North America’s largest mammal, the Bison, is fast and agile. These sure-footed beasts command attention. What a smart move for Chevy to partner with American Expedition Vehicles — known for making tough truck and SUV upfits — to create a special edition 2019 Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison. And, it’s fitting that AEV’s logo is a charging buffalo.
This all-new midsize pickup combines the talents of the Colorado ZR2 that was designed as a high-performance desert runner with one of the world’s leading suppliers of aftermarket parts and accessories for 4WD adventuring and competition.
The all-new Bison is aimed at off-road, desert running and rock crawling enthusiasts looking for a factory-warranted pickup with more robust 4x4 capability. It adds five AEV-designed skid plates constructed of hard, durable high-stamped steel to provide undercarriage cover for the engine oil pan, fuel tank, transfer case, and front and rear differentials for protection over rocky and rugged terrain.
Differentiating the exterior of the Bison, AEV added stamped steel front and rear bumpers; an exclusive, flow-through “Chevrolet” lettered grille replaces the traditional bowtie on the front end. The front bumper is designed with winch provisions and standard fog lights; the rear has recovery points integrated into the bumper. At the corners, 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac off-road tires sit below larger fender flares and wrap all-new, ZR2 Bison-specific 17x8-inch grey aluminum wheels.
“Bison” decals adorn the bed sides while an “AEV Bison” logo punctuates the tailgate. The interior gets embroidered AEV-logo floor liners and front head restraints. A desert air intake snorkel is optional through AEV. The truck comes in crew- or extended-cab configurations with short and long beds, respectively.
Like the ZR2, the Bison is powered by a standard 3.6-liter V-6 engine capable of producing 308 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque mated to an eight-speed transmission.
A 2.8-liter Duramax turbodiesel four-cylinder engine that punches out 186 horsepower at 3,400 rpm and 369 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,000 rpm paired with a six-speed automatic is optional.
Bison gets the same modified rear axle with a 3.42:1 ratio, front and rear tracks widened by 3.5 inches, and a factory suspension that is 2 inches taller than a Colorado Z71. The maximum payload capacity is 1,548 pounds, and maximum tow rating is 7,600 lbs. for the 2.8L diesel powertrain and 7,000 lbs. for the V6.
Offered is a full suite of off-road technology with class-exclusive front and rear locking differentials and Multimatic DSSV dampers, off-road rocker protection, cast-iron control arms, and Chevy’s Autotrac transfer case.
Our first drive of the Bison gave us the opportunity to try out both powertrains on roadways in the Arizona environs and over a collection of hard-packed dirt trails, as well as through areas of dry wash and rough, technical track in the Tonto National Forest.
Notable are good road manners similar to lifted midsize pickups and a bit of a choppy ride over rough terrain at higher speeds. The new bumpers increase the approach and departure angles slightly.
The skid plates add confidence, as we rubbed them often over technical sections of the trail with large obstacles and found ourselves wanting taller tires and a bit more ground clearance. For most practical purposes and many everyday buyers, the upfit truck adds value and some cool looks.
“More and more enthusiasts are discovering that Colorado is ideal for off-roading, especially overland travel,” said Sandor Piszar, director of Marketing, Chevrolet Truck. “Bison offers customers an even more extreme turnkey off-road truck ready to tackle your next adventure.”
Pricing starts at $48,045 for the V-6 extended cab, and $49,645 for crew cab models (both include $995 destination), $5,750 more than the ZR2; Duramax diesel versions will add $3,500 to the sticker.
“It would be very easy to spend that amount on aftermarket front and rear steel bumpers, full skid plates, and fender flares from a reputable company. Bison offers high-quality components from American Expedition Vehicles, a full factory warranty from Chevrolet, and includes installation,” Piszar said.