Remember when the S-10 pickup offered that awful black Xtreme package with swoopy body cladding and ready-to-scrape (and crack) front and rear airdams? Although Chevy's still offering the old-style Xtreme package on some of the last S-10 Blazers being built (two-doors only), it wouldn't have killed us to have that option deleted for all eternity. However, after spending some time in the new extended-cab Colorado Xtreme, we're grateful GM didn't. To its credit, it looks like GM's spent less time making the vehicle look like a menacing street machine and more time making it a real high-performer. Note to GM: More performance and less pomp and poser is a good direction to take--and it all starts under the truck.

Front coil springs and rear leafs offer a softer, more accommodating ride around town and don't deliver a harsh rebound when navigating uneven or potholed road surfaces. We believe the performance-edged, specially tuned KYB shocks have a lot to do with that, but the 235/50R18 Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires don't hurt, either. Regardless, the $2500 Xtreme option package includes 18-inch aluminum wheels, wheel flares, color-matched bumpers, side ground effects, white-face gauge cluster, and interior badging.

Our Victory Red Colorado Xtreme is visually quieter than previous models, with understated ground effects and a subdued black sticker accent on the hood and door panels. Standout characteristics of the package are the steering feel, with a tighter gear and thicker wheel, as well as the solid and stiff clutch, which is somehow grippy and smooth at the same time. Both are responsive and provide a good amount of feedback. Our Colorado came with the Vortec 3500 (a $1000 upgrade) and the five-speed manual ($0). This transmission, although identical to other Colorado/Canyon five-speeds we've driven, had a tighter overall feel. We'd guess the supplier has done some valuable work. We like the stout 3.75:1 First gear when combined with warmed-up Goodyears, but the 220 horses under the hood feel like they need help. Until the Xtreme package gets some kind of horsepower jump that brings it closer to 300, a more apt name might be "Slalom Cruiser" or "Kinda Xtreme." Our only other complaint is that the Xtreme wants to be a legitimate performance package, yet offers drum brakes for cost savings. At least it's not alone; Toyota does the same thing on the X-Runner. We're still impressed with the final result and applaud the quantum leap General Motors made, keeping the right engineering priorities as its guide.