Chevrolet adds serious off-road hardware to S10 pickup's ZR2
Date Posted: 5/10/2005
Rick Johnson -- wily champion of grueling Baja 1000 4-wheel-drive truck races that scramble over formidable rocks and ruts, dirt and dunes stretching the length of Baja California's rugged peninsula -- revved the muscular V6 engine of Chevrolet's newest off-road warrior, ZR2.
This modern dirt-wheeler, based on the lively compact S10 pickup and outfitted with an optional new extended cab and some serious 4x4 hardware, looks keenly aggressive with its high stance and wide track.
Yet with Johnson, current dirt maestro of the 4x4 race circuit, maneuvering behind the wheel, ZR2 quickly revealed that looks only begin to tell the tale of this tough truck.
Awesome, slippery grades of sand?
No sweat: ZR2 can do. To prove the point, Johnson locked disc brakes midway up a steep slant, stopping to cling hard against that hill, then tossed off a devilish grin before gunning it in a sprint to the top of the grade.
Deep, slimy oozing mud pits?
Again, Johnson signaled what ZR2 will do, stopping in mid-pit to show that a foot of goo won't stop this critter.
"Notice how it moves so smoothly, but still firm, over these rocks," he said, steering the ZR2 across the bounders.
New gas-pressured Bilstein shocks -- connected to special heavy-duty suspension components which include a big front stabilizer bar, new rear springs and a rear axle track bar -- took control of fat and sticky 31x10.5R-15 on-/off-road tires to chart a surprisingly comfortable ride quality for driver and passenger.
Later, secured in crash helmet and tight safety belt, Johnson demonstrated this truck's all-out scat-jump-slide-and-scoot racing persona as he tackled a Texas motorsports dirt park's rough circuit. He slipped the sharp turns, clipped the tops of ripples, dribbled it through the dirt.
Hang tight: This thing's flying through thin air now.
No one, of course, needs to drive with such bone-jarring, helter-skelter, at times entirely traumatic, racing swiftness, but Johnson proved that ZR2 carries the kind of stout hardware needed to tackle all kinds of serious stuff in the outback, off-pavement world.
And it's so easy to apply Chevy's off-road technology because ZR2 makes all coordinated systems feel like you're steering a sporty runabout, certainly not a pickup.
Everything's already aboard in comfort features too, and there's extra room inside, thanks to that extended cab variation and expansive structural changes to accommodate the additional 4x4 equipment.
For instance, new ZR2 measures nearly 4 inches wider and 3 inches taller than the conventional S10 package.
Modifications have been made to sheetmetal, such as at front wheelwells which flare extra wide to oblige those big tires and allow for accumulating mud and sharp turning moves. Further, ZR2 wears distinctive and unique front fenders and outer panels along sides of the pickup box.
If you x-rayed this truck, you would also find it rides on a special frame to support the wider track, then applies stout shields beneath critical mechanical components to protect sensitive underbody sections from bumps and bangs along the trail.
But locomotion is the byword for ZR2, and two stout 4.3-liter 6-cylinder powerplants appear as the choices for serious truck shoppers.
The base engine, Chevy's LB4 plant, delivers 155 horsepower at 4000 rpm and as much as 235 lbs/ft of torque at 2400 rpm. This strong plant features new noise reduction systems in a format drawn from a cast iron block and cylinder heads.
For an extra kick, this engine takes on a central-port fuel injection system and variable intake tuning to promote strong torque delivery at low and mid-range engine speeds.
The resultant numbers: 191 hp at 4500 rpm and up to 260 lbs/ft @ 3400 rpm make it one of most powerful in class.
This engine employs a counter-rotating balance shaft to cancel primary engine vibrations for smooth running. Also, a composite front cover reduces engine noises.
Both versions hook to either Chevy's smooth-shifting -- and smart -- electronically-controlled automatic 4-speed transmission or a winsome new close-ratio manual 5-speed.
I liked throwing the tight manual lever around its gear box and enjoyed the mechanical mastery which it afforded, yet the automatic will be the more popular option and remains a superb shifter for its artful ease and unobtrusive action.
Another sophisticated assemblage, standard on this 4x4 truck, goes by the label of Insta-Trac. It consists of an automatic transfer case which permits shift-on-the-fly convenience from 2-wheel-drive to the higher gear ranges of 4WD or back again, and functions efficiently at any speed. Once in 4-Hi and at rest in neutral, use your index finger to punch up 4WD-Lo and get serious in mud or sand or snow.
Even on tough stuff off-road in that Texas motorsports park, though, Rick Johnson plowed confidently through the slippery stuff in 4-Hi, save for a time or two in 4-Lo simply to demonstrate its strength.
Later, I followed Johnson's lead as he bravely rode shotgun to provide a pointer or two about 4-wheeling, like swinging wider than I would normally steer on a blind corner to use the droop of the prow's rounded edge to achieve a better pattern of visibility so you can see what's in store around the next bend before plopping into it.
"This truck's so strong it will do all the work for you, if you allow it," he said. "You just set up the sequences, then point it right and bide the bumps."
Not everyone has a coach like the Baja 1000 champion to show how best to use a ZR2, but this truck makes it easy to learn on your own, and certainly fun to train and explore.
Lots of help comes from new features for convenience, comfort and safety: An airbag in the fat steering wheel to protect the driver, optional 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, new daytime running lights to let other drivers know you're out there, platinum-tipped spark plugs designed to last for 100,000 miles, back lighting for power windows/door locks/mirror switches in an optional convenience package, a single 2-sided key that unlocks all, even optional bucket seats with manual lumbar adjustment for driver and rider.
The new extended cab adds rear space, but ZR2 also can be had with regular cab configuration and a short box.
Prices dipping to $17,500 make this one easy to own.
1995 CHEVROLET S10 ZR2
| Vehicle Specifications:
| 1995 CHEVROLET S10 ZR2 Specs
||Compact pickup truck
| Model Options:
||Compact pickup truck
||Regular: 108.3 inches
Extended: 122.9 inches
| Overall Length:
||Regular: 189.0 inches
Extended: 203.3 inches
| Engine Size:
||OHV 4.3-L V6 TBI
OHV 4.3-L V6 CPI
| Gas Mileage:
||$ 17,500 to $ 22,000