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Chevrolet Colorado 4x4 LT Real World Review And Insights" Plus 20 Years Of Colorado Specs - By Steve and Phil Purdy

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Real World Reviews by Steve and Phil Purdy

The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau
Photos by both authors

It just so happened that the Chevy Colorado pickup landed in my driveway for review a few months after my son bought one. He is a career Navy guy in San Diego and he loves to play in the desert. Not only is he a knowledgeable motor head and off-roader he’s a pretty good writer. So, he offers us a real-world assessment of the truck and describes his decision to choose it over some pretty good competitors.

But first, a few introductory remarks.

After nearly going away entirely the mid-sized pickup segment of the light truck market is surging back like a flow of lava down a cliff, that is, slowly but steadily. People used to point to the cost of the smaller ones being about the same as the bigs for the most part. Well, whether the new-found popularity is because the smaller ones fit into the garage better, or they are getting more upscale with every redesign, we’re not sure. We’ll even have a new Ford Ranger to challenge the others before long.

The Chevy Colorado comes in three configurations, five trim levels, three powertrains and a variety of capabilities from: an extended-cab, long-box rear-wheel drive with tepid 2.5-liter, four-cylinder and six-speed manual transmission, supposedly good for 30-mpg on the highway, for just $21,000; to a long-box, crew-cab with a Duramax turbo-diesel making 369 pound-feet of torque, starting at $28,450. Five trim levels, some special editions and a few options can get your price as high as you like. When we consider any combination we’re likely to find the cost about equal to the competition.

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Our test truck at home is the 4-wheel drive LT (third of five trim levels), crew-cab, short-box with the 3.6-liter V6 and eight-speed automatic. It shows a $33,775 base price and a big list of options shooting the price up to just over 40-grand on the sticker’s bottom line. Fuel mileage is listed at 17 in the city and 24 on the highway. No reason to doubt that based on our week-long experience.

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Phil chose the high-end off-roady one. Here’s what he thinks of his:

Having purchased a brand new, literally ‘off the showroom floor,’ 2017 Chevy Colorado ZR2 I couldn’t be happier.  The Colorado is a great looking compact pickup. To begin with, the stance and styling regardless of trim package is aggressive and sleek, and just pleasing to the eye.  Although I am a fan of the Toyota Tacoma, the Colorado is just better looking and in the comparison between the ZR2 and TRD Pro, better in nearly every other way.  

Knowing that I was ready for a new vehicle - that my 2008 Jeep Wrangler JK 4-Door was just not working out for me anymore - I decided to shop around and do some research.  Looking at the Tacoma, the Colorado and the Nissan Frontier I immediately crossed the Nissan off the list after driving it.  The Nissan was spartan in its accommodations and rather cheap feeling over bumps, just not a good fit, and to be perfectly honest I think it’s rather ugly. The Tacoma TRD Pro was not available for test drive but the sales person assured me that the difference between it and the TRD Sport were minor and mostly cosmetic, besides some little suspension tweaks and badging. Driving the Tacoma V6 was, as I expected, rather brutish and solid feeling. The Tacoma felt like a good solid vehicle, had decent acceleration and handling, though I wasn’t allowed to ‘play’ with it at all, even the mere mention of four-wheel drive was met with a change of subject by the sales guy. No doubt the Tacoma is a great truck. And, knowing Toyota’s reputation we would expect it to last a long time and keep its value.  But I kept shopping.  

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Fast forward a week, I find time to visit Bob Stall Chevrolet in La Mesa, California.  Greeted by, unbeknownst to me, a salesman in training, whom I immediately liked by the way. I started asking questions and his first words were “do you want to take a drive?” To which I responded “hell yes.”   First up was a silver extended cab ZR2 with the in-line diesel 4-cylinder.  Not bad, but what the diesel lacked in excitement and acceleration, it made up for in torque and fuel efficiency. Not sold, I asked to give the V6 a drive. A black extended cab was brought out. Ten minutes into the drive I knew it was the one.  On the way back to the lot after a rather extensive test drive full of hard acceleration, hard breaking, whipping around corners and hitting speed bumps faster than we should I took a wrong turn, and with nowhere to pull a U turn I told the sales guy “I’m curious.” He said “about what?” I shifted it into 4-High and climbed up an embankment bordering a construction site, about 35-degree angle, and stopped. Pinned to the seat back, he was giggling and just said “wow.”  My sentiments exactly. At that point I was sold, but I wanted a crew cab, and there just happened to be one on the showroom floor.  

Over the next three days I listed my jeep on a few websites and got a few really low-ball offers, but my impatience got the better of me and along with some intense negotiations with the sales team I traded the Jeep in for about 1k less than I was trying to sell it for but 2.5k more than they offered initially. On 30OCT2017 I drove off the lot in my brand new, awesome, beautiful, bright red Chevy Colorado ZR2.  

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The differences between the Colorado and Tacoma, that were the tipping point for me, were many.  The Colorado was more comfortable and seemed bigger inside because the seat went further back. At 6’6” tall I was comfortable even without the seat all the way back.  Steering and handling were better, more precise and the wheel didn’t jerk from side to side when hitting a bump at an angle. The DSSV “dynamic spool valve” shocks soaked up the bumps but also allowed the most sports car like handling in the curves that I’ve ever experienced in a truck. The ZR2 also comes with a bunch of off-road specific items that are unique to Chevy: front and rear electronic locking differentials, an inclinometer and great visual representation of off-road modes, including tire positioning and drive status.  (Tacoma has only a rear locker and limited info on the dash about the 4-wheel drive).  The Colorado V6 puts out roughly 30 horsepower more than Tacoma, has an 8-speed automatic, and a truly disable-able traction control system so we can have fun in 2- or 4-wheel drive. Doughnuts are pretty easy if that’s what you want to do.  

After five months and 12k miles I’m happy as the day I bought it.  I’ve done nothing aftermarket yet but plan to give it cold air intake and a cat back exhaust before too long.  

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I have taken it off road a few times, I’ve used the lockers, four-wheel drive both in high and low ranges and even gotten it stuck once trying to take a short cut. With tow hooks in front and a trailer hitch in back, it got out with very minimal effort and is no worse for wear.  It handled soft sand dunes and Rocky Mountain trails with equal ease. Airing the tires down to 20 psi, it went everywhere I asked it to and saved the day for one stranded wheeler.  

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The combination of on road manners, and off-road prowess make this the absolute best small truck on the market right now, every review that puts the ZR2 against the TRD Pro shows the Colorado superior. Tacoma has 0.5 inches more ground clearance, better approach and departure angles, and what they claim to be a stiffer frame.  But the Colorado has more power, a better ride and far superior handling, two lockers, better suspension, much more comfortable and, in my opinion, better looking interior, and looks better overall.  

Now, this is Dad again:

We found our Colorado LT to be a comfortable, competent truck with a good personality as well. Styling is trucky and bold with a deeply ridged hood we look out over every time we get in.

We had the V6. Acceleration seemed a bit uninspiring until I really punched it, then it took off with confidence. The cabin is a bit tawdry by today’s standards but plenty functional and mostly intuitive. Handling and overall chassis dynamics were good with the exception of going a bit squirrely in the rear when I went too briskly down a washboard gravel road with and empty box. She easily came back straight when I backed off the throttle.

The biggest annoyance with our test truck was the superfluous running boards, part of our Red Line special edition trim package. They’re mounted just a few inches below the door sill. The truck isn’t so high up you need them unless you are well under 4-feet tall and they stick out far enough that it’s hard to throw our legs over them when you get out. The running boards look really cool all covered in mud, though, as I found out when I ended up on some dirt roads shunpiking back from the city just after a good rain but they’ll get your pant legs dirty when you get out.

And, the Colorado’s navigation system shares an anomaly with other GM vehicles I’ve had lately. It comes suddenly to life as we approach our small suburb to say: “Caution, traffic disruption ahead.” We had some serious flooding here a couple months ago, but I guess the system didn’t get the memo that it was over now.

GM’s new vehicle warranty covers the whole truck for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

The Colorado sure does not fit our lifestyle, but it is perfect for our desert truck guy.

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