I have been lucky enough to drive some pretty amazing vehicles in the past year. The Camaro ZL1, Corvette Stingray, Cadillac CTS V Sport among the cream of the crop. However none of these vehicles came close to generating as much interest among my friends as the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado.
Perhaps it's the fact that those other vehicles are out of reach for most folks, something that they might be able to get should they decide to be reckless with their money. The Colorado on the other hand is attainable. It's reasonable to think the average person could buy a midsize pickup and have some money left over to actually enjoy owning it.
That last bit is key to the argument for driving one of these, you get to enjoy the ownership experience. All too often I see people going out and buying (or more often leasing) more car than they can afford. Saddled with a big payment and/or a low mile lease they're stuck in the unfortunate circumstance of not being able to fully enjoy the vehicle that they just had to have.
This is not the case with the all new Colorado, least not from my point of view. This truck is worth every penny for the amount of fun and functionality that it brings to the table. Currently it has no competition, other than it's gussied up cousin the GMC Canyon and as I have yet to drive the Canyon I cannot say whether it's worth the extra dough. What I can say with absolute certainty is that this truck is the embodiment of the potential GM has to reinvent itself as a company that doesn't half ass things. I say potential because while the Colorado is very good, it's not without flaws, luckily they're not glaring ones and were few in number.
(Full Disclosure: Chevrolet wanted me to drive the 2015 Colorado so bad that they rung me up, asked me if I'd rather take a brand new truck with 4G LTE WiFi to Mammoth rather than my Audi S4 with a ticking time bomb under the hood. I agreed on the condition that it be an obnoxious color red and they said great, that's all we have. The following delivery took place between the hours of 9am and 11am.)
The 2015 Chevy Colorado is 100% brand spanking new for us Muricans. Unlike some other manufacturers that tout their truck as being "completely redesigned" the new Colorado doesn't share a stitch with the old one. This is a good thing because the old Colorado was a sad excuse for a truck, mired in mechanical problems and an exuding overall vibe of cheapness.
I spent a whole lot of time in the old Colorado because a good friend of mine drove one while employed by Red Bull. He didn't much care for it but a free vehicle is a free vehicle and when there's a corporate gas card involved you tend not to complain. We took that truck on many a trip to Mammoth which is a great test of a vehicle's abilities.
You've got interstate and state highway driving with varied elevations and traffic patterns. Depending on the time of day one leaves Los Angeles, you can either be up in the high desert in as little as an hour or as much as the worst case scenario you can dream up. While it could have been worse my departure was not at an opportune time and I was stuck in rather heavy Friday afternoon traffic leaving the city.
Lucky for me the Colorado was equipped with Chevy's MyLink infotainment system which of course has XM Radio amongst other neat-o features such as weather information, txt message readout and 4G LTE WiFi. The weather info was accurate, I couldn't get it to read my txts but that could be due to the fact that it doesn't have new iPhone 6 compatible firmware and the WiFi worked pretty darn good, streaming high quality tracks from Spotify no problem.
Once I got out of the city and onto highway 14 the bumper to bumper traffic gave way to traffic of another kind. The 14 on a Friday will almost always be full of trucks towing trailers, campers or a dune buggy. The drivers at the wheel of these lifted rigs, resplendent in all manner of chrome accents seem to think towing something doesn't mean you should change your driving style one bit.
They bob and weave just the same as they would if there wasn't a load attached to their bedazzled ego inflating ride which makes this portion of the drive an exercise in restraint. You want to pass them on the right and get the hell away before they put you in an early grave but fight back that urge. You wait until all of them make their way around each other, leaving the left lane clear for you to put the skinny pedal to the floor and escape the thunderdome of stupid.
Once you hit 395 north you're truly free. You settle into the cabin, it's just you, the road and whatever soundtrack you've chosen for the next 3.5 hours. Below you'll find a link to a Spotify playlist inspired by my time with the Colorado. I think this truck has a lot of character, something that it was completely lacking in the past generation.
The old Colorado never would have made me want to take a road trip, never would have made me want to blast Zac Brown Band while driving through the desert, never would have made me feel anything except uncomfortable.
The new Colorado is eager to please. My Z71 package equipped tester came with comfy sport cloth and leatherette seats. There's lots of storage for all the crap that truck owners seem to accumulate over the course of their life. When I had a Tacoma I was always just leaving shit in my truck for no apparent reason and my vehicles are usually kept completely empty.
Ah yes, that's right, I used to drive a Tacoma, a 2007 extended cab with the SR5 package. Nice truck for 2007, far nicer than what else was out at the time. However 8 years have passed and the current Tacoma ain't much different from what I had save for an uglier steering wheel and some other appearance tweaks.
I won't harp on the Taco too much because it's unfair to compare a model so long in the tooth to the new kid on the block. All I will say is that the new Tacoma better be leaps and bounds better inside than the old one because the the Colorado is certainly a better looking truck on the outside.
Bottom line, its going to be a tall order for Toyota to beat the value of the Colorado and win the hearts of midsize truck buyers, especially the first timers who have no loyalty.
In a market dominated by faces that make what's going on with John Travolta look normal, I find the Colorado to be a welcome departure from the "YO, LOOK AT ME! I'M TOUGH" style.
It's aggressive without trying to hard and that can rarely be said about an American vehicle. In my opinion the fog light surrounds would look better in black than chrome but at least they're the right size.
I think one of the coolest things about the truck is how the headlights appear to have LED accents from some angles. At first I thought they did but then realized it's just a neat chrome bezel reflecting the light in such a way that you get a premium European vibe from them. Well played Chevy, well played indeed.
I know I've talked about it a lot already but I really can't say enough about how much of an improvement this is over the old Colorado. The seats are comfy and supportive on long drives. With the Z71 package both sides are heated and both get power lumbar adjustment that can be fine tuned to just the way you like it.
My only gripe about the seats is that I found the cloth material to be a bit tough and grabby for my liking. However maybe that's intentional and GM assumes that if you're a tough truck guy you want tough truck seats to keep you firmly in place while you're soft roading with your bros.
One of the things I immediately noticed and was really impressed with was how quiet the cabin was on the highway. With the big all terrain tires I expected the NVH to be much more noticeable but it was rather quiet and pleasant even at cruising speeds. It's no S-Class but you'll be surprised at just how good of a job they did with the sound deadening.
Alright it's time to talk about the thing that truck guys give a shit about more than anything else, power. The Colorado is powered by either the 200hp standard 2.5L inline 4 banger or the 305 hp 3.6L V-6. My tester had the latter and thank goodness for that.
I can't imagine this truck being all that fun to drive with the smaller motor. There were some situations I encountered where the V-6 barely felt like enough, like passing some big rigs on two lane stretches of highway or going up some of the longer grades en route to Mammoth.
I found low end power to be lacking and the transmission to be annoyingly unpredictable as to when it was going to finally decide to kick down when under steady throttle. I don't think you should have to stab the gas in order to get the gear you want when going up a hill but that's what I repeatedly found myself doing when I let the computer do the thinking for me.
The Colorado does have a manual shift mode with the +/- button found on the side of the center console mounted shifter. When I was choosing my own gear adventure I found the power delivery to be much better, go figure. Not to sound like a broken record but I believe this is a vehicle that would really, really benefit from a manual transmission.
4 wheel antilock disc brakes with Duralife rotors are standard across all Colorado models. They were exceptional in all the situations I put them through which were varied. Stopping on a dime to avoid a coyote chasing a tumbleweed through Lone Pine, scrubbing speed quickly when I spotted a friendly CHP in the distance and maintaining distance from a construction truck coming down from Big Bear. I never found them to feel lacking in stopping power and they weren't overly sensitive which is always nice.
Smooth, much smoother than I thought it would be, especially since this was the Z71 model. It rode more like a midsize crossover than a midsize truck. Again, the old Colorado was an absolute shit pace to spend an extended amount of time, whereas the new Colorado is a place where you're comfortable for hours on end.
One of the things I enjoy most about new full size pickups is how they've managed to make the ride quality similar to that of the church crowd cruisers of yesterday. Now that same mindset of making a truck a legitimately comfortable place to be on a long drive has trickled down to the midsize market. Whether driving around the pothole ridden streets of Los Angeles or open highways of central California my spine was happy. Happy spine, happy person.
You know when you drive a vehicle at its limit and you're genuinely surprised that it's handling as well as it is? Well that's how I felt when I drove the Colorado up to Big Bear and back. Highways 330 and 18 are full of switchbacks, both tight and sweeping corners and loose rock zones. It's really fun in a car with a tuned suspension but in 6+ years of driving the route I've done it mostly in trucks and SUVs.
As I mentioned before my friend had a last gen Colorado and we would frequently take it up to the mountain. We would usually average between 25-30 mph going up the hill, anything more and we'd be green in the face. To say the old Colorado handled like Chris Christie on rollerblades would be an understatement.
The new Colorado however was composed and took all the corners without issue. The steering feel is light but not overly so. Only once did I have to dodge some fallen rock and the truck did so without issue at what some would call an overzealous rate of speed. If you're coming out of any other midsize truck you will be impressed with the handling capability of the Colorado. If you're coming out of a car or crossover you'll still probably be impressed maybe not as much, but still impressed.
Finally I have to mention the hill descent control. I have only used this feature in one other vehicle, the new Range Rover Sport. In this particular application I noticed no difference between how that system regulated speed and that of the Colorado. It was a bit nerve wracking to point a midsize GM truck down this hill and turn control over to a computer system but I did it and I survived. It's noisy as hell and might err on the side of caution but the HDC in the Colorado worked just as well as that in a damn Range Rover.
I don't know what the deal with the goofily named Hydra-Matic 6 -speed automatic is but they've got some kinks to work out in this particular application. Either that or it's just been too damn long since I've driven a truck.
I rarely get frustrated with transmissions and I was constantly frustrated with this one. At low speeds around the city it felt like the engine was chugging even when under minimal throttle. Felt almost like what happens when a coil pack goes out on my Audi's V8 but not quite as pronounced and fear inducing.
When switched over to manual mode the chugging goes away and the power delivery is much, much better but do you really want to be thumb shifting your days away? There's something going on here that needs to be remedied but I'm not sure what, aside from giving it a third pedal of course.
The available 8 inch touchscreen is a must have in this truck. The navigation loads quickly, it's accurate and the screen is easy to read. The backup camera is accurate and clear, certainly came in handy when turning around in tight quarters while off-roading.
The aforementioned 4G LTE WiFi functioned well on the highway and in the city. Honestly I forgot to use it all the time but when I did it loaded content quickly as one would expect. There are four standard USB ports on the LT and Z71 models, one per seat, smart.
Since this was the Z71 model it had a spray in bed liner and EZ lift/lower tailgate. Also standard is the CornerStep rear bumper which to be honest is a nice touch. I've seen a lot of people slip on the bumper of a truck climbing in and out of the tailgate which is funny but only if they don't split their damn face open.
HEY! I LOVE THIS SONG
I SAID I LOVE THIS SONG!
I SAID I LOVE THIS SONG!
The system is loud, sounds like every other Bose system in a GM product. Here's my major complaint and it's pretty nit-picky but it annoys me to no end.
If you're listening to Spotify or Pandora or any other non native music service on your phone and you plug your phone into charge via ANY of the four USB ports it automatically cuts off what you were listening to and defaults to your iTunes library.
Ok, no big deal you say, just hit pause and go back to what you were listening to.
Yeah I thought the same thing but it will always cut off what you're listening to and go back to iTunes.
That shit is inexcusable.
I don't care if it's an iOS thing or a GM software thing. In this day and age this shit should be sorted out and work seamlessly, end of story.
Chevy is counting on the Colorado to create a whole new generation of truck buyers and that's a tall order. The core customers who've been buying Silverado's for the past 30 odd years are aging and might be content hanging onto the same truck until they don't need one anymore.
Most young people aren't buying new cars and those that do are mainlining crossovers because they don't know any better. I'll tell you this, I'd much rather get a midsize pickup than an Escape, X3, Rav 4 or CR-V. People will tell you,"oh, I don't need a pickup". Well you don't need an SUV either but how many of those same people go out and buy them. At least with a pickup you get an open bed that you can always throw a cap over and live out of.
This truck came out to $36,710.00 including $1,720 in options and a $875 destination charge. That might seem like a lot but I think it's pretty damn fair given what you're getting. A 4WD crew cab short bed Silverado in W/T trim starts at $38, 575 so stepping up to the bigger size ain't exactly a bargain.
I mean I get it, lots of folks with the money for a new vehicle have sedentary jobs that don't necessitate the utility of a pickup so why not get an Outback or Allroad? That's where Chevrolet's big marketing machine comes in, touting the Colorado as a vehicle for the adventurous because if there's anything that 9-5'ers love it's a weekend adventure.
Personally I think it's pretty smart. Full size pickup trucks are rarely driven by people who need them and use them to the extent of their capabilities. They're more of a status symbol than anything, something to tow the boat or vintage car with. What Chevy would love to happen is for the Colorado to become junior status symbol. An achievement badge that says "I work hard, but I play harder" and I don't think that's out of the question.
I still see a midsize pickup as a practical mode of transportation, driven by the people whose work demands that they have a rugged vehicle. Where I come from the Toyota Tacoma is the choice of forestry experts, lawn care professionals and anyone with a dirt bike. Chevrolet clearly cares about that crowd or they wouldn't have made the Z71 so durable. However given the other packages offered and marketing strategy it's clear they're courting a very different demographic as well in hopes they'll create a new generation of truck buyers. Only time will tell us if their product is good enough to make it happen.
Engine: 3.6L V6
Power: 305 @6800 RPM/ 269 lb-ft @4000 RPM
Transmission: Hydra-Matic 6L50 6-speed automatic
Drivetrain: 2WD/4WD Hi/Lo
Curb Weight: 4380 lbs.
Payload: 1590 lbs.
Trailering: 7000 lbs.
Seating: 4 people/0 aliens
MPG: 17/24, 19mpg average observed
MSRP: $25,205 base, $36,710 as tested
Andrew Maness writes about cars because he has one and also has a computer. He's been known to drunkenly Tweet as @thisnicelife and upload photos to @theroadlessdriven. He also has a YouTube Channel and thinks talking about himself in the 3rd person is really weird but knows it's necessary if he wants to be taken seriously as an automotive journalist.