- The Washington Times - Friday, October 4, 2002

Small pickups with big-truck attitudes are in demand these days, and Chevrolet is accommodating buyers with charismatic S-10 choices. Those injecting the most potent combination of function and rugged-style flair are the ZR2- and ZR5-packaged models.

Both are upgraded 4x4s packed with eye appeal and outfitted with exterior accents to lure young or youthful-thinking buyers. ZR2s are extended-cab models, geared for off-road enthusiasts or at least those identifying with that image. ZR5 models are crew cabs, also boasting a pumped-up, athletic look, but aren't engineered for hard-core ZR2-style off-road duty.

The ZR2 Wide Stance Sport Performance Package adds about $2,200 to the price tag, and the ZR5 Appearance Package tacks on about $1,500. Typical drive-out prices for both models range from the mid- to high-$20,000s.

ZR2's higher cost is attributed to above-and-beyond engineering that pushes off-road prowess and looks beyond that of a standard S-10 4x4 model. A wider frame, wider stance and higher 9-inch ground clearance improve off-pavement capability and give the ZR2 a more imposing appearance. Contributing to this aggressive stance and the ZR2's ability to challenge the wilds is a beefed-up suspension. Featured in this heavy-duty suspension package are 46-mm Bilstein high-pressure gas shocks and 31-by-10.5-inch on-/off-road blackwall tires.

Shrouding these hefty tires, mounted on distinctive five-spoke wheels, are aggressive fender flares. These flares are black or "argent," matching the bumpers to contrast with the body's color. Announcing the fact it's no ordinary pickup are bold "ZR2" decals applied high on the box sides, near the taillamps.

ZR5s also wear identifying decals and sport the argent fender flares and bumpers. They, too, have custom-look five-spoke wheels, but these are wrapped by P236/75R-15 tires. Black side rails and bed rails also add functionality and contrasting accents.

ZR2 and ZR5 models are available in the same exterior colors as the rest of the S-10 family, but a new vivid yellow, costing $115 more than standard paint, is a popular choice. Also new is a soft tonneau cover that offers the advantage of being fitted over the bed rails. Its price is $395.

ZR2 and ZR5 packages don't include special interior enhancements. Ron Owen of Chevrolet S-10 marketing said this decision was made to keep the price down. For those wanting the best of all worlds, heated leather front buckets with six-way power adjustability are available for $1,495. Also included in this cost are a leather steering wheel grip and fog lamps.

Mr. Owen said buyers drawn to aggressive-looking trucks are predictable. Young males are typical consumers for both packages, and ZR2 buyers are more likely to be single or recently married with no children. ZR5s attract those with children and those who need the functionality of four full-size doors and five-place seating.

Whether toting passengers or grinding it out in hostile terrain, power is required to get the job done right. Like all S-10 4x4s, both models are fitted with a Vortec 4300 V-6 engine. It delivers big-truck muscle, churning out 190 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and 250 foot-pounds of torque at 2,800 rpm. ZR2 buyers have the choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions and the ZR5 is available with the four-speed automatic transmission.

This six's healthy low-end torque helps in off-road applications and provides muscle for towing. ZR2s have a respectable 4,700-pound towing rating, but it is less than the 5,500-pound rating for a standard extended-cab 4x4 S-10. A slight fuel-economy drop and a stiffer ride are other sacrifices made to give the ZR2 its off-road performance boost. As with all 4x4 S-10 crew cabs, the ZR5 has a 5,200-pound towing capacity.

While S-10s are nearing the conclusion of a life cycle, which ends in about a year with the debut of the all-new, larger Colorado, sales remain strong. This especially is true of the ZR2 and ZR5. Mr. Owen said ZR2s account for 52.3 percent of 2002-model-year extended-cab sales and ZR5s, introduced in February, make up about 45 percent of crew cab sales.

Chevrolet also has a third successful package with its Xtreme ZQ8 Sport Suspension Package. Like ZR2 and ZR5, Xtreme is macho and youthful. Its personality, however, is more slick than rugged. The lure of this pickup is its monochromatic exterior with 270-degree ground effects. The treatment includes a front air dam, foglamps and the option of body stripes.

The 2WD Xtreme is a pavement-skimmer with a lowered body. It's a street truck that isn't likely to hang with the rock-roaming ZR2 and ZR5.

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