Making Tracks: 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Diesel

posted on October 24, 2016

Since Ram was the first truck maker to debut a diesel engine in a half-ton pickup truck, Chevy went one better and put a diesel engine in a midsize pickup.

Chevrolet’s Colorado midsize diesel pickup was much talked about and publicized even before the first model left the factory. In a conversation with a Missouri farm owner/hunter near where these trucks are made by some of his friends in Wentzville, Mo., said friends told him they can’t make enough Colorado trucks as demand is so great. In fact, some Chevrolet dealers can’t keep them on their lots. Adding the diesel option may only increase demand.

Why? For starters, the Colorado is a handsome pickup and caters to those who don’t want or need a full-size unit. And with diesel power, the Colorado becomes even more attractive, particularly for sportsmen who need high tow capacity.

Diesel-powered trucks are also economical, although this factor is often negated by their higher cost. But that cost is recoverable within a few years based on expected fuel economy and a diesel’s traditional longevity over a gasoline engine.

As such, the Colorado’s 2.8-liter I4 Duramax turbo diesel comes with some impressive numbers. This new Thailand-made engine (actually, it has been in service in other markets for several years) generates 181 hp at 3,400 rpm and a stump-pulling 369 lb.-ft. of torque at a low 2,000 rpm. When coupled to a standard six-speed automatic transmission, the 2.8L B20 bio-diesel-capable engine garners EPA mileage estimates of 20 city, 29 highway mpg. So configured, the Colorado is tow-rated for a hefty 7,600 pounds and carries a payload of 1,477 pounds for the 4WD version with a 5-foot 2-inch cargo box and 3.42 rear axle.

In comparison, Ram’s full-size 1500 with 3-liter V6 Eco diesel produces 240 hp at 3,400 rpm and 420 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,000 rpm. Sending power to the wheels through an eight-speed automatic trans, Ram’s EPA estimates come in at 21 city, 29 highway mpg.

Considering the curb-weight difference (4,738 pounds for the Ram, 4,460 for the Colorado) and lacking two cylinders, the Colorado appears to be a competitive performer against Ram’s half-ton pickup. And if a 5-foot-2 cargo box is not large enough for your hunting needs, the Colorado can also be had with a 6-foot-2 box.

While the diesel engine with its exhaust brake and trailer brake controller is the big news, the Colorado has a few other noteworthy traits. It’s a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot and comes standard with an 8-inch color touch display with weather map including hourly and five-day forecasts, texting, GPS nav, rearview camera, Apple CarPlay capability, satellite radio, locking rear differential, Z71 off-road suspension package, EZ Lift and Lower locking tailgate, Stabilitrak stability control with traction and hill descent control, four-wheel disc brakes, remote start, fog lights and more.

Optional assist steps lower the step-in height to 14 inches, but they’re really not needed as step-in is only 23 inches. Actually, they get in the way and can soil the backs of pant legs if stepping over them. Load height to the tailgate is 33 inches.

Once inside, sportsmen are treated to an appealing interior with two-tone leatherette and cloth seats that have just the right amount of lateral support that won’t encumber the driver or passengers wearing bulky hunting clothes. The seat bottoms, though, could use a bit more padding to soften off-road bumps and highway tar strips. As is, they’re a tad firm.

The back seat splits 60/40 and folds up against the bulkhead to expose a shallow bin for small-item storage like ammo, game calls or hand tools. Flip down the backs to form a flat, albeit high, load floor.

Like its big brother, the full-size Silverado pickup, the Colorado’s 4WD system offers 2WD, Auto, 4High and 4Low gearing that in combination with the fully automatic locking rear offers sure-footed traction qualities.

The ride on 17-inch Wrangler Kevlar 17-inch tires was fairly smooth with only a trace of diesel rattle (diesel combustion noise) at highway speeds. At idle, the rattle is noticeable but not annoying, and obviously quieter than a six-cylinder diesel. Handling is taut but maneuverable with an electric power steering system that makes parking this 212-inch-long truck easier. Turning radius is 41.3 feet. With the added weight of the diesel engine, stiffer front coil springs and rear leaf springs were added to ensure controlled handling.

Acceleration from a standing stop is relatively quick, although at highway speeds the turbo takes a moment to spool up to add extra spunk. However, low- and top-end power is never a problem from this oil burner.

Offered in LT and Z71 trim (tested) levels, and in RWD and 4WD (tested), the turbo diesel version is only available in crew cab layouts. Sales figures for most pickups show that four-door crew cabs are the most popular among truck buyers, so it’s doubtful Chevy will offer an extended cab.

Pricewise, the Colorado Z71 had a base of $34,640 nicely equipped. Add the 2.8-liter Duramax turbo diesel ($3,905), assist steps ($745), Bose audio ($500), Chevy’s MyLink infotainment/nav system with touchscreen ($495), spray-in bed liner ($475) and a trailer package ($250), and the bottom line was $41,905, with delivery. This compares to a nicely loaded full-size Ram Longhorn Crew-Cab V6 Eco diesel at $55,735 after a base of $48,730. If you don’t really need a full-size pickup, why spend an extra $13,830?


Technical Specifications:

• Drivetrain: 2.8L I4 Duramax turbo diesel engine w/181 hp, 369 lb.-ft. torque; Hydra Matic 6-speed automatic transmission; 4WD; auto-locking rear diff.
• Suspension: independent front w/coil springs, multi-leaf rear
• Brakes: 4-wheel anti-lock disc w/Dura-life rotors
• Dimensions/Capacities: overall length 212.7"; wheelbase128.3" (5'-2" box); width 74.3"; height 70.6"; curb weight 4,691 lbs.; payload 1,477 lbs.; GVWR 6,200 lbs.; tow cap. 7,600 lbs.; ground clearance 8.3"; fuel cap. 21 gals.
• Price as tested: $41,905


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