Here’s the Cheapest Pickup Truck With a Locking Front Differential Available in 2023
Are you dreaming of hopping in your pickup truck, locking your differentials, and doing some heavy rock crawling? If you want an unmodified truck with lockers right from the factory, you don’t have many choices. Your cheapest option is the Chevrolet Colorado with the ZR2 off-road package ($48k), but it is neck-and-neck with the Jeep Gladiator outfitted with a Rubicon package. If you need a full-size, you might consider a Ram 2500 Power Wagon, which is actually cheaper than the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 with the ZR2 package.
Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 ($48,295)
Chevrolet has been offering a ZR2 package on its midsize Colorado pickup truck, targeted at off-road performance, since 2017. The latest ZR2 features a 3-inch lift kit, a wider stance, and a unique frame with special shock absorber mounts. Other goodies include off-road bumpers, DSSV multimatic suspension dampers, and electric locking differentials on both the front and rear.
Is the Colorado ZR2 really all that and a bag of chips? That depends on what you’re looking for. Some reviewers have pointed out that its 310 horsepower engine is just a tuned version of the base truck’s 2.7-liter I4 Turbomax. It has plenty of get up and go, but sounds more like an engine out of a passenger car than a truck. Also, Chevrolet’s MSRPs may change based on location, so you’ll want to check the above price based on your zip code.
Jeep Gladiator Rubicon ($51,301)
The Rubicon is one of the most hallowed nameplates in off-roading. For years, Jeep only slapped this plaque on models that could conquer California’s punishing Rubicon trail without any modifications. This sounds badass, but in truth, the Wrangler’s short turning radius has always made it a shoo-in for the narrow Rubicon trail. The longer Gladiator Rubicon has also completed the trail…but AutoBlog found that it can get hairy.
The Gladiator Rubicon’s MSRP is so close to the Colorado ZR2’s, that the Jeep is currently cheaper because of a couple of summertime discounts. The rock-crawling-oriented Rubicon upgrade features swaybar disconnects and an extreme low-range gear in addition to its famous locking diffs. The Gladiator Mojave–designed more for high-speed desert running–features 2.5-inch shocks and no front locker because at high speeds, you’ll rarely need one.
Dodge Power Wagon ($70,100) Vs. Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 ($73,490)
If you prefer a half-ton truck with locking front differentials, your only option is a General Motors product. Namely, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ZR2 or GMC Sierra AT4X. That’s right. Even the Ford F-150 Raptor R and Ram 1500 TRX don’t have locking front differentials. Like the Mojave, they are both designed for desert racing. The Toyota Tundra TRD Pro highlights how front locking differentials may be outdated with a cutting-edge off-road traction control system that uses the brakes to prevent wheelspin based on your speed and terrain.
The Silverado 1500 ZR2 is a very capable truck, with a high price point. The GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X costs even more. Interestingly, the 3/4-ton Ram 2500 Power Wagon is slightly cheaper. The Power Wagon was the nameplate of the first ever factory 4WD truck, released by Dodge right after WWII. The Ram Power Wagon continues to use more traditional off-road technology for low-speed rock crawling. It has a bumper-mounted winch, front and rear lockers, and more ground clearance than any traditional pickup.
Next, find out the cheapest full-size 4WD pickup truck you can get in 2023 or see the Colorado ZR2 put through its paces off-road in the desert racing video below: