I’m officially on the bandwagon. OK, more specifically I’m standing on the cargo bed of General Motors’ superb new Chevy Colorado because its segment-exclusive CornerStep bumper makes it so easy to climb up to. Seriously though, this mid-size truck and its GMC Canyon counterpart are now best in class by a large margin.
They’ve got styling, performance, efficiency, interior design and execution, infotainment excellence, and yes those brilliant rear bumper steps going for them. And I haven’t even mentioned the all-new 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel yet.
Behind my 2017 Chevy Colorado Z71 Crew Cab 4WD tester’s smiling grille is GM’s 3.6-liter DOHC, direct-injection V6 with a variable intake manifold and variable valve timing making 308 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 275 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, which is three horsepower and six lb-ft of torque more than last year. Suffice to say it moves along quickly enough, but it’s also quite efficient due in part to cylinder deactivation that temporarily cuts fuel to three of its cylinders when coasting or otherwise not required, and auto start/stop that shuts the engine down entirely when it would otherwise be idling, both new to this V6.
Fuel economy remains the same at 17 mpg city, 24 highway and 19 combined, which is par for the course (the Tacoma 4X4 Double Cab V6 with a similar configuration is good for an estimated 18 mpg city, 23 highway and 20 combined, despite just 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque), although the class-exclusive four-cylinder turbo-diesel mentioned earlier puts out 181 horsepower at 3,400 rpm and 369 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm, yet achieves a claimed 20 mpg city, 28 highway and 23 combined.
My gasoline-powered tester’s advanced mode-selectable eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability has much to do with its efficiency, this having the most forward speeds of any pickup truck in the class, plus when the Trailering Package is added it now includes a standard trailer brake controller (previously only available with the diesel), helping it achieve up to 7,000 lbs of trailering weight as tested, whereas the diesel 4×4 can pull even more, its rating capped at 7,600 lbs. On that note, GM’s available four-wheel drive is now the fully automatic AutoTrac system, the old setup requiring users to manually select 2WD, 4WD Hi or 4WD Lo.
Strangely, of all the potential variations of cab size (there are three), bed length (there are two), engines (there are three), transmissions (there are two), drivelines (two again), and trim levels (there are many), all of the Colorados loaned to me over the past three years have been almost identical in configuration. The first two Z71 Crew Cab Short Box V6 4WD models were even the same Red Hot color, while this latest 2017 model is trimmed out nearly the same once again other than its new for 2017 Cajun Red Tintcoat paintjob, although even that’s another shade of red.
Even their interiors have been the same, with carbon copy black and gray, leatherette and cloth upholstery. They’ve all been very nice too, but how about some variety GM? I’d like to try a base Work Truck (WT) with the 2.5-liter four, or even the popular mid-range LT. I recently spent a week in the new top-line diesel-powered ZR2, Chevy’s mid-size answer to Ford’s full-size off-road racing replica Raptor, and will soon write down my experience in a road and trail test, so stay tuned.
The diesel was new last year, by the way, with this latest 2017 model having some additions of its own. These include the aforementioned nudge upward in V6 performance, plus a new larger 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen incorporating an updated Chevrolet MyLink interface featuring wonderfully colorful Apple-like graphics in stock form as well as the ability to connect your iOS and Google-powered smartphones to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto respectively. It’s optional on the base WT and standard with mid-range LT trim and above.
My tester received the same optional 8.0-inch Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system as last year’s version, complete with the previously mentioned features in the 7.0-inch system as well as Bluetooth streaming audio, voice activation, satellite radio, four USB ports, and more. This is a cut above most competitors in design, functionality, and features, giving GM a solid advantage in a technology crazed car market.
If you’re wondering what you get for the upgrade to Z71 trim, the features list includes an automatic locking rear diff, hill descent control, an upgraded twin-tube shock infused off-road suspension, a transfer case shield, 17-inch metallic cast aluminum alloys on 255/65 all-terrain tires, a full-size 16-inch spare, projector style headlights, fog lamps, remote start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, single-zone auto climate control, a powered front passenger seat, powered lumbar support for both front seats, heatable front seats, a sliding rear window, an EZ-Lift and Lower tailgate, and more.
The Z71 gets most everything from LT trim too, including the two-speed AutoTrac transfer case noted earlier, body-color side mirror housings, door handles and rear bumper, remote entry, a tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, chrome interior door handles, the larger 8.0-inch touchscreen, an overhead console, illuminated vanity mirrors, a color multi-information display, cruise control, OnStar with 4G LTE Wi-Fi, etcetera.
Lastly, some notable items that get pulled up to Z71 trim from the base WT (when equipped with the Crew Cab, Short Box, and 4WD) include the V6, eight-speed autobox, four-wheel discs with ABS, traction control and StabiliTrak stability control, front recovery hooks, black beltline moldings, cargo box light, exclusive (and brilliant) CornerStep rear bumper, powered door locks, locking tailgate, color-keyed carpeting, front and rear carpeted floor mats, powered windows, front bucket seats, powered driver’s seat, split-folding rear bench seat, floor-mounted center console, air conditioning, backup camera, six-speaker audio, tire pressure monitoring, regular assortments of airbags front to rear, and more.
That 2017 Colorado Z71 Crew Cab Short Box 4WD starts at $35,780 plus freight and fees, but was outfitted with yet more gear as-tested including the Cajun paint at $495, cargo area lamps at $265, and quad of cargo tie-down rings at $120, pushing the total price up to $36,660. This truck for just over $35k seems like a bargain, although you’ve really got to drive one to more fully appreciate it.
The Colorado provides a better ride than average, a trait I find true of all GM trucks. Nevertheless it handles well for this class, while my tester’s off-road ability should be more than adequate for most owners’ requirements. To be transparent I didn’t take this one off pavement, but I’ve done so with previous Colorados, most recently the ZR2, and while the Z71 won’t be able to keep up to this segment’s ultimate 4×4, it shouldn’t get left far behind either.
I think more owners will appreciate the Z71 suspension’s on-road benefits, where it’s slightly stiffer settings allow for better road holding. Still, I must stress, its ride quality is excellent for the class, the truck’s long wheelbase especially enjoyable when lopping off high-speed miles on the highway. I drove it around town all week too, and only had a few issues with smaller parking spots on tightly confined lots. This can usually be remedied by parking outside farther from shopping mall entrances or searching for a roadside parallel spot on the corner, but such problems won’t be out of the ordinary for the majority of seasoned pickup truck owners buying into this class. Of course, visibility is superb no matter the angle, this model’s raised 4×4 stance making sure of that.
The formidable V6 is a great match to the new eight-speed automatic, with strong pull off the line and wonderfully crisp shifts despite being set up to maximize fuel economy first and foremost. I personally appreciate the inclusion of auto start/stop as I like things as quiet as possible while parked at stoplights, unless of course I’m behind the wheel of something truly sporting. In a truck, however, I’d rather pollute less and drive past more refueling stations, which is what this advanced drivetrain is mostly about.
GM is clearly leading in the powertrain department, this transmission and the aforementioned turbo-diesel a one-two punch at the head and solar plexus of Toyota’s Tacoma. The Japanese truck still dominates the segment, but the Colorado and Canyon have made serious headway on the sales chart since arriving three years ago.
This newfound success certainly makes sense to me. Along with its GMC Canyon companion the Colorado is my clear favorite. Its advanced automatic transmission, optional diesel engine, and those fabulous rear bumper steps make it my number one choice in this segment, which has me crossing my fingers that Toyota updates its Tacoma soon so this ongoing title fight stays close. Competition has clearly bred a much better truck so far.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press