When Chevy came out with the Colorado ZR2 in 2017, it was a game-changer in the midsize off-road performance market. The truck offered a robust midsize chassis improved with class-leading suspension, front and rear lockers, available factory rock rails, and the ability to turn off the electronic nannies for the purest driving experience. The major knocks on the first-gen Colorado ZR2 were subpar interior and tech, longish front overhang, limited suspension travel, and undersized tires.

For 2023, Chevy has addressed every one of those concerns with a new truck that has the look, the stance, and the goods to back it all up. While the lineup now includes WT, LT, Z71, and Trail Boss, we will focus on the enthusiast-focused ZR2 model.

Chassis

The new Colorado ZR2 rides on a mostly new chassis (some select portions of the existing frame are carried over) and is offered in a single configuration, the crew cab with a 5-foot, 2-inch bed. A 3.1-inch-longer wheelbase, most of it coming from moving the front axle forward 2.95 inches, enhances the stance by minimizing the front overhang. As compared with the base Colorado WT, ZR2 gets a 3-inch lift, allowing it to fit P285/70R17 (33-inch) off-road tires. Going forward, the Colorado now shares the Silverado bolt pattern, opening up a world of wheel options for the midsize truck. Like the current truck, the ZR2 comes standard with driver-selectable front and rear lockers.

Suspension

The ’23 version of the ZR2 carries on Chevy’s partnership with Multimatic, using the next generation of the company’s fantastic speed-sensitive spool-valve dampers, now with increased travel, front and rear. To increase stability, the ZR2 track width has been increased by 3 inches, thanks to the use of ZR2-only knuckles, upper control arms, and cast-iron lower control arms. Unique to the ZR2 amongst Colorado variants, the rear shocks have been located outboard of framerails for better control. The rear suspension still uses durable leaf-sprung technology.

android, 2023 chevrolet colorado zr2 first look: concerns addressed

Powertrain

The current 2.5-liter four-cylinder and 3.6-liter six-cylinder engines, as well as the 2.8-liter diesel, have been dropped in favor of a lineup of GM’s excellent 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gas engines. There will be three output levels, with the ZR2 benefiting from the high-output version, making an impressive showing at 310 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque (on regular fuel), a number that should ease the pain and sadness of diesel fans. To meet these power levels, the new high-output 2.7-liter engine includes a more rigid cylinder block casting, 30-percent-stiffer crankshaft, and a fully forged bottom end. The intercooler sits low behind the front bumper.

The 2.7-liter is backed by a second-generation eight-speed automatic transmission that has been enhanced to deliver smoother and quicker shifting with a focus on precise off-road power delivery for technical driving. Using the same 2.72 transfer case ratio as today’s ZR2, the 4.56 first gear of the transmission, and a 3.42 final drive ratio, gives the new ZR2 a crawl ratio of 42:1, essentially matching the current truck despite an ever-so-slightly taller first gear (4.56 vs. 4.61).

The 2.7-liter is backed by a second-generation eight-speed automatic transmission that has been enhanced to deliver smoother and quicker shifting with a focus on precise off-road power delivery for technical driving. Assuming the ZR2 uses the same 2.72 transfer case ratio (information for the ’23 wasn’t available at the time of this writing), the 4.56 first gear of the transmission and 3.42 final drive ratio gives the new ZR2 a crawl ratio of 42:1, essentially matching the current truck despite an ever-so-slightly taller first gear (4.56 vs. 4.61).

Exterior

The Colorado is a handsome truck, with athletic proportions and a body that looks like it has been pulled tight over underlying muscles. The ZR2 ups the ante with a unique and somewhat futuristically stylized grille with Flow Tie logo, LED lighting, more girthy fender flares, factory rock rails, and a ZR2-only hood. The shorter overhang, suspension lift, larger tires, and track-width increase really give the ZR2 some serious presence for its size. It reminds us of our favorite sandbox truck as a kid, except we want to take this one to the life-sized sandbox and romp.

Chevy also focused on the pickup part of the new Colorado. In addition to a new in-tailgate storage cubby, the bed is equipped with eight standard fixed tie-downs and room for up to nine additional flexible tie-downs. Four stake pockets sit atop the bed, with six 2×6 pockets and four 2×8 pockets stamped into the bed, making for the ability to create tri-level storage. On the ZR2, a spray-in bedliner is standard.

Interior

Seemingly taking inspiration from the Camaro and Silverado, the Colorado finally enjoys an interior that is befitting of this decade, with the requisite big screens and simple layout. The dash features big, round outboard vents and is wrapped and stitched. You’ll also find soft-touch materials and stitching on the center console, lid, and door panels, and taller front-seaters will appreciate the padded knee rest on the side of the center console.

Technology

With the new Colorado, Chevy has thrown the latest in technology at the new truck. The first thing you’ll notice is the high-definition 11.3-inch customizable main screen, accompanied by a configurable, fully digital 8-inch instrument cluster. The Colorado now takes advantage of over-the-air updates and uses Google Built-In for accessing maps, music, and vehicle functions, among other things. CarPlay and Android Auto will also seamlessly integrate into the driving experience.

Among the tech bestowed on the ZR2 is a new off-road performance display that can monitor GPS information such as altitude, along with pitch, roll, tire pressure, g-forces, wheel slip, and transfer case status. Chevy gives the ZR2 up to 10 different camera views, including one from a segment-first underbody camera.

Like most manufacturers these days, Chevy has tried to control the complexity in the drivetrain by including drive modes, accessed by a knob in the center console of the Colorado. The ZR2 is equipped with all of them, including the following:

  • Normal – A balanced baseline mode for everyday driving
  • Tow/Haul – Shift points are optimized for towing and hauling
  • Off-Road – Your basic all-around mode for off-pavement driving
  • Terrain – Think rock crawling and other technical, low-speed driving
  • Baja – The go-fast mode for exploring the limits of the chassis

And, yes, like the current truck, the electronic babysitters can be put on time-out so that good drivers can do their best Chad Hall impersonations in the desert.

Capability

With out-of-the-box capability in mind, nearly every important off-road empirical number has improved. Track width is now at 66.3 inches from 65.9 inches, ground clearance grows to 10.7 inches from 10 inches, and approach/departure/breakover angles go from 30/23.5/23.5 to 38.3/25.1/24.6. As compared to the outgoing model, the 2023 Chevy ZR2 gets another 1,000 pounds of tow capacity, increasing to 6,000 pounds, while payload is down slightly from 1,250 pounds to 1,151 pounds.

Desert Boss

In the ultimate “But wait! There’s more!”, Chevy also announced the special-edition Desert Boss package, inspired by Colorado’s successful desert racing program. The Desert Boss adds 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels, a new front push bar with LED driving lights, a bed-mounted sports bar with sail panel, roof-mounted LED light bar, and unique “Desert Boss” badging.

We Can’t Wait

Chevrolet came out swinging with the new Colorado ZR2, and we cannot wait to get behind the wheel and blow through some whoops off-road. If the driving experience is anything like the spec and feature sheet, Chevy might just have the next midsize hit on their hands—and a new standard in trail blazers, for everyone else to match.

2023 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Specifications
BASE PRICE $45,000 (est)
LAYOUT Front engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck
ENGINE 2.7L/310-hp/430-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
TIRE SIZE P285/70R17
CURB WEIGHT 5,298 lb
PAYLOAD 1,151 lb
TOWING 6,000 lb
WHEELBASE 131.4 in
L x W x H 212.7 x 84.4 x 81.9 in
GROUND CLEARANCE 10.7 in
ON SALE Spring, 2023

Watch: 8 Reasons Why the Last-Generation Colorado ZR2 Bison Is Still Awesome Off-Road

android, 2023 chevrolet colorado zr2 first look: concerns addressed
android, 2023 chevrolet colorado zr2 first look: concerns addressed
android, 2023 chevrolet colorado zr2 first look: concerns addressed
android, 2023 chevrolet colorado zr2 first look: concerns addressed
android, 2023 chevrolet colorado zr2 first look: concerns addressed
android, 2023 chevrolet colorado zr2 first look: concerns addressed

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