Driving New Chevrolet ZR2 Trucks Through King Of The Hammers

What do you do when you get the key fob to a brand-new 2024 Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2 Bison? How about driving it off-road through the trails of Johnson Valley, California, and the legendary King Of The Hammers? Off Road Xtreme got the chance to do just that during a Chevrolet ZR2 Trucks Media Drive event. Part of the experience was off-road test driving the 2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison as well.

The whole event took place over two days with the mission to drive a variety of new Chevrolet ZR2 trucks (Colorado, Silverado 1500, and Silverado HD) and get some good seat time behind the wheel of each. This started with a brief on-road route that pointed me to a remote desert destination where I could pedal down through a short off-road course. I also had the opportunity to tow a large enclosed trailer, drive around town, log some highway miles, and get a great feel for these ZR2 trucks. The culmination of the experience was highlighted with a serious ZR2 Bison off-road trail drive (Colorado and Silverado HD) on the same rocky and rugged trails utilized by the King Of The Hammers off-road race course.

Driving New Chevrolet ZR2 Trucks Through King Of The Hammers

ZR2 Trucks Around Town

The press event had members of the media arriving at a fashionable Palm Springs, California hotel which would be our HQ for the next 36 hours. After checking in, I identified several open trucks and selected a very vibrant Colorado ZR2 in Nitro Yellow Metallic. The 2024 Colorado truck has great-looking styling and a sporty profile from every angle. As I walked around checking out the truck, the out-of-this-world yellow-green finish appeared to shift hues under the clear blue skies. It was very attractive and eye-catching. I would also drive a Desert Sands Metallic Colorado ZR2 just to accumulate more seat time.

After placing my gear into the spacious backseat, I hopped behind the wheel to get assimilated with the driver controls. Just having driven a 2024 GMC Colorado AT4 for a short stint, and reviewing a 2023 Z71 Colorado, we were fairly familiar with the latest third-generation pickup interior layout. There were enough apparent differences in design to distinguish the twin GM trucks. Basking in high 80-degree temperatures, I immediately found a fond appreciation for the ventilated seats wrapped in jet-black Artemis perforated leather, and high-contrast yellow stitching.

The 11-inch diagonal driver infotainment system behind the steering wheel presented essential data. A main fully digital screen situated in the middle of the dash dominated the vehicle interior, streamlining control switches. Aside from the typical steering wheel controls, there were few knobs and switches. This part is a love-hate relationship with modern trucks that I can live with.

Colorado ZR2 Performance And TurboMax Engine

Wanting to get down to business, I fired up the TurboMax engine and set off for a short drive. The ZR2 Colorado receives the turbo high-output 2.7-liter inline four-cylinder TurboMax L3B gasoline engine as the standard and only available configuration. Rated at 310 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 430 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm, there is plenty of power to pepper and play with. It is an exciting engine package designed with a legacy foundation to provide optimum performance and resilient durability.

It was an easy truck to cruise around town, but the effective power usage became very apparent when off-road.

Colorado’s TurboMax Engine Main Features:

  • 310 hp [231 kW] at 5,600 rpm
  • 430 lb-ft of torque [583 Nm] at 3,000 rpm
  • Fully forged bottom-end with stiff forged steel crankshaft and main bearing caps
  • Advanced thermal conductivity with high-performance cast-iron cylinder liners
  • Very efficient turbocharger lubrication and cooling design
  • Utilizes diesel engine technology such as ultra-durable tri-metal rod bearings, fully machined piston head crowns, and cast-iron piston ring carriers with coated steel top rings for even more durability.

Utilizing an electronically controlled eight-speed automatic transmission with overdrive made for a smooth driving experience. My reserved driving style around town helped the truck achieve a healthy 20 miles per gallon. On a highway route, there is the potential to earn as much as 25 miles per gallon.

2024 Colorado ZR2 Advanced Safety Features

Boasting an array of class-leading safety and driver assistance features, such as ten onboard cameras, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Keep Assist, and Front Pedestrian Braking are some of the many reasons the 2024 Chevrolet Colorado earned the Motortrend Truck Of The Year.

Driving New Chevrolet ZR2 Trucks Through King Of The Hammers

The third-generation 2024 Colorado ZR2 aft of a second-generation 2022 model.

Having the modern convenience of wireless charging was a welcomed amenity. Beyond the navigation mapping, the built-in Google services are features that I never took advantage of, but I could understand being of great benefit to some drivers. The Chevrolet  ZR2 Colorado that I was driving came equipped with ten cameras, including two underbody cameras that offer real-time forward- and rear-facing views beneath the truck. A nice feature to assist when off-roading that I later became fond of.

Chevrolet ZR2 Trucks Powering Through The Desert

Once the cityscape gave way to an open desert, I came upon the designated short test track which utilized a few dirt access roads. The Colorado ZR2 felt right at home in this environment and had a few drive modes that I could play with. With the simple turn of a dial, the truck’s performance adjusts and optimizes for various and challenging road conditions.

For the first test, I experimented with the Off-Road mode which offers better traction over loose surfaces. On my next go, I opted for the Baja mode which claims to optimize power delivery, increase stability, and improve traction control.

The main off-road features of the Colorado ZR2 are the Multimatic DSSV Dampers, off-road cut bumpers, electronic locking differentials, underbody aluminum skidplates, and LT285/70R17 (33-inch) Goodyear Wrangler MT Tires. The short test track provided enough leash for me to try out all of the above except the differential lockers.

Driving New Chevrolet ZR2 Trucks Through King Of The Hammers

The truck had enough get-up-and-go torque to power out of corners and get me quickly up to speed. All four Goodyear tires kept me tracking true and pointing in the right direction as I set up for the next challenging obstacle. With the truck carrying decent momentum, I pushed it hard into a series of several whooped-out holes. To my delight, the Colorado ZR2 did not bottom out with a teeth-rattling crash. No, the Multimatic DSSV Dampers ate it up and kept the truck well-planted to carry on.

I will admit, my first run was somewhat reserved akin to a blind prerun. The second and third takes, in Baja mode, were flat-out hot laps, and the Colorado ZR2 did not falter but impressed with rugged performance. It was definitely noteworthy.

2024 Colorado ZR2 Drive Modes:

  • Off-Road: Offers more traction on loose surfaces like grass, mud, gravel, or deep snow.
  • Terrain: Perfect for tackling steep hills or crawling over obstacles. Can also automatically apply the brakes for enhanced climbing control.
  • Baja: Exclusive to ZR2, this mode optimizes power delivery, stability, and traction control when driving over sandy terrain.
  • Tow/Haul: Optimizes performance when towing or hauling a heavy load.
  • Normal: The default mode that optimizes performance for your everyday drive.

Chevrolet ZR2 Trucks: Silverado 1500 and Silverado HD

Wanting to take full advantage of every opportunity and driving experience, I took on the Silverado HD ZR2 tow haul mission. I was never briefed on the trailer specifications, but I will assume it was a rather empty 35-foot recreational toy hauler trailer and it felt like it was not even there. Obviously, the 3/4-ton Silverado HD is designed to pull much heavier loads, and to no surprise, the truck had no issue with this task. A short whip out of town and back had me reminiscing about driving to the desert with a load full of dune buggies and dirt bikes, like I used to do with my pops, on these very same roads. I am thinking and dreaming that I need one of these new Silverado HDs with the ZR2 package in my stable.

Silverado HD’s Duramax 6.6L Turbo-Diesel V8

  • 470 horsepower
  • 975 lb-ft torque
  • 10-speed Allison automatic transmission
  • 36,000 pounds max available trailering weight

To round out the day, I did get one last drive and a chance to complete the Chevrolet ZR2 Truck trifecta with the Silverado 1500. I ran out to the desert for one final rip on the test route and pinned it. The Silverado 1500 ZR2 handled everything I could throw at it during this short stint, and I knew there was more on tap. I would like to take this platform out for more extensive testing someday or perhaps pick one up as a daily.

How To Make A ZR2 Even Better

Day two was a different animal of driving, off-road challenges, and even truck platforms. For the second day, we were being let off the leash to roam with the Chevrolet ZR2 AEV Bison edition. This included a fleet of brand-new 2024 Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2 Bison trucks and a pool of its little brethren Colorado ZR2 AEV Bison counterparts. These AEV truck models are factory-enhanced with a prescription of American Expedition Vehicles specialty-built off-road equipment.

Driving New Chevrolet ZR2 Trucks Through King Of The Hammers

They had us up early for a filling breakfast, a thorough safety briefing, and then a presentation on the trucks themselves. After everyone was assigned to an AEV truck, we convoyed out to our remote desert destination in Johnson Valley, California, home of the King Of The Hammers.

Driving New Chevrolet ZR2 Trucks Through King Of The Hammers

Consisting of 96,000 acres designated for off–highway vehicle recreational, the Johnson Valley OHV area is federally managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The terrain features a variety of desert terrain punctuated by steep red rocky mountains, rolling hills, open valleys, dry lake beds, and sandy washes. Elevations range from 4,600 feet at Hartwell Hills to 2,300 feet at Melville Dry Lake.

All of this makes for the perfect setting and competitive environment for the world’s toughest off-road racing at The King Of The Hammers, and an ideal test bed to work out these Chevrolet ZR2 AEV trucks.

Driving New Chevrolet ZR2 Trucks Through King Of The Hammers

I was first assigned to a 2024 Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2 Bison and would later transition to the Colorado ZR2 Bison. I was only slightly jealous and under the impression the smaller Colorado ZR2 trucks would be tasked on more challenging off-road trails. Immediately, my attitude changed as we were informed that our first challenge in the HD would be a hill climb up the famed KOH trail called Backdoor and the Qualifying Rocks route.

Driving New Chevrolet ZR2 Trucks Through King Of The Hammers

As a regular off-road enthusiast to the area and professional spectator during multiple King Of The Hammers events, I would never in my wildest dreams consider these trails appropriate to take a very large and very expensive vehicle on. Yet here we were, chucking it up a very steep hill with loose terrain, cumbersome rocks, and protruding boulders speckled all the way up. To my surprise, the Silverado HD ZR2 Bison did not falter and was hardly bothered by the challenge. Once the truck crested the hill, we picked our way down through precarious obstacles and large drop-offs where maneuvering the truck’s behemoth size posed the only difficulty. With helpful and adequate spotters along the way, each truck and driver made it up, through, and down unscathed.

Our next mission was to ascend the nearby hills that skirt the legendary KOH trail of Chocolate Thunder. Once up riding the trail atop the ridge, our Silverado HD ZR2 Bisons trooped along various trails and hill climbs that were all as challenging as the first one. The Silverado HD ZR2 Bison made easy work out of all of it with its rear e-locker, Multimatic DSSV Dampers, 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT tires, AEV skid plate package, and high-approach stamped-steel front bumper.

Silverado HD ZR2 Bison Is A Multi-Purpose Vehicle

Knowing that this full-size heavy-duty truck could crawl and off-road like all the other Chevrolet ZR2 trucks and still perform major tow operations was a huge selling point for me. With the Silverado HD ZR2 max payload of 3,397 pounds and an impressive 18,500 pounds towing capacity, this is a very cool multi-purpose truck that can do it all. I would even venture to say, the truck may be cooler, or as cool as the toys it could easily haul.

Silverado HD ZR2 Main Features:

  • ZR2 1.5-inch suspension lift
  • Off-Road Drive Mode
  • Specific front upper and lower control arms and specific steering knuckles
  • Multimatic DSSV Dampers
  • Larger steel transfer case skid plate and front aluminum skid plate
  • Rear e-locker
  • 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT tires mounted on 18 x 9-inch aluminum wheels.
  • ZR2 family’s front grille
  • Unique wheel opening moldings featuring integrated mud guards
  • ZR2 badging on the grille bar
  • “Flow-tie” emblem

Driving New Chevrolet ZR2 Trucks Through King Of The Hammers

HD ZR2 Bison: AEV collaboration raises the off-road bar

The HD ZR2 Bison was developed in collaboration with AEV to provide a factory package for the most avid off-roaders. It builds on the HD ZR2’s standard features, adding:

  • Exclusive gloss black, 18-inch AEV wheels
  • Distinctive cut high-approach, stamped-steel front bumper with integrated recovery points and winch provisions
  • Unique stamped-steel cut rear bumper with recovery points
  • Tough, stamped steel underbody skid plates for the front of the vehicle, steering rack, exhaust, and transfer case
  • Bison models also receive unique exterior badging and other identifying cues, including the AEV logo on the front seat head restraints.

Driving New Chevrolet ZR2 Trucks Through King Of The Hammers

Climbing Out Of Thor’s Hammer In The Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison

Eventually, the two different truck groups merged for a stopping point to swap trucks and drivers. As much as I was excited to the Colorado ZR2 AEV Bison edition a go for some serious off-roading, I gave the HD Bison the nod of affectionate approval.

With the AEV Bison trucks being upfitted from Chevrolet ZR2 platforms, they make for terrifically rugged off-road rigs. On the Colorado ZR2 Bison, 35-inch tires are standard, which makes the mid-size super nimble and very capable. My favorite upgrade is the Multimatic front and rear Jounce Control Dampers which I was thrilled to try out.

The 2024 Colorado ZR2 Bison in motion driving through the desert

Once in the driver’s seat, and everyone settled in behind the wheel, our lead-follow group began the next phase of the adventure around Johnson Valley’s King of the Hammers trails. As the trucks hit the open desert and started to spread out, our speeds picked up. I was able to throttle down and smash through the uneven terrain with a surprising amount of control and stability. This was mainly owed to the performance suspension design that had been highly developed through a Chevrolet off-road racing program with Rod Hall. The Colorado ZR2 Bison can handle the dirty dance,

Rock Crawling Challenge

Hitting high-speed open trails blasting through the desert, and even catching a bit of air made for a lot of fun. Of course, they planned for us to do some crawling through the rock beds too. We arrived at the mouth of a narrow canyon strewn with large and small boulders and shouldered by steep rocky desert hillsides. The trail, if you want to call it that, was nothing but a canyon drainage creekbed with no real road at all.

According to my calculations, my OnX off-road map, and my Spot X 2-Way Satellite Messenger, we had entered what I understand to be the start of the KOH trail Thor’s Hammer. The Colorado ZR2 Bison crawled over each obstacle, squeezing through narrow channels, sometimes with only three wheels making contact. This rocky path really tested the truck’s capabilities, but the mid-size Bison showed agility and rugged prowess.

The 2024 Colorado ZR2 Bison rock crawling on an off-road trail

Once we completed the route, we zipped back around for another driver change and another pass through the same trail. At the end of that, we headed back over to the Lasertown desert base of operations for a midday break.

Colorado ZR2 Bison Main Features:

  • Segment-exclusive Multimatic front and rear Jounce Control Dampers
  • AEV heavy-duty winch-capable front bumper
  • AEV rear bumper and AEV fender flares
  • AEV 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels with segment-exclusive 35-inch OD Mud/Terrain tires
  • Boron steel skid plates and rocker protectors contribute to best-in-class underbody protection
  • Best-in-class approach angle (38.2 degrees.), departure angle (26 degrees.), and breakover angle (26.9 degrees.)
  • Power-locking front and rear differentials
  • Multimatic DSSV dampers and the ZR2 chassis
  • Best-in-class ground clearance of 12.2 inches
  • Racing-inspired spare tire carrier and spray-on bedliner
  • “Flowtie” front badge and Bison exterior identification
  • Interior distinction with AEV badge on the front headrests and all-weather floor liners

Going Down Chocolate Thunder In The Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2 Bison

After lunch, the hosting Chevrolet Truck engineers gauged our interest in trying out some more extreme trails. The route in question would be a climb up the backside of the KOH trail Chocolate Thunder only to come down on top of the famed King of the Hammers landmark. Pretty much the entire group was willing, so we piled in the various trucks and convoyed over from Lasertown.

Driving New Chevrolet ZR2 Trucks Through King Of The Hammers

Once on-site, we surveyed the very steep hill climb and staged each truck for an attempt. One by one, the Chevrolet ZR2 Bisons maneuvered up the path with just a few spinning tires being the only real setback. When everyone had made it to the top, we could preview our route down. If the way up was considered steep, the way down was even more treacherous, with off-camber drop-offs and uneven rock obstacles.

Seeing these very big and very expensive trucks crawl up and down what I consider to be extreme rock-crawling trails was the absolute highlight of this experience. I was tripping out with the rear of the Silverado HD ZR2  pointing nearly 45 degrees in the air and one tire about 3 feet off the ground. Each truck and driver was tested until one ended up turtling on a loose 2-foot stone, getting hung up for a little bit. Perhaps that could be mostly attributed to not the best spotting in this one scenario. Other than that, I was floored at what we were doing with these things.


Chevrolet ZR2 Trucks Final Impressions

Overall, this was a pretty wild experience. I enjoy driving modern vehicles and pushing them off-road even more. The off-road capabilities of the Chervolet’s ZR2 package position these trucks’ performance at an admirable level. From the Colorado to the Sierra HD, and everything in between, it is a solid lineup. In my opinion, these are capable platforms ready for adventure and duty right from the showroom floor.

Driving New Chevrolet ZR2 Trucks Through King Of The Hammers

Both the Colorado ZR2 Bison and Silverado HD ZR2 Bison are absolute standout beasts of off-road vehicles. Armored up from the factory and equipped for extreme challenges is very appealing. Yes, the aftermarket can provide quality accessories or more personalized options. The AEV package may cost a premium, but you get premium parts with top-of-class factory fit and finish with a warranty backing everything up. For me, that sounds like a fair-value upsell.

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2

I really wanted to feel the 2024 Colorado truck out by size compared to its Silvera 1500 counterpart. Indeed the full-size footprint is noticeable and appealing. But for what it is worth, coming from a 6-1/2-foot tall dude who daily drives a 20-year-old mid-size 4×4 prerunner, the 2024 Colorado ZR2 is a lot of truck for a lot of money and a very fair buy. Mid-size trucks are obviously not for everybody. In my opinion, the Colorado is a mid-size truck that wants to be a full-size truck, but in this day and age of modern vehicles, it is what it needs to be. The market is ripe for these trucks with plenty of buyers and loads of competition. Is there a market for even smaller trucks, like say of the size and stature from the 1990s? I say yes if the auto manufacturers could price them accordingly.


The 2024 Colorado ZR2 delivers on performance and I believe is a terrific off-road rig. It is a solid and versatile platform that will provide its owners with access to abundant vehicle-born adventure and more. If I were currently in the market for a mid-size truck, one of these new ZR2 package Colorados would most definitely be a top consideration.

2024 Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2

If I had my pick of the litter of any truck, I would be hard-pressed to consider anything over a 2024 Chevrolet Silverado HD ZR2 Bison. Having the heavy-duty capabilities of a legitimate tow rig that can perform beyond expectations off-road is something very desirable to me. Do I need to unhitch my recreational trailer and then go run the truck hard through the desert? No, but it is nice to know that I could potentially use the HD ZR2 Bison to go off-road to recover my other “toys”. I like the heavy-duty option capable and ready to handle heavy off-roading.

Driving New Chevrolet ZR2 Trucks Through King Of The Hammers

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About the author

Micah Anderson

Micah is a 20 year authority in the off-road industry with extensive experience founded on marketing, events, and racing. Professionally skilled in all things creative, Micah is passionate about faith, freedom, and anything powered by adventure.
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