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A tan 2021 Chevy Colorado ZR2 is driving on a dirt road in front of distant mountains.

Off-Road Showdown: The 2021 Chevrolet Colorado vs The 2021 Jeep Gladiator

Are you an off-road enthusiast looking for adventure? If you’re in the market for a new off-road vehicle that offers the utmost in comfort and capability, you won’t want to miss the newest off-road showdown between the 2021 Chevrolet Colorado vs 2021 Jeep Gladiator. That’s right – Chevrolet’s Colorado ZR2 goes head-to-head with Jeep’s Gladiator Rubicon.

Both Chevrolet and Jeep are known for building reliable and capable vehicles, which is what makes this competition such a close race. So, which off-road warrior ultimately takes the lead? You might be surprised by the results as we look closer at the competitors and how they measure up against one another in this epic off-road race to the finish line.

The Basics: Pricing and Trim Options

The 2021 Colorado is Chevrolet’s mid-size truck that starts at $25,200 and offers exceptional durability for drivers looking for a reliable truck without breaking the bank. The Colorado comes in four different trim options, including the LT priced at $27,700 and the Z71 starting at $35,500. There are also several special editions that drivers can take advantage of for customization. Where the Colorado truly shines is in its ZR2 trim option that, according to Chevrolet, is designed for “next-level adventure.”

The Colorado ZR2 starts at $41,600 and is Chevrolet’s top off-road vehicle. It features the Z71 Off-Road Suspension Package, an automatic locking rear differential, all-terrain tires, an HD rear vision camera, higher ground clearance, a Multimatic DSSV Damping System, and the ZR2 off-road suspension. Drivers can choose between a two-wheel and four-wheel-drive option as well as between the 3.6-liter V6 engine with an 8-speed automatic transmission and the 2.8-liter Duramax Turbo-Diesel 4-cylinder engine with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

The 2021 Jeep Gladiator is available in six different trim options with three special edition trims but boasts a much higher starting MSRP with the Sport base model starting at $33,545. The Sport S starts at $38,100, the Overland at $40,660, the Rubicon at and Mojave are both $44,140, and the High Altitude starts at $51,765. The Gladiator that’s most comparable to the Chevrolet ZR2 is the Gladiator Rubicon.

The Rubicon comes standard with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine. Drivers can choose between the standard 6-speed manual transmission or upgrade to the 8-speed automatic transmission for $2,000. The Rubicon also comes standard with four-wheel drive and offers drivers various customization options like bumpers, front grilles, and tire options, all of which add to the Rubicon’s already high MSRP.

A red 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon is driving on a dirt path past dry grass, shown from the side with no doors.

Powertrain

The race between the Colorado ZR2 and the Gladiator Rubicon continues as we look at powertrains. The ZR2 offers two powertrain options – the 3.6-liter V6 gasoline engine and the 2.8-liter Duramax Turbo-Diesel engine. Which engine delivers more power and better performance?

The Colorado’s 3.6-liter engine delivers higher horsepower at 308 compared to the Duramax’s 181 horsepower. However, most off-roaders look more to torque ratings since torque reflects the vehicle’s ability to traverse difficult terrains with ease. The 3.6-liter delivers 275 lb-ft of torque, and the Duramax produces 369 lb-ft of torque. It’s easy to see why the Duramax is the more popular choice on the ZR2. Plus, the front-wheel drive Colorado with the Duramax engine gets some of the best fuel economy with 20 MPG in the city and 30 MPG on the highway.

Once again, the Colorado ZR2 outshines the Gladiator Rubicon with its powertrain. Although Jeep is known for building iconic off-road vehicles, the stats don’t lie. The Jeep’s 3.6-liter Pentastar engine pales in comparison to the Duramax by delivering 285 horsepower and a much lower 260 lb-ft of torque. While the Duramax produces less horsepower, it offers 109 lb-ft of torque more than the Pentastar, which is noticeable on the trail in off-road conditions. As for fuel economy, the Gladiator with this engine gets 17 MPG in the city and 22 MPG on the highway.

When hitting the trails, the ZR2 and the Gladiator both lack an easy way to determine which drive mode the vehicle will perform best in. This presents a steep learning curve and requires trial and error as well as a deep dive into the owner’s manuals. Apart from this, the ZR2 proves to be superior in terms of ride quality thanks to the Multimatic shock absorbers that offer a smoother ride over bumpy terrain, while the Gladiator makes sure the driver and passengers feel every bump and bumble.

Safety Features

A red 2021 Chevy Colorado ZR2 is off-roading in the mud after winning the 2021 Chevy Colorado vs 2021 Jeep Gladiator comparison.

When venturing off-road where you’ll likely traverse a variety of terrains and obstacles from hillsides and streams to oversized boulders and beyond, it’s essential to have a suite of advanced safety features to add to your confidence and peace of mind. Both Chevrolet and Jeep are committed to ensuring their vehicles offer the utmost in safety. Because of this, the Colorado ZR2 and the Gladiator Rubicon offer many standard and optional safety features.

The Colorado ZR2 includes an impressive list of safety features beginning with an HD Rear Vision Camera that provides a clear view of the area behind the truck. The ZR2 also features an electronic stability control system with traction control known as StabiliTrak as well as a tire pressure monitoring system, tire fill alert, and Chevrolet’s iconic Teen Driver technology that encourages better driving behavior for new drivers. Available safety options and upgrades include Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, and Rear Park Assist.

Like the Colorado, the Jeep Gladiator also comes standard with a ParkView Rear Back-Up Camera and a tire pressure monitoring system. The camera works with Jeep’s Uconnect touchscreen and features gridlines to help drivers navigate the vehicle in reverse. The Jeep adds a special Keyless Enter ‘n Go feature that allows drivers to unlock the doors automatically without the key when the key fob is within five feet of the vehicle. Additional safety upgrades for the Gladiator include Blind Spot Monitoring, Adaptive Cruise Control, Full-Speed Forward Collision Warning with Active Braking, Rear Cross Path Detection, and ParkSense Rear Park Assist System.

The Verdict: A Colorado-Sized Victory

Off-road enthusiasts around the country have put the 2021 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon to the test in terms of performance and agility. While many stick with the Jeep’s reputation as the iconic off-road warrior, it’s impossible to deny that the Colorado ZR2 comes out ahead overall thanks to its powerful engine, lower price tag, and impressive list of safety features. It’s easy to see why we’re calling this a Colorado-sized victory.

The Colorado’s higher torque rating outshines the Gladiator on dirt roads, while its plush interior and heavy frame also outperform the Jeep on paved roads by allowing for more stable handling and a much quieter ride. With these key differences, there’s no question that the ZR2 offers better overall handling than the Gladiator in most driving conditions. The results may shock you since Jeep is known for delivering adventure-ready vehicles. However, there’s no question that Chevrolet brought their A-game to the table when they designed the Colorado ZR2 with off-road adventures in mind!

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