Let's just get this out of the way first: The 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, introduced at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show, is not, repeat NOT, a Corvette-powered Colorado. Sorry about that. However, it is the ultimate off-road expression of the Colorado you're likely to see in a Chevy showroom. Starting with the basic Colorado, the ZR2 incorporates cutting-edge technology to optimize the Colorado for its off-road mission without sacrificing its on-road livability, while simultaneously sticking a thumb in the eye of those who say the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is a better off-road vehicle.

A lot goes into the new Colorado ZR2, but none of it would be worth anything without the Multimatic Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSV) dampers. Don't know what that is? That's OK. They're basically very fancy, very expensive, and very specialized shock absorbers. Chevrolet has partnered with Multimatic before on the 2014 Camaro Z/28, but this is the first time the supplier -- which made its name on race cars, including Formula One teams -- has been used in an off-road vehicle. Compared to standard shock absorbers, the spool-valve technology isn't as sensitive to the extreme heat fluctuations that can occur under heavy use, particularly in off-road conditions. Multiple internal valves and an external reservoir allow for a wide range of damping forces at various levels of suspension compression. The point is that these are high-tech shocks crucial to the ZR2's off-road ability.

Rugged, off-road looks and function

There's more, of course. Chevy upgraded the body of the ZR2 with special high-clearance bumpers that look like they're off a trophy truck. Speaking of clearance, the ZR2 boasts a two-inch suspension lift compared to the Z71 Colorado. There are special rocker bars under the doors for additional durability, along with skid plates under the front bumper and under the engine. Then there are the electronically locking front and rear differentials, which can be activated independently of each other. There's even an "off-road mode" that recalibrates the anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control for optimum off-road use. Under the hood, ZR2 buyers can choose between the new 3.6-liter V6 engine and 8-speed automatic transmission, or the Duramax diesel four-cylinder.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2017

Chevrolet talked a lot about the rugged terrain testing they did with the ZR2; Moab and the Rubicon Trail were mentioned repeatedly. For us, Chevy constructed an "off-road" course in the middle of East LA. While it's not surprising that the Chevrolet truck did very well on the course specifically designed to show off its capability, it should be noted this was not an easy course. My driver blasted through offset humps, with the truck -- and me -- spending a surprising amount of time in the air. He wasn't shy about jumping over larger bumps as well. And the steep 30-degree incline -- complete with 8-inch deep artificial ruts -- was a great showcase for the independently locking differentials.

In all, it was a useful and occasionally heart-stopping demonstration, one that whetted our appetites for getting behind the wheel ourselves. No exact word on when that will be, or how much all this fancy hardware will cost, but expect the ZR2 to appear in showrooms in a few months.

Related: See the other cars and concept vehicles unveiled at the 2016 LA Auto Show


 

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