2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison Review

by AJ Deysel

The 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show gave us the first glimpse of the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado Bison AEV Edition. While Jeep may have stolen the show with their Gladiator pickup, Chevy has stolen the thunder from Jeep, with their rugged, smart and ‘Bison’ like Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 released before Jeep could even formally announce a showroom date. Adding insult to injury for Jeep is General Motors tying the knot with their once long-time aftermarket ally American Expedition Vehicles hence the AEV Edition.

AEV successfully partnering with General Motors as their first official OEM partnership vehicle for the Colorado Bison is a substantial first step in the right direction. If anything, it couldn’t have gone done well with Jeep boss CEO Mike Manley. Regardless, we are glad to have had the chance to go over the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado Bison AEV Edition for this review and were impressed!

Minimal Yet Significant Changes

When you compare the types of changes AEV editions of the Wranglers and Rams have had in the past, the Colorado ZR2’s changes seem relatively minimal. To us apart from fog lamps, a stylish new grille, 17 inches by 8-inch wheels with Goodyear tires and more massive fender flares, there isn’t much to its appearance. Perhaps the most interesting tweak is that of steel armor around the oil pan, rear and front differentials, transfer case and fuel tank to prevent damage to the otherwise soft underbelly of this best.      

The bumpers are also equipped with a winch in the front and a few extra recovery points. To us, the bumpers and the grille are what gives the ZR2 that signature and distinct truck like look by making it less awkward compared to the regular ZR’s Bulldog like face. That said other than what we’ve mentioned above there is no visual difference between the regular ZR2 and the Bison. Of course, there is the AEV logo over on the headrest and tailgate, but that’s to be expected.

Drives Like a Top of the Line Off-road Colorado

The first thing you notice when behind the wheel of the Colorado is that those slight changes don’t translate to any difference felt on the road. The truck still drives smoothly on paved roads despite the large, and toughened tires, that is thanks in part to the Multimatic DSSV dampers.  However, you’ll still have to deal with the road noise associated with the knobby tires which can cause the truck to drift slightly to the left or right at high speeds.

Under the hood, you still have a 3.6-liter V-6 naturally aspirated engine which can take the truck to pretty high speeds though we’d not advise that you do especially with those tires. The eight-speed automatic shifts up and down smoothly which is to expected since the AEV Edition offers no changes to the transmission technology, after all why try to fix what isn’t broken.

An Off-road Champ

The 2019 Chevrolet Colorado Bison AEV Edition gets a chance to shine when you take it off the road. To give you some sense as to what we mean, we took the vehicle through some of the worst terrains with large rocks, mud, and sand. After a few hours of driving, we examined the vehicle, and it became clear that the AEV Edition is tougher than the regular model. The skid plates were the star of the show, slipping under the vehicle it became apparent that they absorbed most of the damage but showed little signs of it.

The only issue we had when off-roading with the Bison AEV Edition is the throttle responsiveness. It was highly challenging to work the gas pedal when trying to scale rocks; it is as if the vehicle loses power at least that’s what we felt with the V6 model. If the rock faces were too steep, we’d get no throttle response which then meant heavy braking to prevent the Bison from sliding back.

The experience was improved when the Bison was pushed into off-road mode, but that didn’t make our throttle problems go away for the more challenging rocks. That’s why we don’t think that the Bison is the vehicle to go for if you’re a serious rock crawler.

Apart from those nasty rocks, we were not able to climb the AEV Edition performed well with its Boron steel skid plates, but in most cases, it behaved like the regular ZR2 would with its excellent 8.9 inches of ground clearance, large tires, and flexible suspension. Lock in the diffs and the Bison climbs effortlessly through steep trails which would be a challenge for most other competing trucks.

Thanks to the Multimtic shocks we were able to cruise through rough roads at a steady 30 mph, while still feeling we could keep our breakfast down for the most part. Sure, the ZR2 isn’t a Ford Raptor when it comes to high-speed driving through difficult terrain, but it does come very close. The Saurian F-150 is another close competitor with its impressive performance, but it can’t beat the Colorado’s narrower and slightly shorter measurements which make it better suited for off-road driving.

Final Verdict

The 2019 Chevrolet Colorado Bison AEV Edition is a highly capable off-road machine, but it isn’t unchallenged with several others gunning for the spot of ‘Best off-road vehicle.’ The Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro directly competes with the AEV, and with the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon soon joining the ranks, competition is fierce.

Those in the market for an off-roader have to consider the fact that the AEV Edition will start at around $48,000 for the Extended Cab version, which includes approximately a thousand dollars as a destination charge. The Crew Cab models are slightly under $50K. At this price, there are many competing vehicles for those who want to scale rocks. Though for those who don’t want to climb rocks regularly the Bison AEV Edition is overkill! Yet we’d recommend it for someone looking for a vehicle that can handle a little of everything.

Images from Chevrolet

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