Cruising a Canyon in a 2016 Chevrolet Colorado
I’m finally home, after spending an incredible, nonstop week in Nevada. Seriously, as five-day “workweeks” go, my time in the desert went by really quickly. While attending and covering the 2015 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show was the primary objective, my first day in the Silver State was spent in Pahrump, which is just southeast of Las Vegas, driving a Duramax-powered ’16 Chevrolet Colorado into one of the canyons at Wheeler Pass.
While I had already driven pre-production versions of the midsize diesel pickup at GM’s proving grounds (an opportunity I was unfortunately forbidden to talk about in any significant manner), this drive event took us off-road. We went up and down steep, rocky, soft-dirt hills using two- and four-wheel drive and had a chance to experience the much ballyhooed capability of the new 2.8L Duramax engine’s 369 lb-ft of torque and 6L50 six-speed automatic transmission.
And that’s the thing. The props are definitely deserved. The engine’s low-end grunt is so impressive and the gearbox is so smooth and on point that during my time behind the wheel (we drove in groups of three or four to a truck), I actually made this comment out loud: “I really don’t think we need to be in 4-Hi for this. The motor [I know, it’s an engine] really has enough torque to handle these hills with ease, and it seems like it’s [the transmission] always in the right gear.” Can the Colorado climb? It certainly can.
Now, I know this similar sentiment has already been communicated on trucktrend.com and also here in Diesel Power by other members of the team who took part in Chevy’s official First Drive opportunity in September of 2015. I’m just glad I finally had a chance to see for myself what the newest oil-burner really has to offer.
Is it comfortable? Yes. Both on- and off-road (and we took the trucks across some pretty jarring rocky areas), the diesel Colorado (we drove it in four-wheel-drive Z71 trim) was impressively comfy—especially as a backseat passenger. Honestly, I was kind of surprised; the truck’s suspension is very compliant on non-road surfaces.
Is it fast? No. The diesel Colorado isn’t a rocket ship. Not by any stretch. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an outright slug, either. While acceleration isn’t the neck-snapping, “holy [expletive]” type of zoom we’re accustomed to (from bigger I-6 and V-8 diesels), I can see the I-4 Duramax holding its own on any freeways or local roads—able to keep the Colorado up with whatever the traffic flow is and definitely able to get it around other vehicles when passing is necessary.
Does it have great fuel economy? My take on that is “it probably does.” Truck Trend Senior News Editor Ed Sanchez reported seeing 31.6 mpg in city/highway driving (with a two-wheel-drive model), and our own Trevor Reed got 33.1 mpg (calculated by the vehicle) during his experience. My excursion didn’t afford me a chance to measure the Colorado’s fuel range the way I would have liked.
While the seat time was great, it was brief, it wasn’t independent, and it didn’t include any towing (which is something I really want to do with the diesel Colorado). Each driver operated the truck differently—one cat basically stood on the throttle as much and often as he could in our lead/follow caravan-style procession, and another co-driver was a lot more conservative; it seemed like he was barely tapping the go pedal with his pinky toe. I tried to drive the truck in the middle area of those two extremes, and if I had to guess—and I really do mean guess—I’d say the fuel economy was somewhere in the very high 20s (mpg), with a combination of on- and off-road driving conditions.
So, I’ve had my chance to give the new midsize more of a workout than I did during my first experience. While it was good (and appreciated), I’m hoping we’ll be assigned a ’16 Chevrolet Colorado Duramax for some long-term evaluating. The whole 7,700-pound towing capability idea is intriguing. It might be able to pull that much on flatlands, but can it drag that weight to the top of grades we’ll test it on in July? Hmmm…