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Long-Term Test Final Report: 2018 Chevy Colorado ZR2 Crew Cab

Posted in News: Features on August 15, 2019
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We've been driving our long-term '18 Chevy Colorado Crew Cab ZR2 for a year. Now we can now look back on all the miles and hours engaged in piloting it over rocks, dirt roads, mud, gravel, sand, and even through some snow, from a more analytical viewpoint than in those early days of first getting to know the truck. To make sure we had a complete picture of the Colorado, we also spent some serious time methodically doing the mundane but necessary chores that a pickup truck would endure—driving to work; highway miles; and runs to the grocery, hardware, and auto parts (not for the ZR2) stores.

Let's start at the beginning. We first saw the "concept" in 2014 and enthusiastically applauded it. When a production vehicle was finally available, it quickly became evident that it was a very successful attempt to leapfrog over the current midsize truck technology. Chevy brought about forward-thinking concepts such as Multimatic shock absorbers, a purely unregulated (no electronics) off-road driving mode, and real electronic lockers front and rear. It went head-to-head with all the newest and brightest in its category during the 2018 Four Wheeler Pickup Truck of the Year, and it was hands down the winner after our weeklong test.

Our '18 Colorado ZR2 Crew Cab test truck came with a base price of $42,000. On top of that was the 2.8L Duramax diesel and six-speed automatic ($3,500), Premium Interior Package ($750), Premium Bose Audio ($500), Cajun Red Tintcoat ($495), Chevrolet Infotainment with Navigation and 8-inch Touchscreen ($495), GearOn Bar Package ($415), Cargo Divider ($305), Perimeter Bed Lighting Kit ($265), Keyless Entry Keypad ($155), and Engine Block Heater ($100). The Illuminated Black Bowtie (just for fun) on the grille was $495, and a $995 destination charge brought our ticket for the Colorado to an as-tested price of $50,400.

During these many months of testing, we spent a lot of time working out the suspension system. The ZR2 sits 2 inches higher than a non-ZR2 Colorado, and it offers the Multimatic spool valve shocks—off-road racetrack technology that until now was not used on a factory pickup. On wide-open desert dirt roads, the ZR2 performed like a champ, hooking through corners under complete control with limited body roll and negotiating small whoops at decent speeds with no trouble at all. The Multimatic shocks did their job and gave little opportunity for the body to get out of shape. We did find that, as with most pickups, some weight in the bed settled the rear suspension down a tick; after all, one of a truck's prime design directives is to haul cargo. The front end could be a bit stiff but livable, probably sprung for the heavier engine and the expectation of additional weight in accessories placed on the nose.

The technological gem of the ZR2 was the set of Multimatic DSSV spool valve shock absorbers. Working to soak up some pretty hairy bumps while whooping it up on open desert dirt roads, they also helped us tiptoe through some rough spots.

The other big news with this truck was the 2.8L Duramax engine. Overall, we were pleased with its performance. Once we got past our own learning curve with this specific vehicle, the slight turbo lag could easily be compensated for in almost all situations with precise throttle positioning. Through the rough stuff, when the going is slow, careful throttle control and light brake work (both in smooth doses) were most important in making the Colorado ZR2 work well. However, in sand or mud, wheel speed had to be maintained with a little heavier but still managed foot on the throttle—enough power to maintain forward momentum and stay on top of the terrain, but not so much power that the Goodyear DuraTracs dug through and began to sink.

The Duramax 2.8L I-4 turbodiesel in our '18 Chevy Colorado ZR2 Crew Cab delivered a very respectable average of 21.2 mpg during our last months of testing, and with appropriate footwork, it cranked out plenty of power when needed.

There are always pros and cons about every rig we spend a lot of time with. The truck bed's fixed-position GearOn mounting tabs mean less cargo flexibility, and the bed offers no power outlet. The sound system could use more punch, but we really liked the overall comfort and functionally of the interior. The Crew Cab actually fit four adults without feeling like we paid for first class but got coach seats on the airplane. And finally, the rear seat folds backward or forward to expose a flat cargo platform.

Good handling and performance, good visibility, a comfortable and easily controlled interior, and loads of tech goodies kept us happy with this truck. During this entire yearlong test, the 2.8L Duramax averaged 21.5 mpg, with a best tank of 23.5 mpg on a non-stop highway slog and a worst tank of 18.2 mpg. The truck also delivered enough real trail-rig goodies like responsive suspension, aggressive tires, skidplates, rock rails, and no-nanny off-roading. And those electronic lockers kept us from getting stuck more than once. When you get right down to it, the '18 Chevy Colorado ZR2 Crew Cab gave us all the basics we needed for navigating almost every type of terrain, from the road we take to work to the two-tracks and trails we spend weekends exploring.

Shod with 265/65R17 (30.6-inch) Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires, the Colorado ZR2 was able to stick to or grind through almost everything we encountered. When they couldn't go it alone, the front and rear lockers made all the difference. Having the heavy-duty, full-length factory sliders helped keep trail rash to a minimum.

Report: 4 of 4
Previous reports: Nov. '18, Feb. '19, Sept. '19
Base price: $42,000
Price as tested: $50,400
Four-wheel-drive system: Part-time/automatic, electronically controlled, two-speed

Long-Term Numbers
Miles to date: 15,704
Miles since last report: 1,593
Average mpg (this report): 21.5
Test best tank (mpg): 23.5
Test worst tank (mpg): 18.2

Maintenance
This period: None
Problem areas: None this period

What's Hot, What's Not
Hot: Fun to drive, comfortable Crew Cab, and great traction capabilities
Not: Uninspiring sound system, nearly identical 4WD system engagement knob and headlight knob are right next to each other (way too close) and partially obscured by steering wheel

Logbook Quotes
"Capable all-terrain tires make enough noise to let you know you're not driving a car—without drowning out your conversation or music. "
"Needs more headlight on those long desert two-lanes at night. "
"A real-world, family-of-four Crew Cab in a midsize pickup truck."

An attractive midsize pickup truck with a potent suspension and powerplant combination, our long-term ZR2 spent much of its last months in our hands becoming familiar with some local mountain forest roads.

Options as Tested
2.8L Duramax Turbo Diesel and Six-speed Automatic ($3,500), Premium Interior Package ($750), Premium Bose Audio ($500), Cajun Red Tintcoat ($495), Chevrolet Infotainment w/Navigation and 8-inch Touchscreen ($495), GearOn Bar Package ($415), Cargo Divider ($305), Perimeter Bed Lighting Kit ($265), Keyless Entry Keypad ($155), Engine Block Heater ($100), and Illuminated Black Bowtie ($495)

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