Think the new 2021 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, the midsize pickup truck’s hardcore off-road trim, is impressive? Its primary changes from before include less styling—seriously, Chevy just straight-up made most of the front end part of the grille or intake. Underneath, it still has the same lifted suspension, beefy tires, and 4×4 equipment to chase goats up rocky paths. But what if that ’21 ZR2 isn’t crazy enough? Perhaps you’d like it with even less bodywork and a stronger dose of visual intimidation? Time to join the Army!
That’s because General Motors’ Defense division (new as of 2017) has a new prototype for an Infantry Squad Vehicle (ISV) that is based on today’s Colorado ZR2 chassis—and it’s bound for military service, not your local Chevy dealer. So far, GM Defense has been awarded a $1 million contract by the U.S. military to develop the ISV and test two prototypes ahead of a planned order of 650 finalized models by 2020.
If a million bucks doesn’t seem like not a lot of money for a defense contract, let alone a vehicle development cycle, you’re right. But, then, there isn’t much to the ISV beyond the Colorado ZR2’s frame and suspension and that wacky metal exoskeleton. The vehicle lacks doors, a pickup bed, and even a proper roof. Up front, the ISV one-ups the 2021 Colorado ZR2’s mostly grille-filled face with . . . basically no face at all. There is a hole where the radiator is, plus a substantial bumper and skid plate arrangement. Slits in what we assume is the hood house headlights.
GM is relying heavily on off-the-shelf parts for the ISV’s mechanicals, too, in a further bid to keep development cost and effort in check. It claims that 70 percent of the ISV’s components are standard, off-the-shelf bits from the Chevy Performance Parts catalog and elsewhere in the GM sphere. The Colorado ZR2’s available 2.8-liter, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine provides power via a six-speed automatic transmission. Suspension and driveline components battle-tested in the Best in the Desert Racing series lurk, well, pretty much out in the open beneath the stripped-down ISV, as well.
What the ISV has more of than pretty much anything else are seats. The vehicle can hold nine soldiers plus their gear, all within the relatively handy footprint of a Colorado pickup. There are two seats up front, another three in the second row, two facing the rear behind that, and another two in a de-facto fourth row (behind the rear wheels) that face outward and straddle what appears to be a central cargo hold.
Other design requirements include the ability to fit inside a CH-47 Chinook helicopter while being “light enough to be sling-loaded from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter.” While that last bit sounds insane, it translates roughly to an ability to be airlifted via a cable or hook beneath a Blackhawk chopper (which is smaller than the cargo-friendly, two-rotor Chinook). It also needs to carry those nine soldiers on-road or off-road at speeds up to 60 mph; given how the production Colorado ZR2’s top speed is 98 mph, that likely isn’t an issue for the ISV. GM is confident its design will win over the military, stating that its “ISV entry is a fully-integrated platform that leverages decades of GM’s engineering, manufacturing and quality expertise at scale to provide the most cost-efficient, reliable and effective answer possible to meet and exceed the Army’s demanding requirements,” per GM Defense President David Albritton. That’s nice, but we’d really like to thrash the thing on our local sand dunes and off-road trails while rubbing it in the faces of regular ZR2 owners.