2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison and Silverado ZR2 Bison: Battle Tested

Adventure-ready trucks and SUVs are quite popular across the industry right now. Chevrolet offers multiple variations including Trail Boss, Z71 and ACTIV, but none more capable off the road than the ZR2.  

These models visually and physically stand out with unique bumpers, tow hooks and badges, increased ground clearance, underbody skid plates and acclaimed Multimatic DSSV dampers. They also get special drive modes for tackling any terrain.

As if that wasn’t enough, the company has partnered with aftermarket specialist American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) from Montana for a ZR2 Bison package that turns the trucks into extreme off-roaders.

As summer gave way to fall, The Car Guide headed to Palm Springs, California for an opportunity to test the new 2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison (pre-production model) and 2024 Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2 Bison both on and off the road. How did that turn out? Read on.

Photo: Dominic Boucher

Heavy But Steady

The Silverado HD ZR2 Bison manages to stay civilized on pavement. Sure, the rear end tends to hop a bit when unladen and blind spots are huge, especially with that massive nose. Due to wider tracks than the regular ZR2, the turning radius is quite large, too. However, the many available cameras and sensors all around the vehicle (even underneath) make life easier for the driver, whether it’s in the city or out on the trail. Using the infotainment system, you can set up and switch between all sorts of views, which we loved.

In order to properly assess the truck’s off-road performance, Chevy sent us on a wild expedition across the mountains and deserts of the Golden State. While super-heavy at 3,853 kg, the Silverado HD ZR2 Bison effortlessly handled the numerous obstacles standing in its path including sand, rocks and steep hills. 

Hill descent control can be adjusted using the buttons on the steering wheel. The system proves remarkably effective at maintaining a steady speed while you’re busy navigating through obstacles. The exclusive 18-inch AEV wheels and 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT mud-terrain tires also came in handy, as you can imagine.

Unlike the smaller Colorado ZR2 Bison, the ultimate Silverado HD doesn’t feature a locking differential up front. The company says that’s because most intended customers don’t really need one. They’re much more interested in the 18,500 lbs of maximum towing and 2,811 lbs of payload. Adding to the truck’s practicality is the standard Multi-Flex tailgate with a folding upper section that doubles as a step for the cargo bed.

Photo: Dominic Boucher

The 6.6-litre Duramax turbo-diesel V8 was nice to have, as well, not particularly for the 470 horsepower, but rather the 975 lb-ft. of torque. The Allison-made 10-speed automatic transmission is a good match on top of that. For those who prefer gasoline engines, a 6.6-litre V8 producing 401 horsepower and 464 lb-ft. of torque is also available.

The Surprising Star 

While the conditions we faced with the Silverado HD didn’t allow for high-speed action, it was quite another story with the Colorado. For the first challenge, we activated Baja mode which facilitates quicker shifts and turns the midsize pickup into an actual desert racer.

Photo: Dominic Boucher

The Colorado ZR2 Bison remained sharp and stable in the dirt and sand at speeds between 30-40 mph (48-64 km/h). We never once felt the need to slow down, even when it seemed to lose traction. All the while, the turbocharged 2.7-litre four-cylinder engine under the hood delivered strong acceleration thanks to its 310 horsepower.

For the second challenge, we had to climb up some rocky hills that looked fairly intimidating at first. With the front and rear differentials both locked and Terrain mode activated, we crawled our way up and over every obstacle with the guidance of Chevy’s instructors. Of course, the 430 lb-ft. of torque, 10 camera views and 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT mud-terrain tires helped, too. The Colorado ZR2 Bison proved amazingly tough and capable, making this test feel like a walk in the park—so to speak.

There are several other drive modes to choose from, mind you. Normal is the default mode for daily operation, while Tow/Haul is ideal for handling heavy cargo. Off-Road is best suited for unpaved surfaces that don’t require Terrain mode.

Final Thoughts

The ZR2 Bisons from Chevrolet offer formidable capability and versatility. These are seriously convincing products that you’ll enjoy driving and pushing to the limit. On the other hand, the seats are excessively firm and uncomfortable after a while.

Photo: Dominic Boucher

Fuel economy? That wasn’t the point of this media event. For those who care, the Colorado ZR2 is rated at a combined 11.8 L/100 km. The V8-equipped Silverados can be awfully inefficient, although the diesel option makes a sizable difference.

Pricing is right around par for the segment. The Colorado ZR2 carries a base MSRP of $56,003. The Silverado ZR2 starts at $86,699 with the Bison package requiring an extra $9,995. Finally, the Silverado HD ZR2 retails from $93,899, while the Bison commands another $10,495 and is hit with a luxury tax. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’d like to get back behind the wheel for one more go.

Share on Facebook

More on the subject

News2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison Brings Back the Beast
The third-generation Chevrolet Colorado is reaching new heights—literally—with the return of the ZR2 Bison for 2024. With demand for off-road pickups at an all-time high, GM expects to double the sales of the original and plans to ramp up production accordingly. Developed in a partnership with American Expedition Vehicles (AEV), …
NewsChevy Adds Silverado HD ZR2 and ZR2 Bison to Refreshed 2024 Lineup
It was pretty much inevitable at this point: Chevrolet is expanding the Silverado HD lineup, which was already announced with a number of improvements for 2024, by adding a rugged and off-road-ready ZR2 model, taking a page from the Silverado 1500 and Colorado . An even more capable Silverado HD …
First Drives2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 : Easy Full-Size Off-Roading
Chevrolet recently took the road less travelled by adding a ZR2 version to its popular Silverado full-size pickup truck. And just like the brand did with the mid-size Colorado pickup, it called upon Markham-based Multimatic to build a suspension specifically for the model, in addition to giving it an array …
News2022 Chevrolet Silverado Gets Modern Cabin, Rugged ZR2 Model
The fourth-generation Chevrolet Silverado was introduced three years ago and now’s the time for a mid-cycle update. In addition to a rugged new ZR2 model aimed at off-road enthusiasts, Chevy’s full-size pickup gets a beautifully refreshed cabin and improved four-cylinder engine. Let’s take a closer look. Silverado ZR2 Chevrolet is …
Test Drives2023 Chevrolet Colorado Trail Boss: $50,000 and No Heated Seats?
Unlike their full-size counterparts, midsize pickups are selling for huge bucks and it’s hard to predict when manufacturers will start offering substantial discounts. For that to happen, demand will need to weaken, but there’s a whole lot of people going crazy for these versatile machines right about now. Heated or …