2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel: First Drive

November 4, 2015

If you’re one of those guys who’s a little turned off by ever more cumbersome, oversized full-size trucks, the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Diesel, at least at first glance, looks like the sensible truck that puts a stop to the insanity.

It’s easy to see why for some people, today’s full-size trucks don’t make the functional cut. We’re a bit horrified at the size and stature of today’s normal full-size trucks; with cabs that require running boards to get into, and front ends seemingly modeled after that of semis, they’re behemoths that have trouble fitting into many cities and suburbs—or even along a forested two-track.

ALSO SEE: 2016 Chevy Colorado: V-6 Or Duramax Diesel?

And there are a lot of conflicting priorities facing truck shoppers. You want towing and hauling capability, yet a pleasant ride, good interior comfort, and decent fuel efficiency. With the 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel engine that’s newly available for 2016, many of those conflicts get quashed—up to 7,700 pounds trailering; officially more than 30 mpg on the highway, GM promises; and the refined ride, easier maneuverability, and delightful cabin appointments we’ve come to appreciate from the Colorado since it was fully redesigned last year.

In its previous generation, the Colorado was offered with a V-8, and the new Duramax diesel effectively replaces that engine’s position as the towing workhorse of the lineup—just with half the cylinders. The four-cylinder turbo-diesel makes just 181 horsepower, yet it muscles out 369 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm.

The 2.8-liter Duramax has an iron block and aluminum cylinder head, with a forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods. There are also piston-cooling oil jets, and an oiling circuit that’s dedicated to the turbocharger. There are ceramic glow plugs for quick cold starting, while a balance shaft has been redesigned for even smoother operation and a laminated-steel oil pan aids engine smoothness and quietness. It’s all aided, too, by a special damping system that uses secondary spring masses.

Unruly edge? Forget about it.

It’s near impossible to find an unruly edge here. Furthermore, the 6L50 six-speed automatic that the diesel is paired with (also with a 3.42 rear axle ratio) handles this engine perfectly, again with a level of refinement to the shifts and to low-speed creep that wouldn’t be out of place in a luxury truck. Wind this engine much past the 3,500-rpm range, where its torque plateau starts to drop off, and the Colorado surges gracefully forward with each upshift, as you drop right back on that wave of torque. And while there’s just a bit of a delay if you step onto the gas, waiting for the big turbo to spool up, the torque comes on in a way that rarely requires a downshift.

READ: 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Review

Diesel trucks have historically brought a louder, somewhat more vibration-intensive experience to the cabin. But that’s not the case here. Yes, it’s a little louder from the outside than its gasoline counterparts; yet from the driver’s seat, the diesel four is surprisingly refined, and so smooth (and mostly free of the clatter and detonation sounds) that it wouldn’t be out of place in a luxury-badged vehicle. It also seems more hushed and removed from the cabin than the 2.2-liter in the Chevy Cruze Diesel passenger car.

We even think it’s quieter from inside the cabin than the turbo-diesel V-6 in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Ram 1500.

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