Test Drive: 2016 Chevy Colorado diesel raises pickup stakes

Test Drive: 2016 Chevy Colorado diesel raises pickup stakes

March 5th, 2016 by Mark Kennedy in Business Diary

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 3/3/16. Test Drive - 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 3/3/16. Test Drive - 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Fast facts

- Model: 2016 Chevrolet Colorado 4WD Z71

- Exterior color: Silver Ice Metallic

- Interior color: Jet Black

- Engine: four-cylinder, 2.8-liter turbo diesel

- Horsepower: 181

- Transmission: six-speed automatic

- Fuel economy: 29 highway, 23 city

- Local Dealers: Walter Jackson Chevrolet (Ringgold), Integrity Chevrolet (Chattanooga), Mountain View Chevrolet (Chattanooga)

- Price (as tested): $42,205


View other Test Drive stories by Mark Kennedy



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For 2015, Chevrolet resuscitated its moribund Colorado pickups and simultaneously breathed new life into the entire midsize truck segment.

The Chevy Colorado and its fraternal twin the GMC Canyon have turbo-charged sales in the midsize segment. The Colorado alone sold more than 112,000 units last year. With truck purists, the next question was obvious. When would GM drop its fuel-efficient diesel engines into these midsize pickups to produce torque-topping, tow-happy units that would be all the trucks most folks would ever need?

Well, the wait is over, as evidenced by our tester this week, a 2016 Colorado 4WD Z71 equipped with a 2.8-liter, four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. Chevy says about 10 percent of the Colorado fleet will be diesel-engine equipped for the 2016 model year.

After several days of driving the feisty little Colorado through Chattanooga traffic and mountaintop snow, we think GM has produced a game-changer. And with a towing capacity of 7,600 pounds, most owners will find it plenty capable of hauling the family ski boat to Chickamauga Lake or a pop-up camper to the GreatSmoky Mountains National Park.

The Duramax engine in our tester makes 181 horsepower, but more importantly, it offers 369 pound-feet of torque — the real key to off-the-mark acceleration and towing tenacity. The diesel option adds about $4,000 to the Colorado's bottom line. Our five-passenger crew-cab tester, equipped with four-wheel-drive, lists for $42,205.

Bob Lollar, sales manager of Walter Jackson Chevrolet in Ringgold, Ga., said his dealership sold its first Colorado diesel this week and he expects more inventory to hit the pipeline in coming days.

"A lot of people are asking about the Colorado diesel," he said. "When people hear about the fuel efficiency, it excites them. And it's incredibly quiet."

Our Colorado diesel is rated at up to 29 miles per gallon highway (31 mpg for two-wheel-drive models), which GM says makes it the most fuel efficient pickup sold in America today. The fact that a vehicle that weighs over 4,400 pounds can return that kind of fuel economy is remarkable.

STYLING AND FEATURES

Although significantly smaller than the full-size Chevy Silverado, there's nothing petite about the Colorado. The bow-tie emblem on the grille announces the Colorado as a Chevrolet, and rugged skid-plates on the front make our off-road-ready Z71 model look like it's primed to go boulder-hopping.

Exterior features include a corner-step rear bumper, easy-to-lift tailgate, 17-inch cast aluminum wheels and all-terrain tires. From a distance, the Colorado looks like a three-quarter size Silverado. Our tester has the long bed (6 feet, 2 inches), but a short bed (5 feet, 2 inches) is also available. If you're in the market for a work truck, the long bed is more lumber-friendly.

Functionally, a midsize truck's smaller overall footprint makes it a better commuter vehicle than a full-size truck, which is harder to maneuver in city traffic and more difficult to park at the mall.

Inside, the Colorado has all the creature comforts you'd expect in a modern family hauler. It has heated seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an eight-inch touch screen and satellite radio. Like all modern GM products it can also be equipped with a 4g LTE WiFi (by subscription) that can turn the truck into a hot spot for all your devices.

The addition of the Apple CarPlay smartphone interface is also new for 2016. Taken together, all this interior comfort, along with an ample back seat, makes the Colorado a reasonable alternative to a sport utility vehicle for active families.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

New for 2016, the Colorado diesel also includes exhaust brakes, which should help reduce brake wear on our East Tennessee mountain roads. We felt the exhaust brakes engage on a descent from Elder Mountain, and the result was a gentle engine tug that allowed us to tap the brake pedal lightly despite the steep downgrade.

The diesel engine is mated to a smooth six-speed automatic transmission. Even under hard acceleration the Colorado diesel is reasonably quiet and the ride is as refined as a family sedan.

The navigation system ($495) gave us a verbal warning about lanes narrowing on Highway 27 before we even hit the construction zone. By some Internet magic, our Colorado even flashed a dash light warning us that road icing was possible on a cold March day.

BOTTOM LINE

It remains to be seen whether VW's diesel engine travails will suppress sales of diesel vehicles in general, but the Colorado's exhaust system has been fully certified by the government. What's more, we're guessing there aren't a lot of customers cross-shopping VW sedans with mid-size trucks.

The Colorado's potent combination of towing capacity, fuel economy and functionality make it a compelling value. In plain words: It'll get 'er done.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

 

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