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2017-05-29 14:38

Lance Branquinho

Cape Town - General Motors might be pulling out the country with Chevrolet, but elsewhere in the world, especially in the States where pickups reign supreme, it can be considered a brand that brings in the bread and butter.

In South Africa Ford’s most fierce rivalry is that with Toyota. Ranger versus Hilux, the two fullest product ranges in the Mzansi bakkie market leave all other players to feed for sales of the scraps that remain. It’s brutal.

A contest that even extends to off-road racing, where the two dominant teams in South African mud/rock/sand racing are Toyota and Ford. 

Stateside, Ford’s engaged in an even fiercer battle – one which has raged since before television was invented. A battle of pony cars and bakkies. The clash with all things Chevrolet.

All odds and comparisons considered, it’s been a draw, mostly, but for one segment where Ford’s been the indisputable victor: road legal off-road racing bakkies. Ford’s F-150 Raptor, with its custom Fox-racing suspension, ten forward gears and turbocharged 3.5-litre V6, has always been the only Dakar-spec bakkie you can actually buy.

A 335kW bakkie with real off-road ability – and crucially, without any rival. 

Until now.

In a chapter from the script of that unending game of one-upmanship so characteristic of the battle between Mustang and Camaro, Chevrolet’s built a true counter to F-150 Raptor. It’s called the ZR2 and priced at a discount of 20% to the Raptor, it might be the best value-to-capability double-cab of 2017. 

Less power. But undiminished ability.

The price differential does mean ZR2 lacks the outputs of F-150, but for the rest, it’s got a lot of very trick off-road kit. The eight-speed automatic transmission has no less than nine drive configurations, ranging from an open-differential RWD set-up to low-range with both the front and rear differentials locked-up. Powering that driveline is a 3.6-litre V6 good for 230kW and 373Nm. 

Clearances are impressive too: an approach angle of 30-degrees, breakover rated at 23.5 and with departure clearance of a similar number, ZR2’s off-road geometry is superior to an F-150 Raptor’s. Just. A series of skid plates protect the sump, differentials and transmission casing and they’re all at a minimum intrusion height of 260mm.

 

ZR2’s impressive off-road credentials extend to its suspension hardware. Where Ford commissioned motorcycle and off-road racing experts – Fox – to design and produce special custom damper solutions for F-150, Chevrolet’s offering something potentially better with ZR2 from Multimatic. It’s a motorsport derived spool-valve damper system, technology supplied by Multimatic to - amongst others - Ford’s new GT…

Replacing the traditional shim and washer system to manage damper oil flow, Multimatic’s spool-valve uses a piston with intricate flow-through oil channel properties. The result is a damper which is paradoxically body-roll mitigating at high-speeds on-road (avoiding dive under braking), yet exceptionally supple when impacting broken terrain, the moment you venture off-road. And with ZR2, Chevrolet’s encouraging its customers to venture off-road at speed and with great abandon.

ZR2’s dampers are revolutionary, the first of their type available in a production 4x4 bakkie, offering the best of both worlds. You get Dakar-racing type off-road jumping ability and rock strike absorption, whilst also retaining entirely pleasant general ride and handling manners – and none of the nausea generating pitch and roll characteristics of long-travel 4x4 suspension systems. 

Chevrolet’s Colorado ZR2 cannot compete with Ford’s Raptor in respect of absolute engine power, pace or visual drama – but it is certainly a rival when the bitumen changes to gravel, and in high-speed dune driving terrain it’s exceptional. 

The age-old rivalry between Ford and Chevrolet has yielded a compelling off-road bakkie. Possibly the best balanced current 4x4 double-cab in production. 

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