Colorado Dreamin’: Chevrolet Unveils Off-Road ZR2 Diesel Concept

Nov. 20, 2014 By Josh Burns
Chevrolet pulled the cover off its ZR2 Colorado Concept yesterday afternoon at the LA Auto Show, which is powered by Chevy's new 2.8-liter Duramax diesel engine that will be offered in the 2016 model.

It may be a sign of things to come or simply a blueprint for creating a rugged off-road package, but Chevrolet introduced a very cool ZR2 Colorado diesel-powered concept truck yesterday afternoon at the LA Auto Show. Although we posted a news item of the ZR2 Concept yesterday when it first launched, we were given a closer look at the truck after Chevy’s press conference and were enlightened on the truck’s background and its design.

The ZR2 may be a concept vehicle, but it thoughtfully blends upgrades that make it a very realistic off-road package and not just a conceptual dream truck.

As we noted in our First Drive of the Chevrolet Colorado a few months back there’s a lot of things to like about the new Colorado, but the Z71 “off-road package” leaves much to be desired for the off-road enthusiast (and that’s putting it nicely). The ZR2, however, gets it right. The ZR2 Colorado is highlighted by a number of functional features, such as a slightly wider stance than the production Z71 (4 inches, to be exact), seriously improved approach and departure angles thanks to custom front and rear bumpers, a two-inch lift for added clearance, integrated skid plates for underbody protection and rocker rails for side protection, and remote-reservoir coilover King shocks up front with piggyback King shocks in the rear.

Chevy widened the ZR2 four inches more than the production Z71, lifted it two inches and fitted King remote-reservoir coilovers up front and King piggyback shocks in the rear for serious off-road performance. One of the simplest but coolest design aspects to the ZR2 is how they incorporated the reservoir for the King shocks into the front bumper, which is both very functional and cool looking at the same time.

We had the chance to chat with Ken Parkinson, Executive Director of Design for Chevrolet Trucks and Global Architecture, who worked on the original Colorado design and also oversaw the ZR2’s construction. He was filled us in on some of the motivation behind the truck and why Chevy decided to build it.

“The main idea was just to do something really awesome,” Parkinson said. “As part of the team that worked on the original production Colorado, we knew there were so many opportunities with this truck to personalize it and do something really exciting with it.”

The 2016 Colorado will be available with a 2.8-liter Duramax, and Chevrolet installed that motor into the ZR2 truck. Chevy also provided a little insight into that motor’s performance figures, estimating its horsepower to be around 180 and its torque to be a class-leading 365 lb.-ft.

Parkinson noted the ZR2 is something they’ve been working on for quite some. Even after the Colorado was finished, he and his team were looking at ways to take the truck to the next level and ZR2 is the culmination of those ideas.

“The guys that buy these trucks they don’t just stop with the trucks that they buy at the dealership; they keep building on it and they make something that’s really their own,” he said. “So we thought we would create an image of something that shows some of what the possibilities could be, and maybe look at some of the things we might do in the future. And we’re going to be listening to see how people respond and the kind of feedback we get.”

The customized front grill thoughtfully incorporates a recovery winch into its design.

What’s impressive about the ZR2, and what might show how serious Chevy is potentially building it, is that it’s no “pie in the sky” truck with no realistic application – this truck thoughtfully blends features and performance into a realistic truck package. The King shocks will no doubt provide impressive trail performance for the ZR2, but the shock upgrades are also complemented with a necessary 2-inch lift and larger 32-inch Goodyear Wrangler (275/65/18) tires to provide the added ground clearance this truck needs (our only gripe might be to open up the wheel wells just a little more to avoid rubbing). The custom bumpers show foresight about improving approach and departure angles on the truck as well. Out back, Chevrolet uses its GearOn system to house a Hi-Lift jack for off-road recovery, while a full-sized spare sits securely inside the truck bed should a rock take out one of the tires.

Custom 18-inch wheels are fitted with 32-inch Goodyear tires on teh ZR2. Sure, they could cram 33s or 35s under there, but the 32s offer plenty of additional ground clearance for the trails.

A full-sized spare tire sits in the truck bed, while Chevy utilized its GearOn bed divider to separate bed storage space and house the Hi-Lift jack.

Although it is a concept vehicle, the fact that the ZR2 is powered by a diesel motor is no concept at all – that is a reality coming to the Colorado next year. Chevrolet wisely highlighted its 2.8-liter Duramax motor in the ZR2 Concept, a motor that will be available in the 2016 Colorados hitting dealership in late 2015. We’ve had very little detail on the small Duramax up to this point, but Chevrolet did unveil some performance figures on the motor at the press conference, estimating its horsepower to be 180 and its torque to be a class-leading 365 lb.-ft. We can still only guess about its fuel economy, but Chevy went as far to say it will be class-leading, so we can assume that means better than the 27 mpg highway rating on the four-cylinder motor. Executive Vice President of Global Product Development Mark Reuss also noted that the motor will provide a towing capacity greater than the 7,000-pound capability available on the current V6 Colorado engine.

It’s not just window dressing – the fuel fill is for a diesel. This is a concept vehicle but the 2.8-liter Duramax is a real motor that will definitely be available on 2016 Colorados.

After the press conference, Chevrolet representatives certainly asked a lot of questions to the journalists on hand at the LA Convention Center. The team clearly is gauging feedback on the truck, wanting to know what they did right and what we don’t like. Overall, there’s not much to gripe about on the ZR2. We think it’s a very cool truck, and one that would truly offer the off-road enthusiast something to consider. It may not be out of the realm of possibilities to see this at a Chevy dealer in the future, but for now it’s just Colorado Dreamin’. We’re certainly keeping our fingers crossed. Newsletter
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