Road Tested: 2015 Chevrolet Colorado
A midsize pickup for landscapers and landscaping companies that need fuel economy, comfort and handling a step above the competitors’
Not everyone who works in the landscaping trade needs a one-ton dually, or even a ½-ton pickup.
Many who work in the outdoor arena just need an efficient, reliable pickup that can tow a trailer loaded with a couple mowers and basic lawncare equipment and supplies.
Having the ability to transport several workers at the same time is an added bonus.
That’s exactly the type of work environment in which Chevrolets’ new Colorado Crew Cab 4×4 would be right at home.
A Midsize Workhorse
With a towing capacity of 7,000 pounds for the tow-ready Z71 model I’m testing, it’d have little problem pulling 3,000 pounds of lawncare equipment from one customer’s location to another, day in, day out. And do it with comfort, power and style.
Need to bring along a yard of mulch? No problem. The 4×4 Crew Cab model’s 41 cubic foot bed behind me can handle up to 1,440 pounds of payload, which is about the weight of 1.5 yards of mulch.
The trailered weight is close to 5,000 pounds due mostly to the heavy-duty equipment trailer that’s normally towed behind full-size pickups.
But that doesn’t pose any issues with this truck’s handling or braking: The Colorado is very stable with such a load, with only a small rear suspension drop from the 600 pounds of tongue-weight as shown on the cool built-in gauge on the Weigh-Safe Hitch drop-hitch I’m using.
Such handling is testament to the midsize Colorado’s independent front suspension and solid-rear-axle, leaf-spring design that’s a carry-over from this truck’s big brother, the Silverado.
The Colorado is a good workhorse. The Colorado Crew Cab 4×4 short box has a 900-pound advantage over a comparable Nissan Frontier, and a 500-pound advantage over the four wheel drive Toyota Tacoma Double Cab in towing capacity, and about a 200-pound advantage over both in bed load carrying.
Colorado Engine Performance
GM’s 305-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 is one of the most fuel-efficient and powerful in this class. We saw 25 miles per gallon during highway trips and 17 miles per gallon in city driving.
The Colorado also has a horsepower advantage over both of its closest competitors. The 305-horsepower, 3.6-liter Chevy V-6 outpaces both 4.0-liter Nissan and Toyota V-6s on the dyno by 44 horsepower and 69 horsepower, respectively.
But where I am a bit disappointed driving this new Colorado 4×4 is the engine has to be revved up nearly 1,500 rpm more than its competitor’s V-6s to get to that horsepower.
Then there’s the torque – or seeming lack, thereof.
Torque is what gets a vehicle moving, not horsepower. So when you are tasked with hauling or towing a load, that low-end acceleration and hill-pulling ability is the result of engine torque.
The Colorado runs strong when it’s empty. It doesn’t require a lot of throttle to get moving—or make a pass on the open road.
But that changes with a load. What I’m seeing is the high-revving V-6 needs a heavy right foot when one needs to merge quickly into faster-moving traffic with a trailer in-tow or when pulling a grade.
That performance weakness, if that’s how one perceives it, is in the “tall” 3.42:1 axle gearing GM has saddled the V-6 pickups with in an effort to achieve “best-in-class” fuel economy numbers. There’s no other axle-ratio option.
By the numbers, GM’s 3.6-liter bests its competitors by a considerable amount in horsepower, but torque numbers are much closer: It beats Toyota V-6 torque by just 3 pounds per foot. (266 pounds per foot. vs 269 pounds per foo. GM) and 12 pounds per foot. less than the Frontier’s V-6.
The result of that shows up on the test track. Colorado is nearly a second slower to 60 miles per hhour than the Frontier and a half-second slower than the Tacoma despite having a big horsepower advantage over both.
That’s because the competitors have lower axle ratios to help get them moving quicker and easier.
Fuel Economy And Comfort
If low-end and towing acceleration are not high on the concerns list, the Colorado does deliver on unladen fuel economy.
Thus far my highway numbers are steady at 25miles per gallon and city driving in the mid-17miles per gallon range. (EPA is 17 city/24 highway.)
Towing fuel economy has varied between 9.5-11.2 miles per gallon, with the higher number coming while towing a 3,800-pound Hewescraft boat/trailer combo 60 miles on flat highway at 60mph. The mid-9s has been towing the Landoll trailer with the Honda ATV and other equipment on the deck.
So far I’ve put more than 600 highway miles on this Colorado. The Z71 4×4 crew cab package is the most comfortable and quietest of any midsize truck I’ve tested.
It’s not as spacious as the full-size Silverado 1500, and one wouldn’t expect it to be as the midsize Colorado is both narrower and shorter than its full-size brethren.
But it’s just as comfortable and if you are a current GM pickup owner, the interior layout will be very familiar.
GM’s engineers did a wonderful job isolating the occupants from both wind and road noise. The front bucket seats of the Z71 model have excellent side and thigh bolsters, good support and adjustability, and plenty of track adjustment to fit the majority of drivers. The Colorado also has a lot of headroom that helps make it feel bigger.
I really like the optional Bose sound system and the optional GM MyLink system that includes the big, bright 8-inch navigation system with touch screen.
The touch screen, by the way, is easy to navigate with great connectivity features – and all the functions can be accessed by the passenger while the truck is rolling down the road.
The Crew Cab’s back seats are the nicest you’ll find in smaller pickups, with good legroom, nice bolstering, and a flip-down center armrest/cup-holder that will make passengers comfy. The 60/40 split seat back folds down to open up rear storage, too.
During one off-pavement outing with the truck, I found it necessary to slip into four wheel drive. The 4×4 Z71 Colorado uses the same GM electronic four wheel drive transfer case system as the half-tons, so dropping into 4Hi on-the-fly was a simple turn of the dash-mounted control knob.
The transition from two wheel drive to four wheel drive and back is quick and silent. (Getting in and out of 4Lo requires stopping—or slowing below 3 miles per hour.)
Colorado Value For The Price
One of the bonuses of buying the Z71 model is it comes standard with a ton of features including GM’s G80 locking rear differential, which adds considerably more traction than its competitors’ pickups’ limited-slips whether in two wheel drive or four wheel drive.
I’ve finally arrived where I need to drop off the Honda and box scraper. One thing I know for sure is there won’t be any issues maneuvering the truck and trailer.
The Colorado is right at home in tight confines; its steering is quick and visibility excellent. Backing the trailer around a couple pieces of equipment and pallets of sod is a breeze.
That’s the beauty of GM’s newest midsize pickup: You sacrifice a little in muscle when putting it to work towing or hauling those bigger loads compared to a full-size half-ton.
But trucks like the 2015 Colorado Crew Cab 4×4 make up for it in fuel economy and maneuverability during all those other times when there’s nothing hooked to the hitch, or the loads it is tasked with moving are of the lighter variety many landscapers face every day.
The Colorado also costs thousands less than a comparable Silverado, and it fits easily in a regular two-car garage while leaving space for that workbench.
Those two factors play a big role in many of today’s midsize pickup buyers’ decision making as well.
- Make/Model: 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Crew Cab 4×4 Short Bed
- Base MSRP: $34,115
- Price as tested: $36,710
- Engine: 305hp 3.6L V-6
- Transmission: 6spd automatic
- Axle Ratio: 3.42 w/G80 locking rear diff
- Suspension (f/r): IFS coil-over/Solid-axle w/ leaf springs
- Seating: 2/3
- Fuel Tank: 21 gal.
- EPA miles per gallon: 17 city / 24 highway
- Observed miles per gallon: 17.5 city / 25.1 highway
- Towing Capacity: 7,000 lbs. (as equipped)
- Payload: 1,590 lbs.
- Performance: 0-60mph: 8.1 sec; ¼-mile: 1@89mph