Chances are you’ve already heard of the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2. A smaller alternative to the high-speed desert-crushing Ford F-150 Raptor, it features a handful of fantastic off-road features and advanced suspension tech perfect for bombing down your nearest desert flatland.
Here in the Northeast, where Road & Track’s online presence is based, we don’t have much desert flatland. But you know what we do have? Access to 600 acres of snow-covered New Hampshire backroads at one of the greatest rally schools in the country. Here’s how the ZR2 fared.
Our journey started at the Road & Track offices in midtown Manhattan, the heart of New York City. Our destination, Team O’Neil Rally School, was just six hours and 335 miles north. A road trip was in order, and the ZR2 turned out to be the perfect companion.
From the front, the ZR2 makes its off-road chops known. The shaved bumper and sloping skidplate give tons of clearance, accented with dual tow hooks and a track widened by 3.5 inches. The tires are fully exposed at the front, making it easy to climb up a rock face without scraping any body panels. Our truck was further equipped with the $3425 “Midnight Special Edition” package, which includes black emblems, 17-inch black wheels, and bed-mounted style bar and full-size spare tire, all of which are dealer-installed.
I prefer the ZR2 in a less-adorned spec, personally, but I can definitely see the appeal of this mean-looking, all-black setup. Even in base form the Colorado is a looker—the ZR2 trim just perfects it. I think I’d pick a lighter color, though.
On the road, the ZR2 doesn’t drive like a truck. Really. Despite the Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac off-road tires, jacked-up ride height and live rear axle with leaf springs, there’s no indication from behind the wheel this thing is an honest-to-goodness body-on-frame vehicle.
There’s no significant wind noise, no shudder when you hit big bumps, and the steering is impressively car-like. A lot of that has to do with the ZR2’s super-advanced Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve dampers (or DSSV). Built by Multimatic, the Canadian motorsports outfit that constructs the Ford GT, the DSSV dampers mechanically alter the flow of the hydraulic fluid within them to adapt the compression and rebound damping on the fly.
This type of damper design has been used in Formula 1, Le Mans, and CART race cars, along with the Aston Martin One-77, Ford GT and Chevy Camaro ZL1 1LE.) On the ZR2, the DSSV units offers six different damping curves on the front axle, and four at the rear, rather than just one damping profile all-around like a traditional damper. They also look frickin’ sweet.