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2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison: Chevy's special edition truck tackles city, off-road

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison 8.JPG
2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

One of the things that continues to confound me is the bazillions of configurations you can get for a single model of a pickup truck.

Long box or short box. Crew cabs or regular cabs or extended cabs. Gasoline or diesel. Special editions galore. All this makes for a seemingly endless and confusing number of configurations that allow you to do this but not that, or this and also that.

So, to say I drove a 2019 Chevrolet Colorado doesn’t begin to do this test vehicle justice without adding in the diesel, 4X4, short bed and crew cab designations – in addition to the ZR2 Bison special edition moniker.

With all that in the mix, this pickup was one sexy beast.

The first things I noticed when the ZR2 Bison pulled up in front of my building were the knobby tires and black accents. Next, the Red Hot paint, raised hood lines that accommodated the 2.8-liter Duramax diesel engine and the AEV Bison badging quickly registered in my brain, calling attention to the overall specialness of the vehicle.



The truck has a bold and aggressive stance that clearly says: Don’t mess with me.

Yet, with the short bed and crew cab configuration, it was also manageable in an urban situation. In fact, after a long line of pickup trucks that would not fit in my garage – this one did.

The overall package was attractive. And equipped with a backup camera, it was also manageable in tight situations.

The interior was a step up in quality over what I’d expect from a typical pickup with leather seats, reverse stitching and a four-color touchscreen display on the center stack.

Equipped with a 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel, the ZR2 Bison delivers 181 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, which was plenty of power for fast starts and highway passing maneuvers.



For a diesel, the engine is surprisingly quiet, with little to no noise pulsing into the cabin.

The large tires, however, did throw up some noise, but they also muted the pock-marked city streets, which I appreciated more than I was bothered by the tire sound.

With the diesel, the 4WD ZR2 Bison gets better fuel economy than the gasoline 3.6-liter V-6 engine, with an EPA estimated 18 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway. (Compared to 16/18 mpg for the 3.6L gas model.)

In combined but mostly city driving for the week, I averaged 17.1 mpg. While this is definitely better than what I’ve achieved in some similarly sized trucks, it’s not as good as what I got in the larger Ford F-150 equipped with a diesel engine – and that was a surprise.

This truck is definitely not meant for the city life, but it’s nice to know it can fit there if necessary.



Where it really shines, however, is in the middle of mud and gunk.

After the test week, I luckily had the opportunity to take the ZR2 Bison off road at a regional media association’s fall rally, which put those knobby tires to the test. Sloshing through muddy ruts and up slick hills, the ZR2 in 4-lo handled the obstacles like a walk in the park, crawling over slippery surfaces with assuredness and ease.

As much as I liked the looks and performance of the ZR2 Bison, there are a couple things about this truck that are a annoying.

The first is the cup holder situation. For such a large truck, the front cup holders are teeny tiny, and my 24-ounce water bottle would not fit in the ones on the center console or the doors. The bottle tilted awkwardly out of the small hole, and during the test week, I was habitually flinging it out of its precarious perch with every corner turned.

The second annoyance is petite-person specific, so heads up if you’re around 5-feet tall. I kept hitting my knee every time I entered the vehicle. And with my seat in a far-forward position, my legs felt wedged between the seat and underbelly of the dash – not an ideal driving position.



For reference, the base Colorado with an extended cab/long bed, 4-cylinder engine and rear-wheel-drive configuration starts at $22,395.

The ZR2 is at the top end of the trim scale with a base price of $42,395, and including the Bison package adds $5,750.

The ZR2 Bison can be configured with the 3.6-liter gasoline engine or the 2.8-liter diesel, but it is only available as a 4WD model and can be configured either with an extend cab/long bed or crew cab/short bed. The ZR2 Bison has a base price of $48,145.

With the crew cab/short bed configuration and diesel engine, the test vehicle rang in at $53,245.



The bottom line:

Pickup trucks tend to be more customizable than a sedan or SUV these days with varying powertrains and configurations. It all depends on what a potential owner is looking for: functionality, utility, appearance or style.

The Colorado ZR2 Bison is one of those trucks that combines a boss attitude with a nice dose of functionality.

From urban streets filled with potholes to sloppy mud strewn trails, the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison manages to find its comfort zone.

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