Chevy's off-road pickup truck package is a little different from the specialized 4x4s from Ford and Ram. First off, the Colorado ZR2 is a midsize, more compact than the full-size Ford Raptor and 2500-based Ram Power Wagon. And with that sensible size comes a more compact price: Chevy just announced the ZR2 starts at $40,995, seriously undercutting the base prices of the Ford and Ram.
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For your roughly $41,000 (destination fee included), Chevy gives you a lot of hardcore equipment, standard. The ZR2 comes with electronic locking differentials front and rear; a two-inch lifted suspension and 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler tires; modified front and rear bumpers for maximum clearance; and Multimatic spool valve dampers, the same trick technology used in the last-generation Camaro Z28 and the current Ford GT.
The ZR2 also offers an optional diesel engine, something that's not available on the Raptor or Power Wagon. The 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder turbodiesel is the same one offered on non-ZR2 Colorados, making 186 horses and 369 lb-ft of torque through a six-speed auto. If you don't opt for the oil-burner, the base ZR2 engine is the 3.6-liter gasoline V6 making 308 horses and 275 lb-ft through a new eight-speed auto.
Of course, Chevy is quick to point out how much you'll save on a ZR2 compared to a Raptor or Power Wagon. "We're thrilled to be able to offer it for more than $2,500 less than the next closest comparable vehicles," Sandor Piszar, Chevy Trucks marketing director, said in the announcement circulated this morning. "Taken in the context of serious off-roading, $2,000 will buy you 50 years of annual passes to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah," Piszar went on.
But the ZR2 is a different type of vehicle than the Raptor or Power Wagon. There is, of course, the size difference, but it's more than that: Compared to the Raptor, with its super-advanced electronic drive mode system handling all the transfer case, differential lock, and engine and transmission mapping duties, the ZR2 is entirely old-school. In the Chevy, it's up to you, the hopefully-competent driver, to decide whether it's time for Low Range or a locked differential or two. And we seriously doubt anyone will be cross-shopping a midsize Chevy against a 2500 Heavy Duty-based Ram Power Wagon.
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But since you're wondering, the SuperCab/short-bed Raptor starts at $50,155, with destination charge and zero options; the cheapest Ram 2500 Power Wagon comes in at nearly $52,000. Add in your choice of luxury and tech options, and both trucks will easily push to $60,000.
Perhaps the more fitting price comparison is between the ZR2 and the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Both are the off-road specialty packages built on sensibly-sized vehicles; both ride on 31-inch tires (smaller than the Ram's 33s and the Raptor's 35s); both offer electronic locking diffs front and rear and a spate of skid plates and body armor. The two-door Wrangler Rubicon starts around $33,600; move up to the four-door Unlimited Rubicon, and you're paying nearly $38,000 before you start picking options.
And then there's the Tacoma TRD Pro, the top-spec off-road model of Toyota's long-running midsize pickup. That rig offers a 278-hp 3.5-liter V6, TRD-tuned coil springs and Fox Racing shocks, a one-inch lift, and an electronic rear diff locker. The top Tacoma starts at $43,700, though, like the Jeep, it offers the option of a six-speed stick-shift that's not available on the Colorado.
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We like having choices, and a rock-ready midsize pickup with an optional diesel engine sounds like the sweet spot for us. And with a fully-redesigned Wrangler due in 2018 and Ford and Ram paying closer attention to the off-road market than ever before, we're feeling spoiled for choices when it comes to 4x4s.