There can only be one king. One high exalted mystic ruler. One Grand Poobah. And in the world of off-road-ready factory-special pickups, that’s the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor.

2017 Ford F-150 raptor white

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor. (Photo: Ford)

The full-size turbocharged Raptor has the most power, the most gears, the most wheel travel, the most ground clearance and the biggest tires in its class. What’s more, it just looks bad ass. It’s the truck to drive at 100 mph through 100 miles of desert.

But there’s a new challenger in town: a worthy competitor called the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2. The engineers at General Motor’s Chevy division didn’t just throw a lift and some 31-inch tires on a Colorado and then go out for fro-yo. They did it right, adding wider tracks, longer suspension travel and an impressive shock package. They also modified the body for additional ground clearance, proper skid plates and sheet metal protection.

The results are impressive. In fact, the Colorado ZR2 is so good that after some time in each, both on and off road, we’ve been able to identify five ways it’s better than the rajah Raptor.

  1. The ZR2 Is Smaller

When it comes to trucks, smaller is rarely perceived as better. But if you’ve done any serious off-roading, then you know size isn’t always your friend out on the trail. The full-size Ford Raptor is quite a bit bigger than the mid-size Chevy Colorado ZR2.

A quick look at the dimensions tells the tale. The big, bad Raptor is 2.4 inches wider and 6.3 inches taller than the ZR2. It’s also up to 31 inches longer. At 5,700 pounds, it outweighs the little Chevy by at least 700 pounds.

When off road, that means the lighter Colorado can run where the bigger Raptor cannot. In city driving, the ZR2 is easier to park, easier to live with and fits in all parking structures – which the Raptor does not.

  1. The ZR2 Has a Diesel Option

If you want the most power, buy the Raptor. Its 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged Ecoboost V6 engine puts out 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. The ZR2 comes standard with the same naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6 engine in the Camaro sports car, rated at 308 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque.

But what if you want a diesel? Check the option sheet and you’ll see the ZR2 is also available with a 2.8-liter Duramax diesel engine. The turbocharged four-cylinder is rated at 186 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque.

It costs an additional $3,500, but the fuel economy benefit is material. And with the diesel’s low-end grunt – max torque comes at just 2,000 rpm – the ZR2 climbs grades like a tractor.

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 back

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2. (Photo: Jerry Hirsch/Trucks.com)

  1. The ZR2 Gets Better Fuel Economy

Even with its standard V6 and 8-speed automatic transmission, the smaller, lighter ZR2 stretches a gallon of gas farther than the Raptor. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the Chevy at 16 mpg for city driving and 18 mpg on the highway.

Not surprisingly, the ZR2’s diesel really pulls away from the Ford’s V6 in this department. Despite its 6-speed automatic transmission, the ZR2 with the Duramax is rated at 19 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. And in recent real-world testing, we averaged 22 mpg in 300 miles of mixed driving, which included several hours off-road.

The EPA rates the turbocharged Raptor, which has a 10-speed automatic transmission, at 15 mpg city and 18 mpg highway. That’s impressive for a truck of this size and power. But to come anywhere close to its fuel mileage ratings, you have to stay out of the boost. It’s easy to find complaints on the Raptor forums about the truck’s thirst.

The Raptor also drinks premium fuel. The Chevy’s V6 lives on cheaper regular grade.

  1. The ZR2 has a Locking Front Differential

There’s only one pickup truck in this conversation that has a standard locking front differential, and it’s not the Raptor. Ford equips the Raptor with an electronically locked rear differential and you can pay an extra $500 for the optional Torsen limited-slip front differential.

The ZR2 is the only mid-size truck with front and rear electronically locked differentials. Both are standard. The only other truck with this feature is the mammoth Ram 2500 Power Wagon.

Front and rear lockers might not sound like a big deal, but off-road enthusiasts will tell you that being able to lock that differential and send power to both front wheels will get you out of many undesirable situations.

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 top

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2. (Photo: Jerry Hirsch/Trucks.com)

  1. The ZR2 Costs Less

The ZR2 package sits above the Z71 trim level on the mid-size Colorado pickup. Chevy offers the ZR2 in two configurations: Extended Cab with a 6-foot bed; and the Crew Cab with four full-size doors and a 5-foot bed.

For the Extended Cab, prices start at $40,995, including $995 for destination. The Crew Cab starts at $42,620. That’s about $5,000 more than the Colorado Z71, but if you plan to take the truck off-road, it’s worth it.

It’s also a steal compared with the Raptor. A base SuperCab Raptor costs $52,375, including $1,295 for destination. That’s $11,000 more than the base ZR2. Jump to the SuperCrew and you’re looking at $54,065. Load it up with options and the Raptor can surpass $70,000.

Check all the option boxes on the ZR2, including the diesel, the style bar and the cool-looking bed-mounted spare tire carrier, and you’ll touch $50,000. Not a bad deal for such a capable truck, especially one that can steal this much thunder from the king of the off-road pickups.

About The Author

Scott Oldham

Scott Oldham is an award winning  automotive journalist with 25 years of experience. Based in Los Angeles, Scott has written for Edmunds.com, Popular Mechanics and Autoblog. He can be found on Twitter: @RealScottOldham.

4 Responses

  1. Mark

    I will thanks ! A lot of talk out there about which truck is better /best etc.
    Thankfully we have a choice of what suits us best . Raptor ,Power Wagon, Taco Pro ,Zr2 they all bring something to the table and thats good for truck enthusiasts.
    The Zr2 is a nice well equipped truck for reasonable price . Chevy has raised the bar a bit for others to follow . In three or four years all the trucks in this class will be even better .
    Thats competition and the consumer wins . So stop badmouthing and making ass’s of yourselves.

    Reply
  2. TROndrey

    Hey all, been looking at Raptors for the last couple months and I’m trying to find a reason not to pull the trigger and get one. I’ve kept the Colorado in the back of my mind until recently and tonight decided to build one on the Chevy website. Of course, if I’m looking at the Raptor then I’m definitely considering the ZR2 trim for the Colorado.

    Maybe the build configurator is broken but I just don’t see many worth differences between the Z71 and the ZR2? Especially not for the price difference. What am I missing here?

    I appreciate the article but have to ask…is sacrificing nearly 150HP really worth ONE mile per gallon extra on fuel economy? That math just doesn’t make sense to me.

    Disclaimer: Have never owned a pick up before. Previous and current vehicles include; 2001 Explorer, 2001 Grand Am, 2010 Camaro.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.