Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 first drive review: cast in convenience, forged off road

There’s no substitute for the right tool. How do I know that? Decades of hammering nails with a meat tenderizer. Don’t ask.

Off-roading requires the right tool, and Chevy owners have waited a long time for that equipment to show up in their Snap-On chests. Fast-rewind to the 2015 LA auto show, when the Chevy Colorado ZR2 clambered on to the stage.

Smaller than a Silverado, hardcore where it needed to be, the ZR2 promised the perfect skill set for carving paths where none existed. Now it’s a real thing, and we’ve done things with it we wouldn’t dare do with a normal Colorado, or a Silverado. Some things we won’t even name.

We can talk about how the Colorado ZR2 is the best GM off-road tool since the Hummer nameplate disappeared on everything except cologne bottles. (Really.)

Looks to thrill…or chill

The 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 is fashioned like a Sunday suit with the sleeves torn off.

2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 First Drive

2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 First Drive

Its interior is straight out of the standard Colorado Z71, with only a pair of “ZR2”-festooned kickplates to stroke buyers and passengers for shelling at least $41,000 for the truck. The cabin is awash in gray plastic, with a yellow Chevrolet badge the only island of color in a monochromatic sea.

You could summarize the interior in a word: it’s boring. I’ll add another word: refreshing.

The ZR2 skips bright badging or “hardcore” appearances for a stock approach, something dealers will likely be eager to rectify for a price. Personally, looking like a baboon’s ass—inside and out—on the trail doesn’t do much for grip, at least in my eyes.

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But the ZR2 finally fills in the strip of button blanks in the lower center stack for the Colorado. Front- and rear-locking differentials are standard on the ZR2 and activated quickly by my right hand. Near those switches a strip of toggles in ascending order of bad decisions: hill-descent control enable, traction and stability control disable, and emergency hazard when you’re inevitably upside down.

Those built-in lockers and traction programs should underscore the second-biggest attraction for the ZR2, which are a package of baked-in off-road features that the Colorado has sorely lacked. Development for the ZR2 started only two years ago, but the truck came together in only a year. Even with that short of a window, nothing feels like an afterthought.

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