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GM Readies Diesel Variants for Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 6/22/2015 Scott Burgess

Chevrolet and GMC released more details about their Colorado and Canyon diesel pickups Monday during a small event and then let a handful of journalists drive it. However, no one is supposed tell anyone their driving impressions after doing a few laps on the Ride and Handling Course at General Motors' Milford Proving Grounds in Michigan. The final engine and transmission calibrations are not complete, and we’re going to need something to write about later.

What we can tell you is that the much-anticipated 2.8-liter turbodiesel I-4 creates 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque and will have best-in-class fuel economy. That means it has more torque than the 3.6-liter V-6’s 269 pound-feet of torque and better fuel economy than the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine’s 27 mpg on the highway. Chevy wouldn’t release fuel economy numbers, but it’s not unrealistic to expect something north of 30 mpg.

The 2.8-liter engine uses the same block and pistons as the overseas Colorado engines and will be made in Thailand and Brazil. For North America, Chevy engineers changed out the turbo and some other engine pieces to improve performance in more extreme weather, especially cold weather performance, and emissions. Most customers in Asia and South America don’t have a need for a block heater or ceramic glow plugs. The international engine debuted in 2011, and since then, GM has been working on tuning that engine for the Colorado and the GMC Canyon stateside.

“This engine has more than 35,000 hours of dyno testing,” said Scott Yackley, assist chief engineer for Duramax. “Our goals were beyond just fuel economy, we wanted this engine to have the power for towing and overall performance should be smooth.”

A lot of time was also spent finding ways to make the engine quieter. It still ticks like a diesel when idling, but even with the hood up, the engine was quiet compared to other diesels currently found in German sedans. Better yet, at least for the Colorado and Canyon, sales have been sky-high since their launch last year. The small pickup segment has seen sales grow by 61.7 percent compared to 2014. The Toyota Tacoma remains the highest-selling midsize pickup with 73,000 units through May. But GM has sold 48,000 units through the same time period without selling any last year during the same time.

“We just added a third shift to the manufacturing plant and sales remain very strong with just 16 days to turn for most trucks,” said Jeff Luke, chief engineer of GM’s full-line and mid-line trucks.

Engineers also adjusted the six-speed automatic transmission, adding a centrifugal pendulum absorber, which is a device to help remove shakes in the driveshaft due to too much torque. One other notable item in GM’s new diesels is the integrated trailer brake controller mounted on the left side of the steering wheel. It certainly suggests that these diesel pickups will have a focus beyond just high fuel economy. Few other details were discussed during the small press event. The diesels will arrive as crew cab mid-trim level trucks with the short bed by the end of this year. The engines will be built overseas and executives said they expect diesels to be about 10 percent of the mix of vehicles sold. I think it will be higher.

Currently, a V-6 Colorado Crew Cab starts at around $29,000. Add roughly $4,000 to that price -- GM would not confirm that figure, which is ultimately an educated guess -- and the diesel Colorado could start at a price around $33,000.

That might not be a bad deal.

Non-diesel 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Crew Cab models shown.

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