photos by: the author
The Chevy Colorado Proves that you Can Pickup a Lot of Truck for Not a Whole Lot of Chicken Feed
In recent months, we’ve introduced you to our in-house project truck The Mule, a 2016 Silverado Z71 Rally Edition. Equipped with 4-wheel drive, a 5.3L V8 and enough attitude to justify an “SS” monitor to its flanks, it’s the perfect solution for the muscle car enthusiast who needs a truck.
Or is it?
You see, as much as we love our Silverado, and despite the attitude it exudes, it’s actually fairly modestly equipped for modern standards. Cloth seats, no sunroof, no woodgrain and very minimal amounts of chrome. Even still, it rings in at just over $50k, and that’s still a lot of coin for a rather midrange farm implement with fancy stripes.
It’s a killer truck and it’s a thrill to own, but what if you need something that’s not as large and still had plenty of hauling and towing capabilities? You might just be able to get away with the Silverado’s slightly smaller brother, the Colorado.
Recently, we had an opportunity to test one of these trucks for a few days, a fairly basic but V6-equipped and 4-wheel drive Work Truck package. You might be thinking, “why would I not just go for the big-dog Silverado,” but once you dig a little deeper, the results may surprise you!
For starters, you can climb behind the wheel of your most basic example of a Colorado for $20,995. Compare that to $27,785 for the most basic example of Silverado and already you can see the value. Of course price only tells a part of the story, so let’s dig deeper…
Right out of the gate, you’re at minimum, starting with an extended cab Colorado. The “single cab” was phased out with the previous generation, so you’re already getting ample cockpit space. Our tested example, is an extended cab version with four full doors and a short bed, or short box as Chevrolet likes to say.
Three engines are available for 2017:
- 2.5L I-4: 200 hp @ 6300 rpm and 191 lb-ft of torque @ 4400 rpm
- 3.6L V6: 308 hp @ 6800 rpm, 275 lb-ft of torque @ 4000 rpm
- 2.8L Turbo Diesel I-4: 181 hp @ 3,400 rpm, 369 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000 rpm
The one you’re looking at here, came delivered to our door with the midrange 3.6L V6 powerplant, and with just over 300 hp to the flywheel, it provided more than ample acceleration during one of our many unsanctioned tests. It’s direct-inject, equipped with VVT and is a DOHC-derived mill. It’s closely related to the V6 found in the lower-trimmed Camaro and CTS. We ultimately tested it at a quarter-mile drag strip, but more on that in a minute.
Plenty of options are available for 2017; everything from the upgraded Z71 suspension and towing packages, to high-end wheels and a pallet of color options. Naturally, you can spec leather interior, a sunroof and there’s a crazy amount of styling accessories and even a catback exhaust system available through Chevrolet Performance.
However ours was about as basic as you can get when it came to standard features, with only the WT Convenience Package being the only options. This is a $490 package that includes Remote Keyless Entry, Cruise Control, EZ-Lift and Lower Tailgate and a theft-deterrent system. In its basic configuration and the $490 in options, it brought the MSRP to $32,455.
In short, it’s a pleasure to drive. It’s quiet, comfortable and smooth. Which are all adjectives you wouldn’t think to describe a Colorado Work Truck, but this thing manages to pull it off.
With that said, this truck has one major flaw; handling. If you’re used to late-model performance vehicles, even third-gen F-bodies, you would say it falls short in this department. Sure, it’s a truck and it certainly isn’t designed for The Glen, but we’d like a bit more stability in anything we drive.
You can chalk it up to the 16-inch rubber, the lack of a rear sway bar and the truck’s ride height — all of which can be easily addressed with the help of our friends in the aftermarket. If cornering prowess isn’t really an issue with you, then you can probably overlook it but we’re picky.
Even though it’s a Work Truck (which isn’t the base model by the way, there’s an actual “Base” Colorado to choose from the lineup, it’s quite nicely equipped. Power windows, power locks, power mirrors and cruise are all accounted for. So is air-conditioning, a backup camera and a floor-mounted shifter.
It also features SiriXM satellite radio, OnStar, keyless entry and security system, and remote start. The rear backup camera provides aid when out comes to connecting to a trailer. It also makes backing into a parking garage space much more easier. A bonus that’s been lacking in earlier trucks is the lockable tailgate and the rear step bumpers.
In the age of convenience, it could be something of a culture shock to somebody who hasn’t purchased a new truck in the last 10-15 years.
As we’ve stated before, it’s packing the 308 hp and 275 lb-ft 3.6L six-shooter. From a performance standpoint, it’s the engine you want. It offers the most horsepower, and nearly as much torque as the turbo diesel 4-cylinder. It’s an odd statement to make, but it’s certainly the truth as of this writing.
The popularity of diesel is on the rise, partly due with rising fuel mileage requirements and partly due to the black smoke fad confiscated by millennials and reformed ricers. However, the aftermarket isn’t quite there for the diesel Colorado, and diesel fuel still isn’t found at every small town gas station in the country.
There’s been more than one occasion where we found ourselves in Middle of Nowhere USA and the only available fuel was 87-octane. You don’t want to be that guy. Speaking of, Chevrolet claims a fuel mileage of 18 city/25 highway with the 3.6L. It’s 1 city/1 highway below the 2.5L four cylinder gas engine, and 4/5 below the diesel.
It’s the worst on fuel economy but second in towing abilities, just below the diesel (7,700 vs. 7,000). We never had the chance to test its towing capability, but with that tow rating it should be able to drag your Camaro, Corvette or Turbo Buick behind it with relative ease. A boat or a jet ski would be a walk in the park.
Quarter-Mile Performance: A Day at the Dragstrip
As with all vehicles we test around here, what had to see what kind of oats were under the hood. Obviously we know the specs, but we wanted to see what 308 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque translated to the pavement. In a smaller, lighter vehicle we wouldn’t be surprised to see 13- to 14-second times. However, in a heavier, taller and a less than aerodynamic body, we weren’t so sure.
Going into it, we knew we would be limited to the 99 mph top speed, but considering the power/weight ratio, we were thinking somewhere in the 15-second range. Some quick research from our colleagues at Motor Trend and Car and Driver, revealed they were clicking off 15.1-15.4 times, depending on layout and option combinations.
Using Quaker City Motorsports Park as our testing grounds, we lined up our Colorado during one of their weekly “Street Nights,” that was jam-packed with all of the local street cars in the area; Mustangs, Camaros, WRXs, old school muscle, you name it.
Using multiple launch methods, be it high RPM, low RPM, 2WD or 4-High, it seemed the best technique was a simple low revving launch in 2wd with all of the nannies off. Much like our Silverado project, we avoided the water box like the plague, only using the wet surface after the water box to simply clean of the tires.
After a string of mid-15 second passes, we ultimately clicked off a best E.T. of 15.28 at 89.95 mph. You can pull up the runs that we have on file, below:
At the end of the day, we have nothing but good things to say about the 2017 Colorado Work Truck V6 4×4. It drives well, handles decent and has plenty of power. It’s priced right, and offers a cost-effective alternative to picking up a scrap heap beater truck for a few grand just to endlessly dump cash into it. It’s docile and civil enough for grandma to drive, but rugged enough to not look like you’re driving a “girly truck.”
It checks all of the right boxes; sturdy enough to haul that crate engine, strong enough pull that new project car back to the shop and durable enough to withstand the struggles of life in the Rust Belt.
With the aftermarket already well onboard, there’s no end to what you can do with one of these. Word on the street is, Chevrolet Performance may or may not be offering ZR2 hardware for other Colorados, and our buddy Chuck Mallet has already teamed up with Magnuson to offer blower kits for the V6 along with other components. Strap on a blower, low-restriction exhaust and a good tune, and you’ll be driving one killer sleeper for not a whole lot of coin!
Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of GMEFI Magazine, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.