Tested: Chevrolet Colorado 4WD Z71 Diesel Truck
It's relatively fuel efficient and also wildly capable
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The diesel version of Chevy’s Colorado is an important addition to the mid-size truck market. Here's why.
The Good: The diesel version of Chevy’s best-selling Colorado mid-size pickup truck, outfitted with Chevy’s Z71 off-road package, gets you the best of nearly all worlds: stellar fuel economy for a relatively big truck, gobs of recreational RV/trailer-towing power (max. towing capacity: 7,000 pounds) and low-end torque that will plow through, up, and over almost anything. Plus, the truck fits inside most garages.
The Bad: The Z71 is already a pricey truck at more than $35,000. The diesel engine adds another $3,905. And while it’s technically not a full-size pickup, it’s still a long, large truck, which can make it a pain to maneuver around the city and parking lots. Chevy put a plastic air deflector on the bottom of the front bumper to boost fuel-economy, but there’s no easy way to remove it for off-roading—and no instructions in the owner’s manual on how to do so. It needs to be removable because it’ll get ripped off by the first big drainage ditch you have to cross (like it did during our test).
The Verdict: After putting 366 miles on the Chevy on Denver city streets, crossing the Continental Divide twice, and going off road in the high-alpine terrain of the Arapahoe National Forest outside Winter Park, Colorado, we were blown away by the diesel engine’s fuel economy and near-unstoppable torque at low speeds. Driving it made us realize that, when it comes to off-roading, diesel is the way to go.
- Price: $39,440 (base)/$41,905 (as tested)
- Engine: 2.8-liter turbocharged 4-cyl. diesel
- Drivetrain: 6-speed auto. 4WD w/ 4WD-Low
- EPA Fuel Economy: 23 mpg combined; 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy; 25.5 mpg observed
The 2.8-liter turbocharged engine pumps out an unimpressive 181 horsepower, but it more than makes up for that lack of power with 369 pound-feet of torque. (For comparison, the 5.0-liter V8 in a Ford F150 has 387 pound feet of torque.) On a gnarly Forest Service double-track in Colorado that featured rock, sand, deep ruts, and mud, and where traveling any faster than 5 miles per hour felt like reckless speeding, I left the truck in 4-wheel low and crawled along, barely needing to touch the gas pedal. Even at that pedestrian pace, the diesel had all the grunt it needed to pull me through obstacles. And when going up and over the Continental Divide with the truck full of people and gear for a long weekend, we average 27 miles per gallon on the highway. With a 21-gallon fuel tank, that works out to a 567-mile range.
The Colorado is three-quarters the size of a full pickup, but it rides like a big truck. On chassis-torqueing terrain, the truck felt solid, there were no squeaks or groans from the chassis flexing, and even on washboard dirt roads, the cabin remained remarkably rattle-free. It’s still a truck though, so it rides stiffer than a car, but in this case, that’s reassuring.
The cabin’s interior was comfortably sized with plenty of room to seat four adults for an extended trip (it fits five in a squeeze). We drove the short box version, which made for a much better off-roader, but we missed the extra length for our bikes and gear. One place the Colorado makes up for the lack of length is in the height of the truckbed’s walls. They’re noticeably higher than those of the new Tacoma.
The Big Picture
If your idea of a casual Saturday morning is to drive 150 miles to a favorite fishing hole or ski area, or you’re pulling an Airstream or drift boat, the Colorado with the Duramax diesel is a worth a look. You’ll pay a premium for the engine, but over the 10-plus years you drive it, the diesel’s fuel economy—both in mile per gallon and at the pump—should make up for the cost. Plus, this Colorado will likely be the only truck you’ll ever need, as it ticks more boxes than most trucks in its class and many full-size trucks as well.