Guessing which vehicles will take home the annual North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year awards is easier some years than others, but most industry experts had 2020’s crop of winners chosen…
Guessing which vehicles will take home the annual North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year awards is easier some years than others, but most industry experts had 2020’s crop of winners chosen long before this week’s announcement.
The actual name of the award is the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) despite now having three categories covering passenger cars, a sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.
Just 50 automotive journalists make up the NACTOY jury, from print, online, radio and broadcast media in both the United States and Canada, with the finalists presented in the fall and eventual winners awarded each year at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, although this year’s presentation was changed to a separate event at Detroit’s TCF Center (formerly known as Cobo Hall/Cobo Center) due to the 2020 NAIAS moving its dates forward to June 7-20 this year. The NACTOY awards were first presented in 1994, with the Utility Vehicle category added in 2017.
Of note, nomination requirements include completely new vehicles, total redesigns, or significant refreshes. In other words, the nominated vehicle needs to be something most consumers would consider new to the market or substantially different from a model’s predecessor. Also important, the finalists earned their top-three placement by judging their segment leadership, innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for money.
The selection process started in June last year, with the vehicle eligibility determined after three rounds of voting. NACTOY used the independent accounting firm Deloitte LLP to tally the votes and kept them secret until the envelopes were unsealed on stage by the organization’s President, Lauren Fix, Vice President, Chris Paukert, and Secretary-Treasurer, Kirk Bell.
The finalists in the “Car” category included the Chevrolet Corvette, Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Supra, with the final winner being the new seventh-generation mid-engine Corvette, a total game changer for the model and sports car category. Interestingly, it’s been six years since a sports car won the passenger car category, so kudos to Chevy for creating something so spectacular it couldn’t be ignored, while Toyota and Hyundai should also be commended for their excellent entries.
“A mid-engine Corvette was a huge risk for Chevy’s muscle-car icon. They nailed it. Stunning styling, interior, and performance for one-third of the cost of comparable European exotics,” said Henry Payne, auto critic for The Detroit News.
The “Utility Vehicle” finalists included the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride and Lincoln Aviator, with most industry insiders believing one of the two South Korean entries (which are basically the same vehicle under the skin, a la Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia) would take home the prize, and lo and behold the Kia Telluride earned top marks.
“The Telluride’s interior layout and design would meet luxury SUV standards, while its refined drivetrain, confident driving dynamics and advanced technology maintain the premium experience,” said Karl Brauer, Executive Publisher at Cox Automotive. “Traditional SUV brands take note: there’s a new star player on the field.”
“What’s not to like about a pickup truck with not only a soft-top removable roof but even removable doors? If you want massive cargo-hauling capability or the ability to tow 10,000 pounds, buy something else,” said longtime automotive journalist John Voelcker. “The eagerly awaited Gladiator is a one-of-a-kind truck, every bit the Jeep its Wrangler sibling is … but with a pickup bed. How could you possibly get more American than that?”
Of note, NACTOY is an independent, non-profit organization, with elected officers and funding by dues-paying journalist members.
Find out more about the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette, 2020 Kia Telluride and 2020 Jeep Gladiator at CarCostCanada, where you can get trim, package and individual option pricing, plus rebate info and even dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. While the Corvette is not yet available, you can get up to $1,000 in additional incentives on the new Telluride, and factory leasing and financing rates from 4.09 percent for the new Gladiator. Make sure to check CarCostCanada for more.
A diesel in a compact crossover SUV? Now that’s marching to a different drummer. In fact, that distinctively domestic rat-a-tat-tat is the staccato snare of General Motors following through on promises…
A diesel in a compact crossover SUV? Now that’s marching to a different drummer.
In fact, that distinctively domestic rat-a-tat-tat is the staccato snare of General Motors following through on promises made by Asian competitors Hyundai and Mazda. The Korean and Japanese brands were supposed to arrive with diesel-powered variants of their Santa Fe and CX-5 crossover SUVs this 2019 model year, but so far there’s no sign of this ultra-efficient engine option on their retail websites, yet GM showed up in late 2017 with a turbo-diesel option as part of a three-engine lineup for its then redesigned 2018 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain compact SUVs, a welcome first in this category, that is if we were to forget about the short-lived 2005-2006 Jeep Liberty Diesel. Let’s just say it’s a welcome first amongst compact crossovers, these more car-like GM models hardly as off-road capable as the boxy little Jeep was, that long-gone model since replaced by the Cherokee that remains a capable 4×4 less a diesel option.
I drove a 1.5-litre turbo-four gasoline-powered Equinox Premium model first (the white SUV in the photos), and have since spent a week with the same trim and its 1.6-litre turbo-diesel powerplant (the blue version). As much as I’d certainly enjoy the experience, I’ve yet to test out the most powerful top-line 2.0-litre turbo-four.
The base engine might seem a bit underwhelming on paper with just 170 horsepower and 203 lb-ft of torque on tap, particularly for those wanting or requiring quick shots of energy on command, but I found it more than sufficient for this relatively lightweight crossover SUV, and it’s very easy on the budget with a claimed five-cycle Transport Canada fuel economy rating of 9.2 L/100km in the city, 7.3 on the highway and 8.3 combined in FWD, or 9.3, 7.8 and 8.6 respectively with AWD.
The 2.0-litre four that comes standard with AWD is good considering its 252 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, which vaults the Equinox up into luxury compact SUV territory, yet despite an impressive nine-speed automatic, which is three forward gears more than the two lesser engine’s six-speed autoboxes, it manages just 10.9 L/100km city, 8.3 highway and 9.7 combined.
Both transmissions come standard with automatic stop/start, by the way, which automatically shuts off the engine when the Equinox comes to a stop and then instantly restarts it when lifting off the brake in order to reduce emissions and running costs.
To be fair, this is quite good when compared to similarly powerful competitors, but both gasoline-powered models pale in comparison to the “conventionally” powered crossover SUV category’s fuel economy champ, the Equinox Diesel that’s rated at an extremely thrifty 8.5 L/100km in the city, 6.0 on the highway (6.1 with AWD) and 7.4 combined, unless compared to the new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid that solidly beats Chevy’s oil burner at 5.8 city, 6.3 highway and 6.0 combined, while its $32,090 base price is a surprising thousand and change less expensive than the cheapest Equinox LT FWD model, an SUV that starts at $33,100. It’s a significant $6,400 more than the $26,700 base Equinox LS too, and $5,300 less than the $38,400 Equinox AWD Premier Diesel being reviewed here. AWD, incidentally, adds $2,400 to the base LS, while the Equinox AWD 2.0 Premier starts at $37,900.
All noted prices are not including freight and fees, but these details as well as additional pricing for trims, packages and individual options can be found at CarCostCanada, where you can also source the latest manufacturer rebates (especially important during year-end clear-outs) and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
Savings in mind, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is by far the compact SUV class’ efficiency leader, albeit at $43,498 before government rebates it’s a helluvalot pricier too, leaving the two GM diesels as the most efficient non-electrified crossovers in the compact category. Even the 2.0-litre turbo beats the few similarly powerful crossovers in the class, so kudos to GM for offering such a wide variety of engine and transmission alternatives, plus making them all achieve better than average fuel economy.
I must say that I prefer the diesel upgrade to the base engine from both performance and efficiency perspectives. The diesel might only make 137 horsepower, but it puts a much more motivating 240 lb-ft of torque down to its front wheels or all four, also from just 2,000 rpm, the same as the base engine.
The Equinox AWD system improves fuel economy even more. In fact, unlike most competitors that provide full-time AWD or engineer the rear wheels to engage automatically, the Equinox drives with its front wheels unless you’ve added traction at the back via a button on the centre console. You’ll get a warning when four-wheel grip is recommended, but any other instance you can save fuel by driving what is effectively a front-wheel driven SUV. I noticed this when the front tires kept skidding at takeoff, the diesel providing so much torque at launch it was hard to hold them back, but pressing the AWD button cured this problem, making the Equinox more sure-footed at take off and of course better at holding the road during wet weather too.
Both models’ six-speed automatics were highly responsive. Each includes a rocker switch atop the shift knob for rowing through the gears in manual mode, which is an interesting alternative to shifting the entire gear lever or using steering wheel paddles (on that note don’t try shifting the gears with the buttons on the backside of the steering wheel, because you’ll probably only switch radio stations). I never once found it lacking gears, as the two engines provide ample torque over wide rev ranges, while they shifted smoothly whether toggling through the cogs manually or leaving them in Drive.
Likewise the Equinox has a nice compliant suspension, normal for any GM product other than performance-dedicated models like the Corvette Z06. For its class the Equinox handles very well too. It really feels lightweight and nimble, whether zipping in and out of congested traffic, pushing hard on a winding backcountry road, or stably cruising through fast-paced bends on the open highway.
No matter the exterior environment, most should be impressed with the Equinox Premier’s interior that’s finished to a higher grade than many of its contemporaries. It starts upon closing the driver’s door, which feels more solid than some of its tinny competitors, and continues through with some really nice details like smooth and perforated patterned and contrast-stitched leatherette surface treatments across the entire instrument panel, plus tasteful application of truly attractive aluminum-like trim on the steering wheel, primary instruments, dash vents, plus the centre stack and lower console controls.
Chevy doesn’t go overboard on soft-touch synthetics, but it does wrap the contrast-stitched leatherette armrests up and over the rear third of the door uppers, and finishes the rest of those uppers in a soft painted synthetic, which also gets used for the dash top and much of the instrument panel, plus the top edges of the centre stack and lower console. Just to be clear, it’s not as if this soft-paint will peel off at any time, as it’s permanently fixed to the plastic and therefore provides a much nicer texture than this segment’s usual hard shell plastic.
Moving such premium touches even further upmarket are really nice steering wheel controls, my tester even incorporating a heatable steering wheel rim plus adaptive cruise control, while much of these buttons modulate a colour multi-information display within the otherwise analogue gauge cluster, this featuring a digital readout for traffic sign information, and a back seat reminder that prompts when turning off the engine if you happened to open a rear door before starting off.
Leaving what I think is best for the last, the Equinox’ centre touchscreen infotainment system is really impressive. I love the simple circular graphics rimmed in mostly primary colours, which are bright, modern and ultra-easy to figure out. This is one of the better infotainment systems available in this class, and while I’ve seen larger displays this one is wonderfully crisp and clear, with superb resolution plus nice, deep, rich colours and good contrast. The navigation system’s map provides clear instructions, and it worked accurately throughout my test week. My only infotainment disappointment was a lack of album cover graphics when using satellite radio, which was a bit unexpected being that GM basically gave satellite radio a leg up by adding it across virtually all models when the service first started. Nevertheless, satellite radio is always appreciated.
The infotainment system also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, plus my tester included one of the better surround parking cameras I’ve ever used, with the ability to transfer the view from a default mode, which makes the overhead camera smaller and to the left of the display with a larger backup camera with dynamic guidelines to the right, over to a full backup camera with dynamic guidelines, or alternatively to a different view of that same reverse camera, an overhead view of that rearview camera, or alternatively a bizarre frontal view that actually seems as if it’s filming the SUV from outer space, really handy close-ups of curb or road on both sides, to an extreme close-up of the front, and more. Believe me, this camera will keep you spellbound for hours, and once you figure out all the viewpoints you’ll never scratch a set of wheels (or another vehicle) again. Incidentally, this top-line parking camera and the base version were upgraded with improved image quality for this 2019 model year.
Below the infotainment display is a dual-zone automatic climate control interface that’s well organized and attractive enough, but my favourite set of buttons were for activating the three-way heated and/or ventilated front seats, the latter not always available in this class, but really helpful for keeping backside dry and cool against leather in the summer.
The base of the centre stack features a large opening with a rubberized compartment that’s carved out to ideally fit a large smartphone in its elongated position. A wireless charging pad was included, plus GM now incorporates the usual USB-A plug as well as one of the newer USB-C ports (both capable of charging and used as inputs to the infotainment system), which might have been needed for my Samsung S9 if it wasn’t already charging on the just-noted wireless pad. The usual aux plug and 12-volt charger are included too, so your devices will be nicely taken care of in that little compartment alone, although moving slightly rearward results in two more USB charging ports under the front centre armrest.
Look skyward and you’ll see an overhead console with a handy sunglasses holder that I used all week, plus LED reading lights, and controls for OnStar, SOS, and more. Two of those switches open the panoramic sunroof or its sunshade. I always appreciate large glass roofs like this as they bring a lot of light inside resulting in a nicer, more open ambiance.
Speaking of room, the Equinox provided plenty for my medium-build five-foot-eight frame, plus a really good driving position that allowed me to get comfortable while maintaining full control. This isn’t always the case, by the way. I actually have trouble getting the tilt and telescopic steering columns of some competitors to reach far enough rearward when my seat is set ideally for my legs, particularly the aforementioned Toyota RAV4 that doesn’t have anywhere near enough adjustability, but no such difficulty in the well designed Equinox cabin.
What’s more, when my driver’s seat was set up for my long-legged short torso body type, I still had about eight inches of space ahead of my knees when sitting just behind in the second row, plus plenty of room from side to side and about two inches above my head, that panoramic sunroof mentioned a moment ago pushing the surrounding roof area down a couple of inches than it probably would have been if not included. Still, I’d take the roof, but I can imagine those with really tall six-foot-plus teens might find it a bit too low back there.
As far as rear seat amenities go, Chevy includes LED reading lights on both sides, two more USB-A charge ports (new for 2019), a three-prong household-style 120-volt plug, and the best rear outboard seat heaters I’ve ever tested, in that their three-way temperature controls adjust both lower cushion and backrest heat, or just the back alone. You shouldn’t hear too many complaints from your kids, although being that the rear seatback is divided in a simple 60/40 configuration instead of some competitors’ 40/20/40 split or 60/40 with a centre pass-through, families that ski will need to draw straws for the lucky rear seat passenger getting the bun warmer for the ride home.
At least Chevy provides levers on the cargo wall for automatically folding those rear seatbacks down. Just give them a tug and the seats lay flat immediately. There’s also a fairly sizeable storage compartment under the load floor, which I certainly would put to good use if this were my SUV, while the area behind the rear seatbacks measures a generous 847 litres (29.9 cu ft), expanding to 1,809 litres (63.9 cu ft) when those seats are folded down.
While the 2019 Equinox doesn’t look any different from the redesigned 2018 model, Chevy put a lot of effort into reconfiguring trims and packages to better suit their customers. For starters, a new Lights and Bright package can be had with second-rung LT trim, which adds a chrome grille surround, LED headlamps and taillights, plus unique 19-inch wheels. On the negative, front-drive LT models no longer get a standard leather-trimmed shift knob, this now available as part of an option package.
My tester included a $2,995 Driver Confidence and Convenience II package that’s exclusively available with Premier trim and features the surround parking camera noted earlier, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, a safety alert seat that vibrates if you veer out of your lane or cause any number of other issues, a heatable steering wheel rim, an eight-way power-adjustable front passenger seat with powered lumbar support, ventilated driver and front passenger seats, and the heated rear seats noted a moment ago.
Alternatively you can opt for either the Driver Confidence II or Driver Convenience II package that includes the tech or luxury updates individually, while my tester also included a no-cost set of 19-inch five-spoke alloys. I won’t go into all the available options, but suffice to say those wanting to personalize their Equinox will be well taken care of.
My tester also included a $1,305 Infotainment II package with the previously noted panoramic sunroof, navigation, a seven-speaker Bose audio upgrade, HD radio, and 19-inch alloys, while some notable Premier trim features include LED headlights and taillights, chrome door handles and mirror caps, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a colour multi-information display within the gauge cluster, a universal garage door opener, dual-zone automatic climate control, a one-inch larger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, wireless smartphone charging, rear park assist, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a hands-free powered liftgate, etcetera.
There’s plenty more that makes the Equinox worthy of your attention, but take note the diesel option will be discontinued for 2020, so you’ll need to act fast if you want to get your hands on one.
This is one badass truck. Chevy got the proportions perfect, and along with the Colorado ZR2’s rugged looking styling and beefed up suspension, the General’s most popular brand has created one hell…
This is one badass truck. Chevy got the proportions perfect, and along with the Colorado ZR2’s rugged looking styling and beefed up suspension, the General’s most popular brand has created one hell of an off-road race replica.
Of course, the Colorado ZR2 wasn’t first to this category, and it won’t be the last. Depending on your viewpoint, the Dodge Power Wagon might have been the street-capable off-road race truck initiator, but modern-day enthusiasts will look to the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor as the segment-busting leader when it comes to OEM custom 4x4s. Not only did it set new standards from assembly line to off-road capability, but the blue-oval development team behind it almost completely changed up the model’s styling so that it came across like a totally separate model.
For reasons only Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) can answer, Dodge no longer makes trucks, but the newish spinoff Ram brand answered back with its 2016 to present 1500 Rebel, which is a more aggressively styled take on previous Power Wagons, while Toyota has more recently anted up with its Tundra and Tacoma TRD Pro models, the latter even featuring an ultra-cool snorkel-like air intake that makes it look as if it can literally swim its way across rivers, through mud holes, or any other type of deep, liquid deterrent. I’d be remiss not to draw attention to the new 2020 Jeep Gladiator too, which might be the most capable off-roader in the class (it’s certainly endowed with worthy heritage), while also delivering payload and trailering capabilities that define it as a true pickup truck.
Other honourable mentions include Chevy’s redesigned Silverado that now comes with a Trail Boss package featuring a two-inch lift kit. It delivers a bit more capability than GMC Sierra Elevation trim, but it’s mostly a cosmetic exercise as there’s not much else to overcome rocks, stumps, bogs and other off-road impediments, while Nissan offers its geriatric Frontier and fresher Titan models in tougher Pro-4X trims, plus Honda antes up with the Ridgeline Black Edition… ah, yah, whatever.
Only the Gladiator Rubicon and Tacoma TRD Pro appear as dedicated to storming the wild frontier as the Raptor, or for that matter this ZR2 (the GMC Canyon doesn’t provide anything to go head-to-head with the ZR2), the Chevy even more so with its special Bison upgrade package, but all deserve mention (including the Asian-market 2018 to present Ford Ranger Raptor that’s become very popular amongst well-heeled 4×4 fans across the Pacific).
Of course, the one big differentiator between all trucks mentioned is size, the Raptor, Rebel (plus the Power Wagon), Tundra and Silverado/Sierra being full-size trucks, while the Tacoma, Ranger, Frontier and this Colorado (plus the Canyon) are compact, or more accurately, mid-size pickups. Another significant difference is powertrains, and being that this review is for a mid-size entrant I’ll focus on its key competitors, with most rivals sporting four-cylinder and (when suited up to compete off-road) V6 gasoline-powered mills and the two GM mid-size trucks doing likewise, plus adding a high-torque, fuel-efficient turbo-diesel variant.
Let’s take a look at the ZR2’s available powerplants and how they measure up against its two most credible rivals, the Jeep Gladiator and Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, and after that take a look at some features that make the ZR2 and its competitors more capable off the beaten path. First off, I tested the ZR2 with both engines, starting with the Deepwood Green Metallic painted version (it looks grey) that’s actually a 2018 (I’ll comment on the differences later in this review). This optional colour was discontinued for 2019, but the brilliant 2.8-litre Duramax turbo-diesel four-cylinder behind its blackened grille wasn’t. It’s good for 181 horsepower and a best-in-class 369 lb-ft of torque from just 2,000 rpm, and comes mated to a capable and robust six-speed automatic gearbox.
Fuel economy is rated at 12.5 L/100km in the city, 10.7 on the highway and 11.7 combined, which is impressive for the class, but maybe not thrifty enough to justify its hefty $4,090 upgrade charge, unless you happen to put a lot of distance between trade-ins, or require the diesel’s much improved efficiency to travel deeper into the woods than gasoline-powered truck owners dare tread, or its tractor-like torque for said wilderness treks.
Between the front wheel wells of the $495 optional Kinetic Blue Metallic painted 2019 ZR2 is the standard 3.6-litre V6 that’s good for a sizeable 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, the latter from 4,000 rpm. Like with the Duramax turbo-diesel, the V6 drives the rear axle or both via part-time four-wheel drive, although the standard transmission is an efficient eight-speed automatic. The combination results in a claimed 15.0 L/100km city, 13.0 highway and 14.1 combined fuel economy rating, thanks in part to cylinder deactivation under light loads, but of course this pales in comparison to the oil burner.
By comparison the Gladiator solely uses FCA’s ubiquitous 3.6-litre V6 making 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, which is down by a significant 23-hp and 15 lb-ft of torque when pitted against the ZR2’s base engine, while it pushes that power through a six-speed manual (there’s no manual offered with the ZR2) or an eight-speed auto, plus part-time 4WD, and is rated between 10.4 and 14.1 L/100km city/highway combined depending on trims; whereas the Tacoma TRD Pro comes standard with Toyota’s well-seasoned 3.5-litre V6 capable of 276 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque, which is 32 hp and 10 lb-ft less capable than the ZR2’s V6. It comes mated to a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto plus part-time 4WD, and achieves a city/highway combined fuel economy rating that ranges between 11.9 and 12.9 L/100km depending on transmissions and cab configurations.
Of course, all V6 engines outpace the Duramax turbo-diesel’s 181 horsepower by a considerable margin, which is immediately noticeable on the road when testing Colorado models back-to-back, but its 109, 104 and 94 lb-ft torque advantage over the Gladiator, Tacoma and Chevy’s own ZR2 V6 respectively, makes the diesel optimal off-road, and of course its 11.7 combined fuel-efficiency advantage can only be beaten by one Gladiator trim (and I’d be surprised to see the FCA V6 win in a real-world comparo).
There are other important factors that come into play when off-roading, ground clearance, front and rear overhangs, and wheelbase being paramount. The Tacoma offers up the shortest wheelbase at 3,236 mm (127.4 in), yet its 5,392 mm (212.3 in) overall length means that its overhangs are more exaggerated, which means it will be less prone to get hung up when going over an obstacle, but more likely to drag its front or rear bumper when climbing up or down a steep grade. The Colorado bridges the gap with a relatively short wheelbase at 3,258 mm (128.3 in), and the shortest overall length at 5,347 mm (210.5 in), while the Gladiator has a surprisingly long wheelbase at 3,487 mm (137.3 in) and stretches a full 5,537 mm (218.0 in) from nose to tail.
Full disclosure: of the three trucks covered in this review, I’ve only tested the ZR2 and an older 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro (it now includes the aforementioned snorkel and a few other upgrades). As also noted, I spent a week in a 2018 ZR2 with the Duramax Turbo-Diesel, and a week in a 2019 version with the V6, mostly on pavement in town and in suburban, rural areas, but also getting dirty in mud and muck with both, and deep into hood-high water most recently with the latter. I 4x4ed the Taco and it performed well, but considering how far back that was I’d rather spend time with an updated version before commenting.
As for the Gladiator, which I hope to get into this summer, it boasts a disconnecting front sway bar (something first seen with the Ram Power Wagon and now also found in the Rebel), plus a Wrangler-sourced solid front axle that’s preferred over the ZR2’s (and most every other modern pickups’) independent front suspension by most 4×4 purists. Again, I’ll defer comment to a future test.
Like the initial 2017 Colorado ZR2 and the grey-green 2018 turbo-diesel version shown in this review, the latest 2019 model gets a substantial boost in ride height and therefore ground clearance that’s up by 50 mm (2.0 inches), while any negatives to high-speed handling are offset by a 90-mm (3.5-inch) increase in front and rear track, new stiffer cast-iron lower front control arms, and special 8- by 17-inch alloy wheels cushioned by 31-inch Goodyear Duratrac off-road rubber. Additionally, a new 1.0-inch-diameter solid anti-roll bar replaces the usual 1.5-inch hollow one, which improves suspension articulation, while leaving the best for last are special Multimatic DSSV Position Sensitive Spool Valve Damping Performance shocks designed for cushioning the otherwise jarring impacts of rocks, roots and other obstacles you might find along an ungraded back road or trail (incidentally, the TRD Pro uses Fox-sourced shocks, which are also highly recommended).
Easier to see are skid plates below and tubular rocker extensions at each side, both designed to protect vulnerable components and bodywork, but the ZR2 is even more noticeable to passersby thanks to its all-business matte black grille and even beefier black hood dome that serve no purpose but looking good, rugged black bumpers that get chopped down a couple of notches to improve approach and departure angles, and more muscular black fender flares that make way for those just-noted meaty tires.
I took both ZR2s to a local 4×4 playground I use often, only about five minutes from my home. It gave me good opportunity to test it out on some trails that are nowhere near as tough as this truck is, but still fairly intimidating without a spotting crew to guide me through. During the first mostly dry run I was able to hang the rear-mounted spare tire up on a couple of grassy knolls while exiting deep ruts, and also scaled some steep grades, bounced through some oscillating ruts and bumps that left tires hanging in midair, but more so proved that its suspension is firm enough for stability yet plenty absorbent for comfort.
It was the rainy and muddy during the second mid-winter stint at the same location, which made for more fun, those steep grades now requiring me to lock both front and rear differentials (just like the Gladiator can, but alas not so with the Tacoma that only offers a rear locker) to scale with ease, no doubt helped by its grippy Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain rubber. A 50-foot puddle caught me a bit by surprise when the front end slipped into some deep ruts and the dirty water rushed over the hood and onto the windshield, my tired old heart racing for a moment as I kept a steady foot on the throttle, but the tires gripped and the ZR2 carried me confidently to the other side. The TRD Pro’s snorkel would’ve been comforting in such circumstances, but the ZR2 didn’t need it, at least this time around.
I’d like to try the ZR2 with the Bison package noted earlier, which only comes in Red Hot paint (I’d like it better if you could choose paint colours), gets a unique grille with “CHEVROLET” written across in block letters (not unlike the Raptor’s bold “FORD” emblazoned grille), special AEV (American Expedition Vehicles) front and rear bumpers (the one up front capable of accepting a winch), beefy black extended fender flares, unique 17-inch AEV alloy wheels, fog lamps, contoured front and rear floor liners, and about 90 kilos (200 lbs) of ultra-strong boron steel AEV skid plates (front, transfer case, fuel tank, and rear differential) to better protect its vitals, all for $6,980.
Still, the regular ZR2 is plenty capable all on its own, and quite impressive from a styling standpoint. I find the regular Colorado a bit tame looking compared to most rivals, particularly the new Gladiator and Tacoma, but the ZR2’s bulging domed matte black louvered hood, redesigned matte black front bumpers and rear bumpers, exposed skid plates, robust tubular rocker protectors, and other trim upgrades make it look a lot tougher. Peer behind the machine-finished 17-inch alloys with black-painted pockets and you can just see the yellow Multimatic shocks, unless they’re covered in mud.
Unfortunately, no side steps help shorter than average folks like me climb up inside, and there aren’t any Corner Steps on the back bumper to aid access to the bed either, the only complaints I have, but it looks fabulous and these special bumpers serve the truck’s pure off-road purpose very well.
Once up in the comfortable albeit rudimentarily powered driver’s seat, enjoying a view allowed by especially good sightlines in every direction, the V6 is by far the engine to choose if fuel economy isn’t as important as accelerative performance. It jumps off the line and keeps up the pace right past legal highway speeds, whereas the diesel is just as motivated from standstill initially, yet doesn’t maintain the same level of enthusiasm as revs rise. That’s ok for diesel fans like me, because it feels like a work truck capably going about its business, and it pays dividends at the pump, as noted earlier, but those who want more of a sport truck will appreciate the V6.
Fortunately the Colorado ZR2 handles just as well no matter the engine choice. Even with its jacked-up suspension, or possibly because of it, the ride is reasonably smooth and comfortable, unless going over curbs. Those slightly more rigid Multimatic shocks that work so well off-road help reduce body roll at higher speeds on pavement too, so therefore the ZR2 is surprisingly agile through twisting fast-paced corners, unless trying to go faster than anything so top-heavy and obviously 4×4-focused was designed to go. Braking is decent too, but once again don’t be silly. The ZR2 hits the scales at 1,987 kilos (4,381 lbs), and more when upgraded with the aforementioned Bison package, so keep this in consideration when judging stopping distances.
I only pushed it hard for testing purposes, and no matter what surfaces I drove over or speeds I attained, those comfortable seats noted earlier always adequately supported me. I especially appreciated the lateral support provided by large side bolsters, which stopped me sliding sideways on what could have otherwise been slippery leather upholstery. It was dyed in the usual black shade, by the way, but highlighted with a red embroidered “2” as part of the otherwise black “ZR2” insignia on the headrests. The ZR2 steering wheel gets no such name recognition, but it’s leather as well, and made of a particular soft and comfortable variety, with nice baseball-style stitching for enhancing grip. I’d call it more of a sport steering wheel than the usual truck type, as it could just as easily be found in a performance car despite featuring four spokes, and thanks to a standard tilt and telescoping steering column with excellent reach, the overall ZR2’s overall ergonomics are excellent. This means I was able to sit upright, comfortably, with the steering wheel perfectly positioned for my long-legged, short torso, five-foot-eight, slight-build body type, safely and comfortably with my hands at the optimal nine and three positions, further allowing excellent reach to the pedals and great visibility all around.
Likewise, the rear seat of this Crew Cab, short box (the ZR2 is also available in the Extended Cab, long box configuration) provides good roominess for adults (or kids) of all sizes. When the front seat was set up for my just noted body, I still had about five inches ahead of my knees and plenty of space for my feet, plus another three to four inches above my head, and five inches from my shoulders and hips to the door panel, plus I’d estimate there was still room enough for a smaller person in the middle. When three’s a crowd in back, you can pull down a wide, comfortable centre armrest filled with large cupholders that include rubber grips to fasten cups or bottles in place. Other nice features in the rear compartment include twin USB ports and a 12-volt device charger.
If a need to keep your gear dry and safe from theft arises, the rear seat headrests flip forward and backrests fold flat so you can lay what-have-you on top, or alternatively you can lift the seat cushion upwards to expose a hidden compartment below, this including all the tools you might need for lowering the spare tire and then removing the flat before bolting on said spare.
To be clear, seats and leatherette armrests aside, Chevy doesn’t include any fancy soft-touch surface treatments in back, but up front the dash top gets nice soft paint to help absorb some of the sound and make it more appealing to fingertips, as does the instrument panel. I should also point out this isn’t the fanciest version of Chevy’s Colorado, because it’s optimized for off-road, but it’s certainly good enough for this class of truck. Chevy has included some nice metallic trim around the centre stack and lower console, as well as the door handles and armrests. The inner door handles are chromed, as are the insides of some of the rotating knobs on the centre stack.
A highly legible primary gauge cluster is shielded well from sunlight and filled with the usual tachometer on the left and speedometer to the right. Fuel and temp meters fill the top centre position, while just below is a reasonably sized 4.2-inch high-resolution colour multi-information display that provides ample information for the class. You can control it via an arrow button pad on the right steering wheel spoke, which pulls up a bright menu of multicoloured functions including info, audio, phone, navigation, options, and more, while the navigation feature provides directions within the gauge cluster where they’re easier to see without removing eyes from the road as often, with the detailed mapping coming up on the large 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen atop the centre stack (this larger display is now standard in all Colorado trims except for the base WT or Work Truck that still does pretty well with a new 7.0-inch touchscreen).
That touchscreen comes standard with Chevy’s nicely laid-out, bright, and colourful HD menu display that appears inspired by Apple’s iPhone, which is a good thing, while it can be made to look even more iPad like by hooking up standard Apple CarPlay, or alternatively Android Auto that doesn’t look anywhere near was nice. At least Chevy gives you these smartphone connectivity alternatives, while it also features an audio system that’s easy to connect up to your phone via Bluetooth wireless streaming, plus you also have the option of satellite radio, and all the usual AM/FM/HD sources.
I found the navigation system very accurate and associated mapping incredibly detailed and easy to figure out. My only problem were directions that told me when to turn, such as 50 metres or 150 metres from the point I was at, were a tad too small to see and only monochromatic, not colour. I would rather have them pop up larger on the screen in a more visible colour while saying something like “In 50 meters turn right”. The infotainment system also received text messages and provided some stock responses so that I could communicate that I was driving and would contact later. Other apps include OnStar, traffic info, even one for shopping, which I don’t recommend while driving.
Along with navigation and an excellent HD backup camera with dynamic guidelines (albeit not one as 4×4-friendly as the Gladiator’s, which sports front and rear trail cams that can even be cleaned via the touchscreen), plus some of the other features already mentioned, this truck comes with a device charging pad positioned just ahead of the centre armrest (standard with Z71 trim and above), plus a USB port inside the armrest if your phone needs a wire. Chevy provides two more USB ports (one for the new USB C-type charger) as well as an aux port and an available SD card reader within another storage bin just under the centre stack, so you and your devices should be well taken care of. Lastly, the Colorado gets a second microphone mounted closer to the front passenger to improve Bluetooth hands-free voice quality, while I personally really appreciated the ZR2’s heatable steering wheel rim during some cold mornings, this now standard on all trims above the LT.
On that note, standard ZR2 features include GM’s excellent heatable front seats, which not only warm the lower cushion and backrest, but can be set to only heat the latter, which works well for those of us with lower back problems that just want a little temporary relief. On that note, this truck gets single-zone auto HVAC, not the usual dual-zone setup offered by the top-line Tacoma and Gladiator. I think most can live with that shortcoming, while this particular model also doesn’t include pushbutton start or proximity-sensing access. It didn’t have a sunroof either, which might be a bone of contention for those choosing the Jeep for its removable roof, but I couldn’t care less as it’s not something I normally use. The only kind of sunroof I really like are the big panoramic ones anyway, so I say if you’re not going to go all the way, don’t bother at all. I like the padded sunglasses holder in the overhead console, and the reading lights are fine, but take note they’re not LEDs. On the positive, the rearview mirror is an auto-dimming unit, and along with OnStar it features a button for voice activation as well as an SOS telematics button that lets you call for help if needed.
A row of toggles can be found on the centre stack, including stability control off, a bed light, hill descent control, an exhaust brake that’s helpful when trailering, a hazard light, and finally two individual switches for the separate front and rear differential locks mentioned earlier.
Having just mentioned trailering, the ZR2’s towing capacity is rated at 2,268 kilos (5,000 lbs) no matter the engine, while its payload is 500 kilograms (1,100 lbs) with the four-door short-bed or 528 kg (1,164 lbs) with the extended-cab long-bed, while the Taco TRD Pro is good for a 2,900-kg (6,400-lb) tow rating and a payload of 454 kg (1,000 lbs), and the Gladiator in its most ZR2-fighting Rubicon trim can tow up to 2,040 kg (4,500 lbs) and manage of payload of up to 544 kg (1,200 lbs) with the manual, or tow 3,175 kg (7,000 lbs) of trailer and carry 526 kg (1,160 lbs) on its back with the auto.
I won’t bore you with all the ZR2’s comfort and convenience features, which are readily available on Chevy’s retail website or at CarCostCanada where I sourced all the 2019 Colorado’s pricing information including trims, packages and standalone options, not to mention money-saving rebate info and dealer invoice pricing, but suffice to say it’s very well equipped from just $46,100 for the Extra Cab or $47,600 for the Crew Cab, plus freight and fees of course.
So which Colorado ZR2 powertrain would I rather have? Being that I keep my vehicles for longer than average, I’d likely opt for the Duramax turbo-diesel, as the extra initial expense would more than likely be recouped by lower running costs over time. I’d also be tempted to spend more for the optional Bison package, because the key reason for stepping up to this truck is its 4×4 prowess, so further protecting vital components underneath only makes sense. I’d also spring for an aftermarket snorkel, if only because it looks so good. Other than that, this Colorado ZR2 is the Raptor for mid-size truck buyers, at least until Ford brings its Ranger Raptor to North American markets.
Which would you rather have, one of Chevy’s ultra-rugged off-road racing replica Colorado ZR2 pickup trucks with its standard V6 or with its optional diesel? We tested both, using just its default rear-drive…
Which would you rather have, one of Chevy’s ultra-rugged off-road racing replica Colorado ZR2 pickup trucks with its standard V6 or with its optional diesel? We tested both, using just its default rear-drive 4×2 mode on pavement, across some fast-paced gravel roads in 4WD high, and lastly with its 4WD-low gear-set engaged in the dirt and sloshing through some thick winter mud with a bunch of hip-wader-high puddles thrown into the mix.
The diesel-powered version was actually last year’s truck that we decided to cover in one review now that our V6 gasoline-fueled model arrived, allowing us to tell you about all the changes Chevy has made to this 4×4 beast as part of its 2019 model year changeover. Of course, this is a niche vehicle that won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the updates affect the majority of Colorado and GMC Canyon models, so it won’t matter whether you’re choosing one of the General’s mid-size pickups for work or for play.
Along with its off-road prowess the 2019 Colorado is better for everyday use too, thanks to a new larger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen in all trims except for the base WT (Work Truck) that still does pretty well with a new 7.0-inch main display. The larger of the two boasts beautiful HD graphics and even an HD backup camera, which we’ll make sure to comment on in our upcoming road test review.
Our ZR2 tester even includes a wireless smartphone charger, this feature standard with Z71 trim and above, while all trims include a new smaller Type-C USB port next to the conventional USB-A connection. These are located on the front centre console, next to an auxiliary input jack and an available SD card reader. Additionally, a second microphone mounted closer to the front passenger improves Bluetooth hands-free voice quality, while we really like the ZR2’s heatable steering wheel rim, this now standard on all trims above the LT.
I won’t bore you with all the ZR2’s comfort and convenience features, which are readily available on Chevy’s retail website or at CarCostCanada where I sourced all the 2019 Colorado’s pricing information including trims, packages and standalone options, not to mention money-saving rebate info and dealer invoice pricing, but suffice to say it’s very well equipped for just $46,100 plus freight and fees, albeit more focused on off-road prowess than pampering one’s backside.
Like the 2017 and 2018 Colorado ZR2, this new one gets a substantial boost in ride height and therefore ground clearance that’s up by 50 mm (2.0 inches), while any negatives to high-speed handling are offset by a 90-mm (3.5-inch) increase in front and rear track, new stiffer cast-iron lower front control arms, and special 8- by 17-inch alloy wheels cushioned by 31-inch Goodyear Duratrac off-road rubber. Handling off the beaten path, particularly improving suspension articulation is a new 1.0-inch-diameter solid anti-roll bar replacing the usual 1.5-inch hollow one, while leaving the best for last are special Multimatic shocks designed for cushioning the otherwise jarring impacts of rocks, roots and other obstacles you might find along an ungraded back road or trail.
Easier to see are skid plates below and tubular rocker extensions at each side, both designed to protect vulnerable components and bodywork, but the ZR2 is even more noticeable to passersby thanks to its all-business matte black grille and even beefier black hood dome that serve no purpose but looking good, rugged black bumpers that get chopped down a couple of notches to improve approach and departure angles, and muscular black fender flares that make way for those meaty tires just noted.
Between the front wheel wells of this $495 optional Kinetic Blue Metallic painted truck is the standard 3.6-litre V6 that’s good for 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, the latter from 4,000 rpm, driving the rear axle or both via part-time four-wheel drive and an efficient eight-speed automatic transmission. The combination gets a claimed 15.0 L/100km city, 13.0 highway and 14.1 combined fuel economy rating, thanks in part to cylinder deactivation under light loads.
The Deepwood Green Metallic coloured truck (it looks grey), the optional colour discontinued for 2019, mates GM’s wonderful 2.8-litre Duramax turbo-diesel four-cylinder, good for 181 horsepower and a best-in-class 369 lb-ft of torque from just 2,000 rpm, to a less advanced yet still very capable and arguably more robust six-speed automatic gearbox, which come together for a much thriftier 12.5 L/100km city, 10.7 highway and 11.7 combined rating, which might not be enough fuel economy gains to justify its considerable $4,090 upgrade unless you happen to put a lot of distance between trade-ins, or require the diesel’s much improved efficiency to travel deeper into the woods than gasoline-powered truck owners dare tread.
So how does this tall, dark (re lack of chrome) and (arguably) handsome cross between the no-trails-barred Jeep Gladiator and off-road race replica Ford F-150 Raptor drive around town, down the highway and into the wild green yonder? Again, we’ll give you a complete buildup and rundown in our upcoming road test review, plus more in-depth details about its Multimatic shocks, suspension upgrades, interior upgrades, etcetera. Until then, enjoy our sizeable photo gallery…
The Bolt has turned the “affordable” electric vehicle world upside down, more than doubling potential EV range over some competitors and providing a lot more usable performance than all. Today we…
Surprised that Chevrolet's new Bolt EV is the best-selling electric vehicle in Canada? It actually hit number one before 2017's halfway point, and for good reason.
Tons of advertising! Sorry, I couldn't resist that. While partially true the umpteen millions Chevy has spent promoting its newest EV is hardly the main reason it's succeeding. More importantly, the Bolt fully lives up to all the hype being lauded upon it by the bowtie brand itself, industry pundits like me, and now customers aplenty.
How many customers? At the close of November it had accumulated 1,292 paid followers in Canada, and while Tesla Model 3 buyers might scoff at such a puny figure, it's exactly 1,292 more deliveries than Tesla's Model 3 over the same 11 months.
One thing the Bolt has common with the Model 3? Both automakers could've sold many more if more cars were available (or any in the case of Tesla), a local GM dealer (that still had a Spark EV in the showroom last time I dropped by) Read Full Story