Chevrolet is jumping into the high-performance truck market with the all-new Colorado ZR2 off-road pickup unveiled in advance of the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show Tuesday.
The General Motor’s division displayed the 2017 Colorado ZR2, a new variant of its Colorado midsized pickup, in a rented warehouse used in the 2006 crime film, The Departed, at the edge of the LA Arts District.
“This market is so hot that nearly every truck manufacturer has a high-performance truck for sale today or plans for one in the future,” said Eric Lyman, vice president of industry insights at ALG, an auto price forecasting firm.
Automakers are moving into the high performance, off-road truck market because the vehicles are among the most profitable in the truck segment, typically selling without incentives or large discounts, said David Sullivan, manager of product analysis for AutoPacific, an industry consulting firm.
“You can go rock crawling on Saturday, desert running on Sunday and comfortably drive to work on Monday,” said Mark Dickens, Chevrolet's director of performance variants, parts and motorsports engineering. “This truck can do it all, and do it all well.”
The automaker sees the new truck as a so-called halo vehicle.
“It gets attention and excitement for the brand,” said Alan Batey, president of GM’s North American operations.
Chevrolet gave the Colorado ZR2 an all-new 3.6-liter V6 gas engine producing 308 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. The automaker’s Duramax diesel engine capable of producing 181 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque is an option. The engines will be mated to GM’s 8-speed automatic transmission.
Although created for off-roading, the ZR2 will be capable of towing 5,000 lbs. and carrying 1,100 lbs. of payload.
The truck features standard steel-tube rocker protectors to protect the body, one skid plate for the radiator and oil pan and another shield over the transfer case.
The 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 will be unique among trucks because of its use of a new damper system within the suspension that was refined in high performance sports cars including Red Bull Racing’s Formula One cars, 25 of 60 entries in the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans, all of Ferrari’s GT race cars, the new Ford GT and the Aston Martin One-77.
The so-called Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve, or DSSV, dampers better control the compression and rebound in the suspension to handle higher speed off-roading, too, making this truck an off-road rocket. Under the right conditions, the truck can reach close to 100 mph while crossing sand dunes.
The damper is durable, responding equally to heat and the frequency of the bumps, according to Chevrolet’s engineering staff.
“On five laps of an off-road course it will respond equally well on the fifth lap as it did on the first,” said Gary Klein, lead chassis engineer on the truck.
It can handle an extreme range of road conditions. With a conventional suspension system, engineers optimize for either paved road or off-road performance. This system can handle all conditions with greater competence, Klein said. This will translate to better low-speed off-roading and a more comfortable ride at highway speeds, he said.
Chevrolet needed a truck like the Colorado ZR2 to round out its offerings.
“Those automakers who don’t have plans for a truck in this niche segment are surely hearing requests from customers for one and are likely missing out on a sales opportunity,” Lyman said
Not all Colorado ZR2 buyers are looking to cross the Sahara at race car speeds, said Stephanie Brinley, an analyst at IHS Markit, an automotive research firm. Some will purchase the truck just because it will have a cool image, she said.
“We are seeing a market that’s pretty healthy and buyers are interested in doing something different, there’s an appetite for something special,” Brinley said.
Still, Chevrolet’s truck will face stiff competition from both mid-size and full-size off-road pickups including the Ford F-150 Raptor, which pioneered the segment, and the Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road.
In September, Fiat Chysler Automobiles unveiled a fully working Ram Rebel TRX concept vehicle. Ram marketing executives described it as an “extreme performance half-ton pickup” and said the automaker was pondering whether to move forward with the truck.
“Even the most casual truck fan or truck owner who cares only about functionality can’t deny that these high-performance truck variants have a certain magic that appeals to almost everyone,” Lyman said.