Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Vs. Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro: How We Tested

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Once we posted our head-to-head feature — 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Vs. 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro — it didn't take long to figure out that the tight scoring meant we should give you more details about our testing procedures and focus.

We didn't make this a strict apples-to-apples comparison — meaning V-6 gas engines only — because we thought it would be interesting to show how the first turbo-diesel in a serious off-roader, the Colorado ZR2, might compare with the mid-size off-road champ, the Tacoma TRD Pro. More importantly, the Colorado turbo-diesel was the first version of the vehicle we could get from GM. Often times, we can only get what manufacturers will send us. So, rather than delay the test, we decided to proceed with the GM's pre-production turbo-diesel ZR2 to get you our thoughts as soon as possible.

We did pit the V-6 gas-engine Colorado and Tacoma against each other in our 2016 Midsize Pickup Truck Challenge. Check it out for all the details.

The Testing

After some preliminary measurements (ground clearances, bed height, tire sizes, some suspension flex tests, etc.), we started our off-road-focused comparison test by taking both trucks to the Hungry Valley Off-Highway State Vehicular Recreation Area, about an hour north of Los Angeles. The state-funded park offers hundreds of miles of trails, washes and man-made obstacle courses for all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles and 4x4s, making it perfect for our back-to-back comparison testing needs. We spent much of our time moving each of the pickups in and out of their off-road modes, both with and without the benefit of their respective locking differentials and/or traction control systems, to see how they fared.

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Our first steps included seeing how well each pickup could get traction to the tires (none of which we aired down), and overcome the different rock and deep-hole obstacles on our short-course hill climb. These back-to-back runs allowed us to play with the different settings, get a sense for wheel slippage and suspension flexibility, as well as learn about each pickup's limitations in a relatively safe, contained environment. This section of the test allowed us to see how well their different 4x4 technologies worked on both hard-rock and loose-dirt hill climbing. This is where we played quite a bit with Toyota's lauded and finicky crawl control.

Then we moved to a more remote location in the park to test how well the suspensions and traction systems worked at higher speeds, finding a mile and a half stretch of rutted and whoop-de-do-lined open dirt road. We played with both trucks, again in back-to-back runs, putting each judge into each truck multiple times, in both two-wheel and four-wheel-drive high range. This testing allowed us to examine at what speeds each truck felt comfortable and where they felt pushed. You can see some of our observations, many of which focused on the various shock technologies, in our video.

We finished our testing with a trip to one of the most inhospitable deserts in the world, as well as one of the largest and tallest open-use sand dune areas in North America: Dumont Dunes Off-Highway Vehicle Area. This gave us a chance to do some head-to-head 1/8-mile drag-racing runs in a remote and lonely section of the park to get a better sense of how these two traction-hungry pickups performed on gravel roads and open sand. We were able to evaluate the versatility of each truck's four-wheel-driving capabilities at slow-go and higher-rpm ranges on the changing terrain. We also discovered where our own driving ability limitations exist: We got both trucks stuck in the sand. Let's just say we learned a lot about the trucks and ourselves that day.

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Final Thoughts

The half-dozen or so different types of terrains and off-road challenges we faced over the course of this test did give us a chance to see — sometimes in brutally harsh light — each truck's strengths and weaknesses. And that was the point.

Now that it's over, we can say both these pickups did an amazing job on everything we threw at them, with their performance differences only showing up at the fringes and extremes. That's why the contest was so closely scored.

Ultimately, Chevy proved it did the right thing by offering a vehicle that can play in both fast and slow dirt sandboxes. For a first crack in a long time at delivering a serious off-roader to the mid-size pickup class, the ZR2 is impressive and likely to be the top off-road player for quite a while.

Cars.com photos by Evan Sears

 

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Comments

GREAT TEST!!! But.... Having one with a gasoline and other with a diesel engine really took away from the results when it comes to the performance aspects. An apples to apples comparison would have given the overall test more validity in my mind.

GREAT TEST!!! But.... Having one with a gasoline and other with a diesel engine really took away from the results when it comes to the performance aspects. An apples to apples comparison would have given the overall test more validity in my mind.

Outside of the acceleration test, I don't see how the ZR2 having the diesel option was an issue. For what these trucks are intended for, the diesel is the better cchoice anyways. 369 ft-lbs is a lot of torque for a midsize truck and makes peak trque at 2000 RPM, which is where you want it when climbing over obstacles.

I'd assume you can tune a Diesel much better than a Gasser, but I really care less for coal burners.

So no numbers after this test? Also cleverly the pictures from the chevy and taco are from opposite sides of the trucks on the stair step up so we can't see the difference in articulation/flex or lack off. Who offroad's without airing down the tires, in an offroad test?

Shame the Colorado looks hideous. Toyota may be slightly less off road worthy, but it certainly out classes the Chevy in looks and appeal.

The Chevy's definitely the better looking of the two. That front view has the Toyota looking like a Kissing Gourami fish.

So this what has become of the Garbage ford in a court of law,
We always new they had high false claims. HaHaHa
Quality is job none.

puff·er·y
exaggerated or false praise.
http://www.carcomplaints.com/news/2017/built-ford-tough-is-mere-puffery.shtml

Why bring Ford into this? You guys are sad little men.

Ford break down, cheap parts

The Chevy's definitely the better looking of the two. That front view has the Toyota looking like a Kissing Gourami fish.
Posted by: Road Whale | Aug 3, 2017 4:49:00 PM

Haha THANK YOU! I couldn't figure out what species of fish it looks like. Nailed it. The design of the front end is a hot mess. Honestly I'm not crazy about the Colorado's front end design, but it's certainly better than the Tacoma.

Those rear lower shock mounts by GM again...

Awesome article that will be an awesome car…

This article told us nothing at all. Straight trash. Compare the Tacoma Helix to the Chevy crap.

The Tacoma TRD Pro has a 35 degree approach angle, best among ALL pickups!

The Colorado ZR2 is only at 30 degrees, heck a standard SR5 Tacoma sits at 29 degrees!

TRD Off-road is over 33 degrees!

oxi, please stop spamming.
If other people do not like what you like, then it should mean nothing to you. Have some emotional intelligence.

Calculate approach angles to the front tires.

@ George_C,

Please stop spamming, your personal opinion is nothing but spam.

Posting FACTS like I have is relevant!

Denying Free Speech goes against the Bill of Rights, nice to know you hate this nation. Must be a progressive liberal!

Chevy is ugly!! I prefer my Trd sport Taco all the way. I made a road test with the chevy and I felt like driving a SUV. I really hate the Chevy Colorado. What a weird box!!! Lots of respect for the Silverado and Sierra but definitely not a Colorado/Canyon fan!

Some ugly trucks

Interesting comparison but most of us don't go off road and most of us don't rock climb. I myself lean toward the Colorado because it is newer and is more comfortable to drive. Also the Toyota tax meaning that Toyota tend to sell at full MSRP and Toyota no longer has a monopoly on quality. All of the midsize pickups have their own strengths and weaknesses and any of them would provide years of reliable service. Out of all the vehicles I have owned in over 40 years I have owned only 1 vehicle that was truly bad and I was not the original owner. Regular maintenance is the key to having a reliable vehicle.

It's one companies top of the line off roader vs another it so really I believe it is a fare comparison diesel or not. If Toyota thought having a diesel in there off road truck was better then they would have but clearly they believe having a gas engine is best for them and Chevrolet believes having a diesel is best for there truck it's a fare comparison.

Interesting comparison but most of us don't go off road and most of us don't rock climb. Regular maintenance is the key to having a reliable vehicle. Posted by: Jeff S | Aug 5, 2017

@Jeff

This article was not for you, evidently. the topic was off roading and has nothing to do with maintenance or reliability or whatever cars you owned in the last 50 years.

So if you had the lighter gas for the colorado, being lighter, would it have still road as smooth. I don't know how much the heavier diesel if it is heavier at all, will smooth out the ride, I just know adding more weight smooths out the ride.

@papa jim--Never said anything about off roading. Maybe you should get one of these for dodging sink holes in Florida.

@Jeff S--Don't bother responding to papa jim, he is a grumpy old man whose next ride is to the nursing home.

But what is more interesting is how cheap looking the Zr2 is under the front skid plate compared to the Tacomahttps://youtu.be/xYDPkfZgxqc
The Tacoma is much beefier by comparison

It's interesting that Toyota Tacoma owners rave about reliability, quality, dependability, longevity, etc., but in fact Tacoma's over the years haven't been the most dependable truck on the market.

http://autoweek.com/article/recalls/toyota-will-settle-truck-frame-rust-suit-suit-34-billion


http://www.mlive.com/auto/index.ssf/2017/04/tacoma_recall.html

https://www.consumerreports.org/tacoma/2016-toyota-tacoma-review/

So you try to claim it's "cheaper looking" yet don't provide pictures of the Tacoma??

There is NOTHING beefy about the front diff on the Tacoma. Especially when they constantly have vibration issues year after year with no fix from Toyota. Guys end up having to install ECGS bushings to fix it. Same goes for the front suspension on the Tacoma.

Wow what a cheap, tiny "shield" for that low-slung transfer case. What a joke.
http://www.skidplates.com/Images/Products/Toyota/Tacoma/TA-0001_FITS_Wi.jpg
http://www.parksoffroad.com/tacomamods/skidrowskid/P6020010.JPG
http://carspecmn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/TransferActuator.jpg

What a pathetic, frail looking Tacoma steering knuckle:
https://twstatic.net/attachments/knuckles-jpg.300856/

Not to mention the ZR2 uses heavy duty cast control arms whereas the TRD Pro uses the same wimpy (rusty) stamped steel control arms. It's no surprise there are so many aftermarket control arms and steering knuckles for the cheaply designed, frail suspension on the Tacoma.

Weak 2016 Tacoma CV joints (pathetic lol)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_m0HfKltzQ

UP here in the North Diesel is no good
Toyota no one in my off road club would even consider a Toyota after the frame rust out problems they had.
Most people here run Nissan trucks with a few using GM and Ford 1/2 tons.



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