My friends ask me a lot of questions about new vehicles, but the most frequently asked is “can you get ______ from ______ and let me drive it?”, to which the answer is always, “I wish I could but you’re not special like I am, so no, you can’t drive even if ______ gives me a ______. The second most asked question is how I got into this racket, which is a boring story involving the internet, but the third most asked question,”Have you driven the Chevrolet Colorado Diesel?”, well that’s the basis for this whole story.
Full Disclosure: Chevrolet invited me to come up to the fairytale town of Solvang, CA to check out the all new Colorado Diesel, and refreshed Silverado lineup. They offered to fly me, but since there are some really fun roads leading to Solvang, I opted to drive the grueling 2 and a half hours from Los Angeles in my own vehicle. I ate their food, and enjoyed the provided accommodations, but I did not drink the kool-aid, I had Coors Light instead.
The rabid interest in the oil burning version of Chevrolet’s midsize pickup stems from two main sources: 1. You can’t get a diesel Tacoma in the U.S., and 2. the 2.8L Duramax is a proven global motor, one what Chevy fans have wanted in the Colorado since it was announced. In looking at those two sources, one can get a very clear picture of the potential Colorado customer. One group is comprised of midsize truck fans, the majority of them Tacoma owners, who want a diesel, and would be willing to switch brands to get it. The other is made up of diesel motor fans, some of them devotees of the 6.6L Duramax V8 available in the Silverado HD lineup. What Chevrolet would love to happen is for these two groups to converge at the point of sale, thus creating a perfect media storm, and fueling a Colorado buying frenzy. And you know what? The product just might be good enough to make it happen.
I say “might” be good enough, because one day is hardly enough to glean the information necessary to pass judgement on a vehicle. I spent 10 days with a Colorado Z71 last winter, so I can say with complete confidence that the platform in general is solid. However, I can’t say that I was impressed with the fuel economy, because I didn’t take it on an extended road trip, nor can I say that I was blown away by the towing capacity, because I didn’t tow anything with it, though I did have the opportunity to do so. What I can tell you is that with the addition of the turbo diesel engine, the Colorado has further cemented itself as the best truck on the market. Notice that I didn’t say midsize truck, I said truck, and that’s no mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I love the luxurious interior of the Silverado High Country (more on that soon), and there are few things as entertaining as a Ford F-150 Raptor, but when it comes to just being purely a truck, the Colorado can’t be beat.
It goes about its business with a very deliberate sense of purpose, and its business is to be a jack of all trades. Full size pickups have gotten too big, too flashy, and too expensive to be the swiss army knife vehicles they once were. I know, you can get stripped out work truck versions of all of them, but the truth is the majority of pickups sold in the U.S. are very nicely appointed. The Colorado brings the pickup truck back down to earth, back to its roots, and it does so without loosing a bit of style. The Colorado was already more than enough truck for most people, but with the addition of the diesel, it has become totally overqualified in the best way possible. It boasts a 7,700 trailering rating, a diesel exhaust brake system, and a standard integrated trailer brake controller that is exclusive to the diesel models.
How often will the young urban types that Chevy hopes will buy these in droves take full advantage of those features? Hardly ever, unless they need to move their tiny house to a more sustainable plot of land. You know who will love those things? People who just want a truck to do the things a truck is supposed to be good at doing. Hauling stuff, making tough jobs easier, inspiring hit country songs, these used to be the reasons why pickups were built. Then the 90s happened, and pickup trucks went all Mark McGwire. The Colorado is the return to the good ‘ol days, but with the added bonus of having modern creature comforts that are there to keep you safe, as well as entertain you. Off-roading in the Colorado is nearly idiot proof thanks to hill start assist, hill descent control, and the aptly named StabiliTrak stability control system. Of course all these features are great, but the best part is they don’t interfere with you having fun, and fun is a big part of what the Colorado is all about.
I’m not a veteran rock crawler, or dune junkie, but I’ve spent enough time in the woods of New England, and on the mountainsides of California to know when a vehicle is really capable when pavement isn’t in the picture, and the Colorado Z71 is the real deal, especially with the “Trail Boss” option box ticked. The package adds throwback bars with LED lights that could be used to signal the mothership , 265/65R17 Goodyear Wrangler Duratec Tires, fender flares, and tubular assist steps that I’d remove for aesthetic purposes were I to get one of these. You also get a mean looking blacked out bowtie badges, a spray on bedliner, and all weather floor mats that will last at least one tough winter. It’s a solid package, and though pricing has yet to be announced, I’d bet that it won’t come at a ridiculous premium. Chevrolet has to keep the Colorado pricing reasonable, not just because of the Tacoma, but because of their own family of full size trucks. If the Colorado creeps into Silverado territory, it’ll hurt the chances of someone going for the smaller truck, even if it is far better equipped at the price point.
One of my peers brought up a good point while we were out on the drive, maybe if we buy enough Colorados with the Trail Boss package, Chevrolet will see fit to build the ZR2. While that’s a nice thought, it’s highly unlikely. There is no incentive to build such a capable vehicle in the segment at the moment, the Trail Boss has all the features it needs to be top dog. Compared to the Tacoma TRD Off Road, the Colorado Z71 Trail Boss looks much more badass, but it doesn’t have any sort of big performance advantage, and honestly it doesn’t need it. Aside from being better looking outside, the Colorado sports a more aesthetically pleasing interior, and includes much better tech.
I used the 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot to stream music the entire time without a single glitch. Even better, the ’16 Colorado has Apple CarPlay, and paired with the already impressive 7″ display, you get really nice infotainment experience. All I had to do was plug my phone into one of the four standard USB ports, and the option for CarPlay popped right up. I tried out using Maps for navigation, worked seamlessly, and can totally function as a replacement for the native MyLink navigation system. The only issue I had was that I couldn’t scroll all the way through my libraries in Music or Spotify. All I got was one page to scroll through, and when you have the amount of music that I do, that doesn’t get you out of the “A” section. Not sure what the fix is there, but I hope they have it worked out by the time the truck hits the market.
With that one exception, my brief time spend with the Colorado was nothing but excellent. It’s fun in the way a midsize pickup should be, offers all the capability you need, and if the speculation proves correct, will remain a good initial value. The real test for the Colorado will be that of time, because only time will tell if it will hold its value the way a Toyota does. If I was in the market for a pickup, I’d go for the Colorado without any hesitation. If you’re in the market for a pickup, and don’t regularly tow loads over 7,700 lbs, then I’d highly recommend trying out one of these with the Duramax Diesel. I doubt you’ll be even remotely disappointed, in fact I’d wager that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.