It wasn't the most auspicious debut for a pickup. When four of the five midsize truck manufacturers introduced new small pickups in 2004-05, GM introduced the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, and in so doing gave up two decades of equity in the popular S-10 brand to rename its compact truck. Chevy also stepped away from the norm to offer a dual overhead camshaft and inline-five-cylinder engine rather than a traditional V-6. Then came new trucks from Dodge, Toyota and Nissan — all with more horsepower and towing capacity.
Now, Chevy is finally offering a 300-horsepower V-8 in the Colorado, just as a slowing economy is directing shoppers to smaller engines. The Colorado has always been a favorite among cross-shopping consumers because of its extensive lineup and numerous options. Chevy likes to promote its three suspension setups to help differentiate its models. The Z85 is for normal operation, the Z71 is tuned for offroad use and the ZQ8 is designed for sports-car-like handling.
New for 2009
The 300-hp V-8 is the big news for performance enthusiasts and those with more demanding utility needs. Even though GM didn't change the towing capacity on models with the V-8 (that would likely have required changes to the suspension and brakes), drivers will have a little more pulling and passing power. GM did boost the gross vehicle weight rating by 200 pounds on models equipped with the 5.3-liter V-8, but the extra engine weight negates any additional payload capacity. The real benefit of the V-8 to performance enthusiasts will come when the ZQ8 suspension returns later in the year. The ZQ8 was the cornerstone of the old Xtreme package. The ZQ8 lowers the truck about an inch and comes with revised steering and suspension tuning, performance tires, and unique 18-inch wheels to provide more aggressive handling. Also for 2009, Chevy beefed up the brake system and now includes stability control and XM Satellite Radio on all models.
When the Colorado debuted in 2004, it carried over the front-end styling from that generation's Chevy Silverado (GMT800), including the familiar power bar grille and angular "bat wing" headlamps. It looked great on the Colorado then. Now, the Silverado has been restyled and the Colorado is looking a little long in the tooth. The Colorado has a little more muscle in its silhouette than some other compact trucks, which is great in four-wheel-drive and/or Z71 trims. But lowered, with the ZQ8 suspension, the Colorado may have a little more meat than some would like. The latest changes include additional body-colored moldings, bezels and surrounds to add a more sporty appearance to some trim levels.
- Bold wheel flares on Z71 models
- Z71 suspension offers higher stance than previous models
- Four new wheel designs help differentiate models
- Sport appearance now standard on all Z85 models
Although drenched in plastic, the Colorado's interior features an effective gauge layout and easy-to-reach audio and climate controls. There are some nice chrome accents to spice up the atmosphere, but this is mostly a utility-friendly cab with adequate storage and reasonably spacious surroundings for a compact pickup. The seats are plenty wide and comfortable, and the crew cab offers decent headroom and legroom for people of most heights. The second row of the extended cab is for children only.
- Available leather seating in crew cab LT
- Available moonroof in crew cab, extended cab
- Available sliding rear window
Under the Hood
- 185-horsepower, 2.9-liter inline-four-cylinder with aluminum block and cylinder head, dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder that makes 190 pounds-feet of torque
- 242-hp, 3.7-liter inline-five-cylinder with aluminum block and cylinder head and dual overhead camshafts that makes 242 pounds-feet of torque
- 300-hp, 5.3-liter V-8 with aluminum block and cylinder head and two valves per cylinder that makes 320 pounds-feet of torque
- Five-speed manual (standard on four-cylinder models)
- Four-speed automatic (standard on inline-five-cylinder and V-8, optional on four-cylinder models)
GM continues to beef up the safety features for its compact truck, but one important device remains optional: side curtain airbags. Stability and traction control are now standard. GM's electronic stability system uses electronic brake controls to help the driver maintain control of the vehicle in certain situations.
- Latch child-seat anchors
- Crash sensor sends GPS signal
- Front-seat pretensioners
Of Interest to Truck Owners
- Maximum gross vehicle weight rating: 5,500 pounds (extended cab and crew cab), 5,500 pounds with 5.3-liter and Z71 or Z85 4x4)
- Maximum payload capacity: 1,422 pounds (4x2 regular cab)
- Maximum towing capacity: 6,000 pounds (extended cab and crew cab V-8)
- Axle ratio: 3.73:1 (all five-speed manual, four- and five-cylinder models), 3.42:1, 3.73:1, 4.10:1 (V-8)
- Minimum ground clearance: 7.7 inches (Z85 4x2), 6.6 inches (ZQ8 4x2), 11.4 (Z71 4x2)
- Minimum ground clearance: 10.4 inches (Z85 4x4), 11.4 inches (Z71 4x4)
- Cargo floor length: 72.8 inches (regular and extended cab), 61.1 inches (crew cab)
- Cargo floor width: 57.2 inches
- Cargo floor width at wheel well: 42.6 inches
- Cargo bed depth: 18.6 inches