2016 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon Edge Closer to Market
The General Gives Diesel Power a Chance to Drive Its Oil-Burning Mid-Size Pickups
In most cases, “First Drive” reports on new vehicles are typically loaded with facts about an upcoming or recently released car or truck, as well as reporters’ thoughts and opinions--better known as “impressions”--regarding the operating experience (how does it ride? Is the engine powerful? Was the fuel economy good? You get the idea).
However, in some instances, while a manufacturer might allow journalists to take a new vehicle for an exclusive spin, the tradeoff for that permission is an understanding that writers will refrain from publishing their all-important impressions, at least for a moment.
With this report on two highly anticipated mid-sized pickups--the ’16 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel and ’16 GMC Canyon Diesel, we’re actually in a position where we have to honor such a restriction, after navigating development versions of both trucks around the ride-and-handling circuit on General Motors’ Milford (Michigan) Proving Grounds. Note that we drove camera-shy prototypes; some of the photos on these pages are of gas-powered trucks that General Motors has released before, and some are auto-show photos.
So, while we can’t let you know what we think of or even what we saw, noted, heard, smelled, etc., while driving the breakthrough rigs, we do have a green light from GM for giving you more details on their newest diesel-burning powerplant; the Thailand-built, 181hp/369–lb-ft (unofficial crankshaft power/torque estimate) 2.8L Duramax I-4, and the Hydra-Matic 6L50 six-speed automatic transmission (of six-cylinder Camaro fame) it’s mated with. The powertrain was first previewed in the Chevy Colorado ZR2 Concept from the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show.
Just before hitting the test course, Duramax Assistant Chief Engineer Scott Yackley gave us an overview of the new drivetrain (which included cutaway models of the engine and transmission, as well as a table display of all of the engine’s critical hard parts), and explained how project engineers’ primary goal for this combination is to achieve class-leading fuel economy (a combined city/highway 30mpg is the speculative forecast) and tow ratings (it could truly be a hit if it can tug 7,000 pounds) for Colorado/Canyon diesels.
The new 2.8L Duramax is “basically founded on a cast-iron block, forged-steel rods, crankshaft and etc. that have been in our international truck engines for years,” Scott says. However, these major “global” internals are where the similarities end.
With hot-and cold-weather, and high-altitude functionality, as well as 50-state emissions compliance all needing to be addressed for the North American 2.8Ls, an improved variable-geometry turbocharger has been implemented, along with extensive PCM calibrating. “We have more than 35,000 hours of dyno development invested in the engine. That’s nearly 2 million driving miles,” Scott says.
Tempering diesel-powered Colorado/Canyon’s Noise Vibration and Harshness has also been near the top of GM’s priorities list, and to promote smoothness between the engine and transmission (eliminate the engine’s inconsistent torque signal), a torque converter featuring Centrifugal Pendulum Absorber (CPA) technology has been added to the drivetrain’s 6L50 six-speed automatic transmission—which also has been updated with new torque-management strategies to handle the I-4 diesel’s performance.
We’d love to tell you the upcoming ’16 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon diesels are smooth-riding, well-handling, impressively strong, relatively quiet (by diesel-engine standards), and competitively priced. However, due to the Code of Silence about such things that we’re bound to, we can’t do that at this time (and also because we simply have no idea what official pricing for the trucks will be).
Something that you should know for now is that GM definitely is making strong moves to infiltrate, and, it hopes, to eventually own a fabled white space (in this case, diesel) in the mid-size pickup segment, with the upcoming mid-level, crew cab Colorados and Canyons, and you can bet we’ll continue to follow this ever-developing story very closely.