2016 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Crew Cab Short Box 4WD
As midsize trucks go, this one is big on features.
The new Colorado looks a lot sportier, more rugged and definitely more capable that the old one. While its newfound size has something to do with that, the old truck’s squared-off edges have been replaced with a more rounded, muscular look that works well from nose to tail. I tested an almost identical Colorado Z71 last summer, and if it weren’t for this one’s new black bowtie (courtesy of the $155 Black Bowtie Emblem Package upgrade) I probably wouldn’t have noticed it wasn’t the same truck.
Big appears to be the theme, and while the new Colorado doesn’t stretch to interstellar heights it’s a much more sizable package than the previous compact model. The old Extended Cab and Crew Cab models, which were previously the same length, have grown by 5.6 inches to 212.7 inches for the new Extended Cab and Crew Cab models, and by 17.9 inches to 225.0 inches for the new Crew Cab long box. Likewise the new truck’s wheelbase has also been lengthened, with Extended Cab and Crew Cab models up by 2.3 inches to 128.3 inches, and the Crew Cab long box increasing by 14.5 inches to 140.5 inches. The new Colorado’s width has also grown by 5.6 inches to 74.2 inches, and the height has increased by 2.7 inches to 70.6 inches.
All that substance means added curb weights, of course. The lightest 2016 Colorado tips the scales at 3,920 lbs, 361 lbs heavier than the lightest equivalent Colorado Extended Cab from before. The heaviest Colorado Crew Cab long box with a V6, automatic transmission and four-wheel drive weighs in at 4,450 lbs, 380 lbs heavier than the previous inline five-cylinder model and 232 lbs more than the V8.
All of this added weight meant more powerful engines were in order, so Chevy has said “so long” to the Colorado’s previous 2.9-liter I-4, 3.7-liter I-5 and 5.3-liter V8 engine lineup. In place, a new three-engine arsenal includes a much more modern 2.5-liter four-cylinder with direct injection and continuous variable valve timing that puts out 200 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque. Other options include a 3.6-liter V6 with direct injection and continuous variable valve timing that’s capable of 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque—that’s what my tester was outfitted with—and an all-new 2.8-liter four-cylinder Duramax turbo-diesel that’s good for 181 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. The Colorado’s transmission choices have also changed, the old five-speed manual and four-speed automatic tossed for a six-speed manual, now standard with the four-cylinder, and six-speed automatic that’s optional with the 2.5L and standard with 3.6L and 2.8L. Either engine can be had with rear-wheel drive or optional four-wheel drive.
My tester was capable of an EPA rated 17 mpg city, 24 highway and 20 combined, which is pretty decent fuel economy for such a large and well-equipped 4×4 capable pickup truck. The diesel does even better at 20 city, 29 highway and 23 combined with the same 4WD configuration, but the difference might not be enough to justify the $3,905 price of entry. Of course, real-world results can make a difference in economy and therefore the diesel may prove to be a much more efficient powertrain, especially when fully laden with payload or trailer where that extra 100 lb-ft of torque would no doubt improve performance as well. (The diesel’s tow rating increased from the V6 model’s 7,000-lb maximum to 7,700 lbs, whereas the base engine is rated at 3,500 lbs.)
Other than that diesel engine my tester was almost fully loaded. It started with a Crew Cab 4×4 with the five-foot-two short bed layout and Z71 package, a combination that retails for $35,535 plus freight and dealer fees. GM added the $495 Chevrolet MyLink & Nav eight-inch full-color high-resolution touchscreen infotainment upgrade that included a navigation system, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth streaming audio, voice-activation, HD and satellite radio; a great sounding $500 seven-speaker Bose audio upgrade is also available. Chevy also added $160 worth of all-weather floor mats, and $815 Exterior Convenience package that included five-inch rectangular black side steps, plus front and rear splashguards. A $475 spray-on bedliner helps to protect the inside of the box, while four tie-down rings for $120 kept things secure in back. A $250 Trailering Equipment package is handy if you plan on towing, while styling upgrades that include chromed recovery hooks for $200, polished exhaust tips at $135, and those black bowties brought the options list up to $3,305 for a total price of $37,945 before freight and fees.
My favorite detail is found on the back—corner steps that were pulled across from the new Silverado/Sierra full-size trucks and is a solution to a longstanding problem. With rival brands, when the tailgate is lowered it covers the bumper steps and leaves only tiny corners in the bumper that are barely large enough for a toehold. In comparison, the GM version provides a great foothold and is quite simply a modern-day miracle.
Chevy takes that same practical approach with the Colorado’s interior, more traditional than its main rival, the mid-size Toyota truck that’s brand new for 2016 and thoroughly modernized. As it is, my tester was the best of the best as far as Colorados go, yet it was completely devoid of soft-touch surfaces excepting the door inserts and armrests, and even these are made from some of the hardest rubberized synthetic I’ve felt in a while.
On the positive, my test truck featured a very nice primary gauge package filled with a large full-color high-resolution multi-information display (MID) that was jam-packed with really useful features. The nicely stitched leather-clad steering wheel gets buttons on the front and back, the latter for changing radio stations and volume control, both of which show up on the MID, while a circular quad of arrows on the fronts of each spoke handle a myriad of tasks. The left quad adjusts cruise control, while on the right you can scroll through trip computer features like mileage, average fuel economy per trip, instant fuel economy and more, and gain access to other critical info such as oil life, tire pressure readouts, real-time oil pressure, transmission fluid temp, and a digital speed readout. Two smaller buttons are for voice activation/phone answer and hanging up.
The infotainment touchscreen sits overtop the center stack, and big iPhone-esque buttons control the audio, phone, projection, nav, settings, texting, OnStar, and traffic info. The look is appealing and usability excellent, even if you don’t own an iPhone and can’t make the most of its Apple CarPlay systems. (GM has promised to offer Android Auto compatibility via a dealer-installed software update starting in March 2016.)
An area that doesn’t need an upgrade is the Colorado’s climate interface, which includes some of the best controls in the biz. In top-line trim it gets single-zone automatic capability, and the large round rubber-clad dials are easy to operate even while wearing winter gloves.
The buttons for GM’s industry-best seat warmers are positioned further down the center stack, and they offer not only three-way adjustable temperature control, but also the ability to heat either the back and lower seat cushions together or separately—no other manufacturer separates the two.
In between the seat heater and climate controls is a very cool looking row of toggles for actuating tow/haul mode, turning the stability control off, activating the hazard lights, switching on the bed light, and initiating hill decent control, all of which are also large enough to use with thick gloves.
Some other notable features include a handy sunglasses holder integrated within the overhead console, a powered glass sunroof that slides and tilts, a useful sliding center section for the rear window, a bright bed light, and the aforementioned spray-in bedliner.
The rear seats are quite comfortable for the class, plus their 60/40 split design can be flipped upwards to expose a handy hidden cargo hold beneath, as well as folded flat for stowing cargo on top. Additionally, on the backside of the center console are 12-volt and 110-volt household style power outlets, although the latter one is only good for two-prong plugs.
Other features include remote start, power-adjustable side mirrors, power windows, tilt and telescopic steering, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a reverse camera with dynamic guidelines, OnStar telematics, 4G LTE with a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, illuminated vanity mirrors, heatable four-way powered front seats with powered lumbar and manual recline, an EZ Lift and Lower locking tailgate that drops down softly and almost noiselessly, an off-road suspension package, an automatic locking rear differential, an alarm system, hill decent control, tire pressure monitoring, four-wheel discs with ABS, traction and stability control, all the usual airbags, and more.
Out on the road the 3.6-liter V6 provides plenty of power from standstill and was especially speedy during passing maneuvers, while the nice smooth-shifting six-speed auto can be made more engaging via thumb toggle-actuated manual-mode, a smart idea only offered by GM. The Colorado’s suspension is also impressive, with a comfortable ride despite its off-road upgrades, whereas handling is what anyone expects for the class, good enough.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press