Is the 310-HP Colorado ZR2 Bison Manly Enough To Challenge 326-HP Tacoma & 405-HP Raptor?

May 2023 will remain a crucial benchmark for off-road performance-focused mid-size pickup trucks, as far as the American market is concerned. And it is all thanks to the arrival of the 2024 Ford Ranger Raptor, 2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro i-Force Max, and 2024 Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison.
Colorado ZR2 Bison vs Ranger Raptor vs Tacoma TRD Pro 8 photos
Photo: Chevrolet / Ford / Toyota
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After going to dealerships across various regions since late 2021, the North American fifth-generation Ford Ranger (aka T6.2 or P703) finally reached its home in America during the early days of May 2023. That's almost two years later than European or Australasian models, but still faster than some of its biggest foes. Naturally, the Blue Oval company fully intended to release the all-new iteration just before Japanese automaker Toyota revealed the next-generation, best-selling Tacoma nameplate.

And it was especially keen on securing the spotlight for its 2024 Ford Ranger Raptor, a first-ever arrival on the US market destined to fulfill a destiny of glory for the Raptor series alongside the Ford Bronco Raptor sibling and the bigger F-150 Raptor and Raptor R pickup truck brothers. When coming to America, the Range Raptor had just one objective in its sights: "to dominate the dirt." And it will try to do so with the long-travel suspension, which includes a Watts link setup for the rear and "class-exclusive" 2.5-inch FOX Live Valve Internal Bypass shocks (coilovers up front and piggyback reservoirs at the rear).

The flared fenders house 33-inch BFGoodrich all-terrain KO3 tires on 17-inch wheels or optional beadlock-capable wheels, underneath there's "serious underbody protection" made from steel, and inside the cabin, there are six "overhead upfitter switches mounted in the overhead console to simplify (the task of) powering off-road hardware," among others. Other highlights include a 360-Degree and Front View Camera, Zone Lighting, and the class-exclusive Pro Trailer Backup Assist system "to help back up boats and campers at the kinds of remote locations Raptors are built to reach."

Soon enough, Toyota gave a measured response from 'The Big Island,' aka Kona in Hawaii, where the entire 2024 Tacoma family presented itself – with no less than eight trims and two body styles, including the returning TRD PreRunner or the all-new XtraCab body style and Trailhunter grade. "Designed, engineered, and assembled for North America" as the "ultimate adventure machine," the 2024 Tacoma will try to keep up the legacy of being the best-selling mid-size pickup in America for the past 18 years. And, of course, the TRD Pro flagship will be at the front of the pack to fight its new TNGA-F global truck platform battles.

Colorado ZR2 Bison vs Ranger Raptor vs Tacoma TRD Pro
Photo: Chevrolet / Ford / Toyota
Novelties include the multilink coil rear suspension, new "high-strength boxed, steel-ladder frame," red aluminum front TRD upper control arms, and the aforementioned suspension includes three-way adjustable 2.5-inch FOX manual mode Quick Switch 3 (QS3) shocks plus FOX Internal Floating Piston (IFP) bump stops for the rear. 33-inch Goodyear Territory R/T tires wrap around black TRD wheels, and this version is three inches wider than an SR5, while the ground clearance stands up to 11 inches (28 cm). Just like the Trailhunter, this grade is also host to a few Toyota partnerships with the aftermarket off-road realm as the TRD aluminum front skid plate, TRD performance air intake, and TRD cat-back dual tipped exhaust are joined by a new integrated LED light bar, Rigid white LED fog lamps, and a high-clearance ARB rear metal bumper with red recovery hooks.

By this time, one might notice that we have yet to say a word about their true off-road capabilities (namely, angles) or the powertrains that make them tick and go fast while bashing dunes or crawling on and around rocks. Well, this is because we were waiting on the final member of the American high-performance off-road mid-size pickup truck triumvirate. That would be the newly introduced 2024 Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison, the tougher and more expensive brother to the 2023 Colorado ZR2 ($48,295) and sibling of the upcoming 2024 GMC Canyon AT4X AEV Edition. Also developed in conjunction with the good folks over at American Expedition Vehicles, the "all-new 2024 Colorado ZR2 Bison is America's ultimate off-road beast," according to Chevrolet.

However, let us get one major issue off our chest: it won't win the horsepower wars because it still has the same 2.7-liter inline-four high-output turbo mill as the ZR2 with 310 hp and 430 lb-ft (569 Nm). Mated to an eight-speed auto transmission, it will probably make the Colorado ZR2 Bison a little slower than the 2024 Tacoma TRD Pro i-Force Max, which has 326 hybrid ponies plus 465 lb-ft (630 Nm) from the 2.4-liter and electric motor assembly. Meanwhile, it will fall far behind the Range Raptor's bigger 3.0-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6, which churns out no less than 405 hp and 430 lb-ft (569 Nm). With that out of the way, Chevy still thinks it has a few trump cards up its off-road sleeve.

For example, the 2024 Tacoma has a 33.8-degree approach, 23.5-degree break-over, and 25.7-degree departure angles on the TRD Pro (without the towing package.) That is slightly less than Bison's "best-in-class" 38.2/26/26.9-degree angles! Plus, the mighty mid-size Chevy also comes with 35-inch mud tires wrapped around 17-inch beadlock-capable AEV wheels. Naturally, the aftermarket company provides other goodies, as well, like the heavy-duty winch-capable front bumper, the rear bumper, and fender flares. But AEV is not the only partner, and the Boron steel-equipped truck (skid plates and rocker protectors) also features "segment-exclusive" Multimatic DSSV front and rear Jounce Control dampers. Last but not least, aside from power-locking front and rear diffs, the Colorado ZR2 Bison also rocks a "best-in-class" ground clearance of 12.2 inches (31 cm). So, in the end, which truck is your favorite?
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About the author: Aurel Niculescu
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Aurel has aimed high all his life (literally, at 16 he was flying gliders all by himself) so in 2006 he switched careers and got hired as a writer at his favorite magazine. Since then, his work has been published both by print and online outlets, most recently right here, on autoevolution.
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