With so many entries in the off-road truck and SUV space, an automaker cannot simply phone it in if they seek to win any comparison test. Just a few years ago, a set of 31-inch tires, 10-inches of ground clearance, and 8 inches of suspension travel was sufficient enough to be the best midsize off-road truck on the market. But in this golden age, the bar is much higher. And the GM engineers behind the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and 2023 GMC Canyon AT4X appear to recognize that, featuring new and improved off-road hardware throughout.
The tires are bigger for more contact patch and improved ground clearance. The Mutltimatic DSSV dampers have been moved outward for improved protection from obstacles. The 2.7L L3B turbo engine surpasses both the gas V6 and turbo diesel engine in output. In short, even though the architecture of the trucks are similar to before, almost nothing carries over. And it’s paying big dividends on the trails, even during early stages of development.
2023 GMC Canyon AT4X And 2023 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 To Eclipse Last Gen Trucks
While developing trucks that are intended for off-road use, there’s no better way to test them than taking them on some of the most demanding trails in North America, like the Moab and Rubicon.
“We’ve taken the AT4X to the Rubicon, we’ve taken it to Moab twice, we’ve taken it to Red Rock, Tennessee, it’s been to the desert proving grounds, it’s been desert running in California,” GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado Chief Engineer Nick Katcherian told MC&T.
“I got to ride on our Baja training course, and this truck is a monster. It performs really well with the L3B; the new shock tuning is fantastic, the structural enhancements that are on the truck just make it feel solid. There’s not a lot of head toss. The truck’s been everywhere, it continues to surprise us with what its capability is.” Katcherian stated.
For comparison, GM decided to take the outgoing trucks off-road with the next-generation Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and first-ever GMC Canyon AT4X. But that didn’t last very long.
“We did (take the old Colorado ZR2), and then we stopped,” Katcherian said, chuckling in acknowledgement of the leap in capabilities with the new generation of trucks. “It’s an evolution of off-roading in the mid-size truck world that we’re really proud we’ve taken that step at. I’m not knocking the (old) ZR2, it’s an awesome truck, but we’re working on progress. These (new) trucks have like 15 percent more travel than the outgoing models. If you look at the AT4X to current generation Canyon, I think it’s like 30 percent more travel,” Katcherian elaborated. Increasing the track and tire size (from 31-inches in the outgoing Colorado ZR2 to a more proportionate 33-inches) also doesn’t hurt.
Even as these new trucks promise generational leaps in capability, the 2023 Colorado ZR2 and 2023 Canyon AT4X are just the beginning of GM’s new volley into the off-road truck and SUV space, which includes everything from the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and Ford Ranger Raptor pickups, to the Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler utility vehicles.
The General is currently testing a Canyon AT4X with even larger 35-inch tires and an AEV snorkel. The same treatment is expected for the next-generation Colorado ZR2 Bison. Coincidentally, we asked Katcherian if GM looked at 35-inch tires and a snorkel during the 2023 GMC Canyon backgrounder event, prior to photos surfacing.
“I’m just gonna smile,” the chief said, smiling.