2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel: First Drive

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Finally there's a midsize pickup truck with a factory turbo-diesel option; the two were specifically created to work together. And it's here in the form of the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Duramax.

In the name of full disclosure, we should note we like the Chevy Colorado; after all, we selected the midsize pickup earlier this year as our Best Pickup of 2015. If that makes us a little biased when testing the Colorado with this new powertrain, we'll own that. But don't let that dissuade you from checking out this new small turbo-diesel Colorado the when you get the chance. It's one of the strongest little pullers we've driven in a long time.

The turbo-diesel will only be offered in crew-cab configurations on the LT and Z71 trim levels. However, you will be able to choose two- or four-wheel drive with either the long-bed (6 feet, 2 inches) or short-bed (5 feet, 2 inches) wheelbase options.

When compared with a similarly equipped 3.6-liter V-6 gas engine choice, the Duramax Colorado will cost $3,730 more. That will make some midsize truck buyers take a deep breath. So we're going to discuss what that cost provides in terms of the features packaged into that extra cost, and what kind of improved fuel economy and capability you'll get in return. Let's break it down.


What You Get

When opting for the new Duramax 2.8-liter DOHC 16-valve turbo-diesel — rated at 181 horsepower at 3,400 rpm and a powerful 369 pounds-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm — the Colorado will come standard with the tow package, an integrated trailer brake controller, a unique tachometer, a special diesel exhaust fluid screen in the information center to show fluid level, a dedicated exhaust brake button combined with the Tow/Haul switch, a separate 5.5-gallon DEF tank, a unique diesel exhaust system and special vibration-absorbing technology in the torque converter.

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When you consider that all that additional technology provides better towing ability — it's only the diesel option with a tow rating of 7,700 pounds — and overall performance, that price might not seem so steep to people looking to get good value from a smaller work truck. Prices for the 2016 Colorado with the turbo-diesel will range from $33,000 to $45,000.

During our first chance to get behind the wheel, we were able to do a little towing and some highway cruising, as well as running up and down some coastal mountain canyons where we took full advantage of baby Duramax's performance abilities. Here's what we found.


How It Drives

The Duramax engine adds just less than 250 pounds of extra weight to the Colorado, with the pickup's total average real-world weight likely to come in around 4,700 pounds. Add another 15 pounds for all the other supporting technology in the exhaust and a final 40 pounds for a full tank of DEF, and you can see that there's a little more weight than you might expect for this engine option. But that's not exactly a bad thing.

From the start, GM knew this engine was going into this new pickup; engineers weren't dropping it into a chassis built for other engines. So this torquey engine, which delivers 100 more pounds-feet of torque (with a flatter torque curve) than the gas engine option with two more cylinders, is perfectly matched to the six-speed automatic transmission. Integration engineers obviously spent a lot of time working with the engine controls to make sure the power curve of the engine matched the shift controls of the transmission.

Hard starts off the line are strong and immediate, thanks to the fast-responding variable-geometry Honeywell turbocharger. The overall feel of launches and wide-open-throttle runs feel as good as its gasoline-engine sibling, if not better. We had the chance to drive the midsize diesel on some twisty country roads and found the extra front-end weight and fast-responding throttle a hoot to drive. We dove in and out of corners with a little more control and precision than we've done in the past. We found ourselves thinking that if Chevy lowered the suspension a bit, put on some high-performance street tires and put in a fatter steering wheel, it could have the first midsize performance sport truck worth its weight in gold.

We also had the chance to drive congested city streets, hitting quite a few stoplights, as well as cruise a two-lane highway at 65 to 70 mph. Over the course of our 58-mile impromptu test route (we admittedly ran a little on the "enthusiastic" side), we averaged a combined mpg of 33.5 mpg with the air conditioning on, the windows up and just one adult passenger in the empty 4x2 Colorado LT crew cab.

Acceleration during our highway sections offered nominal diesel noise — although you always know you're driving a diesel on the highway and at idle — and a quick, responsive passing personality when needed.


Exhaust Brake, Towing

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The exhaust brake combined with Tow/Haul mode works well in this little pickup. When the brake is engaged, the engine and computer controls provide a more aggressive shift pattern when accelerating, holding each gear longer before upshifting. It also provided more control when running off-throttle, quickly downshifting and holding gears longer. Additionally, the setup provides a more aggressive grade-braking algorithm that GM engineers borrowed from the heavy-duty Silverado's exhaust brake setup. The diesel Colorado's ability to pair the exhaust brake with cruise control to offer much better downhill engine braking when towing a large trailer or carrying a heavy payload works just like it does in the Silverado 3500 dualie with the 6.6-liter V-8 Duramax.

During our test drive, we took out a properly hitched 3,800-pound horse trailer and found the grade braking exceptional, and in some cases even better than what we remembered about the last Silverado HD dualie we drove with a monster trailer. The added control and the engine's ability to hold the weight at different rpms based on our cruise control setting comforting had us fairly relaxed on our hilly highway cruise.

The biggest surprise we experienced while driving this new turbo-diesel pickup was how smooth it felt off the line, especially between the 1st and 2nd gears as well as between 2nd and 3rd gear shifts, which is typically a tricky thing to modulate in an engine producing this much torque. When you have a lot of torque, it can be a challenge for the computer to manage the shifts between gears without creating strong impacts.


New Transmission Technology

To respond to possible shift issues, GM incorporated a centrifugal pendulum vibration absorber used on some luxury European diesel cars. It's a rotating disc that sits inside the torque converter and has a series of springs mounted on the disc. The spring mass vibrates in an opposite direction to any torsional vibrations that might be transferred through the driveline during gear shifts, smothering a good amount of vibrational energy in the process.

We were especially impressed with the shifting feel when manually running through the gears with the stick-mounted toggle button, as well as when letting Drive mode do the decision-making. The small diesel engine tachometer goes up to 5,000 rpm and doesn't seem to mind being in the 3,500-to-4,000-rpm range when making a quick downshift to hold speeds down with a trailer on a downhill section of road. That was the only time we were aware of excessive engine noise getting into the cab along with a small amount of floor vibration. The Colorado diesel comes standard with hill start assist and hill descent control.


Going Off-Road

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The Z71 Trail Boss Package proved to be one of the most popular Colorado options during this media drive event. The package includes Goodyear Wrangler DuraTec mud tires, a bed light bar and LED spotlights, fender flares and a spray-in bedliner. It might not sound like much, but it looks pretty cool.

This package created one of the most fun and well-balanced pickups we've ever driven. It offered a whopping 7,700-pound towing capacity, a smooth and relatively quiet ride on the highway (where we had no trouble keeping up with and leading traffic), and it had the look and feel of a solid off-road player. We had the chance to take the Trail Boss to a ranch where we did a few hill climbs and sand wash runs, traversing up and down several peaks and valleys. Although the Trail Boss does not offer additional suspension lift or upgrades, the more aggressive tires and flexible four-wheel-drive system (two-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, 4-High and 4-Low) allowed us to conquer all the nasty terrain we could find. Whether towing, running the highways to get to the trail, digging through loose sand or going up rocky grades, our Colorado Trail Boss barely broke a sweat.



Pricing for the 2016 Colorado with the Duramax engine will be an issue for some midsize truck buyers, but there is value here. If you want more pulling power, better fuel economy and a sportier driving experience, this small diesel engine in this midsize player could be the most well-balanced and fun pickup we've ever driven. We hope Toyota is watching closely.

Manufacturer images


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I was hoping for a bit more power out if an engine that size. More like 200 and 400. But other then that, good job gm.

I still want to see the fuel economy numbers for this engine/truck combo, EPA or real world. Will this touch or break the 30 mpg magical threshold?

While a neat / good combo I don't think this setup would be for me.

From the reports being posted by PUTC and others, it appears that GM have done an excellent job with the US Colorado & Canyon Turbo DIesel powered version. However, I wish GM would stop with the conservative approach to TDI's in the Mid Size truck market and offer the TDI engine in the Extra Cab and Work Truck configurations for the general public. A 6 speed manual transmission would also be greatly appreciated.

I'm still waiting to see what Nissan will offer for the 2017 Frontier so I can size up if a Frontier TDI vs Colorado TDI best suits my preferences..

Jood gob GM!! Buyers want to pay a full-size price for half a truck...

Its a shame that GM wont put this engine in the lower end models. My ideal truck for getting back and forth to work would be an extended cab, 4X4 2.8 duramax with a 6 speed manual. Crank windows, manual locks, the whole basic commuter truck package.

@redblood, it more like 9/10ths a full size truck, and name one 1/2ton that has an exhaust break or that gets 30 plus miles to the gallon unloaded.

Amazing! I said it several months ago, the transmission tuning would either make or break this truck. Sounds like its the former.

Enjoy your glorified prius engine and snazzy decals Tacoma lovers... too bad Toyota doesnt think you guys are worth giving a Hilux to.

I'm buying the first Crew Cab Short Bed Z71 4x4 Dmax that I can find in my area!

I agree with you Evan, I need an extended cab, not a double cab, Had a double one and sold it for an extended cab....but I do want some of the bells and whistle's

What I do not understand is how a smaller motor (2.8) can weigh 250 freakin pounds more then the gas motor (3.6)

I can see a few more pounds but 250 pounds.. that is more then some of the guys on here....

Dave, Diesels along with all there emissions stuff add up quick. Its a cast iron block vs aluminum for the other engines. extra 5.5 gallons of liquid to lug around as well for the emissions stuff.

Seems like a very favorable review. There was a time that I was set on getting a colorado z71 3.6. I did all the research and test drives, then I took my son's car seat to a dealership to see if it would fit in the crew cab. Unfortunately the answer was no. I ended up with a full size crew which has plenty of room for a growing family. Add to that the fact that I could get a full size for less than the midsize due to the rebates, it was a no brainer. Maybe my next truck, when the kids are old enough to not have car seats, will be a mid size.

So is GM going to drop this pointless offering for 2018 model year?

Encouraging first drive. Of course, at 45k, you can get a slightly more capable, bigger, crew cab 4x4 F-150 with the 2.7 ecoboost for 37k MSRP.

Or if we stay in the GM camp, a comparable Silverado 1500 is only 41k msrp

So is GM going to drop this pointless offering for 2018 model year?

Posted by: George_C | Oct 8, 2015 9:41:32 AM

What? How is this a "pointless offering". Did you read the part where they got 33.5MPG on a 58 mile "enthusiastic" test drive in mixed driving? That is not pointless, that is game changing for the mid size (really 3/4 size) truck market.

Give it time and this motor will probably make it into all trim levels. people got their panties in a bunch over the 8speed only going into the 6.2 but look now the 5.3 has it. the most profitable vehicles will get it first then it will trickle down.

33.5 mpg!! That is impressive. Hopefully this engine ends up in the extended cabs one of these days (besides fleet orders).

Doesnt the Ram EcoDiesel average 33 on the freeway as well?

Ahhhh boy,,, I'm SO sick of hearing about Diesels from Any manufacturer.! Yes I like to hear mostly the TQ numbers as well as HP. However I think there are countless of those us out there who are eager and so very interested in 0-60 Performance numbers. It's one of the primary pieces of info I look at when research a new vehicle. I find it so sad and disappointing that for MANY years that we are being forced to buy vehicles with "Promoted" higher power levels each year or two from all manufacturers,,,, However the only way you can attain that power is at RPM levels few of us are ever going to run our vehicles at! Especially with V8 engines--- they were designed decades ago to have increased TQ & HP at LOW RPM's. Look at all the modern V8 truck engines and the absolutely ridiculous rpm's you have to spin them up to, to get the promotional numbers advertised. Yes I understand that the marvelous US Gov't is pushing for the higher fuel economy standards and the way to attain those figures is with engines not building power at low rpm's. All I know is that when I chose my 2014 Titan, I knew it was the so called underdog, it was designed & has early 2000's technology, has a simple 5 speed automatic, and it had the lowest TQ & HP #'s of other 2014 trucks. However it reaches those peak numbers at the lowest RPM's of all the other makes. Which simply translates into I have more "daily driving" use of the TQ & HP than other new trucks. Also there are those of us that want to and know how to shift our own gears. I'd luv to have a 5 speed standard shift V8. Additionally, many of us miss having a step-side bed option. Some of use / buy trucks for performance & styling. We don't care about ever increasing payload & towing #'s in half ton trucks. I only want to carry my ATV, a few items from the big box stores, or maybe take my dogs to the lake for a swim. With the power that all the trucks are promoted as having, they should be notably faster 0-60 than trucks with less power of 10-15+ yrs ago. But they're not hardly different. Yet we pay double the $'s for stuff, and likely troublesome technology many of us don't need.

the added weight has to make it feel TERRIBLE in corners despite whats just been posted..........

I just drove a 15 Frontier, 16 Tacoma, and a 16 Colorado, and 16 Canyon through the SAME windy country roads and the Colorado and Canyon twins drive TERRIBLE in the corners. they feel really top heavy with that 3600 motor in it. and OMG what a disappointment that 305 hp feels....... drives more like 205 hp. Really folks drive these things back to back and you'll see what I mean

the added weight has to make it feel TERRIBLE in corners despite whats just been posted..........

I just drove a 15 Frontier, 16 Tacoma, and a 16 Colorado, and 16 Canyon through the SAME windy country roads and the Colorado and Canyon twins drive TERRIBLE in the corners. they feel really top heavy with that 3600 motor in it. and OMG what a disappointment that 305 hp feels....... drives more like 205 hp. Really folks drive these things back to back and you'll see what I mean

everything i have heard and read is the opposite or this sound like jealously

Exactly what i was thinking SKEETER

"......and flexible four-wheel-drive system (two-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, 4-High and 4-Low)"

Ummm... I'm 99.9% sure the Colorado doesn't have an "all-wheel drive" mode. The Autotrac transfer case is limited to the Canyon.

Right now, I have a 2012 Z71 5cyl extended cab. As many others have commented, I am interested in ordering a diesel Colorado with an extended cab. This version would be the price of the diesel less the cost of the Crew Cab.


No need to respond, it's a made up story. Ask yourself, if you were in a location that had all these dealerships side-by-side do you think they could go to four different dealerships and test drive four similarly equipped vehicles back-to-back. Then consider that the Tacoma, Colorado, and Canyon are all in short supply.

@ Mark

is it possible to do an article on the different makes of trucks and gas vs diesel for operating/maintenance costs at some point in time? This would be a key thing for me in determining what to buy in the future. One thing that makes me have a heart attack every time i need to do an air filter change on my diesel truck it costs me $460.00 just for the filter, if i had known that it may have affected what i bought at the time. Maybe they all cost around the same? i don't know, but it would be nice to know !
Obviously Ram has an advantage for the easiest to work on in terms of room due to the straight 6 while the Ford and GM's have V8's making for alot tighter engine bay to work on.
anyways just a thought

I haven't driven the new GM twins to compare but I will say that Nissan does make thier trucks handle really well for a truck. My old Titan was the most fun pickup I've ever driven, they also have great throttle response and powe down lower probably why they get worse mileage, but the do dive well.

@ Emilio Palacios

No. The Ram is rated at 29 Highway, and that is a specific truck. The best is a 4x2 Ram-28 Highway.

What article fails to mention, is that a 4x4 would be considerably more heavy. All the extra linkage, transfer case and front diff would add a lot more weight under the hood. Makes you wonder if it corners crappy now, what about all the extra 4x4 stuff? (they tested a 4x2)

After rebates you can probably get a 4x2 LT for 30-31k...plus a company discount for some folks will knock off another 2k...not bad for a crew cab diesel with 35 mpg hwy

@ 2014 Titan - I do agree that unfortunately engines have gotten more hp but at higher rpm.

I do disagree about increased capacity. You do realize that passengers count as cargo? Regular cab trucks don't get too big a penalty in this area due to limited seating but crewcab trucks do.
The quad you mention is going to weight at least 700 lbs. Ramps and other assorted gear will easily add another 200. Assuming one weights 200 lb and you are already at 1,100 lbs.

No diesel for the base truck sheepskates. For GM, $33,000 is the break-even point of the diesel Coloranyons. It's a line of trucks GM will be lucky to break-even on, at the end of their run. So expect to pay close to "asking", especially on diesels.

Is that 33mpg a misprint? Another diesel review they only got 24mpg.

I'd like to see a shootout between the Colorado, Canyon and Ram Ecodiesel. At least the C/C siblings can carry a decent load at 1,800 lbs. They actually have enough capacity to tow 7,700 lb with 5 passengers on board whereas the Ecodiesel crew will be sitting empty.

Don't all trucks with tow/haul mode have exhaust brakes? I thought they did now. I know I love mine in my F150 5.0. I use it more often than I expected.

Exhausted, Gas engines do not have exhaust brakes, only transmission mapping that shift the truck into a lower gear to use engine back pressure to slow the rig down. Diesel's close the vanes on the turbo's as well as use engine back pressure and transmission to slow the truck down. Much more effective than a downshift.

Im pretty sure only the diesels have exhaust brakes no f150 has an exhaust brake.

Evan beat me to it

@Dean - don't hold your breath on that one. Magazines and E-zines need access to automotive press fleets for their livelihood. Testing to see which one was actually more reliable or more economical would be grounds for blacklisting.

University of Michigan did a study for Bosch and showed that diesel engines did have a better ROI than gasoline equivalents.

The GM siblings had the best ROI, Ford (despite the crappy 6.0) was in the middle and Dodge/Ram with Cummins was the poorest .


Exhausted - Nope. Only diesel powered trucks. I've driven V^ powered 1/2 tons and they have poor "engine" or compression braking. The Ram Pentastar I drove required major downshifting and higher revs before one got decent engine braking. The F150 Ecoboost I drove wasn't quite as bad but was similar. It needed lower gears and higher rpm to be effective at engine braking. In contrast my F150 with 5.4 has excellent engine braking. I can hold speed 2 gears higher than the EB3.5.

Sorry - I had caps lock on ."I've driven V^ powered" Should read "I've driven V6 powered"

Lou - Thanks. I was thinking engine braking.

This article should keep the anti Ford guys at bay with their comments regarding PUTCs bias towards the Ford brand.

If this is a pro Ford site, then this must be on hell of a pickup.

For us this is the norm in pickups. I own a midsizers with very similar power and torque figures and I can assure you these are very capable and strong vehicles.

The guys whining about the horsepower should realise that one of these small diesels will produce similar horsepower figures as a V8 up to around 3 000rpm. Drive a V8 to 3 grand every shift and you will more than keep up with the traffic.

This article has highlighted almost word for word what I've been putting forward regarding small diesels.

It seems the diesel Colorado/Canyon will provide a real alternative for a person who wants to tow moderate loads, in refined comfort.

As for the room in the back, the comments regarding available space in the rear is on par with those who think pickups are load/tow vehicles. Pickups at most will have two in the front or mainly just the driver. READ "NORMALLY".

I wonder if the diesel Colorado/Canyon will makeup 20%+ of the models sales.

A more impressive write up than I thought.

To the journo/reviewer who wrote the article. Maybe you should come to Australa and drive the multitude of diesel midsize pickups we have. It's like the US car market. A diesel to suit any budget and level of refinement and work/load for any business.

The new revised BT50 2WD work truck has a whopping 1 555kg (3 428lbs) payload with a 3 500kg tow limit. The midsizers are becoming like the US pickup market with the load/tow wars, this is a pity.

But, we can only ever have a 3 500kg tow limit on midsizers, the regulators made sure the manufacturers are in check.

Good article, it appear to not be "pro Ford".

If this is how a diesel midsizer is received in the US, I do think they will be popular.

The ones attempting to use price as the main reason not to buy really don't know much about the vehicle business. These are what I call the McDonalds Super Size me people.

The FE is up slightly on what I thought it was going to be. The towing is exactly what I thought as the vehicle performance.

The commenter that was talking horsepower really doesn't understand much about how power is used in vehicles.

I think you'll find this diesel has a much power as a V8 up to around 3 000rpm. If you drove to 3 000rpm for every gear change in a V8 you more than keep up with the traffic.

I would like to have a closer look at the build quality of the US built Colorado/Canyon. It seems like GM has done a sterling job with these pickups.

This pickup should be attractive to one of the few who want to tow a moderate load with a pickup. It would be as good as a 1/2 ton and provide a substantially improved fuel economy, we are talking 50% better.

That's why diesel are great off road, they can sometimes double the endurance of a gasoline engine.

These will be popular with the pickup fraternity.

Sorry about the double up. The first comment appeared to had been "lost", then it came!

With gasoline engines, I think as engines have become more powerful smaller engines in the ever increasing sized US pickups is the blame.

Also, emissions devices/equipment will impact compression braking. The braking is caused by the increase in vacuum when a throttle is closed. Emissions equipment will leave a throttle partially open at times (many times).

Diesels are normally worse for compression braking as a diesel doesn't use a throttle.

@Big Al - WTF? crewcab pickups are popular because they carry more than 2-3 people. I see 1/2 ton crew trucks as family vehicles all over the place. That means back seat passengers. If one looks anecdotally at small trucks versus 1/2 ton most small trucks are as you described - primarily 1-2 passenger vehicles.

The only time my truck has just me in it is when I go to work but even with that being said, I often drop my kids off at the bus stop or school on my way.

Available space MATTERS.

Are you a tr-O-ll or your cranial contents exceeds Osmium in density?

@Big Al - the Colorado?Canyon twins when it comes to doing "truck stuff" you know, the stuff that you don't care about. or think most buyers don't care about IS on par with most 1/2 tons. These trucks exceed the Ram Ecodiesel in almost every capacity except interior space.

Say what ever you want about what trucks are actually used for, it is the guys that use trucks as trucks that give them credibility. You can't sell a poser vehicle to a poser.

I myself being 24 don't have a family or kids yet, so yes normally my truck has just me in it. My parents truck however when growing up was always my father, my mother, my sister in me in a 4 door silverado. People with familys that buy crew cab trucks generally use these to get to church, family events, school, dinner and what not. So yes, all that "super sized mcdonalds space" is used

Aggressive today???

Again, Lou you seem to not be in the zone of truth, justice and the Canadian way.

I had never stated that pickups are not used for their utility. It's just the over beat up significance some of you guys place on certain attributes of pickups to justify your favourite brands.

As for you views on why people buy a 4 door pickup. If that was the case many single guys would only buy two door cars.

The pickup is a car/SUV alternative as you have stated. So a four door is most likely to be popular.

The popularity of the four door pickup isn't due to families and business wanting them.

I own a 4 door pickup and I can count on both hands the number of times I've had the back seats full.

The front seats yes, like a car.

As for the "load/tow" debate, you seem to place a disproportionate bias on the features that are not of the greatest value to the consumer.

People do use the pickups as you suggested, but the amount they can carry or tow is not as great an issue as you would assume.


Because it is assumed that all base on frame pickups, SUVs, etc are designed to carry some weight and tow some form of load.

Very few would actually buy a pickup because it has a 100lbs better load and tow capability.

It's refinement that is selling pickups this day and age.

Why do you think pickups have become more than an agricultural Spartan vehicle for work?

So, go back re-read my comment of the past. You seem to be one of those passive aggressive trouullls.

You are intelligent, but be honest and realistic with your comments. You are part of the reason why I'm the way I am now.

Keep on writing some "nice" comments about other brands, whilst pushing Frod down our throats.

And that truck has been to Florida twice, Colorado twice, Missouri, Tennessee, and has always been the go to vacation vehicle because of the interior space and towing capability

I not stating that the space isn't used. What I'm stating is the over statements made regarding these vehicles.

One must also look at the impact CAFE has had on the length of these vehicles.

As I've stated unless you have a bunch of adolescent kids in their teens a midsizer handle hold children quite well.

The Colorado isn't by far the best for interior rear space in the midsize market either.

A full size does offer more room, but I wonder how families can travel with kids in a Focus or Camry?

It's amazing the logic and reasons some use to justify a paradigm or brand/product.

@Mark Williams
Very similar to the write ups here about a lot of the new Global Diesel offerings. I wonder how the Mercedes Pickup will be reviewed in 2018?

Very good time for buyers,plenty of choices,features and competitive pricing

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