I sheepishly handed the keys over with an apology. Life conspired to keep me from the car wash before the truck was due to go back, and as you’ll see in the photos below, I was not bashful about making this truck properly dirty.
“Not a problem. Trucks are supposed to get dirty,” the friendly driver from the Detroit press fleet office responded. Still, I was ashamed. He’s likely delivering that truck to another journalist and would need to spend a good bit of time dislodging the mud.
But, goodness, did I ever enjoy getting this Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 absolutely caked in muck. It’s what I do for you, my dear readers – taking myself outside my usual routine to properly test each new vehicle as it’s meant to be used. That means, in this case, four-wheelin’.
Unfortunately, central Ohio is not known for rugged terrain. It’s known, rather, for corn fields made of concrete, and for suburban malaise. Public lands where one might go full-bore offroad are limited. I had to improvise, scoping out some out-of-season hunting trails along a nearby lake in a state park. The paths ranged from well-groomed gravel to rutted dirt speckled with exposed roots and sharp rocks. No sweet jumps, however.
Not completely certain as to the legal status of my excursion, I exercised a bit of discretion in my driving. It’s not a good look to have a press vehicle impounded, I’m sure. But the Colorado ZR2 handled this journey with aplomb.
The reasonably compact dimensions of this midsized Chevrolet, paired with excellent visibility to all corners, made placing the wheels on some of the more poorly maintained ruts a simple proposition. Likewise, on one of the better gravel trails, I was treated to a bit of controlled higher-speed drifting while in two-wheel drive.
The on-road manners of the Colorado ZR2 are surprisingly good, considering the truck’s off-piste focus. The Multimatic spool-valve shocks seem to be the reason here – these high-tech dampers automatically adapt the compression and rebound settings while driving, without requiring electronic controls on the dash to toggle between “road” or “off-road” damping settings. Further, the knobby, 32-inch tall Goodyear Duratrac tires are surprisingly civilized. There is a bit of road noise, but it’s less noticeable on the interstate than one would expect.
With the diesel engine fairly wheezing out 181 horsepower, it’s not exactly quick, but the substantial torque helps spin the tires up to merging speed with little drama. The six-speed automatic transmission is slow to respond when encouraged to shift either by rapid throttle application or by the shift-knob-mounted manual shift buttons, but all that torque means shifting isn’t as necessary or frequent.
The interior, while rather plain by typical passenger car or crossover standards, is one of the best I’ve found in the midsize pickup competition. Seats are comfortable – though I’d like a bit more seat bolstering when driving irresponsibly – with plenty of rear seat room for the kids on this crew cab model. Those rear seats have just enough recline to the rear seatback to keep them comfortable for long drives without compromising legroom. It’s a very useful truck for day-to-day commuting with the family.
My only dislike is the old-school key-start for the ignition. I’m spoiled, certainly, by the number of new cars that arrive with a push-button start – but I love the convenience of leaving my key in my coat pocket when I go to drive. It’s minor, but worth mentioning.
One annoyance: the indicator lights on the shifter do not dim, no matter the ambient light. Thus, while driving at night, a distracting white glow catches you in the right eye. See my wonderful cellphone photo for an example. It’s nothing that a bit of tape wouldn’t fix, but it’s irritating.
I’m not completely certain which engine I’d select were I to order my own Colorado ZR2. The torque from the diesel is so welcome when crawling through the nasty stuff, and the fuel economy is a bit better out of the diesel versus the V6 gasser – a 2 mpg improvement in the city, and 4 mpg on the highway. But, as I mentioned above, there aren’t many opportunities for me to fully use the capabilities of this truck anywhere near home. The $3,500 diesel option would take some time to recoup – heck, according to fueleconomy.gov, the diesel would only save the average driver fifty bucks a year.
The Verdict: 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Diesel Review
Then it’s settled. I’m picking a Crew Cab Colorado ZR2 with the gas V6. I’d add a soft folding tonneau cover (partially because any time I can see my last name in the name of an accessory I have to have it), the rubber/vinyl floors and the extra-price Crush paint. At $44,985, I’d have a truck that will do everything I’d ever possibly throw at it.
And then I’d need to head to the home center and buy a pressure washer.