2015 Chevy Colorado Z71 Crew Cab Review: A Big* Yellow Truck

2015 Chevy Colorado Z71

*OK, it’s technically midsize, but 4400 pounds stretches – we think – the definition.

In a segment most analysts – you know, the guy with the MBA and Mercedes – had given up for dead, a resurgent General Motors has again proven the doubters/haters/birthers wrong with the unexpected success of its all-new – and ostensibly midsize – Chevy Colorado. And while we might take issue with the midsize descriptive in a truck stretching almost 18 feet long, weighting – in 4X4 form – 4,400 pounds, stickering at almost $40 Large and delivering but 17 miles per gallon, we won’t argue with the results. GM has built and engineered a handsome, capable truck well suited to an increasingly urban-oriented, brew pub-fueled audience. Although wishing I was urban (and hip – and knew of a brew pub) it was decided to give this new midsize device a closer look. And I took that look from the relatively safe environs of the North Texas ‘burb we affectionately call ‘Restland’.

Chevy Colorado Z71 Logo

Z71 package is (almost) all you need to know.

If you remember GM’s previous effort in this, the earlier Colorado – itself an evolution of Chevy’s S10 – was, during its production, probably too much truck for the mulch haulers, and too little truck for those demanding something other than a 5-cylinder motor under the hood. And while the Colorado did eventually receive an optional V8, the addition of eight cylinders (or three, depending on how you’re counting) was way too little, waaaaaay too late. At that point the Colorado’s interior was dated and the chassis flimsy, while the whole thing was glued together in Shreveport. Shreveport is lovely, but too far removed from the epicenter of mass production in the Southeast; GM let it go during its bankruptcy.

In the same way that Porsches have grown, BMWs have grown and just-about-everything-but-a-Miata has grown, this new-for-’15 Colorado is substantially larger than we remember the earlier Colorado and its GMC stablemate, the Canyon. Its physical heft is matched by a visual bulk that wasn’t found on the 1st-gen Colorado, nor is it found in Toyota’s Tacoma or Nissan’s Frontier. Both Tacoma and Frontier are also bigger than their predecessors, but they retain fairly expansive greenhouses and, by extension, seemingly more open interiors. We like the Colorado’s visual vibe, especially in its Z71 4X4 spec, but wish GM’s design team had kept the beltline horizontal from the windshield to the back glass rather than encumber it with the kick-up that is oh-so-popular and – to this eye – oh-so-unnecessary.

Chevy Colorado Rear

Despite short bed, there’s 40 cubic feet of cargo.

Inside, the front buckets seem just right for my shortish specs and 170 pounds of, uh, bulk. If you’re built on that side of tall and – maybe – pushing 270, you might just want to buy two of these things; one – if you will – for each cheek. Shoulder and headroom in front are both fine, but the seats look as if they were designed for someone’s variant of offroad autocross rather than farmin’, ranchin’ and chewin’. In back, the foldable bench is a bench, and will provide reasonable room for two of your adult friends. But know that with the tightly drawn dimensions of a midsize crew cab a child seat – or more correctly, a child in the child seat – requires a new kind of contortion when fitting the child in that seat. Better, we think, to put anyone younger than six back in the bed. With a bungee. And if back in the bed, the kids won’t have to suffer the almost oppressive use of black plastic in the cabin. Great stuff if you want to hang a post-it note, but otherwise little to distinguish it from your old F-Series except the infotainment screen.

Under the hood, Chevy gives you a choice of a modest, 2.5 liter  four or less modest, 3.6 liter V6. The General’s six, with dual overhead cams, variable valve timing and direct injection, hits the motoring nail on the head, offering 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque. We found acceleration adequate, and freeway cruising – or the little that we did of it – relaxed, but 4,400 (empty) pounds is a lot to move. And that, of course, begs the question…why not a small block V8? Or – at the very least – make the 4.3 liter V6 available in Silverado and Sierra available as an option. Or build it with an aluminum cab!

Happily, a 2.8 liter turbodiesel is coming, with adequate horsepower, prodigious torque and a highway EPA of around 30, but it will also (probably) come as an expensive add on top of an already expensive option list.

Those 305 horsepower are directed to all four wheels via GM’s 6-speed automatic, a 2-speed transfer case and a fully automatic locking rear differential. And while we didn’t have a chance to take it off-road (Restland ain’t Moab…), ‘independent’ testing suggests the Z71-equipped Colorado could very well be your Wrangler pickup if tired of waiting on Sergio to build a Wrangler pickup. Reasonable ground clearance of 8-plus inches,  in combination with short(ish) overhangs, would make tackling the rough stuff relatively easy, helped in no small part by 17-inch, all-terrain rubber. Admittedly, the 128-inch wheelbase doesn’t help either breakover angles or on-trail maneuverability, but then, that’s why you buy a winch. And with a towing capacity of 7,000 pounds, you can take both the Jet Ski and your beer. And a friend.

At the end of the trail we liked the footprint of the new Colorado, and certainly liked its execution. We wish it were lighter – and a tad less expensive – while knowing that a fullsize Silverado with similar kit would probably push $50K. But full-size trucks are typically given away, while we don’t see similar discounts afforded the midsize inventory. In a perfect world you could get this same equipment, with the diesel, for under $40K. But then, it’s Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year – and that has to be worth something.

Price and key specifications continued on next page…