G. Chambers Williams

Chevrolet’s midsize Colorado pickup now comes with a diesel-engine option

For 2016, the Chevrolet Colorado now is available with a 2.8-liter four-cylinder Duramax Turbo Diesel engine, offered in LT or, shown here, the Z71 Crew Cab models, with two- or four-wheel drive.
For 2016, the Chevrolet Colorado now is available with a 2.8-liter four-cylinder Duramax Turbo Diesel engine, offered in LT or, shown here, the Z71 Crew Cab models, with two- or four-wheel drive. Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Chevrolet's midsize Colorado pickup just returned to the market with a complete redesign for 2015, after a three-year absence, and now, for 2016, there’s the option of getting a diesel engine under the hood.

Adding the 2.8-liter, four-cylinder Duramax clean-diesel turbo engine will cost $3,905 extra, and it’s available on either the LT or Z71 Crew Cab model. We just spent the week driving the Z71 version.

The diesel delivers 181 horsepower and a whopping 365 foot-pounds of torque, which allows the Colorado to tow trailers weighing up to 7,700 pounds with two-wheel drive, or 7,600 pounds with four-wheel drive, which was included on our test vehicle.

That compares with a 7,000-pound limit for towing with the Colorado’s optional V-6 gasoline engine and separate towing package, or just 3,500 pounds with the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine or the V-6 without the towing package.

Fuel economy is quite decent with the diesel: 20 mpg city/29 highway/23 combined, according to the EPA ratings for our four-wheel-drive model. With the two-wheel-drive version, the ratings are 22/31/25.

That compares with ratings of 20/27/22 for the rear-drive 2.5-liter four-cylinder models, and 19/25/21 for four-wheel drive. The V-6 models are rated at 18/26/21 for the rear drive automatic (19/26/22 for the manual), and 17/24/20 for the four-wheel drive (available only with the automatic).

According to the onboard fuel economy monitor, though, we were averaging just 17.3 mpg on our test vehicle. But it could be that I was just having too much fun punching the accelerator to get a rush from all that torque the diesel cranks out. While this is about a 4,700-pound truck (empty), the diesel engine can get it up to highway speeds – and well beyond – a lot quicker than you would expect.

I didn’t have the opportunity to tow a trailer with the Colorado diesel, but I’m sure it would have done quite well for a midsize pickup. I also didn’t have an opportunity to load up the 6-foot-2 long bed with cargo.

Our truck came with the optional steel tubular assist steps ($745, a dealer-installed accessory), which helped my shorter companion get into and out of the vehicle. The steps are included under all four of the Crew Cab’s doors.

Colorado diesel models also come with a smart diesel exhaust-brake system that enhances vehicle control and reduces brake wear on steep grades; an integrated trailer brake controller; an automatic-locking rear differential, with 3.42 rear axle ratio; and, on four-wheel-drive models, a new electronically controlled two-speed transfer case for low-range gearing..

As for the diesel engine itself, it includes such features as an iron block and aluminum head; forged-steel crankshaft and connecting rods; an oiling circuit that includes a dedicated feed for the turbocharger, providing increased pressure and faster oil delivery; piston-cooling oil jets; a 16.5:1 compression ratio; a common-rail direct-injection fuel system; ceramic glow plugs for shorter heat-up times; a balance shaft that contributes to smoothness and drives the oil pump; a laminated steel oil pan with upper aluminum section that contributes to engine rigidity and quietness; and bio-diesel fuel capability (B20).

Chevy says the Duramax 2.8-liter is the cleanest diesel truck engine ever produced by General Motors, and meets some of the toughest U.S. emissions standards, thanks in part to a cooled exhaust-gas-recirculation system.

Having the diesel should help boost sales of the Colorado, especially in Texas, where consumers love diesel pickups.

The Colorado's base engine is a 200-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder with direct fuel injection and continuously variable valve timing, connected to either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic; it has 191 foot-pounds of torque. The optional 3.6-liter V-6 engine has 305 horsepower and 269 foot-pounds of torque.

Our Colorado Crew Cab Z71’s interior included a pair of bucket seats up front, with four-way power adjusters and power lumbar support on both sides. The seatback, though, was manually adjusted.

Although I had a very positive overall experience with the truck, I was not a fan of the driver’s seat. The lower cushion was not long enough to support my thighs completely, and the seat in general wasn’t very comfortable after a few miles, particularly on bumpy roads.

The rear bench seat provides room for two adults to ride relatively comfortably, or three in a pinch (literally?).

Among standard Colorado features are power windows (express up for the driver); the backup camera system with guide lines; and a locking tailgate.

Also included in our truck’s base price were 4G LTE connectivity with a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot; satellite radio and OnStar (subscriptions required after trial periods); Apple CarPlay capability; and a USB port on the instrument panel.

With the Z71 model, we also had heated front seats, sport cloth/leatherette seats, tilt/telescopic steering column, sliding rear window, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, illuminated vanity mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic climate control, carpeting, and carpeted floor mats.

Among exterior features were Chevy’s E-Z Lift tailgate, front fog lights, projector-beam headlights, dual-power outside mirrors, corner-step rear bumper, 17-inch Dark Argent Metallic cast-aluminum wheels, 16-inch spare wheel/tire, all-terrain tires, and front tow hooks.

We had the optional Bose premium speaker/audio system ($500) and the Chevrolet MyLink navigation/audio system with eight-inch color touch screen ($495). The touch screen also served the backup camera.

Our truck also came with a sprayed-on bed liner ($475), a must for keeping the cargo bed from getting banged up; and a trailering equipment package ($250).

Total sticker price for our vehicle was $42,205, including $6,370 in options (the diesel engine is figured into the options total).

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at chambers@star-telegram.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.

2016 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Crew Cab 4WD pickup

The package: Midsize, four-door, four-cylinder diesel-powered, four-wheel-drive, five-passenger pickup truck.

Highlights: Chevrolet's midsize pickup returned to the lineup for 2015, and now for 2016, a diesel-powered version joins the lineup. The test model had the Crew Cab, long cargo bed, and four-wheel drive.

Negatives: The diesel model can get pricey for a midsize pickup (diesel option adds $3,905 to the sticker.

Engine: Turbocharged 2.8-liter inline four-cylinder Duramax diesel.

Transmission: Six-speed automatic.

Power/torque: 181 HP./365 foot-pounds.

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.

Electronic stability control: Standard.

Air bags: Front; front seat-mounted; side-curtain both rows.

Overall length: 224.9 inches.

Curb weight: 4,711 pounds.

Payload capacity: 1,457 pounds.

Towing capacity: 7,600 pounds.

Major competitors: Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, GMC Canyon.

Fuel capacity/type: 21 gallons/low-sulfur diesel or B20 bio-diesel.

EPA fuel economy: 20 city/29 highway/23 combined.

Base price: $38,845, plus $895 freight (Z71 Crew Cab/4WD/Long Bed/Diesel).

Price as tested: $42,205, including freight and options (2016 Z71 Crew Cab Diesel, Long Bed, 4WD).

On the Road rating: 8.7 (of a possible 10).