by J. Scott Olmsted - Monday, April 6, 2015
The Chevrolet Colorado is a mid-size pickup that originally was outfitted with an inline five-cylinder gasoline engine, a power plant that didn’t garner many fans. The 2015 4WD model, on sale now nationwide, is refitted with a 3.6L DOHC V-6 gasoline engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The drivetrain is a much-needed upgrade. The new engine boasts 305 hp at 6,800 rpm, and 269 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. Those numbers, according to Chevy, add up to more horsepower and torque than the 3.5L V-6 in the full-size Ford F-150.
But the powertrain is only the beginning. Chevy has reconfigured the Colorado top to bottom. Included with the powertrain improvement is an improved interior design and a raft of creature comforts.
Last December, just in time to finish up hunting seasons for deer and waterfowl, AH received a four-door, extended-cab Z71 Off Road edition, built in Wentzville, Mo. The truck was loaded with everything including power this and that. It had the 3.6L V-6, six-speed automatic transmission and 4WD. Fuel mileage as configured with the V-6 is rated at 17 city, 24 highway. Our vehicle’s 5-foot-2-inch bed (6-foot-2-inch is available) was sufficient for anything one might haul in a mid-size truck, and there are plenty of steps, grabs and tie-downs in and around it.
Performance upgrades on our test vehicle included an automatically locking rear differential, downhill descent control (nice), electronic trailer controller, anti-sway on/off, electronically locking hubs and an electric, two-speed transfer case. Other highlights included an EZ Lift-and-Lower locking tailgate, factory-installed bed liner, backup camera, keyless entry, remote vehicle start, dual power side mirrors, fog lamps, heated seats, telescoping/tilting wheel with controls and more.
The vehicle provides decent space, what with four doors for quick dumping of a load off the driver’s shoulder and into the back seat courtesy of an easily opened rear door. Likely it’s a bit small for many hunters’ tastes, highlighting the tradeoffs made with the choice of a mid-size pickup.
Ergonomics are pretty good. The back seat folds down quickly and easily to provide a flat platform for gear. Some folks may wish for more room back there—a bit of tough-to-get-at space exists on the floor beneath the folded seats. Nonetheless, the area looks better suited for our gear when the seats are folded.
All this is good if only two hunters are riding. The truck will hold four hunters, but in that case most men wouldn’t want to be the guys in back on a long drive or while bundled up in heavy clothing; going to a sport show is no problem, though. If four passengers are present, everyone’s gear would have to go in the bed when driving to deer camp. Kids would be at home in the back seat—there’s plenty of room for them.
Interior amenities include a touch screen with Wi-Fi that provides satellite radio, nav, weather, traffic help and OnStar, a couple DC connections and four USB ports. The vehicle is its own hotspot: Within 150 feet, your phone or laptop doesn’t lack for connection to the outside world. Most hunters could get used to all this.
I drove the Colorado for two days while deer hunting in Virginia, and Editorial Director John Zent drove the truck from Virginia to New Jersey and back for a weekend waterfowl excursion. Although we tested the truck in different conditions, we came to similar conclusions.
I’m used to a full-sized pickup, so it’s hard to accept less room at this point. But the view across the hood is expansive. It was so vast I felt like I was driving a late-’60s Impala low-rider, which belies the small quarters. This vehicle indeed acts like a truck.
While there’s plenty of engine power off the line, plenty for passing on the highway, the transmission searches and lurches through its six gears trying to find the right one for whatever need it thinks you’re conjuring at the moment, whether it’s some pop to get out of the mud or some zip to zoom around that truck plodding along in the right lane on the interstate. Translation: It upshifts too quickly, never allowing the driver enough torque to reach the full potential of the horsepower available in the engine within a certain gear. All that can be fixed by shifting the tranny to manual, so the driver shifts when he wants. Also, all that could be fixed by reprogramming the transmission, something I bet Chevy will do in subsequent model years.
"The Colorado’s 62-inch bed affords enough room to haul a week’s worth of gear for the four guys in the cab."
Torque is sufficient, though, to rate the pickup to tow up to 7,000 pounds. But I wouldn’t want to tow that much weight. The Colorado doesn’t have enough heft, enough chutzpah, in my view, to do so. You’d always be wanting more weight in your tow vehicle and more accompanying horsepower/torque. It would, however, be excellent to tow a light utility trailer with ATVs, motorcycles, snow machines and watercraft, and it would easily pull a lightweight pop-up or travel trailer for camping.
The Colorado is nimble around town; you won’t have any problem parking it at the mall or weaving in and out of traffic. I like the downhill descent control, but I’m not accustomed to such a feature so I’d need more time to become proficient with its use. Approach and departure angles with the super-low front spoiler on the Z71 package are too darn low. I experienced about 20 mpg in combo driving.
Zent’s spin in the Colorado followed a scenario common for hunters who don’t live in rural America: “To reach a much-anticipated hunt, I would have to endure infamous East Coast traffic between Washington and Philadelphia before heading east through small towns and produce farms to the Jersey Shore. There I planned to enjoy a day of big-water hunting with my friend Joe Ruggieri whose duck boat we towed to legendary Barnegat Bay.
“Along with our hope of intercepting flocks of broadbills, buffleheads, Canada geese and black ducks, we rated how well the mid-size Chevy pulled the boat trailer compared to Joe’s big 1-ton diesel.
“Joe owns a 1980s-vintage Maine Duck Boat (MDB) in the rare 14-foot length. The prized MDBs transform into super floating blinds, in no small measure because they were practically crafted like tanks to withstand years of hunting waterfowl in pounding surf.
“Joe says he hardly notices the MDB behind his pickup, and hitched to the Colorado, the little duck boat likewise made for an easy tow job over the flat, coastal roadways. There was no drag on the engine or the handling whatsoever. Joe observed that the Chevy runs through its gear progressions faster than he’s accustomed to, which made him wonder if it would have enough low-end torque to pull heavier loads in hilly terrain. Nonetheless, the trim rig did just fine moving the boat and trailer up and down a steep boat ramp. We concluded that transporting duck boats, ATVs, and small to mid-sized trailers loaded with camp gear or firewood is easily within the new Colorado’s wheelhouse.
“For highway driving it is as comfortable and capable as a touring car. On my return trip through torrential rain and fog, the low-slung Colorado gave a sense of stability I just don’t feel in my Sierra 1500, which is prone to rear wheel hop. The mid-size model hugged the wet interstate at speeds that were probably unwise given the conditions, and what might have been a white-knuckle ordeal really wasn’t one.”
The Colorado is aimed at urban/suburban hunters who need a hunting vehicle but because of price or fuel mileage don’t want a full-size pickup. It’s been reported that Chevy expects up to a third of its market to come from current car and SUV owners who recognize a need/desire to move to a pickup. That seems to make sense given interior design.
It offers good engine/transmission performance, 4WD, an open bed for light hauling plus solid interior design to accommodate up to four people. It capably accommodates two hunters and all the gear they would need for a week at camp. It is not a truck for a tradesman, farmers/ranchers or anyone who thinks he/she absolutely needs a pickup that oozes brute strength. But the Chevy Colorado is a good choice for many hunters these days, and as such it is AH’s Vehicle of the Year.
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