2022 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Review Update

Ron Sessions, Independent Expert | Apr 21, 2022

Introduction - Find the best Chevrolet deals!

The Chevrolet Colorado is the brand's offering in the midsize pickup truck segment. This segment has seen increased activity and buyer interest in recent years with the introduction of the Jeep Gladiator, an all-new Nissan Frontier, facelifted Honda Ridgeline, and the return of the Ford Ranger. Along with the mechanically identical GMC Canyon, the current second-generation Colorado has been on sale since the 2015 model year. Historically, the Toyota Tacoma has been the midsize segment sales leader, and in 2021 its sales topped those of the Colorado, Canyon, Ranger, and Frontier combined.

The midsize Colorado offers a more maneuverable truck that's an easier fit in more garages than full-size pickups such as the Chevrolet Silverado while still providing the open cargo space for landscaping supplies, dirt bikes, and such. While the Colorado can't carry the big payloads or tow the heavy trailers full-size rigs can, it can easily meet the needs of small businesses, weekend do-it-yourselfers, and off-pavement adventurers alike.

The Colorado is available with a choice of a 4-passenger, 4-door extended cab with a pair of rear-hinged, half-length rear doors and a pair of child-sized rear jump seats or a 5-passenger, 4-door crew cab with a pair of full-length front-hinged rear doors and an adult-rated three-across rear jump seat. There are two pickup bed choices: a 5-foot, 2-inch short box available with the crew cab or a 6-foot, 2-inch long box available with either the extended cab or crew cab.

Powertrain choices include 200-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder and 308-hp 3.6-liter V6 gas engines and a 181-hp 2.8-liter 4-cylinder turbodieselChevrolet teams the 4-cylinder power plants with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and the V6 gets an 8-speed. All gas engines are available with a choice of rear- or 4-wheel drive (4WD). The turbodiesel comes exclusively with 4-wheel drive.

Previously, J.D. Power reviewed the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado. Since that time, there have been few changes. Chevy dropped the 6-speed base manual transmission paired with the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine for the 2020 model year. The Colorado got a minor freshening for 2021, consisting of a new bar-type bowtie grille, revised front bumper, and redesigned tailgate. There are no substantive changes for 2022.

For the 2022 model year, the Colorado is available in base WT (Work Truck), volume-leader LT, sporty Z71, and off-road-oriented ZR2 trim levels. The ZR2 is a special, purpose-built off-road-oriented version of the Colorado only available with 4WD.

The ZR2 includes the following features:

  • Unique full-height grille with bold-face Chevrolet lettering (not shared with other Colorado trims)
  • Cut-away outer bumper sections for greater wheel clearance
  • Steel tubular rocker panel guards
  • Black fender flares
  • Deleted front air dam
  • 2-inch suspension lift
  • 31-inch-tall Goodyear Duratrac all-terrain tires
  • 3.5-inch wider track
  • Domed hood
  • Aluminum skid plates for radiator, engine oil pan, and transfer case
  • Autotrac dual-range 4WD
  • Selectable locking front and rear differentials
  • The ZR2 is available with the Bison package, which groups several cosmetic upgrades and additional protective armor from American Expedition Vehicles

This review focuses on the off-road-oriented Colorado ZR2 and how it potentially impacts the truck's appeal to consumers. Colorado ZR2 competitors include the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, Jeep Gladiator, Nissan Frontier Pro-4X, and the ZR2's corporate twin, the nearly identical GMC Canyon AT4.

What Owners Say About the Chevrolet Colorado - Find the best Chevrolet deals!

2022 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Front Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

The Chevrolet Colorado competes in the Midsize Pickup market segment. According to data collected from verified new-vehicle buyers for the J.D. Power 2021 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 85 percent of new Chevrolet Colorado buyers are male (vs. 86 percent for the segment), and the median age of a new Colorado buyer is 61 years (vs. 57). Anecdotally, the off-road enthusiast-oriented ZR2 model skews to a younger and even higher-percentage male buyer base.

As part of the APEAL Study, owners rated the Colorado in 10 primary categories. Listed below in descending order, you'll find their preferences from their most favorite thing about the vehicle to their least favorite:

  • Exterior design
  • Driving feel
  • Setting up and starting
  • Powertrain
  • Feeling of safety
  • Interior layout
  • Infotainment
  • Driving comfort
  • Getting in and out
  • Fuel economy

In the 2021 APEAL Study, the Colorado ranks fourth out of five Midsize Pickup models.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Chevrolet Colorado - Find the best Chevrolet deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert analyzes a Colorado ZR2 Crew Cab equipped with the following options:

  • 2.8-liter Duramax 4-cylinder turbodiesel with exhaust brake
  • Wireless phone charger
  • Bison package (American Expedition Vehicles front and rear bumpers, hot-stamped boron steel skid plates, 17-inch Dark Graphite alloy wheels, wheel flares, fog lamps, floor liners, embroidered headrests)

The price of the test vehicle came to $54,900, including the $1,195 destination charge.

Standard 4WD on ZR2

2022 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Interior Dashboard

Photo: Ron Sessions

The Colorado Z71 is available with 4WD, and it looks ready to leave the pavement for off-road fun. And like the Colorado WT and LT trims, the Z71 has a nose-down angle of attack and a deep-set front air dam hanging down under the front bumper designed to improve fuel economy. However, this also raises the chance of snagging a bowling-ball-size rock or tree stump. A dealer-installed Trail Boss "leveling" kit raises the Z71's nose an inch for better ground clearance.

None of that is necessary with the engineered-from-the-ground-up ZR2, which has standard dual-range Autotrac 4WD, nearly 9 inches of ground clearance (2 inches more than the base Colorado), and a 3.5-inch wider track for a more surefooted stance. Chevy angled the ZR2's bumpers at the outboard edges for greater tire clearance, enhancing the truck's ability to manage steeper approach and departure angles. Tubular steel rails under the doors protect the rocker panels from rock damage. And aluminum skid plates under the radiator, engine oil pan, and transfer case protect them from impacts from off-road obstacles. The optional Bison package upgrades the skid plates to boron steel and adds two more for the rear differential and fuel tank.

2.8-liter Turbodiesel Only Available with 4WD

The 2.8-liter Duramax turbodiesel engine is available as an option with the exclusively 4-wheel-drive Colorado ZR2 as well as 4WD versions of the Colorado LT and Z71. With an option price of $3,720, the turbodiesel doesn't come cheaply. But in the ZR2, the Duramax turbodiesel makes a lot of sense. Even though it makes just 181 hp, it develops its full, healthy 369 pound-feet of torque at just 2,000 rpm, so low- and midrange throttle response for chugging up steep off-road slopes is strong and assured without working up a sweat.

The other side of the Duramax turbodiesel coin is that it needs about 9 seconds to accelerate from zero-to-60 mph. So, after the strong initial grunt, freeway merging and overtaking on 2-lane roads takes some planning.

The Duramax does reward its owner with reasonably decent fuel economy, considering the off-road focus and reduced aerodynamic efficiency of the ZR2. In ZR2 guise, it is EPA-rated at 18 mpg city/22 mpg highway, which is an improvement over the 3.6-liter V6 EPA numbers of 16 mpg city/18 mpg highway under the ZR2's robust hood. However, the ZR2's standard 3.6-liter gas V6 may be a better all-around chariot for the daily commute with its ability to go from rest to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds.

One interesting ZR2 diesel feature is an exhaust brake activated by a dash-mounted switch. It uses engine compression to help slow the truck and reduce brake lining wear.

ZR2-Exclusive Multimatic Shocks

2022 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Multimatic DSSV Shocks

Photo: Ron Sessions

Exclusive to the ZR2 are standard Multimatic dynamic suspension spool-valve shock absorbers. These are a product of the same Canadian company that produced Ford's exotic GT 2-seater and suspension tech for CART, Formula 1, and off-road racing. According to Chevy, the three spool valves in each damper feature custom-tailored jounce and rebound tuning curves for different points in suspension travel, enabling a firm but smooth highway ride while controlling large vertical movements for off-road events without jolting the passengers. Remote reservoirs help keep the shock-damping fluid cooler when traversing extended periods of rough off-road terrain. Onroad, the DSSV shocks can help take the sting out of potholes and unexpected parking-lot speed bumps, too.

Another surprise was the ZR2's meaty 31-inch P265/65R17 all-terrain Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires, which were relatively quiet on the highway despite their aggressive open-tread design that kept a grip in dirt and sand.

Locking Front and Rear Differentials Standard on ZR2

The Colorado ZR2 doesn't have a terrain management system with a dial like some newer SUVs and pickups that lets the driver custom-tailor the 4WD, throttle response, transmission shift points, and traction control systems to snow, mud, sand, rocks, and so forth. But what it does offer is something few 4WD vehicles have today: driver-lockable front and rear differentials. When a differential is locked, it forces both wheels on that axle to rotate at the same speed. This allows the locked axle to push 50 percent of the drive torque to each wheel on that axle, so if one loses traction, the other wheel can still move the truck forward through the mud, gravel, sand, snow, or loose dirt.

On a particularly steep and slippery rock-strewn off-road grade, I was able to get most of the way up the hill locking just the rear differential. Near the top, however, both rear wheels started spinning and, faced with backing all the way down the slope, locking the front differential and wagging the steering wheel slightly from side to side helped the truck tires bite, and it successfully cleared the summit. It's important to use the lockers sparingly, as locking the rears increases the truck's turning diameter and locking the fronts dramatically raises steering effort.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Chevrolet deals!

2022 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Rear Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

What it may lack compared to the high-horsepower, dune-hopping hype of the Ford F-150 Raptor or Ram 1500 TRX, the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 compensates for with 4WD traction, available diesel torque, and the smaller footprint necessary to access the great outdoors and squeeze between boulders and trees that would hang up a larger truck.

That said, the Colorado is now into its eighth model year without any substantive updates. While it still covers the basic needs of midsize truck buyers and is exciting in ZR2 guise, the Colorado is woefully short on advanced driving assistance systems. The current Colorado offers only a simple reversing camera as standard and forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems as an option on a few of its trims. It lacks the automatic emergency brakingadaptive cruise controlblind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic warning of some of its competitors.

Also, its safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are not industry-leading by a long shot.

Perhaps General Motors is biding its time as it evaluates the marketability of an electric midsize Colorado.

Ron Sessions is a seasoned vehicle evaluator with more than three decades of experience. He has penned hundreds of road tests for automotive and consumer websites, enthusiast magazines, newsletters, technical journals, and newspapers.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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