GRAND JUNCTION, CO – If the Chevy Colorado was a shot across the bow at midsize-pickup-segment leaders Toyota and Nissan, the rugged ZR2 variant of arguably the coolest truck out of the General Motors barn in many years scores a direct hit.

Fullsize pickups still rule the roost in the U.S. GM, Ford and FCA US line the pockets of their blue jeans with eye-popping profit margins from the trucks, and competition from foreign makes worries the brass back in Detroit about as much as a tick bird on a rhino.

But the midsize segment is another matter. The Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier have ruled the roost for a good number of years, as the Detroit Three several years ago found it easier to just sell more fullsize pickups than bother with midsize offerings. Then GM upset the apple cart when in 2011 it announced a new-generation Colorado, which appears on track for a second year of more than 100,000 sales since launching in 2012.

The new Colorado ZR2 is a rock-climbing, trail-eating, desert-running beast certain to further reinvigorate demand for the entire line. So even if prospective buyers cannot afford the $5,000 premium for a ZR2 package, they likely will settle for lower-grade model in the line and push another Colorado out the door, much to the chagrin of Toyota and Nissan.

If there is a silver lining for the Japanese, it is that the ZR2 should advance the cult of the segment, or those weekend warriors who actually live the off-road lifestyle depicted in glossy magazine ads for the trucks.

In fact, the ZR2 easily could live life off the beaten path seven days a week. The pickup’s front and rear tracks are 3.5 ins. (89 mm) wider than a standard Colorado’s to give the ZR2 greater stability over uneven terrain, while its suspension is 2 ins. (51 mm) higher than the stock model to clear impediments.

But the bigger dimensions do not take away the key selling point of any Colorado, which is superior maneuverability compared to a fullsize pickup. That’s especially important in places such as the Bangs Canyon Trailhead here, where our Colorado ZR2 stealthily picked its way along narrow trails lined with rock outcroppings threatening to put a Texas-size scrape down the side of the truck.

The greatest addition to the ZR2 is a segment-first application of Multimatic Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSV) technology.

Markham, ON, Canada-based Multimatic has supplied its DSSV damper technology to a number of winning motorsports programs over the years, including Formula One. Chevy went to Multimatic a few years ago to enhance the track capability of the ’14 Chevy Camaro Z/28, which marked the first production application of DSSV.

Chevy and Multimatic saw an opportunity to elevate the off-road capability of the ZR2 with DSSV while also giving the truck pleasant on-road dynamics for the drive to the trailhead. It is some truly clever valve work inside the aluminum damper housings that provide precise ride and handling whatever the conditions. During off-road situations, particularly, the technology gives drivers a little more confidence to push the truck harder, which is why they buy it in the first place.