Chevy unveils Bison, a ruggedized Colorado ZR2 variant built with AEV

2019 Chevrolet Colorado

Since its return to the midsize pickup market with the 2015 model year Colorado, Chevrolet says the truck’s success has given the automaker a quarter of all midsize sales in that short period of time.

To their credit, Chevy hasn’t simply sat back and counted their money. There’s excitement outside the company for the Colorado, but there’s clearly a lot of internal excitement as well. To see it, you only need to look at the 2017 Colorado ZR2, unveiled about two years after the release of the revamped 2015 Colorado. It’s not quite a Raptor, but the ZR2 is a legit off-road performance package and provided some badly needed competition for Toyota’s Tacoma TRD Pro.

Chevy is continuing the Colorado’s evolution with the Bison, a new Colorado ZR2 variant built with American Expedition Vehicles. There isn’t much to speak of in added performance with this package, but what Chevy and AEV have done is make the Colorado a bit more capable by adding plated protection to the truck using a special type of steel.

SEMA beginnings

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2

For the last few years Chevy has used the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas as a testing ground for its ideas for new trucks. And based on feedback received at that show, Chevy has released several of those SEMA-born concepts as packages on the Silverado, Silverado HD and Colorado. These include the Silverado Alaskan, and now, the Bison, introduced at last year’s SEMA show as the ZR2 AEV.

As with most of these production trucks, not all the features packed into the SEMA concept make it through to the version that makes it to market. For instance the ZR2 AEV boasted a built-in air compressor, potable water delivery system, a refrigerator/freezer, and more. And while that SEMA concept was built for a specific use case of overland expeditions, it established a good working relationship between AEV and Chevy, which clearly inspired the new Bison.

Because the Bison is a ZR2, its front and rear tracks are wider than a conventional Colorado by 3.5 inches, and the truck’s factory suspension lifts it 2 inches higher off the ground than even the Colorado Z71. The Bison ZR2 also features a long list of off-road performance equipment including class-exclusive front and rear locking electronic differentials, Multimatic DSSV shocks, off-road rocker protection, cast-iron control arms, an Autotrac transfer case.

What makes it a Bison

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison grill

Colorado ZR2 Bison features five hot-stamped Boron steel skid plates that protect key undercarriage elements.

What makes the Bison special though is what Chevy says is “maximum protection of key undercarriage components,” allowing this truck to move through rocky, jagged terrain.

AEV has outfitted the ZR2 Bison with five custom-designed skid plates made of hot-stamped Boron steel. AEV says this is an industry-first use of this type of steel and the plates cover the engine oil pan, fuel tank, transfer case and both locking differentials.

The Bison also features AEV stamped steel front and rear bumpers. The front bumper contains winch provisions and standard fog lights. Recovery points are integrated into the rear bumper.

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison headlight

As far as unique exterior features, the Chevy bowtie has been replaced by a flow-through grille with the CHEVROLET word mark emblazoned across. The truck sits on 17 x 8-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac off-road tires.

A 2.8-liter Duramax diesel engine is an available option on the ZR2 Bison (a V6 is standard) as are a snorkel, and crew- and extended-cab configurations including long and short beds, respectively.

The Colorado ZR2 Bison will hit Chevy dealerships in January 2019.

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison tailgate

AEV-designed stamped steel rear bumpers house integrated recovery points and chassis-mounted tubular corner protection.

Colorado ZR2 Bison AEV logo

Colorado ZR2 Bison features an “AEV Bison” logo on the tailgate.

Bison AEV logo embroidered on the front head rests

Bison features embroidered “AEV” logos on the floor liners and front head restraints.

ZR2 Bison decal

This new Colorado variant features “Bison” decals on the bed.

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison driving on a dirt road

An exclusive, flow-through “CHEVROLET” lettered grille replaces the traditional bow-tie on Bison’s front end.