If you’re in the market for an extremely capable off-road midsize pickup truck these three offerings should be on your radar.
Chevrolet is probably more known for full-size pickup trucks but there is no denying its reputation for durability. Jeep is synonymous with off-road vehicles with its Wrangler and Cherokee models setting the standard many try to follow. Last but not least, the popular Toyota Tacoma needs no introduction in mid-size off-road pickup truck circles.
Let’s take a look at each auto maker’s offering for midsize pickup trucks, then, look at comparisons between them.
2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 AEV Bison
The Chevrolet Colorado in ZR2 trim is a capable weekend off-road pickup truck in its own right. But, for an additional $5,750, the folks at American Expedition Vehicles will improve upon the ZR2 base by adding extra underbody armor, wider fender flares, AEV badged floor mats and headrests, upgraded grill, tubular steel bumpers, and stylish new wheels. There is even a snorkel option if you like.
The extra steel plating adds 144 pounds as measured by MotorTrend comparing AEV enhanced Bison to a stock 2018 Colorado ZR2. In this era of “lighter is better” that seems like a bad thing, but overall MotorTrend found that the Bison outperformed the stock ZR2 in a variety of traction and stopping tests. In 0-60 and 1/4 mile tests the Bison was just a tenth of a second slower.
Front and rear locking differentials, special off-road shocks, and 31-inch tall all-terrain tires provide the foundation for the ZR2 Bison’s off-road capability. In testing at Joshua Tree National Park, Car and Driver found the ZR2 Bison capable and comfortable during both slow-speed crawling and high-speed two-track passes.
The only complaint, logged by both Edmonds and Car and Driver, was the rear shock’s lower mount position is low on the axle tube between the differential and the outer end of the housing. This placement makes it difficult to avoid obstacles as it hangs down even lower than the center of the differential.
2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
Introduced in 2019, the 2020 Jeep Gladiator is updated from the previous version but still based on the highly recognizable Jeep Wrangler platform. There is no doubt that Jeep has utilized all of its off-road knowledge to transform the Wrangler into a Gladiator.
The Rubicon package ups the ante incorporating features like electronically lockable front and rear differentials, 33-inch all-terrain tires, and electronic front sway bar disconnects allowing the Gladiator Rubicon to flex and gain traction in extreme situations.
With the correct options, the Gladiator can tow up to 7,650 pounds and even though the cargo box is only 5-feet in length it is possible to carry full sheets of plywood utilizing a special tailgate position.
Edmunds got an early look at Jeep’s only pickup option. They liked the Gladiator’s overall character and off-road capability. They also point out that it is the only convertible truck on the market and that it offers more back seat room than any other midsize pickup. Slow steering, a sometimes “jiggly” ride, and only a single engine choice are listed as cons.
2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD
Toyota Tacoma has long led the pack with its off-road prowess. Features such as crawl control can take over throttle modulation on slippery slopes and find traction not available by right foot pedal alone, but only the rear differential is lockable.
In an Edmunds test, the Tacoma performed admirably against the ZR2 Bison proving to have better visibility, a narrower feel, and better throttle response.
Buy this not that
While a head-to-head comparison for all three pickup trucks is not available at this time, tabulating test results from Pickup Trucks, Edmonds, Car and Driver, and Motor Trend results in awarding the top spot to the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 AEV Bison, but with an asterisk.
*The Pickup Trucks test between the Gladiator Rubicon and the Colorado ZR2 Bison was too close to call but overall, Colorado’s street drivability gives it the edge.