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Tested: 2017 Chevrolet Colorado 4×4


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Car & Driver  /  January 17, 2017

There is one constant in the world of pickup trucks­—year after year, trucks become more capable and more powerful. Two years after re-entering the mid-size-truck market, the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado hits the streets carrying the same mass yet packing more power and more gears. Here we go again: Another escalation in the pickup-truck arms race.

For 2017, the Colorado—and its GMC Canyon sibling—is propelled by General Motors’ all-new V-6, coded LGZ, a variant of the LGX V-6 found in the Chevrolet Camaro, Buick LaCrosse, and GMC Acadia, among others (the LGZ designation references a different oil pan and the lack of auto stop/start). It’s a distant cousin of the former LFX V-6 that it replaces, and while the 3.6-liter displacement may suggest that this engine is essentially the same, it’s not. The redesigned six shares with its predecessor only its 60-degree included angle between its cylinder banks. This V-6 has cylinder deactivation, which shuts down two cylinders under light loads.

Good for 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, it’s up 3 hp and 6 lb-ft over last year’s Colorado. (The LGZ makes less power in this truck than the LGX in the cars, but GM says that’s just a product of intake and exhaust restrictions.) Significantly, a new competitor emerged last year in the Honda Ridgeline, which offers a little less power but proved quicker than the GM trucks in our tests of the 2016 Honda. Now, the muscled-up Colorado stretches its power margin over Honda’s V-6 to 28 horsepower and 13 lb-ft, enough to put it back in front.

Also contributing to the improved performance is the Colorado’s new eight-speed automatic. Built in-house, the Hydra-Matic 8L45 provides quick and smooth shifts, and its additional two gears help keep the engine rpm near the torque sweet spot. The four-wheel-drive example we tested recorded a 6.1-second sprint to 60 mph, a full second quicker than a similarly equipped 2015 Colorado and 0.5 second ahead of the all-wheel-drive Ridgeline. Its quarter-mile time improved, too, requiring only 14.8 seconds to cross the line at 95 mph, gains of 0.7 second and 4 mph and again shading the Ridgeline’s 15.2-second run. The Toyota Tacoma with a V-6 and four-wheel drive trails these two by a wide margin, needing 7.9 seconds to get to 60 mph and 16.1 for the quarter-mile.

The 2017 Colorado also feels a little livelier in everyday driving, although the 60-degree V-6 still sounds coarse—and rougher still when it is sipping fuel in four-cylinder mode. The new transmission, however, keeps both the revs and the noise down at highway cruising speeds.

As we’ve reported in earlier tests of the Colorado and its GMC Canyon sibling, the term mid-size applies loosely here. The Silverado’s little brother is nearly as long as the full-size truck, although its width, nearly six inches narrower, eases the task of navigating Home Depot parking lots. The slimmer cabin does feel more carlike, and it uses gauges, switchgear, and infotainment systems found in other platforms across Chevrolet’s lineup. The overall cabin volume is nearly identical to that of an Impala, and the Colorado makes a comfortable commuter, offering an ideal seating position and supportive front seats. The electrically assisted power steering is lighter than we’d prefer but communicates well with the Goodyear Wrangler Fortitude HT rubber as the truck approaches its 0.75-g cornering limit. The brake pedal feels firm and is easy to modulate during normal driving stints, but we noted heavy fade after repeated panic stops in testing. Still, the truck stopped from 70 mph in 183 feet despite weighing 4493 pounds, which is 12 feet shorter than the aforementioned Ridgeline that weighs 70 pounds less.

One might expect that a new V-6 redesigned for efficiency and paired with a gearbox housing more ratios would improve fuel economy. Not according to the EPA: The 2017 model wears a 19-mpg combined rating versus 20 mpg in 2016, more a reflection of stiffening EPA testing scrutiny than the changes in hardware; the 17-mpg city and 24-mpg highway ratings are unchanged. During this Colorado’s brief stay at C/D headquarters, we measured 18 mpg, the same figure we recorded for the 2015 model.

Many similarly equipped full-size trucks cost at least $45,000, making the sticker on the crew-cab, all-wheel-drive Colorado in LT trim look reasonable at its $34,465 base price. Our tested example had options that swelled the as-tested figure to $38,985. The $1080 Luxury package includes power-adjustable and heated front seats, automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated power outside mirrors, and chrome cladding for the door handles and the rear bumper. The leather-appointed seats in Jet Black and Dark Ash add $950, while the LT Convenience package ($690) brings a sliding rear window and defroster, remote start, a dampened tailgate, and front fog lamps. Tack on another $495 for Chevrolet’s 8.0-inch MyLink infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and $500 for the premium Bose audio system. An automatic locking rear differential adds $325, while accessing the Colorado’s top tow rating of 7000 pounds requires the $250 Trailering Equipment package. The $230 trailer-brake controller helps slow heavy loads.

While the revised powertrain makes this Chevy the quickest entry in the mid-size pack, it’s now even capable of beating up on some full-size models. With Ford fixing to re-enter this segment with a new Ranger, the mid-size segment arms race is just getting started. Given that the Colorado can already do more than most buyers really require, maybe automakers could start calling these models their full-size trucks and relabel the big rigs as oversize, which is what decades of unrelenting focus on improved capability from year to year has made them.

Photo gallery - http://www.caranddriver.com/photo-gallery/2017-chevrolet-colorado-v-6-8-speed-automatic-4x4-instrumented-test

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