Back in 2017, Chevrolet introduced the Colorado ZR2 AEV Concept at the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas. We were all very impressed with the rugged, almost military-esque design that Chevy presented us, with its armored skid plates, winch-filled bumper, and snorkel reaching practically to the ceiling.
Chevrolet received so much positive feedback that they decided they’d actually build it for real. In April, we heard that Chevy had trademarked the name Bison for their off-roading truck. Bison had previously been used to denote a line of heavy-duty class 8 trucks that Chevy had made back in the ‘80s, and American Expedition Vehicles also has a bison as their mascot. It seemed as much a guarantee as we'd ever get.
It took them a while, but Chevrolet has finally unveiled their off-road masterpiece: the Colorado ZR2 Bison. And just like the AEV Concept, it’s as rugged and outdoorsy as a doomsday prepper, although maybe a little less militant.
Most of what goes into making the ZR2 Bison special can be seen just by looking at it.
Beneath the body is a total of five skid plates protecting the pickup’s most delicate bits from errant rocks and tree branches. There's one for the engine oil pan, fuel tank, transfer case, and both front and rear differentials. Each is made with hot-stamped Boron steel directly from AEV.
Both front and rear bumpers have been replaced by heavy-duty versions that are again made of stamped steel. There are integrated LED fog lights as well as space to mount a winch, with the rear bumper having high-strength recovery points built in.
The Bison comes with a set of unique 17x8-inch aluminum wheels which are wrapped in 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac off-road tires. All four corners are balanced by a completely redesigned suspension, including a set of Multimatic DSSV dampers with brand new cast-iron control arms and off-road rocker protection.
That AEV snorkel is of course included, but not as a standard offering. It’s an available extra which is installed at the dealer. And it won’t let you ford rivers or anything--the Bison is for dusty trails and it’s designed to keep the engine breathing the cleaner air above the cabin rather than the dirt-strewn muck that might get sucked in at ground level.
Under The Hood
The Bison comes standard with the same powertrain as the ZR2, that being a 3.6-L V6 producing 308 hp and of 275 lb-ft torque. Power is routed through an 8-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels and comes with an Autotrac 2-speed transfer case to allow for careful rock crawling with maximum control.
An available option is the 2.8-L Duramax turbodiesel with 186 hp and an impressive 369 lb-ft of torque. The turbodiesel comes paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission and the knowledge that you won’t necessarily be able to gas up wherever you roam.
It’s a bit of a departure to not offer a manual transmission on an ostensibly off-road-focused truck, but technology has gotten to the point where you can’t really argue that a man can do it better than a machine.
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Interior & Tech
As with the powertrain, the interior is expected to be shared with the regular ZR2 with a few key differences. Most of which have the letters AEV printed on them.
Each chair will have a headrest with AEV stitched on it, along with floor mats that are the same. There’s an AEV Bison logo on the tailgate as well, but it seems a little more acceptable to have your branding on the outside where it can advertise a bit.
Chevy wasn’t as forthcoming about the interior in their debut, but the Bison is expected to get the same goodies as the 2019 Colorado, which will include a third-generation Chevy Infotainment System which includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and both USB-A and C ports. There’s even an SD card so you can bring along your tunes to areas without any cellular signal.
Heated steering wheel will be standard, as will be a second in-cabin microphone to make group chats a little easier. There will also be a brand new HD rearview camera along with an ultrasonic sensor to keep from bumping into things.
When Can We Buy It?
The Colorado ZR2 Bison hits dealers early next year--January 2019 we’re told. We haven’t been provided pricing just yet, but given the ZR2 starts at $43,890, we’re thinking that 50 grand is certainly within the realm of possibility.
As for competition, Ford is set to come out with their Ranger Raptor very shortly which will definitely give the ZR2 Bison a run for its money. Ford’s also revealed the Ranger Raptor’s engine will be the 2.3-L turbo found in the Mustang and Focus RS, which produces 310 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers just squeak by the Bison, so it’ll all come down to real-world performance.
We’ll have more once we see the Bison hits the roads, both paved and not, in January.