The 2016 Chevy Colorado, and its sibling GMC Canyon are the first mid-size pickups to be offered in the USA with a turbo-diesel engine under the hood. Yep, the Colorado will be available with a Duramax diesel, but it’s not the big V-8 that the full-size trucks have, and that’s a good thing. Recently we had the chance to drive the new Duramax diesel-equipped Colorado lineup.
The new diesel engine is an inline four-cylinder configuration. This engine has been in use overseas for several years and is a proven performer that is reliable and durable. The 2.8L Duramax is powerful, with 181 horsepower at 3,400 rpm and an impressive 369 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. That’s 100-lb-ft more than the gas 3.6LV-6 and at a lower peak RPM.
While the EPA ratings for fuel economy have not yet been announced for the new I-4 Duramax, we do expect it to be better than the two current gas engines. With the current I-4 gasser having an EPA raging of 17/21, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the new Duramax I-4 diesel offer better fuel mileage across the board. In our short street-drive testing loops driving an unloaded 2WD truck, it was not uncommon to see the onboard mileage readout reach the upper 20s. With the new diesel, the fuel capacity remains 21-gallons for 2016, regardless of engine, but the diesel also gets a 5 ½-gallon diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tank. The DEF fill is inside the fuel door on the Colorado, unlike the larger GM pickups.
Aside from the fuel savings that are expected, the new Duramax-diesel-equipped trucks also offer superior towing capability. Consider that this small 2.8L four-banger will allow the Colorado to trailer up to 7,700 pounds behind a 2WD truck and just 100 pounds less if you buy the 4x4 model. The optional tow package will come with an integrated trailer brake controller, and the diesel brings an exhaust brake to the tow-control equation. The bottom line: We expect the Colorado diesel to be the best towing small truck on the market. We sure loved it during our short round of tow testing, and look forward to a much longer stint behind the wheel, with a trailer in tow.
A diesel engine is also a big advantage on the road and trail. When running trails that consisted of sand, rock, hard-pack dirt, or gravel, we found the smooth torque curve of the little diesel kept wheel spin to a minimum and forward motion constant. When stopping on a soft uphill trail section, and starting again, the torque was smoothly transferred to the wheels and tire spin was almost non-existent. In our experience, a small gas engine would, generally, not be so forgiving in these conditions. Of course, part of this is also due to the flawlessly matched six-speed automatic that the new diesel is mated to.
In all our testing, we had the chance to tow, drive the open highway, cruise some mountain back roads, hit the trails, as well as run around in city traffic. The new 2016 Colorado with the Duramax option was fun, responsive, capable, and yes, quiet. The diesel may offer a little rattle, if you open the hood and stand outside. However, when driving it, virtually none of the diesel knock is heard inside the cab with the windows up. Best of all, the small diesel is torquey and just keeps on pulling. When towing, the exhaust and trailer brakes work in conjunction with four-wheel discs to slow your load and offer control on steep grades.
Overall, the new Colorado with the Duramax is a good value for your money. Sure, the diesel engine raises the price, but consider that it returns your investment several times over in the added capabilities and fuel mileage.