Is There Even a Difference Between the Chevy Colorado ZR2 and Z71 Models?

Chevrolet Colorado fans and off-road pickup truck enthusiasts have difficulty choosing between the Chevy Colorado ZR2 and the Chevy Colorado Z71. Both off-road pickup trucks offer extra ground clearance, specialized suspensions, powerful engine choices, and four-wheel-drive systems. But which one is better, or is there even a difference between the two models?

Chevy Colorado Z71

Auto Influence points out that there are few examples of a better base to build a purpose-driven off-road pickup truck than the Chevy Colorado. The Colorado’s starting price of $25,200 leaves a substantial budget for adding the upgrades serious off-roaders consider “must-have items.” The best part about the Chevy Colorado Z71 is that Chevrolet builds in many of those “must-have Items” from the start.

The Colorado Z71 features a fully boxed steel frame and comes in three cab/payload box configurations:

  • Crew cab/short box:  
    • Wheelbase: 128.3 inches
    • Overall length: 212.7 inches
    • Width (minus mirrors): 74.3 inches
    • Overall height: 70.6 inches
    • Ground clearance: 8.2 inches
  • Extended cab/long box:
    • Wheelbase: 128.3 inches
    • Overall length: 212.7 inches
    • Width (minus mirrors): 74.3 inches
    • Overall height: 70.3 inches
    • Ground clearance: 8.3 inches
  • Crew cab/long box:
    • Wheelbase: 140.5 inches
    • Overall length: 224.9 inches
    • Width (minus mirrors): 74.3 inches
    • Overall height: 70.5 inches
    • Ground clearance: 8.1 inches

The standard 3.6-liter V6 with 275 lb-ft of torque and 308 horsepower provides balanced power for off-road fun or merging onto freeways. Or you could opt for the stump-pulling power offered by the 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel four-cylinder with 369 lb-ft of torque and 181 hp. 

An eight-speed automatic transmission featuring tow/haul mode and powertrain grade braking carries power from either engine to a two-speed transfer case and finally to the ground via a 3.42 gear ratio automatic locking rear differential. 

Factory included suspension upgrades include an off-road suspension package with a transfer case shield to protect the transfer case from damage when negotiating rugged terrain and “Hill Descent Control.” Hill Descent Control engages the antilock braking system to help the driver maintain control without pressing the brake pedal, preventing over braking and loss of traction with just the push of a button. 

Chevy Colorado ZR2

If you want a more purpose-built off-road pickup truck, take a look at the Chevy Colorado ZR2. While it features the same engine, transmission, and final gearing as the Z71, comparing them side by side immediately reveals some differences. First, we lose the crew cab/long box configuration option leaving us with only two choices:

  • Crew cab/short box:  
    • Wheelbase: 128.5 inches
    • Overall length: 212.7 inches
    • Width (minus mirrors): 76.7 inches
    • Overall height: 72.5 inches
    • Ground clearance: 10.0 inches
  • Extended cab/long box:
    • Wheelbase: 128.5 inches
    • Overall length: 212.4 inches
    • Width (minus mirrors): 76.7 inches
    • Overall height: 72.4 inches
    • Ground clearance: 10.0 inches

Off-road pickup truck enthusiasts will appreciate the full-locking, driver-selectable front and rear differentials included on the ZR2, as well as the extra nearly two inches of ground clearance along with the additional two-inch wider stance. 

Z71 or ZR2, which one is best?

The “which one is best” question always depends on several factors, not the least of which is price. Before adding any options, the ZR2 lists for about $6,000 more than the Z71. The ZR2 is a taller, wider pickup with upgraded off-road suspension and superior locking differentials.

If you need those upgrades to get the most out of your truck, then it would likely cost you more to add them to a Z71, and you wouldn’t get the complete system integration as you do with the factory setup. And if money isn’t a concern, the sky is the limit with factory options to complete the off-road pickup truck of your dreams.

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