The Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison and Silverado Made This Off-Road Novice Feel 100% Confident

What is Bison? It's the new off-road trim package already available on the Silverado ZR2, and soon to be available on Chevrolet's Colorado ZR2 pickup trucks, giving them even more rugged capability. We found out in the Mojave Desert.

This Was Moments Before I Took The Silverado Hd Zr2 Bison Straight Down The Mountain. Zoom In To See The Terror On My Face. Photo: Jim Sharifi
This was moments before I took the Silverado HD ZR2 Bison straight down the mountain. Zoom in to see the terror on my face. Photo: Jim Sharifi

Gnarly trails in the Mojave Desert? No big whoop in a Bison-equipped Chevrolet pickup.

I’m not much of an off-roader. Let me rephrase that: I don’t ever go off-roading. Like, ever. Maybe it’s the mom in me, but I’ve just never felt the urge to beat around a multi-thousand-dollar vehicle on bumpy terrain while I get jostled around like a ball on a trampoline.

But when I had the chance to off-road with Chevrolet in their ZR2 trucks in the desert, I was intrigued. The ZR2 family has a pretty strong reputation for being some of the best off-road trucks in the business, and I couldn’t resist the chance to test them out. (Even if I was minorly terrified at the prospect.)

Much of it had to do with Chevrolet’s new Bison trim: Announced last year for the Silverado and added to the Colorado for 2023, Bison adds all the off-road capability that a truck needs to command desert trails like a pro.

After spending a full day on and off the road with the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2 Bison (which starts at $69,600) and the Colorado ZR2 Bison, I have to say — I’m pretty darn impressed. According to Chevy, one in three of their buyers comes from a competing brand. And I can see why.

Related: 2023 Chevrolet Colorado: What You Need, What You Don’t

Chevy Is About To Show Us Why These Are Some Of The Best Off-Roading Trucks In The Business. Photo: Allison Bell

Chevy is about to show us why these are some of the best off-roading trucks in the business. Photo: Allison Bell

Who These Trucks Are For

I’ll just say it straight: I am not the center target buyer for Chevy’s ZR2 lineup. While most buyers are young, wealthy, and predominantly male, women enjoy them, too. The Chevrolet ZR2 trucks are for:

  • Serious off-roaders who want excellent capability.
  • Drivers who want the best of both worlds when it comes to driving on and off the road.
  • Outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers.
  • Those with heavy-duty hauling needs (if you’re looking at the Silverado HD ZR2).
  • People who are looking for a truck that offers style and luxury on top of performance.

Women who love off-roading, camping, hiking and trail riding and want or need a pickup truck will love these Chevys.

Baja Driving Mode Is Specifically Intended For Off-Road Driving. And It Was A Blast. Photo: Allison Bell

Baja driving mode is specifically intended for off-road driving. And it was a blast. Photo: Allison Bell

Plunging Down the Mountainside With No Fear

Thankfully, since I’ve never done any serious off-roading before, Chevy decided to start things off with some gentle, rolling hills to ease me into the process. Just kidding. In a sheer baptism-by-fire move, they sent us down some of the steepest trails in sight in the Silverado HD ZR2 Bison.

I elected to ride as a passenger first so that my driving partner Jim could demonstrate that this was, in fact, doable. (I figured if we survived with him behind the wheel, my chances were at least 50/50.) With the truck’s nose pointed almost straight down, we slowly followed the line of Silverados in front of us, and my chest and shoulders quickly became acquainted with the seatbelt as gravity pulled me forward. Up, down, bump, bounce, up, down, bounce … it almost became rhythmic. I felt my fear slowly fade as I realized I was most likely not going to die that day. This truck was obviously more than capable of handling whatever we could throw at it.

Then, it was my turn to drive. Surprisingly, I wasn’t scared — even when my hair was hanging straight in front of my face. We engaged the Hill Descent Control, which kept the Silverado at about 3 mph downhill without needing to use the brakes. (It was the first time I’d ever used that feature in a truck, and I can see why people love it.)

When we returned to level ground, and I looked up at the trucks still making their way down the trail, my ego swelled a bit. Holy cow. I just did that. And it was pretty fun!

Related: Steep Hills and Dusty Thrills at the Ford Bronco Off-Roadeo 

Wait For It — It Gets A Lot Harder. Photo: Allison Bell

Wait for it — it gets a lot harder. Photo: Allison Bell

Just When I Thought the Hard Part Was Over…

I thought defying death on a nearly vertical trail would be the hardest test of the day — but boy, was I wrong. The next part would prove to be slightly less terrifying but much more technical. Behind the wheel of the 2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison, I suddenly found myself staring down a boulder-filled ravine that seemed impassable to the logical side of my brain. For a brief moment, I considered bailing out because — I repeat — I had never done this before, and it seemed more than just a little crazy. But my pride wouldn’t let me quit. After all, Chevy wouldn’t let me proceed if they thought I was in any real danger, right?

Well, this time around, we required the help of spotters to navigate our way through the rocky terrain before us. I patiently, nervously, waited my turn in line as I watched the first few trucks slowly climb their way through each obstacle. The spotters would tilt their hands in the direction they wanted you to turn the wheel, tell you when to stop, and give you a heads-up if you were about to go over a big boulder. Every time I heard a crunch of metal on rock and winced, I was reassured that “this is what they’re made for.”

I’m not sure how much breathing I did as my turn to proceed through the rocky trail came. All I know is that I have never paid more strict attention to instructions in my life. I found myself pointed toward the sky on more than one occasion and was very grateful for the front and underbody cameras that gave me some sense of where I was in relation to the trail and the truck in front of me. I also made good use of the camera washers to clear the dust off. (Great feature, Chevy!)

Related: Want to Learn How to Drive Off-Road? 4Fest has You Covered  

It Really Is A Testament To The Colorado Zr2 Bison That I Made It Out To The Other Side! Photo: Allison Bell

It really is a testament to the Colorado ZR2 Bison that I made it out to the other side! Photo: Allison Bell

Not a Bad Way to Burn Some Calories

I have no idea how it happened, but before I knew it, I heard the words, “You did it. Great job!” And I was done. My Colorado ZR2 Bison and I both appeared to be in one piece, and my first thought was, “That wasn’t so bad!” My palms got a little sweaty, but I attribute that more to the heat of the Mojave Desert than the stress of the experience.

Speaking of sweat, here’s a fun fact: My watch informed me that I’d met my exercise and calorie-burning goal after the driving was done. If Chevy really wants to make a killing, they should tell people what a great workout these trucks will give you off the road! Seriously, my heart rate was up and my core was engaged the entire time.

Not once did I feel out of control. I never got stuck. I never panicked. Even as a passenger, I hardly noticed the big bumps (and we went over a lot of them!). It was almost like the trucks said, “I’ve got you, girl!” the whole way through.

I Was Surprised By How Comfortable I Was Riding In And Driving The Colorado Zr2 Bison Off The Road. Photo: Allison Bell

I was surprised by how comfortable I was riding in and driving the Colorado ZR2 Bison off the road. Photo: Allison Bell

A Truck That Rides More Like a Luxury Car

Off-road capabilities aside, you’re probably wondering how the Silverado HD ZR2 Bison and the Colorado ZR2 Bison function as everyday drivers on the pavement. Well, they both score well in this category, too. On the 85-minute drive from Palm Springs to Johnson Valley in the Silverado HD ZR2 Bison, the seats and climate control kept us very comfortable, and the handling was pretty smooth. It took me a minute to get used to the brakes on the Silverado, which required a bit more pressure than the Kia Telluride in my garage at home. Other than that, I was surprised by how easy it was to drive the big, heavy-duty truck.

As for the Colorado, that was fun on the road, too. At one point, I went over a bump in the road and braced myself for the expected impact — but the suspension swallowed it up so well that I felt more like a luxury car than a pickup truck. Well done, Chevy. Well done.

Related: The Redesigned 2023 Chevrolet Colorado Midsize Pickup Truck: What You Need, Not What You Don’t

Spot Those Aev Bumpers And Integrated Tow Hooks On The Silverado Hd Zr2 Bison. Photo: Allison Bell

Spot those AEV bumpers and integrated tow hooks on the Silverado HD ZR2 Bison. Photo: Allison Bell

What Makes the Chevrolet ZR2 Bisons Some of the Best Off-Road Trucks You Can Buy

I’m new enough to the automotive journalism world that car jargon still goes over my head, so I’ll try to explain in as simple of terms as possible a few reasons why the ZR2 Bisons are so great off the road:

  • American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) partnered with Chevy to make the Bison. This is a big deal because AEV is well known for providing high-quality aftermarket parts and accessories for off-roading. The partnership with Chevy means you get the ultimate off-road experience and a factory warranty on all that aftermarket gear!
  • 35-inch tires. Bigger tires mean more control and better grip. That’s exactly what you want when you’re climbing over rough surfaces. As of right now, the Colorado ZR2 Bison leads the midsize truck segment in tire size.
  • AEV bumpers and fender flares. They look great, they’re durable, and those fender flares fit those massive tires.
  • Jounce control dampers. You can probably take a hint from the name, but jounce control dampers are the things that absorb all those big bumps and jolts. Speaking from experience, I can attest that these things definitely do their job!
  • 5 skid plates. These are the things that protect the underbody of the truck. The regular ZR2 has three; the Bison has five. And they’re made of Boron steel, which is about four times stronger than regular steel. It’s like the most vulnerable parts of your truck are covered in full battle armor.
  • Power-locking front and rear differentials. This makes sure that maximum power gets sent to all wheels, so you’re less likely to get stuck.
  • More ground clearance. The Bison has 1.5 inches more ground clearance than a standard ZR2, which makes navigating over rough terrain 1.5 inches easier.

This isn’t the set list, but it’s a decent preview of some of the ZR2 Bison’s greatest hits. And the cool thing is that a lot of these changes and updates came directly from consumer feedback — so Chevy is listening to you!

The 2024 Chevrolet Silverado Hd Zr2 Bison Triumphantly Sits On Top Of The Mountain. Photo: Allison Bell

The 2024 Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2 Bison triumphantly sits on top of the mountain. Photo: Allison Bell

Oh, and They’re Pretty, Too

It doesn’t hurt that the ZR2 Bisons are easy on the eyes as well. The AEV add-ons give it a bolder, more beefy look for off-roaders, but it’s still sleek enough to double as a respectable daily driver around town. It’s almost like two trucks in one, really.

The Chevy Colorado Zr2 Bison Made This Crazy Obstacle Course Of Boulders Look Like A Piece Of Cake. Photo: Allison Bell

The Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison made this crazy obstacle course of boulders look like a piece of cake. Photo: Allison Bell

Colorado or Silverado: Which ZR2 Bison Stole My Heart?

They say that people who survive scary situations together often form stronger bonds. That’s exactly how I feel about both of these trucks. Given that both the Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2 Bison and the Colorado ZR2 Bison successfully carried me — a novice off-roader — through steep and rocky terrain without a single hiccup, both of them earned my trust and admiration. We definitely bonded!

But if I were to pick just one to drive for the rest of my life, I’d have to say the mid-size Colorado wins. Now, that’s largely because I have no heavy-duty hauling needs but also because the Colorado ZR2 Bison was just so darn easy to drive. It was nimble, responsive, and a tad more comfortable thanks to the more compact cabin. With every bump and jolt, I felt completely cradled and protected.

Time To See What These Chevrolet Zr2 Bisons Can Do. Photo: Allison Bell

Time to see what these Chevrolet ZR2 Bisons can do. Photo: Allison Bell

What These Trucks Cost

Over the course of two days, I drove three members of the Chevy ZR2 family: the Colorado ZR2, the Colorado ZR2 Bison, and the Silverado HD ZR2 Bison. Chevrolet hasn’t yet released pricing for the Colorado ZR2 Bison, but here’s the information for the Silverado ZR2 Bison and the Colorado ZR2.

The 2024 Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2 Bison:

  • Standard price: $69,600
  • Add Duramax 6.6-liter turbo-diesel engine: $9,490
  • Add ZR2 Bison Edition (American Expedition Vehicles front and rear bumper, AEV skid plates, AEV wheels, AEV aluminum spare wheel, multi-flex tailgate, AEV branded front floor liners): $9,135
  • Add power-retractable assist steps with LED lighting: $2,295
  • Add technology package: $1,775
  • Add power sunroof: $995
  • Add gooseneck/5th wheel prep package: $545
  • Destination: $1,895
  • Total with the above options: $95,680
35-Inch Tires, Wider Fender Flares And The Spare In The Bed Are All Hallmarks Of The 2024 Chevrolet Colorado Zr2 Bison. Photo: Allison Bell

35-inch tires, wider fender flares, and the spare in the bed are all hallmarks of the 2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison. Photo: Allison Bell

What the Colorado ZR2 Truck Costs

The 2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2:

  • Standard price: $46,800
  • Add the ZR2 Convenience Package (driver memory settings, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, leather seats, etc.): $1,490
  • Add the Technology Package (HD surround vision, rear pedestrian alert, adaptive cruise control): $950
  • Premium audio system: $500
  • Underbody cameras: $500
  • Special Nitro Yellow Metallic color: $395
  • Destination: $1,495
  • Total with the above options: $52,130

Related: 2021 Chevrolet Silverado Duramax: Work or Play, This Full-Size Truck Has You Covered

This Is The Face Of A Girl Who'S Very Proud Of Herself For Surviving Some Gnarly Desert Roads In The Zr2 Bisons. Photo: Allison Bell

This is the face of a girl who’s very proud of herself for surviving some gnarly desert roads in the ZR2 Bisons. Photo: Allison Bell

I Guess This is Who I Am Now

At the end of our off-road excursions, two seasoned journalists reassured me that I would likely never have a more challenging experience than what we’d just been through, which felt extremely validating. And you know what? It really wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be. That probably says more about the trucks than my off-roading skills, but I’m proud of myself just the same.

Ladies, if there’s a guy in your life who loves to take cars to the extreme and test their limits, I have no doubt they’ll enjoy ripping around in either the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2 Bison or the Colorado ZR2 Bison. They’re both like giant outdoor toys for grown men, and they definitely earn their reputation for being some of the best off-road trucks out there. Ever since I showed my husband the footage of me off-roading in ZR2 Bisons (especially once he caught a gander of those 35-inch tires), he’s been chomping at the bit to test one out for himself.

But don’t just let the guys have all the fun! If you’re an off-roader yourself — or even a beginner like me — I strongly suggest testing the chops of these trucks because you’ll be pretty impressed by what they can do. Maybe once Chevrolet releases pricing info for the 2024 Colorado ZR2 Bison, I’ll have to place my order.

Disclosure: I was Chevrolet’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided, but all opinions are my own. Additionally, A Girls Guide to Cars may earn a commission from affiliate links in this story.

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Allison is a freelance writer, a mother of two, and the wife of a car-obsessed husband who got her... More about Allison Bell