Chevrolet Introduces ‘Friendlier’ Colorado

By Lee Pang Seng

THE pickup has grown from a mere workhorse to become a more ‘civilised’ vehicle that now easily doubles for work and family motoring. This dual function for the pickup has seen development focused on making the vehicle more comfortable in ride for all on board as well as being endowed with more features to make it more family savvy.

That is definitely the case with the latest Chevrolet Colorado. Who would have expected such features as the windows for the front doors that automatically wind down about 30mm each time the doors are opened. Or the remote engine start convenience that you would expect in more premium cars than a pickup.

Both items are introduced to make the new Colorado a ‘friendlier’ pickup so that it would be equally at home on the rough as well as pandering to its owner and his family in the urban ‘wilderness’. For sure, these features might just be the items that would add to the Colorado’s appeal and help it upstage rivals.

The auto windows wind-down feature, called Comfort Closing Windows, is meant to make it easier for women to close the rather heavy doors. When the windows are wound down, there is no vacuum inside the Colorado that would make closing the door easier. There is no need to pull the door shut harder than necessary.

As for the remote engine start feature, it is a neat item to start the engine with the keyfob and let the air-conditioning system in the pickup cool down the interior, especially on a hot day. By starting the engine using the keyfob, the doors are not opened so there is no danger of someone jumping into it and driving the Colorado away. Once you are ready to get in you can unlock the doors using the same keyfob; Simple and practical.

Naza Quest Sdn Bhd, the importer and distributor of the Chevrolet range, has also introduced a 2.5-litre variant that is preferred by pickup owners in the peninsula because of the cheaper road tax. With the low road tax in Sabah and Sarawak, it is obvious that the bigger engine 2.8-litre Colorado is the choice model.

By adding the 2.5-litre model to the Colorado range, Naza Quest has covered both markets nicely and expects to improve sales with a target of 1,300 pickups in 2017 (with both engine displacement models taking equal share). Colorado was first launched here in 2012 and Naza Quest had sold some 3000 pickups since then, with Sabah and Sarawak taking about 60 per cent of them.

In the recent media drive to Hutan Lipur Jerangkang Falls in Pahang from Shah Alam, Naza Quest only provided the Colorado 2.8 instead of a model mix that would include the new 2.5-litre addition. There are five model options with the new Colorado, these being the Colorado 2.8 LTZ and High Country (both automatic), and the Colorado 2.5 LT (manual and automatic) and 2.5 LTZ auto.

However, leading the convoy of 12 Colorado 2.8 High Country pickups was the Colorado 2.5 LTZ that served as the pace vehicle. Surprisingly, no one, including us, chose to hop into the Colorado 2.5 to have a feel of the smaller engine displacement pickup. Perhaps we were too busy checking out all the ‘goodies’ in the Colorado 2.8 High Country.

For starters, the improved 2.8-litre Duramax engine: this is an undersquare diesel unit with common rail direct injection, variable geometry turbo system, double overhead camshafts and 16 valves. Bore is 94mm and stroke is 100mm to displace 2776cc. Against the previous 2.8-litre engine, the improved unit now delivers 13hp more at 193hp peaking at 3600rpm and torque is boosted by 30Nm to 500Nm at 2000rpm. Apart from more output, the upgraded engine is said to be more sparing on fuel consumption and discharge lower emissions.

By comparison, the Colorado’s 2.5-litre turbodiesel (which is mildly undersquare with 92mm bore and 94mm stroke to displace 2499cc) holds its ground well with 180hp at 3600rpm and 440Nm at 2000rpm. However, the 2.5-litre model with manual transmission has a fixed geometry turbocharger system and output is lower at 163hp at 3600rpm and 380Nm at 4000rpm. The manual transmission is a six-speed gearbox while the automatic transmission models are also six-speeders with manual shift option.

The 2.8-litre unit’s 500Nm torque is the highest in its class for pickups although how it is best utilised is managed by the in-house developed engine control unit (ECU). Its grunt was best felt off-road during the media drive rather than on the highway. Its passing acceleration was not as strong as we would have liked, given the torque, but then again for the speeds we were doing, we were sampling more of the power curve.

While the Colorado 2.8 High Country was comfortable cruising along at 160km/h (engine speed about 3000rpm or so), it would require quite a bit of road and downhill assistance to go beyond 180km/h. The ECU cuts the engine off at about 185km/h probably to maintain the power unit operating at its optimum range.

Despite the rather robust highway driving and urban crawls before that, the fuel consumption did impress based on the fuel mileage indicator on the dashboard. When we started out from the Chevrolet headquarters in Shah Alam, the full tank (76 litres) mileage was almost 800km. More than 150km later, the fuel needle was above the three-quarter level and there was enough diesel to take us 650km. You have to be impressed with that and this is probably where the ECU cut its teeth well.

We were also impressed by the lack of road noise during our highway drives. A common audible note with passenger vehicles these days, cars included, is the intrusion of road roar. As the tyre tread resonates according to the different types of road surface, noise is generated and this is transmitted via the suspension linkages to the passenger compartment.

We, however, heard none of that in the Colorado 2.8 High Country and the only noise was that of the air turbulence around the large door mirrors at above 120km/h, which was little low and easily tolerated. Chevrolet says the Colorado’s body mounts (via the suspension points) were revised and there are new engine mounts to reduce NVH (noise, vibration and harshness). Having an electric power steering helps as well but that upgrade certainly contributed well to better passenger comfort.

The ride was another likeable factor, at least from the front. As we were assigned two media members to a Colorado pickup, we didn’t take the opportunity to sit at the rear to gauge the ride (which would be relevant for those who double pickups as family transport). The Colorado is independently sprung in front with double wishbones, coil springs and gas shock absorbers. The rear sees a single leaf spring with half oval steel pads and gas shocks. From the appreciable ride, the suspension came across as well tuned for passenger comfort.

It wasn’t too bad in the rough either, taking to the mud pools and off-road trails with relative ease, thanks to the huge amount of torque at low engine revs. The suspension soaked up the impacts well enough to make ride reasonably comfortable. We also had a go at the Hill Descent Control (HDC) down a fairly steep incline the proper way, with our foot off the accelerator and brake pedal.

In other words, once HDC is selected, you let the engine management take over as it works with the transmission to select a low gear and ensure best traction going down the slope. This obviously hadn’t sunk in with some media people who used on the brakes. Doing so would cause the wheels to lock up and lose traction, negating the function of the HDC.

There was also a mild stream crossing that was a lot shallower than the time more than 10 years ago when we came to the same area in a rival brand pickup. There were some sharp rocks and dips that gave the watery crossing a sense of thrill as the underbody hit the sunken rocks when going over the deeper areas.
We believe the Colorado should pull its weight when it comes to muddier or more challenging terrain, given its pickup design. Being a part-time four-wheel drive, we could select four-wheel drive (high ratio) on the move below 100km/h from two-wheel drive (rear drive). To select four-wheel low, we have to come to a stop before doing so. The Colorado 2.8 High Country was running on 265/60 R 18 Bridgestone Dueler H/T tyres.

The Colorado is quite roomy and should seat five adults quite comfortably for long hauls. Again, we didn’t take the opportunity to give the back seat a try during the drive to gauge the comfort factor. We did find the lumbar support of the front seats a bit harder than expected and marginally short on thigh support. We, however, managed to stay comfortable at the end of the day, so it wasn’t that bad.

As the flagship model, the Colorado 2.8 High Country comes well equipped and featured; leather upholstery with dedicated badging, eight-inch touchscreen display on the centre dash area, push button start/stop for the engine, tyre pressure monitoring system, among others. Other exclusive items are the High Country sports bar, high gloss exterior B-pillar and roof rail luggage carrier. The grille is also unique to this model being a black high gloss item with chrome.

The higher-end Colorado models generally come with a good package of active safety systems such as Panic Brake Assist, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning (with which you get vibrations through the steering wheel when you stray from your lane), Electronic Stability Control, Traction Control System, reverse camera, among others.

As the Colorado is built in Thailand, it is brought here with minimal ‘import’ tax. The flagship Colorado 2.8 High Country retails for about RM129,200 on the road without insurance. The 2.8 LTZ is priced at about RM121,650. Those in the peninsula who prefer the 2.5-litre models for the lower road tax may find the Colorado 2.5 LTZ appealing at about RM111,790.

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