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2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 First Test

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 11/10/2014 Benson Kong, Robin Trajano

For the third time in the past five Octobers, euphoria consumed an entire city by a bay -- and me, too. After the final game of the World Series, Rikk Wilde ( #ChevyGuy ) put himself and the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado into truck guy lore, parking close to politician Scott Brown and his 2005 GMC Canyon. I'd be nervous too, were I making a nationally televised speech while standing next to the 6-foot-5-inch man of the hour, the man whose postseason feats will be long remembered by anyone who claims to be a baseball fan.

Wilde, a "zone manager and liaison between GM and its Kansas City-area dealers" per the Associated Press, armed Chevy with another way to advertise its relaunched midsize pickup (#technologyandstuff). And having recently passed a lineup card's worth of Motor Trend editors through a Red Hot Colorado Z71 crew cab with 61.7-inch-long box and four-wheel drive, we can confidently say the truck indeed has technology and the stuff.

The Chevrolet Colorado is a 2015 Motor Trend Truck of the Year contender - find out before long whether it has what it takes to win.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 "This thing scoots and sounds good doing it," leads off editor-in-chief Ed Loh. The 305-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 demands prodding to 6,800 rpm for peak power, a higher rotational speed than in the 261-hp Nissan Frontier or 236-hp Toyota Tacoma. It makes quite the racket when the throttle is fully opened. How loud? On the sones scale, it's 28 percent noisier than the base 2.5-liter I-4 under full acceleration. The six-cylinder motivates the Colorado from 0-60 mph in 7.4 seconds, about what we'd expect from a V-6 midsize truck with 4WD.

"GM's truck engineers need to give their vehicles some throttle response," associate editor Scott Evans said. "This engine has plenty of power, but the computer doesn't want to give it to me unless I practically floor it. Remap the throttle pedal, stat." The Chevy is rather docile if you're out driving around and not looking for trouble -- presumably by design to appeal to the consumers coming out of cars and SUVs. This buyer set is projected to make up more than a third of all Colorado customers. The less powerful Frontier and Tacoma are edgier off the line.

"Even at a good clip it was nimble enough to actually be fun with nice front-end bite and not too much body roll," testing director Kim Reynolds said, batting from the three hole. "We did notice a bit of occasional indecision on the part of the transmission, but that's the only demerit I can think of, and it wasn't a big deal." Reynolds provided 880 pounds of sand to ferry within the Colorado's deep, 41.3-cubic-foot short box. The Colorado Z71 didn't even notice and continued to ride pleasantly.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Senior features editor Jonny Lieberman cleaned up where Reynolds left off: "The Colorado has the best steering I've ever experienced on any truck, full stop. Both in terms of feel and actual handling. Remarkable." The 0.76 g average and 28.5-second run around the figure eight aren't much to boast about, but who's counting when we're talking pickups?

Truck guys do care about interiors, though, and technical director Frank Markus drove that point home while comparing the Z71 to an extended-cab WT trim Colorado we had on hand. "This variant is clearly a lot more nicely equipped, and the controls are utterly familiar from my long-term Sierra," he said. "I fit in the rear seat of this one behind my own driving position a lot better." Individuals with firsthand exposure to the 2004-2012 Colorado will be impressed by the contrast. And not merely because the old inline-five is gone (hallelujah).

"Inside, the Colorado had the most comfortable seats," associate online editor Jason Udy said. "The materials and power lumbar helped. It has the best rear seat space and visibility, the nicest infotainment system (though no real nav), the best storage cubbies." The sport cloth/leatherette seats are heated up front and supportive during long hauls. Four USB ports (two for the first row and two for the second) are appreciated. An extra $995 unlocks navigation ($500 of it going to a required Bose premium seven-speaker sound system).

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Associate editor Christian Seabaugh defended any value arguments: "I like many others was critical of the Colorado initially because of its size and pricing, but it really looks, feels, and drives significantly smaller than full-size trucks like the Silverado. And in regards to pricing, have you seen how expensive full-size trucks have gotten?"

There are folks out in the world who think, "I'd like a truck, just not a full-size one, even if they're close in price," and the Colorado is 5.7 inches narrower than a Silverado 1500. One of these folks might include Detroit editor Scott Burgess: "Thank you for bringing this truck back. It's the right size, the right engines, and the right payload. In fact, it's probably a little more than I would want in a midsize pickup, as what I have been dreaming about is a true small pickup, but for the most part, this will have to do." I've dreamed of a truck where an unladen rear axle doesn't hammer at the driver's back end while retaining stout hauling and towing competencies (1,489 pounds, 7,000 pounds with $250 tow package). The Colorado is basically there.

At the bottom of the order, my conclusion: The transmission programming isn't the greatest. It's too eager to shift up, and the slightest accelerator pedal prods keep it shifting up and down. Yet the power on reserve is fine. With the smaller size, you have a fantastic, well-equipped truck with the capability many people would have no problem living with.


2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71
BASE PRICE$30,425
PRICE AS TESTED$36,210
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck
ENGINE3.6L/305-hp/269-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)4,511 lb (57/43%)
WHEELBASE128.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT212.7 x 74.3 x 70.6 in
0-60 MPH7.4 sec
QUARTER MILE15.7 sec @ 88.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH131 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.76 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT28.5 sec @ 0.70 g (avg)
REAL MPG CITY/HWY/COMB18/22/20 mpg
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON17/24/20 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY198/140 kW-hrs/100 miles*
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.99 lb/mile*
*Derived from EPA estimates

2015 Chevrolet Colorado photos provided by the automaker:

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71
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