For the 2009 model year, the Chevrolet Colorado took another step toward becoming the Silverado: It added a V-8.
There were a few more changes to the Colorado, though I'm not sure this "little" truck is really that small anymore.
My test model arrived with a crew cab, the $1,300 optional 5.3-liter 300-horsepower V-8, enough room for five people, a full-size bed and more features than a lot of cars. There were heated leather seats, a sunroof, XM Satellite radio and a $34,000 price tag.
While I believe there's lots of room for small trucks in the market, I have a tough time understanding why a consumer would spend this much money on a truck with fewer capabilities than its full-size brother and few real advantages other than it's easier to put in the garage. (The I-4 Colorado makes sense, and the I-5 does as well, but the V-8 version is just a Silverado in lesser sheet metal.)
Yes, lots of features are now standard, such as electronic stability control. The 15-inch wheels have been replaced with 16s, and there are even a few new colors to the Colorado's lineup. But if you need a V-8, shouldn't you spend less money on the bigger Silverado?
By the numbers, the V-8 Colorado doesn't add up. Gas mileage? 14 miles per gallon city / 19 mpg city, nothing to get excited about. Power? The Silverado with a smaller V-8 (the 295 horsepower 4.8-liter) can tow 2,900 pounds more than the Colorado. Smaller? Not really, a long wheelbase Colorado's overall length stretches an inch more than a regular cab Silverado.
This truck is big enough that I considered growing a mullet or at least buying a confederate flag front license plate. Building up the Colorado is a move in the wrong direction.
Small truck owners may want some of a big truck's abilities but have chosen a smaller truck for a reason, and their second choice is not a bigger truck, it's someone else's small truck. Hey, it's a truck
When I hopped into the Colorado, I had to grab the steering wheel to pull myself up into the cab.
The bucket seat was very comfortable. The interior was more day laborer than architect: Black-faced gauges with orange needles, simple silver trim around the center stack and a low-slung plastic center console. Like the Silverado, the Colorado has a very worklike feel about it, and can, no doubt, take a beating. The folding seats in the back provide additional cargo space.
While the Colorado creeps up in size, I must admit that I like its looks. The front end is distinctly a brawny Chevy and different than the Silverado. The chrome bumper and matching silver bar across the front sparkle while drawing a thick line on the dual port grille and separating the turn signals and the headlights. It gives this truck a wide stance and powerful face.
The flared fenders add to the truck's muscular looks, but the profile looks a little off-balance, especially with the crew cab model, which seems to have too much cab between the wheels. However, bigger wheels help bring the proportions more into balance.
The rumbling engine and lumbering drive seem to have a half-second delay between accelerator tip-in and the truck actually moving, making it feel like a much bigger vehicle. Push, wait, roll.
The ride was quiet but a little leaf-spring bumpy. The suspension felt harsh, especially when going over obstacles such as railroad tracks. The solid rear axle would hop a little if you were going too fast. It's a truck, and it rides like a truck; no big surprises. My test vehicle included the Z71 off-road package (a $1,695 option), which added to the bumpy road feel. I never tested this truck fully loaded, which may have helped smooth out the ride. Power isn't everything
It took a few dozen miles to adjust to driving the Colorado. The V-8 has lots of power, but there wasn't a way to truly test all of the horses under the hood. Acceleration was good, but other trucks feel faster. The power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering felt a little loose on the highway at high speeds but very good around town. It had a nice return to center and felt well weighted.
The stiffer suspension also meant it could handle itself through corners, but there's a low limit on how much you want to flog a pickup.
Perhaps the newest edition to the Colorado family is the new ZQ8 suspension, designed to provide better road performance. GM's Performance Division lowered the truck 1 inch, made the suspension 30 percent stiffer and added 18-inch Xtreme performance tires. Yowza! Why didn't I get that truck? It's one that stands out and explains the V-8: power to go faster. Other V-8 Colorados just don't make sense.
Chevy makes good pickups, there's no doubting that. And the mainstay is the Silverado 1500 -- a truck that works as hard as it plays and comes in nearly infinite combinations.
Adding a big V-8 to the Colorado only moves the small pickup closer to the Silverado in size and price. It may look good on paper, but it doesn't make much sense -- unless you've got a really small garage.
Sburgess@detnews.com (313) 223-3217