The ZR2 package gives you all the equipment you need for serious off-roading

The Duramax diesel engine comes with driver-selectable exhaust brakes. This technology uses the compression power of the engine to improve stopping distances, increases the driver’s feeling of control and reduces brake pad wear. This is all helpful when towing the rated 5,000 lbs.

The Colorado ZR2 comes standard with electric power assisted rack-and-pinion steering which was engineered to give good road feel. With a raised ride height and an overall length (with the 5’2” Short Box we were driving) of just under 18 feet, parking was a non-challenge.

Driving Experience: Off the Road

Smarticd’s time in the Colorado ZR2 demanded we seek out some off-roading areas. We didn’t do any rock crawling, but did find unpaved, high-speed dirt roads in the and the . Venturing around a bit we encountered a sandy, dry stream bed and some loose shale covered inclines. The goal was not to push the Colorado ZR2 to its limits, but to get an idea of its off-road driving attributes versus paved surfaces.

2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Duiramax Diesel

Out back, a well-anchored spare and a bed ready to work

Grip was easy to predict with the Goodyear all-terrain, 31-inch 255/65R tires on 17-inch aluminum wheels. The ZR2 package comes with front and rear, driver-selectable electronic locking differentials, independent coil-over shocks and a two-speed electric transfer case. Also unique to the ZR2 is the system, a professional motorsport suspension technology that is now available for road use. Before going any further about the ZR2 off-road capability, it has to be noted that on the freeway, around town and on curvy roads, the 5,011 lb. ZR2 was a pleasure to drive. There was no road harshness in the cabin nor squeaks or groans from the body-on-frame build.

Now, back to the non-paved surfaces. The ZR2 did whatever it was asked to do. Based on driving fast on loose dirt and shale, the climbing and descending we project (when using the hill descent control) should be an experience of control and confidence. It also adds handling stability and traction control. The ZR2 comes with a transfer case shield, rock sliders and aluminum off-road skid plates to protect the radiator, oil pan and front differential. Where the Colorado ZR2 with the Duramax turbodiesel really shines is the availability and willingness of the 369 lb.-ft. of torque. Nothing like hitting a soft spot of sand or dirt and feeling the wheels dig in—then grip and go. Smarticd is hoping to get into the 2019 Colorado ZR2 Duramax and check-out some snow and that brand of off-roading.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Chevrolet Colorado was redesigned in 2014. The designers were going for an athletic, sleek and a strong look to match its targeted buyer, an active outdoor lifestyle with activities such as bicycling, canoeing, surfing, scuba diving and camping. With the ZR2 model, add off-roading to that list of outdoor adventures. But the ZR2 is not just a name with a fancy paint job. The ZR2 has a two-inch factory lift compared to the standard Colorado and has a 3.5-inch wider track. The front bumper and grille are unique to the ZR2 as are the fender flares, a cowl-style hood with a tasty black insert and the bed-mounted full-size spare tire. There is also a ZR2 logo sport bar with off-road LED lights.

The movable tie-down rings and the spray-in liner are standard, and the locking tailgate has internal torsion bars and a damper for a more controlled lowering process, which is easily done with one hand.

2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Duiramax Diesel

The ZR2 is a great blend that melds off-road ability with on-road comfort

Smarticd’s Colorado ZR2 was all black save for the ZR2 graphics and the small amount of chrome reserved for the badging.

Driving Experience: Interior

The ZR2 Package comes with upgraded materials, offering a high-end look, tone and feel. The Colorado benefits from acoustic engineering with triple sealed doors, fibrous wheelhouse liners and underbody insulation and panels to keep out road and wind noise. The seats were firm and comfortable, with the Colorado easily seating five adults.

The standard rear vision camera worked well, providing a clear, wide

2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Duiramax Diesel

Inside the Colorado has room for five and all the tech you could want

image on the 8.0-inch color touch screen monitor that also was home for Chevrolet’s six-speaker MyLink infotainment system. Included in MyLink is navigation, OnStar, FM/HD AM radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM (three-month complimentary service), Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio, Siri Eyes Free, text message support, four USB ports and an auxiliary power outlet. The gauges were easy-to-read and the radio passed the Smarticd minimum driver safety test as it had easy to use volume and channel selection knobs.

A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly General Motors representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader and, after the five-year service plan expires, it is well worth renewing.

 Also on Smarticd’s 2018 Colorado ZR2 was the 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot that can connect seven devices and has a 50-foot range. Because of a newly designed, more powerful antenna, the system is capable of video streaming even while the truck is in motion. The service is free for three months or three gigabytes of data, and then the subscription cost is based on the duration ordered (one day, one month or annually) and the gigabytes desired. Smarticd is a big fan of the Wi-Fi we find on General Motors cars, SUVs and trucks. If you are packing the family for a road trip, then the Wi-Fi is a must to keep the backseat crew happy, occupied and quiet.

Additional comfort and convenience features include cruise control, driver and front passenger leather-trimmed heated seats with four-way power adjustments and power lumbar, heated power outside mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering column, automatic A/C, power windows with driver side one-touch up and down, power door locks, floor mats, sliding rear window, front fog lamps, leather wrapped steering wheel with controls for audio, telephone and cruise.


The 2018 Chevrolet Colorado has six airbags, remote keyless entry and vehicle start, vehicle theft deterrence system and a tire pressure monitoring system. The 2018 Colorado has earned a with a 4 out of 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score. The gave the Colorado its highest rating of Good.

2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Duiramax Diesel

The outlined bowtie is about the only chrome you’ll see

Pricing and Warranties

Smarticd’s 2018 Chevrolet Colorado 4WD ZR2 Crew Short Box with the Duramax turbodiesel had a base MSRP of $42,000. With $7,540 in options, the total came to $49,540. All prices do not include the $995 destination charge.

The 2018 Chevrolet Colorado comes with these warranties:

  • Bumper-to-Bumper Three years/36,000 miles
  • Scheduled Service/Maintenance Two years/Unlimited Miles
  • Powertrain Five years/100,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance Five years/100,000 miles

Observations: 2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 4WD Crew Cab Short Box with the Duramax Turbodiesel

Smarticd’s around in the turbodiesel Colorado only reinforced our feeling that if you are in the market for a midsize truck, then the Colorado ZR2 Duramax should be at the top of your consideration list. This is an excellent truck that offers performance, comfort, towing capability and to-talk-about fuel economy.

2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Duiramax Diesel

This is a rig that begs to be challenged on- or off-road (non-ZR2 shown)

If you are looking for a pickup smaller, more maneuverable and fuel efficient than a full-size truck, then visiting your Chevrolet dealer is a must do. Competition includes the upcoming 2019 Ford Ranger as well as the sister-truck GMC Canyon, the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier and Honda Ridgeline.

If you do not anticipate spending much time off-roading, then opt for the Colorado Z71 with the Duramax turbodiesel. You will get all the convenience features and build quality, along with the excellent diesel fuel economy, but at a much lower price than the ZR2. It all depends on your needs. But then that should be the #1 factor for any car or truck you bring home.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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Smarticd is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at [email protected].


John Faulkner is Road Test Editor at Smarticd. He has more than 30 years’ experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent’s 1950 Studebaker. He is a journalist member of the Motor Press Guild.

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