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King of the Hammers
EventsFeaturesSaturday Morning Car Tune!

Finding glory in the chaos at King of the Hammers

Twice over the past 10 days, I ventured out into the desert north of Los Angeles to once again visit King of the Hammers, the off-road rage fest that descends on Johnson Valley OHV Area every February. Now in its 17th year, KoH leans more closely to Burning Man with a healthy dose of Mad Max fever dream thrown in, and growing attendance this year topped out at an estimated six-figure count.

I received invitations from Optima Batteries to check out the Optima Oasis, an unexpected installation of solar and hydrogen-powered electric vehicle chargers built out to encourage EV acceptance among the marauding four-wheeler crowd. And Ford promised a few experiences that I knew I simply couldn’t pass up.

King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

But the racing also caught my eye more than ever this year, after I spent the first weeks of last year in Saudi Arabia covering the Dakar Rally and then this past November pre-running much of the Baja 1000 racecourse. King of the Hammers presents a different challenge in every class, from the high-speed trophy trucks to race-prepped side-by-sides, King of the Motos, homebuilt “Every Man Challenge” entrants, and of course, the million-dollar-plus specialty builds known as Ultra4 cars.

But I should be right at home, right? After all, I did drive the course with Ford’s arch nemesis

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Day 1 at KoH

This year, newsworthy Southern California weather forecasts predicted heavy rain, and even some snow, for Johnson Valley over the KoH dates. So, for my first day in the desert, I packed accordingly, cramming all my recovery gear into an Audi Q8 e-Tron that I planned to drive out and charge up at the Optima Oasis. In went the Yankum rope, a pair of soft shackles, six different Maxtrax recover boards that I figured I might be able to test on heavy, mid-size, and lightweight off-road vehicles alike, and, of course, my automatic tire deflators and compressor bag for airing down and back up.

King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

I’ll have a more detailed story about Audi’s performance driving 135 miles out to Johnson Valley coming soon here on Acceleramota, but to cut out a bit of nail-biting drama, high winds and thousands of vertical feet of elevation climb left me hypermiling behind semi trucks to save range for much of the drive. So when I pulled into the dirt, I made a bee-line straight to a Level 2 charger and plugged the Audi in for the rest of the day.

The Audi wouldn’t have fit in particularly well among the group of Ford Raptor enthusiasts that I then joined for a quick trail run to catch some more remote viewing spots of the trophy trucks racing. I climbed into a friend’s suspension-swapped Ford F-150, with the Coyote V8 instead of the factory Raptor’s twin-turbo V6. Surrounded by Broncos from the 1970s to the modern era, more brand-spanking-new Raptors and Raptor Rs, plus even an early production Ranger Raptor that Ford reps brought along for some fun, we jetted out into the vast expanse of Johnson Valley.

The modded F-150 ran well, keeping up pace even though the leaders never pushed particularly hard. But the Bronco Raptors and F-150 Raptor Rs on their 37-inch tires clearly rode more smoothly over some of the rougher portions. Catching sight of the classics barrelling through sagebrush and mud pits put a smile on everyone’s faces. After a couple of stops to watch young racer and social media personality, Christopher Polvoorde, blast by in a Mason Motorsports-built “Raptor” trophy truck at an entirely different level of speed, leading twice but in second place occasionally, too, we turned back to Hammertown to catch the finish line.

King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle
King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

On the way, the F-150 caught sections of whoops a bit too aggressively, and soon enough, warning lights blared and steam started blistering out of the hood. Turns out the coolant line to the heater core had sheared right off, I figure because the Raptor might get different engine mounts that can handle a more hardcore beating. We fiddled for a bit but decided to get back to home base to scrounge up parts and more antifreeze rather than risk overheating again while crawling back.

And that’s how I ended up catching a ride with Tanner Foust on the way back to watch Polvoorde take first place in his first year driving his own Mason trophy truck. At the finish line, I chatted up the 23-year-old, who I met last year at the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb (and who I beat in a karting race while there, for those keeping score—whenever you beat a pro at anything, it’s always best practice to bring it up at every single opportunity). To my surprise, Polvoorde looked fresh after a hard few hours of racing. Had recent rainstorms smoothed out the course, as I’d experienced in Baja a few months ago? Not so much, apparently.

King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

“King of the Hammers definitely threw a challenge at us this year, I mean, way different than Baja,” Polvoorde said. “The course was chewed up, I can tell you it was blowing my mind how rough it got. Even the first lap when we went out, I was like, ‘Holy cow, there’s some big holes.’ And then by the second time we came through, I was like, ‘Okay, let’s calm her down, slow her down.’”

“At Baja, we get a lot more variety,” he remembered. “Here just kind of beats you up for two, three hours and then spits you out… I used that to my advantage, I knew we weren’t getting the best time splits, and then I knew right here at the end it was pretty sandy. So with the four-wheel-drive, I was like, ‘Yeah, we’re just gonna pull up and put enough time on ‘em.’”

After a bit more celebrations that certainly involved zero beverages, we borrowed a hose clamp from Polvoorde’s team truck and headed back out to try and fix the F-150 before the sun went down. Playing mechanic’s helper, I struggled to pull off a stubborn clip—which, of course, popped right off easily in someone else’s hands—then we topped up the coolant, tightened down the borrowed hose clamp, and fired up that Coyote. Just a few drops of pink poured out of the jury-rigged connection at idle, so we slow-cruised back to the Optima Oasis, thinking that was a better bet than leaving a truck unattended all night in the desert. Next, I checked on the Audi, and after averaging 12 miles of range added per hour of charging, felt confident enough to blast home in the dark.

Returning to the desert

Four days later, and this time piloting a 2023 Ford Bronco Raptor, I blasted back out to Johnson Valley and arrived well after 11 PM. The next morning, feeling refreshed as a newborn baby (read: screaming, angry, and starving), I got to experience something much closer to Polvoorde’s job in the trophy truck. That Bronco Raptor simply rips, the perfect vehicle for exploring KoH, able to keep up with side-by-sides thanks to long-travel Fox dampers and all those 418 horsepowers—only with air conditioning, heated seats, and Apple CarPlay for keeping the OnX Offroad app pulled up on the big screen.

King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Once again, I brought my Maxtrax and recovery gear, just in case the weather prophets actually turned out correct for once. Guess again, since a bright blue sky and dry breeze graced the entirety of Johnson Valley, as usual. I spent some more time playing around with a Rivian and checking out the Optima Oasis charging setup, then went out to enjoy the Braptor at top speed. Jumping, roaring, sliding sideways, and repeatedly redlining up a sandy hillclimb, I may have pushed a little too hard—not that the Braptor minded, only because the Maxtrax mount popped off at some point.

Pulling a 180, I retraced my steps using OnX and—miracle of miracles—actually found one of the boards sitting at the center of a little brush clearing surrounded by 96,000 acres of godforsaken dirt. The other, it would seem, is lost to the elements (or, more likely, somebody spotted it and took home a souvenir). 

With dry sand and no precipitation looking likely, I never needed to test a recovery board in a truly dire situation, but a helpful Toyota Corolla Cross owner offered to let me try out the new Maxtrax Lite by using the board to dig a little hole, then dipping a tire in until it spun. Sure enough, the lighter plastic held up just fine, and the little hybrid just walked right up and out of the makeshift hole.

A ride in the real deal

On the very opposite end of the spectrum from a Toyota commuter car stuck in some sand. I next ventured out with Ford to catch a ride in a full-blown factory Bronco DR racecar. Baja legend Curt Leduc played wheelman for about 20 minutes of all gas and almost no brakes other than to avoid a few dirt bikers and those damned wayward side-by-sides. 

King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Once warmed up, the DR’s Multimatic suspension gobbles up terrain without disrupting chassis balance almost at all. I always find race suspension a little firm, and in this case, that impression arose again at first, but eventually, we settled into a rhythm, and with the unrestricted Coyote V8 absolutely barking, massive tires freewheeling in the air aplenty, Leduc showed me just how different a real racer is compared to a stock Bronco Raptor or suspension-swapped F-150. 

I even got an early ride in that Ranger Raptor on the way out and back to meet Leduc. Lighter, with a longer wheelbase supporting a less radical suspension and tire combo than the Bronco Raptor, the Ranger served perfectly as my glorified desert chauffeur. And Ford’s rep told me the truck actually rolled off the production line, so we can expect real media reviews sometime in the next couple of months… For now, this top-spec Ranger finally arriving in the US later this year might just take over my top slot of potential new trucks to actually buy.

Just kidding, I’ll never own a new car, but if I ever do, this might be the one.

Absolute chaos at Chocolate Thunder

Now’s as good a time as any to reveal that no matter how much everyone shit-talks side-by-sides, including me, there’s no doubt that nothing on the market can match these purpose-built carts in terms of sheer off-road pace for the money. I wanted to catch another chance to borrow a Can-Am Maverick R or a Polaris Rzr Pro R to test a bit out at KoH, too. But communication once again proved impossible, as seemingly everyone at Johnson Valley arrived with Starlink this year and completely overwhelmed any hope of wi-fi reception through satellites.

As night fell at KoH, I certainly appreciated my Braptor’s enclosed cabin and climate control system. Temps started to drop quickly and the party began to crank up. From Hammertown, everybody kept turning to check out the bright lights and bumping music emanating from the epic obstacle known as Chocolate Thunder. I fueled up on tacos and White Claws, changed into full cold-weather gear, including a face mask, and grimly faced the prospect of my first overnight at King of the Hammers. Time to get the full alt-right Coachella experience.

Drunk teenagers probably named the Hammers back in the day—there’s an easily distinguished theme to Backdoor, Chocolate Thunder, and Her Problem—but now the crowd at KoH varies from teens to full-grown adults addled by days of chugging beers (not Bud Light, I assure you) and the dehydration of spending all day watching desert racing.

But I quickly discovered that nothing compares to the nightlife.

King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

At Chocolate Thunder for about four hours, as amateurs drove their insane rock-crawling rigs through a screaming mass of people, I witnessed one fistfight, two cars roll over, and one car driving fully over another. Beverages flowed, the occasional smell of skunk overwhelming the gasoline-powered campfires dotting the hill, and music echoing from various speaker setups varied from early-2000s hip hop to modern pop-country. Handheld fireworks launching amid the scrum lit up the entire valley, when the light pods and bars on every truck didn’t quite reveal every last nook and cranny. Flat tires, dirt bikers being pushed up the hill, and stuck trucks danced on by groups of 10 and 20 revelers—somehow, I saw nobody get flattened. 

The gnarliest moment came when an entire box of fireworks exploded on the ground, spectators diving to the sides to avoid any carnage. Meanwhile, the amateurs showed their amateur status, struggling to climb up Chocolate Thunder as the engine screamed and tires squealed, scrabbling on the rocks, spraying up sand and gravel. No wonder racers at King of the Hammers talk about pre-running being little more than shakedowns for the vehicles rather than sighting lines. The whole desert changes every night in the chaos!

I mentioned to Polvoorde how rowdy KoH gets at night and how many more people stayed out at Hammertown than I remembered from years past. 

“It’s pretty crazy,” he agreed. “Every year, it’s like how much bigger can it get? The lakebed is just filling up more and more, and then you see things like what Optima’s doing, building the Oasis where we have just this massive camp outside of Hammertown. It always blows my mind. But once you come here and experience it, it’s one of those things where you’re like I have to keep coming back ‘cus there’s something different every single day, and it kind of never disappoints.”

A rubberband cart takes on the Ultra4 racers

As if to unwittingly prove my point about side-by-sides, this year, I purposefully decided to make my schedule line up so that I could catch the Ultra4 cars running the rock race in the 4400 class. I caught the start line, then jetted up toward Backdoor in the Braptor just in time to watch the frontrunners pull through, jumping off six-foot shelves easier than I step off the stoop of my apartment. But right up there with the likes of Casey Currie, Loren Healey, and the Gomez Brothers sat Kyle Chaney, a Can-Am driver in a Maverick X3 riding on 37-inch tires.

Apparently, the 4400 class rules changed this year to make 37s the absolute minimum tire size, mostly to prevent budget side-by-sides from running against the world’s most extreme seven-figure off-roading vehicles. Because how embarrassing would it be if some guy in a Can-Am won the top race at King of the Hammers while dealing with both top-speed desert trails and obstacles like torn-up Chocolate Thunder alike?

Yep, you guessed it. Kyle Chaney did just that—or at least, we thought he did since he crossed the finish line first after starting well off the front. But then, on adjusted time, Raul Gomez actually took home the top spot and nudged Chaney down to second. Not bad for a side-by-side, though, and not even one of Can-Am’s top-of-the-line Maverick Rs since that innovative finger-knuckle design limits max tire sizing.

I actually watched Chaney go up Chocolate Thunder, a wild choice of lines always standing out compared to his competition. The morning after, some spectators clearly in recovery, the cheers for every truck ripping through sounded just as strong—to my ringing ears and searing eyeballs anyway. Three full days at King of the Hammers will do that, turns out, and some people stick around for 10 days or more!

King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

The insane night culture that I caught for the first time this year will never fade from memory, even if I caught very little on camera. Maybe that’s for the best, though, in the vein of plausible deniability. Every year, I wonder whether I’ll take the time to do King of the Hammers again next year. This time around, the answer looks more solidly in the yes column than ever before.

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2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
FeaturesNew Car Reviews

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison: Chevy’s mini Raptor can haul serious ass on the King of the Hammers course

Welcome to Johnson Valley, home of rocks, rattlesnakes, and the legendary King of the Hammers off-road racecourse. Last year, Johnson Valley also played host to the gnarliest dynamic vehicle launch of my automotive career, when Ford brought media out for a day of technical rock crawling, high-speed whoop running, lakebed autocross, and straight-up jumping (on purpose) in the absolutely manic Bronco Raptor. And today, it’s the perfect setting for Chevrolet to pull out the stops in a bit of one-upmanship by debuting the new Colorado ZR2 Bison, the Chevy Colorado’s most hardcore off-roading package. In fact, Chevy unveiled an entirely new “Bison Family” at Johnson Valley including the Silverado’s Light Duty and Heavy Duty variants. But for a real King of the Hammers experience, a Colorado jam-packed with goodies from American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) definitely takes the cake.

I showed up to Johnson Valley with plenty of experience driving a “base” Colorado ZR2 on the Vegas to Reno off-road racecourse earlier this year. Over that three-day adventure,  I somehow planted enough seeds of confidence among Chevy’s PR and engineering teams that they planned a one-on-one afternoon for me and GM’s Engineering Group Manager Tim Demetrio to take a Bison even further off the beaten path and hopefully find some Raptor-style ripping and rock crawling to fully reveal the new truck’s impressive off-roading capabilities.

(Editor’s Note: Updated 3/1/2024 with pricing and fuel economy information.)

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2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Price and Specs

Price is currently unknown as this is an especially new, fresh-off-the-drawing-board model that we’ve had the privilege of reviewing. However, do expect it to sticker at a healthy increase over the non-Bison ZR2’s $48,295, further detailed in our pricing breakdown. In the interim, please enjoy the specs we were given, juiced up with extra off-road-centric figures for your sand-kicking pleasure. 

Base price:$60,995 ($48,395 for ZR2, $11,700 for Bison pack, $445 for necessary Safety Pack)
As-test price:Approx. $65,000
Engine:High-Output 2.7-liter turbocharged inline-four
Transmission:8-speed automatic
Drivetrain:RWD/4Hi/4Lo with electronically locking front and rear differentials
Power:310 horsepower
Torque:430 pound-feet
Weight:5,265 pounds
Tow rating:5,500 pounds
Max payload:1,050 pounds
Tires:LT315/70R17 Mud-Terrains (35” OD)
Approach angle:38.2°
Departure angle:26.0°
Breakover angle:26.9°
MPG:16 city, 16 highway, 16 combined
Fuel Capacity:21 gallons

ZR2 Bison Exterior Design

The Colorado received a ground-up redesign for the third generation, seemingly taking plenty of styling and engineering cues from the Toyota Tacoma. Boxy, angular headlights up front transition to a square body with subtle fender flares on lower-spec trucks and more aggressive details on the ZR2 and Bison. The entire lineup comes only in the most popular crew cab with a short bed configuration, which unfortunately renders long beds and extra cabs extinct.

Spotting a Bison from afar, versus a base ZR2, requires 20:20 vision. Up close, the steel bumpers and 17-inch wheels from AEV stand out as slightly more off-road-focused. An additional 1.5 inches of ride height over the ZR2’s 3.0-inch lift contributes to a bolder stance that the 35-inch mud-terrain tires only enhance.

What’s hot?– Sublime Multimatic suspension with new hydraulic jounce control bumpers
– Improved tech with trick four-wheeling drive modes
– Ventilated seats!

ZR2 Bison Pricing Breakdown

The full Bison package adds a set of Multimatic’s hydraulic jounce control bumpers (more on those later) to complement the spectacular Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSV) dampers that already make the ZR2 an impressively specced pickup from the factory. AEV then contributes the steel bumpers, hot-stamped boron-steel skid plates, and rock sliders to protect the truck from the toughest trails. Those 35-inch tires are Goodyear Wrangler Territory Mud-Terrains mounted on beadlock-capable wheels that measure a half-inch wider than the ZR2’s.

Chevrolet plans to announce pricing for the Bison closer to the start of production, but we know that the 2023 ZR2 stickered for an impressive $48,395, and adding the Bison package to the Silverado ZR2 ran about $8,000. However, the Colorado’s full spec sheet tacks on more than the Silverado received, mostly in the form of tires and those hydraulic jouncers, so expect the Colorado Bison to slot in just shy of $60,000 — critically, a step below Ford’s pricing for the F-150 and Bronco Raptors that start in the high-$60,000 range, and in line with the Ranger Raptor that starts at a smidge above $55,000. Avoiding that level of sticker shock clearly fits into the plan, since nearly half of Colorado ZR2 buyers count as conquest customers switching to Chevrolet for the first time.

Update! Surprise, surprise. We were right on the money at $60,000, as ticking the Bison option box on your spec sheet adds an extra $11,700 on top of the base ZR2’s price tag.

ZR2 Bison Interior and Tech

Redesigning the Colorado for a third generation included a desperately needed step up for the trucks’ interior and technology. For the first time, an 11.3-inch touchscreen crowning the dash includes Google Built-In as well as Wireless Apple CarPlay, while the four-wheel-drive controls move to piano keys and knobs located close to the gear shifter and, therefore, the driver’s right hand. 

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

The Colorado’s front seats can fit taller drivers with ease, though the rear bench feels tight even with the front seats scooted fairly far forward. Four-legged friends will no doubt enjoy the rear ergonomics, but the relative lack of real liveable space makes the decision to skip an extra cab and long bed configuration all the more confusing. But most importantly, the Bison package includes ventilated seats, which all desert rats know as the greatest piece of automotive engineering ever and what the standard ZR2 surprisingly lacked.

The most hardcore Colorado possible

A race-ready powerhouse

Significant updates to the exterior, interior, and tech should help the entire Colorado lineup stand up to competition from Toyota’s Tacoma and Ford’s Ranger. But really, the whole point of hitting Johnson Valley in a Bison was to show off what’s going on beneath the skin (some of which is easily visible, to be fair). The off-roading goodies arrive hot off years of testing by Chevrolet’s factory efforts with Chad Hall Racing at the full calendar of events including King of the Hammers, but also the Mint 400, Vegas to Reno, and more. 

Chasing Chad Hall himself across Nevada from behind the wheel of a base ZR2 showed off the difference (other than race tires) between the ZR2 and Bison, but now the time has arrived for Demetrio to take me out in Johnson Valley and prove it. We left the rest of the group behind a bit surreptitiously, but once out of view behind a small hill, Demetrio gave me the go-ahead and I tipped deep into throttle. The High-Output version of Chevy’s new-ish 2.7-liter inline-four takes a minute to build turbo boost before unleashing all 430 lb-ft of torque. But really, when it comes to off-road in the slippery stuff, instantaneous response may only lead to wheelspin, anyway.

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Once up into the powerband, though, I trusted the Bison with a loose hand on the reins and my faith in that magical suspension setup and its revised mounting points. Sure enough, after charging over whoops and blasting up rutted washes, this version of the Colorado takes comfort and confidence to a new level despite me doing my darnedest to slide around and apply plenty of countersteer. Catching air under the front and rear axles never bottomed out the DSSV dampers. Not once. Or at least, as Demetrio explained, it never felt that way. 

A proper chassis for a proper performance vehicle

The hydraulic jounce bumpers create that illusion by absorbing and dissipating impacts that more traditional rubber bump stops would absorb and then rebound back into the chassis. Of course, the 35s serve as the first and most important part of the entire suspension system, but the Multimatics help to control any perceived weight and balance concerns that bigger tires and more lift might otherwise create.

The resulting combination of trophy truck speed and nimble handling at the limits of traction also helps explain why Chevy ditched the diesel engine option for the new Colorado. The new gas four-banger puts out more torque, but in the desert, the diesel’s cast-iron block would have messed up the ZR2 and Bison’s front-to-rear weight balance. Instead, I can now click into two-wheel drive and lock the rear diff, which most manufacturers won’t allow, to produce some real hooning fun.

Fishtailing around as fast as possible never matches the sheer pace possible in 4-Auto or 4-Hi, though, and Demetrio and I only had so much time out on our own. After showing off the Colorado’s high-speed abilities, he also wanted to take me on some more hardcore rock crawling that the Bison’s additional armoring and bigger tires make possible. We ended up entirely over a far ridge, searching for the best route home while hopping over rocks and clambering up bouldered trails that, to my eye, looked more suitable for side-by-sides. And yet, once again the Bison just kept chugging along even as I truly tested the rock sliders and skid plates with some bangs and scrapes. 

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Supreme confidence down Chocolate Thunder

Fear no boulders

Eventually, we wound up at the top of a KoH segment known as Chocolate Thunder (children, these off-roaders, I swear) and Demetrio explained how the Colorado’s new Terrain drive mode makes the most of an electronically assisted brake booster to create ideal one-pedal driving. Playing friendly, I switched over into Terrain mode and inched down the technical trail, occasionally using the front camera to help with visibility over the Colorado’s square hood (which might just be my least favorite part of the trucks, actually).

At points where I expected a wheel (or two) to lift off or lose traction after my experience with a ZR2, the Bison simply stayed put. That kind of articulation in a truck with independent front suspension and a leaf spring solid rear axle simply boggles the mind. Once again, the third gen’s revised suspension mounting points prove their worth. I still prefer two-foot driving while rock crawling, and can admit to leaving a bit more boron on the rocks of Chocolate Thunder. But once we got underway, I never felt anything near the kind of trepidation that crept in looking down from the top of the trail.

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Baja Blastin’

Time to rejoin the group. Lost in our fun, we might even be running late. No problem. Pop out of Terrain mode and back into Baja, and it’s time to find the fastest way back to home base. Demetrio keeps telling me to push harder and stop slowing down for those whoops, how once during testing he saw the underside of a truck’s front diff while chasing another development engineer across the desert. Now we’re both laughing, the off-road children ourselves, amazed at how much punishment the Bison can take—without dishing it out on the driver or passenger. This truck rollicks like a bucking Bronco. Wait, no, a bucking Mustang. Dammit, like something that’s not a Ford product name!

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Almost back to the group, I pepper Demetrio with a few questions of my own. Why no disconnecting sway bars, as on the Bronco or Jeep’s Gladiator and Wrangler? Well, other than added cost, the ZR2 and Bison both get locking front diffs that make a bigger difference while rock-crawling with a leaf spring rear axle than a sway-bar disconnect might. And how about some paddle shifters to keep that 2.7L in the power band? A grimace and not-so-subtle “no comment” in response, so I blame the bean counters here, though at least Demetrio’s team recalibrated Baja mode after my incessant complaining about weird shifting throughout the Vegas to Reno ZR2 drive. Should I truly take credit? Who knows, but it’s always nice to think someone, anyone, maybe in a blue moon, ever listens to us journalists.

What’s not?– Only available as a crew cab w/ short bed
– Competitive pricing is still expected to be fairly steep
– Not the prettiest tool in Chevy’s shed, even if it is the sharpest

Off-road god mode without sacrificing on-road dynamics

Throughout our time at top speed or rock crawling, Demetrio never flinches. He believes in the Bison, and I’d like to think he even enjoyed some time watching me wheel around Johnson Valley somewhere near the absolute limit. But, perhaps as impressive as the off-roading capability the ZR2 delivers and the Bison package only enhances, somehow the most hardcore of Colorados still sacrifice little for on-road dynamics.

Sure, adding 35-inch tires without regearing the final drive ratio cuts a bit into even the High-Output engine’s low-end grunt. But out on the asphalt, those 430 pound-feet make for plenty of pep while daily driving. The glory of the Multimatics is how well the spool valves can fine-tune fluid flow for stability on the road as much as off, resulting in noticeably less body roll and chassis flex than the taller Bronco Raptor on its 37-inch tires.

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

And where the Braptor’s proportions peak in absurdity, with the rear hatch opened to reveal a tiny little cargo compartment, the Bison still comes with a truck bed (albeit a relatively small one). So buyers looking for a truck to daily drive, rip around the desert, or serve as the base for an overlanding build should be satisfied. What the new Tacoma TRD Pro or Ranger Raptor might have to say next year remains a mystery and exact pricing is obviously a big question mark. But, for now, the ZR2 Bison charges into uncharted territory in a class and segment all to its own.

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