2022 Chevy Colorado ZR2 Test Drive Review: The Bare Necessities

Test Drive / 8 Comments

Compromising luxury for the off-road experience.

Here's some inside baseball for you: location is everything when you test a car. The wrong (or right) setting can drastically affect what a car does, how it does it, and what you think of what it's doing. The best of us can weed all that out and evaluate a car solely for what it is, but even then, location, location, location. So, where better to test the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 than Colorado?

The Centennial State's off-road scene has exploded in recent years, and vehicles like the Colorado now frequent many of Rocky Mountain National Park's trails. So, with the keys in our pocket, we set out to see what the Centennial State had in store, and if you should wait for the Ford Ranger Raptor instead.

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Exterior: Manly Truck Doing Manly Things

Let's talk about design for a moment. First, with the understanding that we're not here to yuck your yum, or yum your yuck. We like what we like, and you like what you like. Fair? Fair. Speaking of fair, that's exactly the word we'd use to describe the ZR2's looks. It's clearly letting you know what it is from the moment you approach. Big, Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires and red-accented tow hooks let you know this isn't a work truck, it's a fun truck. That's extremely clear when you get a look at the Colorado's 74-inch bed, which will fit a weekend's worth of toys and even some smaller work supplies. It should be perfect for those looking to do some light hauling during the workweek and some messing about on the weekends.

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There's plenty of ZR2 badging to let you know what you've bought as well. Some of us here at CarBuzz have come around to shiny wheels with black accents, but we would've preferred some more interesting wheels. At the front, the gaping maw of a grille leads you to think there's much more engine under the bulged hood than there really is, but we'll forgive it because it looks so damn good.

Finally, paint. Chevy's Bright Blue Metallic contrasts nicely with the ZR2's black accents (which includes a spray-in bed liner), and it's easily worth the $395 you'll spend at the dealer optioning it. In all, it's not a radical new design, but not a terrible one either. We're happy with the ZR2's aggressive looks, and you likely will be too.

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Engine & Performance: More Than Enough

The ZR2 has two engines available; the most obvious choice is the 3.6-liter naturally-aspirated V6. It'll produce 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque through its eight-speed automatic transmission. Otherwise, you can option a four-cylinder turbo-diesel making 181 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. The gas engine's full torque arrives at 4,000 rpm while the diesel engine's extra twist is all available at 2,000 rpm.

The big news here is Chevy's Multimatic spool-valve shocks. They're a seriously impressive bit of kit for a consumer off-roader, but they are stiff on the road, especially over potholes. However, you get that back around bends and on the trail. There, the truck feels much more in its element, doing away with larger lumps and bumps with relative poise, particularly at speed. Sitting right next to those are a pair of locking differentials. One is situated at each axle and paired with Chevy's real-time selectable 4WD knob located to the left of your knee in the cabin.

The Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires measure 265/65/R17 at all four corners while the brakes are simple steel ones paired with GM's Hill Descent Control.

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Driving Impressions: Get In And Go

Driving the ZR2 feels old school in some ways. That's partially because of what you're greeted with when Chevy hands over the keys. We can't remember the last time we drove a car with turn-key ignition. But, that slightly aged feeling in the interior does translate to a "get in and go" truck. There's no faffing about with parking sensors or electronic handbrakes or stupid touchscreen climate control menus. Turn the key, throw that sucker in drive using a shift knob, and go get on with business.

By "business," we are of course referring to off-roading. We set out for one of Colorado's many off-road trails, and the time we spent on the highway en route taught us some things. First, old-school cruise control has been eclipsed by adaptive cruise, something this vehicle lacks. Second, Chevy's Multimatic dampers are a double-edged sword. And third, 308 hp is more than enough to get where you're going. Additionally, this interior is beginning to age, something you really start to notice once the off-road tire's road noise begins seeping into the cabin. But that $44,200 price tag has to come with some compromises.

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Once off-road, the ZR2's shocks start to make a little more sense. They help keep uncomfortable body roll to a minimum, yes, but there is a tradeoff. In early spring, much of Colorado's dirt roads are heavily rutted, if not impassable, as a result of snowmelt from the high Rockies. This is where those shocks start hurting. The ride on any sort of rutted road is harsh, and a lack of insulation in the cabin makes your discomfort very apparent. Thankfully, the transmission knows what it's doing regardless, and doesn't make itself known at any point.

This is an incredibly friendly "my first off-roader" truck. The controls are legible, clearly labeled, and easy to understand. Anyone could get in and put this thing up a moderately-challenging rock-addled trail as we did. There is a limit, though. While the ZR2 killed it, thanks to a combination of its 31.8-degree approach and 23.4-degree departure angles, diffs, and shocks, eventually the snow and lack of recovery gear finally turned us back. It's clear where the money was spent on the ZR2, with the locking diffs getting us out of more than one awkward situation.

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Interior: The Sub-Par Bit

We found the Colorado's interior friendly but clearly dated. The infotainment unit is small and hasn't aged well. However, it does still respond as it should and the interface is intuitive. While our loaner did have an optional $75 wireless charging pad, you can tell it was from an era before smartphones got big - we couldn't fit our generation-old Galaxy S10 in there. The fact Android Auto requires a cable made the wireless charging redundant, anyway.

The leather seats felt good to the touch but broke down over long journeys. This is not a road trip truck, especially with the stiff ride. That said, storage is ample for a midsize truck like this, and we had no problem fitting various items like large water bottles in various places. However, much of the car is bathed in scratchy, cheap plastic. At least we know it'll be cheap to replace when it inevitably gets busted up. Until then, we wait for a refreshed interior.

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Verdict: Know What You're Buying

The Colorado ZR2 delivers on its off-road looks, and we had plenty of fun with it. If you're asking us, we'd wait to see what Chevy has in store for the 2023 MY truck. While simple, we found the ZR2 lacked the interior refinement it needed to be a truly great truck. At a bare minimum, Chevy must soften the ride and update the infotainment for this to be considered a truly dual-purpose daily off-roader.

Let's talk about who wants to buy one of these. In our eyes, this is clearly aimed at the person looking for a capable truck to take to the trails on the weekend, but without shelling out big money on a luxury interior. If you're not looking for the latest and greatest in interior tech but want fun truck with serious off-road chops, the Colorado ZR2 is a solid choice. However, even the most indifferent of buyers will notice the elderly interior, despite its easy-to-use simplicity.

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