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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Is this the Chevy off-roader that will finally go head-to-head with Jeep?


Chevy Colorado ZR2 Concept
There's no more unassailable franchise in the automotive business than the Jeep Wrangler. Affordable off-roaders pop up every now and again, but they haven't come close to the popularity of the Wrangler, which is poised to set sales records yet again this year. So when a Detroit rival shows off an off-road concept aimed squarely at everyday buyers with a strong chance of production, it's worth taking note.

Buyers of a certain age will remember that Chevrolet once used the ZR2 badge to delinenate S-10s and Blazers with greater off-road prowess. Today, Chevy revived the badge on a reworked Chevy Colorado pickup concept, one that it hinted was more than a show car.

Powered by the upcoming 2.8-liter turbodiesel good for 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, the Colorado ZR2 transformation begins with reworked front and rear bumpers to increase its approach and departure angles to 30.7 and 22.7 degrees, with a flip-out tow hook and built-in winch.

The track has been widened four inches, and the body lifted two inches, with the suspension graced with King monotube coil-over shock absorbers with remote reservoirs. The four-wheel-drive system gets upgraded with electronic locking front and rear differentials, and the 18-inch wheels ride bead-lock rims.

The Colorado has drawn strong interest in its brief time on the market so far, and Chevy has not been afraid to challenge competitors with special editions for enthusiasts (see the Camaro Z/28).

While the Colorado ZR2 has a few flourishes, the idea as a whole looks easily adaptable to production use, and Chevy officials said they were "evaluating production possibilities." Just because the Jeep Wrangler has a 60-year head start doesn't mean it will have the trail to itself forever.