These days, there aren't many compact trucks for those with a lead foot. Yes, the Dodge Dakota is available with a V-8, but it's a lot bigger than a true compact truck-it's somewhere between a compact and a midsize. There are some high-performance dealer-installed or specialty options (such as adding a supercharger), but for red-blooded American compact-truck performance, there's really only one choice: the Chevrolet Colorado V-8. And the notion of dropping a V-8 in a compact truck is truly appealing on paper -- big power in a small vehicle is always tempting -- even if the reality isn't quite what we'd hoped.
While a basic Colorado comes with a choice of a 2.9L I-4 or 3.7L I-5, GM has made V-8 power available in its smallest pickup, providing a truly tantalizing weight-to-power ratio. In this case, it's 13.6 lb/hp, which is nearly as good as that of an Acura TL or John Cooper Works Mini Clubman. The truck we tested, a two-wheel-drive crew cab, weighs 4073 lb as equipped and uses a 300-hp, 320-lb-ft version of the company's 5.3L V-8 backed by a Hydra-Matic 4L60 four-speed auto (that same engine puts out 320 hp in the Tahoe).
That V-8 offers nearly 60 more horsepower than the I-5 and 115 more horses than the I-4. This Colorado also uses GM's ZQ8 suspension, which had been offered in prior model years and returns retuned for 2009. It allows the truck to ride an inch lower than with the regular Z85 suspension. The ZQ8 suspension is included in the $3935 3LT package, which includes the V-8, 18-in. six-spoke wheels and 235/50 Goodyear Eagle RS-As, body-color bumpers and grille, and unique seats.