Subscribe to the Free
Newsletter
  • |
  • |
  • 2016 Chevrolet Colorado 2.8L Duramax Diesel – First Drive

2016 Chevrolet Colorado 2.8L Duramax Diesel – First Drive

Nov 15, 2015
Photographers: Trevor Reed, Courtesy of Chevrolet
Diesel enthusiasts in the U.S. haven’t been able to buy a new midsize pickup with an oil-burning engine under the hood at any time during this century. After more than four years of engine development specifically for the needs of North American customers, General Motors is offering the 2.8L Duramax LWN diesel engine in the ’16 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. In addition to making sure the engine meets EPA emissions requirements at all times, the engineers involved in the design of the powertrain minimized noise and vibrations while making sure the engine could perform in any climate or altitude you’ll find in the U.S.
The team at Chevrolet invited us to drive Duramax-powered Colorado pickups in multiple configurations while on-road, off-road, and with a trailer in tow. After our first-hand experiences with the trucks on the streets, highways, and dirt trails around Solvang, California (the setting for the Oscar-winning movie Sideways), we have some opinions to share, but this is Diesel Power, so you probably want to know about the engine first. Here’s what we learned by bugging the engineers with questions we thought our readers might ask.
2.8L Duramax LWN
The diesel engine with 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque used in the ’16 Chevy Colorado is not completely new to the North American market. A previous generation of the VM Motori–based powerplant was offered in the Jeep Liberty small SUV for just two model years and in only 48 states due to emissions laws. Engineers at GM spent more than four years developing this new Duramax version of the 2.8L to meet all air quality standards while being able to satisfy the requirements of customers all over the U.S. This meant designing a clean diesel package that operates much smoother and quieter than the international version. Noise was minimized with the use of custom injection programming along with physical upgrades such as hydraulic motor mounts, a centrifugal pendulum vibration absorber in the torque converter, a metal cover for the timing belt, a steel plate on the bottom of the aluminum oil pan, lots of insulation on top of the engine, and a new compressor wheel design for the turbocharger.
The variable-geometry turbo on the 2.8L Duramax is similar to the GTB1752VKL unit used for other countries. The pitch and design of the veins in the new compressor wheel were constructed to increase performance and sound characteristics. For those of you already dreaming up ways to increase output, the part number on the display turbo we saw is GM 5548935, and model number “Honeywell M12 EC-5” was on the compressor housing. After spinning the turbine side of the turbo, exhaust travels into a close-mounted diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC), then into a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) catalyst before going through a diesel particulate filter (DPF), and finally out through a Venturi-cooled “bazooka” tailpipe like those on the HD trucks.
There’s no muffler, because the truck meets GM’s guidelines for noise and tone, and it produces less backpressure with a straight pipe after the DPF. The four-cylinder engine’s head is made from aluminum alloy and is secured to the cast-iron block with 10 head bolts. Altogether, the weight of the engine and its emissions accessories add between 261 and 301 pounds more than Colorado models equipped with the all-aluminum 3.6L V-6 gasoline engine (and 440 pounds more than the 2.5L I-4 gasser). In fully dressed form, the diesel engine weighs in at about 515 pounds.
On-Road Cruising and Fuel Economy
Our experiences driving the V-6–powered versions of the ’15 Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon during the Truck Trend 2015 Pickup Truck of the Year Competition (trucktrend.com/truck-of-the-year/) prepared us for a car-like smooth ride and a sporty feel in a pickup that weighs more than 2 tons. While the extra heft of the diesel engine in front is noticeable, GM uses different springs that provide a good ride and do a fine job of masking the increase in mass. For the first year of production, the Colorado will only be offered with a diesel engine on Crew Cab models with LT or Z71 trims. Fleet buyers can also obtain the diesel engine on order in the Extended Cab configuration and the WT trim. So far, there are no official plans for this setup to be made available to the general public or to offer the new Duramax engine with the Eaton N8D six-speed manual transmission or a 4.10:1 rear axle found on some gas-powered models.
That’s not such a big deal, though, because the Colorado was originally designed to carry the 2.8L Duramax and 6L50 six-speed automatic. The standard 3.42:1 rear axle with the familiar G80 limited-slip/locking rear differential feels just about right for a truck with 369 lb-ft of torque available down at 2,000 rpm. In fact, during our limited time driving both two- and four-wheel drive models, it seemed like the transmission works better with the I-4 diesel engine than it does with the V-6 gasser. The shifts are smart and the transmission seems less hyperactive, holding gears in a predictable manner and allowing the driver to compensate for turbo lag in the ultra-low rpm range. That’s along with no unexpected two-gear downshifts, which were unsettling in the gas versions of the truck during wet road conditions (and just plain annoying in daily driving).
Our first experience at the controls was with a two-wheel-drive ’16 Colorado Crew Cab (fitted with a soft tonneau cover—for maximum mpg, we assume) on twisty two-lane roads, some slow-going through the tourist-swarmed downtown of Solvang, and cruising along hilly sections of Highway 101. After some initial throttle jabs and redline runs (just to get a feel for the throttle response, of course) we settled back and drove the truck like our boss was monitoring our fuel usage. Even after an accidental detour into a construction area and some idling while answering emails, we managed to get 30.3 mpg during almost 25 miles of driving according to the truck’s trip computer. We even saw a rating of 33.1 mpg show up in the information center during our initial run. Not bad!
The diesel-powered Colorado doesn’t have the same level of pin-you-in-the-seat, get-up-and-go found in the trucks with the 6.6L Duramax (thanks to around 3 extra pounds of curb weight per lb-ft of torque), but the operation of the 2.8L powerplant and six-speed automatic transmission is very similar to the big GM trucks. The throttle is very responsive, and turbo lag at low rpm quickly gives way to torque that builds steadily while the transmission shifts smoothly and keeps the engine in its powerband. While response is not as snappy as the gas-powered V-6 Colorado, the little Duramax easily makes up for that with a full 100 lb-ft of extra smile-inducing diesel torque that’s always available (you just need some patience to wait for it to build).
Trailer Towing
Even with a trailer weighing more than 3,500 pounds in tow, we accidentally broke both rear tires loose for a split second on asphalt that was damp from a morning drizzle. This immediately increased our respect for the 369 lb-ft of torque that’s available by just 2,000 rpm. While we definitely like the inclusion of a selectable exhaust brake (unlike the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel), we wish it wasn’t wrapped up with the Tow/Haul functionality. Call us control freaks, but we’d like to have two buttons instead of just one. That being said, the exhaust- and grade-braking features work great together. The combined effects are nicely predictable and should reduce quite a bit of wear on the service brakes. While starting from a complete stop and climbing a steep freeway on-ramp in dry conditions, the Colorado “performed just like a car” according to one of our coworkers. He actually meant that as a compliment, because although the throttle pedal had to be mashed to the floor at some times, the Duramax was always able to build power until we reached the speed limit while barely affecting the handling. The maximum towing capacity rating is 7,600 pounds for four-wheel-drive models and 7,700 pounds for two-wheel-drive models.
Off-Road Performance
The diesel-powered Colorado is built for the dirt! OK, it was actually meant to be a grocery-getter, toy-hauler, and everything in between, but the low-end torque is A LOT of fun off-road, and that could end up being the pickup’s best selling point. The truck easily lugs through soft sand and loose dirt, and it crawls up hills without complaint, tempting you to mash the throttle just to see what happens. There was a GM employee in the back seat during our drive, so we kept our cool, but the truck seemed to be begging to push 369 lb-ft of torque through all four wheels. Like the other Colorado variants, the four-wheel-drive system uses an electronically controlled transfer case with settings that include a true 4WD Lo setting along with the G80 mechanical limited-slip/locking rear differential. We drove the standard Z71 model in the dirt, but there’s also a Trail Boss edition that includes a factory nerf-style rollbar mounted to the bed with LED spotlamps, Goodyear DuraTrac All-Terrain tires, black wheels, 3-inch tubular side steps, fender flares, and blacked-out Chevy Bow Tie emblems.
Hill Descent Control is standard on Z71 models, and it’s one of the least obtrusive versions we’ve experienced. Instead of causing awful noises when the brake calipers engage and tap the rotors to gain traction, the system thankfully isn’t very noticeable and just gets the job done with smooth engagement, giving you the confidence to leave both feet on the floor and adjust the speed electronically. Whenever the driver wants to take over, it’s just a matter of hitting the brakes or the throttle pedal to regain full control.
Interior Electronics, Exterior Features, and Pricing
In addition to the diesel-exclusive features, the ’16 Chevy Colorado with the 2.8L Duramax benefits from all the modern interior and exterior features a modern midsize pickup has to offer. The Chevy MyLink system with Apple CarPlay (Android Auto coming soon) allows smartphones to be integrated with the head unit for navigation and hands-free calling, texting, and more. All Colorados come with the segment’s first electric power steering with variable assist and have available utility features including: the EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgate with internal torsion bar, the GearOn accessory system to carry everything from bicycles to kayaks to an in-bed tent, a standard corner step rear bumper, bed rail caps, 13 tie-downs in the bed, and an available factory-installed spray-in bedliner. All diesel models come with six months of free OnStar Guidance with Automatic Crash Response, Stolen Vehicle Assistance, Turn-by-Turn Navigation, Advanced Diagnostics, and other functions. Full pricing for the ’16 Colorado diesel is not yet available, but Chevy says the Duramax engine package adds about $3,730 to a comparably equipped gas-powered model.
2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel Specifications
Engine: Duramax LWN
Displacement: 2.8L (169 ci)
Configuration: I-4
Power: 181 hp at 3,400 rpm
Torque: 369 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm
Induction: Single variable-geometry turbocharger
Injection system: Direct injection with high-pressure common-rail
Injection pump: Denso 29,000 psi
Injectors: Solenoid-activated with seven nozzle holes
Bore x stroke: 3.70 x 3.94 inches
Compression ratio: 16.5:1
Valvetrain: DOHC, 16 valves
Head material: Aluminum alloy
Block material: Cast iron
Emissions systems: Cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), EGR cooling bypass, diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC), selective catalytic reduction (SCR), and diesel particulate filter (DPF)
Engine weight: 515 pounds (approximate)
Fuel economy: TBA
Transmission
Type: Hydra-Matic 6L50 six-speed automatic with Centrifugal Pendulum Vibration Absorber (CVPA) torque converter damper
Gear Ratios:
1st: 4.06
2nd: 2.37
3rd: 1.55
4th: 1.16
5th: 0.85
6th: 0.67
Reverse 3.20
Final drive 3.42:1
Suspension
Front: Independent with coilover shock absorbers
Rear: Solid axle with leaf springs and shock absorbers
Steering
Type: Electrically assisted power rack-and-pinion with variable assist
Brakes
Type: Power-assisted four-wheel ventilated disc brakes, standard exhaust brake, standard integrated trailer brake controller, and available Hill Descent Control
Front disc size: 12.2x1.0 inches
Rear disc size: 12.75x0.7 inches
Exterior Dimensions (Crew Cab with 5-foot, 2-inch bed/Crew Cab with 6-foot, 2-inch bed)
Wheelbase: 128.3 inches/140.5 inches
Length: 212.7 inches/224.9 inches
Height: 70.7 inches (two-wheel drive), 70.6 inches (four-wheel drive)/ 70.7 inches (two-wheel drive), 70.6 inches (four-wheel drive)
Width: 74.3 inches
Front track: 62.4 inches
Rear track: 62.4 inches
Ground clearance: 8.3 inches (two-wheel drive), 8.2 inches (four-wheel drive)/8.1 inches (two-wheel drive), 8.1 inches (four-wheel drive)
Approach angle: 17.4 degrees (two-wheel drive), 17.3 (four-wheel drive)/17.2 inches (two-wheel drive), 17.1 inches (four-wheel drive)
Breakover angle: 22.0 degrees (two-wheel drive), 19.8 degrees (four-wheel drive)/20.6 degrees (two-wheel drive), 18.6 degrees (four-wheel drive)
Departure angle: 22.1 degrees (two-wheel drive), 22.1 degrees (four-wheel drive)/22.4 degrees (two-wheel drive), 22.2 degrees (four-wheel drive)
Cargo box floor length: 61.7 inches/74.0 inches|
Cargo box width between wheelhousings: 44.4 inches
Cargo box interior height: 20.9 inches
Interior Dimensions
Seating: 2 front/3 rear
Front headroom: 41.4 inches
Rear headroom: 38.3 inches
Front legroom: 45.0 inches
Rear legroom: 35.8 inches
Front hip room: 55.0 inches
Rear hip room: 53.3 inches
Front shoulder room:
57.5 inches Rear shoulder room: 56.2 inches
Weights and Capacities (Crew Cab with 5-foot, 2-inch bed/Crew Cab with 6-foot, 2-inch bed)
Curb weight: 4,460 pounds (two-wheel drive), 4,691 pounds (four-wheel drive)/4,494 pounds (two-wheel drive), 4,711 pounds (four-wheel drive)
GVWR: 6,000 pounds (two-wheel drive), 6,200 pounds (four-wheel drive)/ 6,000 pounds (two-wheel drive), 6,200 pounds (four-wheel drive)
Payload: 1,508 pounds (two-wheel drive), 1,477 pounds (four-wheel drive)/1,474 pounds (two-wheel drive), 1,457 pounds (four-wheel drive)
Maximum trailer weight: 7,700 pounds (two-wheel drive), 7,600 pounds (four-wheel drive)
Engine oil capacity: 6 quarts (5.7 liters)
Transmission oil capacity: 11.2 quarts (10.6 liters)
Fuel tank capacity: 21 gallons
Diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tank capacity: 5.5 gallons
Photo 2/23   |   023 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Duramax Diesel Z71 Towing ATV Trailer
The ’16 Chevrolet Colorado is available with the four-cylinder 2.8L Duramax diesel engine that makes 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque.
Photo 3/23   |   002 2016 Chevrolet Colorado 2 8L Duramax Diesel 4x4 Z71 Trail Boss Edition Off Road Front View
The ’16 Colorado Z71 Trail Boss edition comes with a bed-mounted rollbar, 3-inch tubular sidesteps, LED spot lamps, fender flares, black wheels, blacked-out emblems, and Goodyear DuraTrac All-Terrain tires for extra grip. Diesel versions of the ’16 Colorado will only be offered for the LT or Z71 trim levels in crew cab configurations with either a 5-foot, 2-inch or a 6-foot, 2-inch longbed—at least for personal-use consumers.
Photo 4/23   |   003 2016 Chevrolet Colorad 2 8L Duramax Diesel 30 Mpg Average Trip Computer Display
During our first drive we managed to rack up 30.3 mpg in mixed driving conditions during almost 25 miles on backroads, in town, and on a hilly section of Highway 101. At one point during our light-throttle voyage, we achieved 33.1 mpg according to the trip computer. It will be interesting to see what the official EPA fuel economy ratings will be, and how this engine performs once it’s fully broken in.
Photo 5/23   |   004 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Duramax Diesel Badge
The four-cylinder 2.8L Duramax LWN engine has an aluminum head that’s secured to a cast-iron block with 10 bolts. It produces 181 hp at 3,400 rpm and 369 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm using a single variable-geometry turbocharger and a high-pressure common-rail fuel system. It features a heavy-duty crankshaft and piston rods along with a partially aluminum oil pan, a unique intake manifold, and a balance shaft assembly. In addition to the added emissions equipment needed to fully meet U.S. standards (a cooled EGR with a bypass valve, a diesel oxidation catalyst, a diesel exhaust fluid injection system, and a diesel particulate filter—but no muffler), the engine went through more than four years of development to meet the noise, vibration, and performance needs of North American customers. Metal parts replace plastic units for the oil pan and timing belt cover, and there are copious amounts of sound insulation on top of the engine to reduce noise. There is also a centrifugal pendulum vibration absorber (not shown) in the torque converter of the 6L50 six-speed automatic transmission, which does a good job of isolating unwanted shudders from the passenger cabin.
Photo 20/23   |   019 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Duramax Diesel Z71 4x4 Off Road Hill Descent Control Front View
Photo 21/23   |   020 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Duramax Diesel Z71 4x4 Off Road Hill Descent Control Rear View
We had a blast driving a four-wheel-drive Z71 Colorado diesel in the hills on a ranch near Solvang, California. The barely noticeable turbo lag and 369 lb-ft of torque that’s available by 2,000 rpm provide a great driving experience when the truck is climbing or slogging through loose dirt, and the Chevy never seemed overwhelmed by the steep terrain. Plus, we averaged a respectable 15.7 mpg (with the air conditioning on full blast) during our off-road voyage.
Photo 22/23   |   021 2016 Chevrolet Colorad Duramax Diesel Where Built Sticker Wentzville Missouri
Photo 23/23   |   022 General Motors Brazil 2016 Chevrolet S10 HighCountry Diesel Pickup Front And Rear Views

POPULAR TRUCKS

Subscribe Today and Save up to 83%!

Subscribe Truck Trend Magazine

Subscribe to:

Truck Trend
Magazine

PRINT DIGITAL
Subscribe Diesel Power Magazine

Subscribe to:

Diesel Power
Magazine

PRINT DIGITAL
Subscribe Truckin Magazine

Subscribe to:

Truckin
Magazine

PRINT DIGITAL
SUBSCRIBE TO A MAGAZINE
CLOSE X
BUYER'S GUIDE
SEE THE ALL NEW
NEWS, REVIEWS & SPECS