It was hard for me to not get attached to “my” 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 4×4 Duramax long-termer. We’ve been through a lot together over the past 12 months and 28,155 miles—nearly a dozen national and state parks and forests, tons of road trips, and plenty of hauling. I’ve enjoyed driving the Colorado so much that despite being given the opportunity to drive some of the hotter cars floating around our fleet, I’d almost always stick with the trusty Chevy.
The why is pretty simple: There’s nothing in our fleet as flexible as the Colorado Duramax. It’s a rolling Swiss army knife—whether my weekend plans were running local errands, filling the bed with building supplies, road tripping, or off-roading, the Colorado was always ready for anything.
In the grind that is driving in the Los Angeles area, the Colorado is big enough to comfortably tote around four adults yet still small enough to plug a tight gap in traffic or parallel park with ease. The Colorado is great on the highway, too, with a quiet, comfortable cabin and excellent visibility. And when the road disappears, our Colorado Z71 more than holds its own off-road, taking me deep off the beaten path at Death Valley National Park and elsewhere.
All the while the most exceptional thing about the Colorado was its engine. The Duramax 2.8-liter turbodiesel I-4 only makes 181 hp, but its 369 lb-ft of torque gets the little(ish) Chevy truck moving with authority. It never left me wanting for more power, even if the six-speed automatic sometimes took a bit longer than I’d like to downshift and get in the meaty bit of the Duramax’s powerband.
Almost more important than how the Duramax behaves on the road is what it enables the Colorado to do—for a $3,905 premium, it increases the Colorado’s towing capacity by 600 pounds (up to 7,600 total) over the 3.6-liter V-6, and it significantly improves fuel economy from an EPA-rated 17/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined to 20/28/23 mpg for four-wheel-drive models such as our Colorado Z71. The fuel economy improvements were noticed on the road, too. Our last long-term Colorado, a nearly identically equipped 2015 Colorado Z71 4×4 with the older 3.6-liter V-6 and six-speed auto averaged 19.5 mpg over 13 months and 31,069 miles with us. Our departing diesel Colorado averaged 23.2 mpg over 12 months and 28,158 miles with us, a 19 percent improvement.
It’s also worth mentioning that the last 8,127 miles we drove the Colorado was without the aero-enhancing front air dam attached. During that time period without the air dam, the Colorado averaged 23.1 mpg. In the 20,031 miles we drove with the air dam attached, the Colorado averaged 23.3 mpg. As I wrote a few updates back, it appears that the air dam has minimal real-world benefits—at least on diesel models.
Despite observed fuel economy improving versus the gas model, running costs were definitely higher. . Our 2016 Colorado Duramax was more expensive to run, costing us $728.78 for its four service visits, which included oil changes and tire rotations on each visit, plus cabin air filter, engine air filter, and diesel fuel filter changes on the final two visits. Chevy currently offers the first two required services for free, but our truck didn’t qualify because it’s owned by GM. If our Colorado were privately owned, it would have cost an owner $453.40 for the third and fourth scheduled services required as we neared 30,000 miles Add in the $109.52 we spent on about 44 gallons of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF)—and we spent a grand total of $838.30to keep our Colorado Duramax running, including $275.38 for the truck’s first two services. Clearly, you pay quite the premium on the Duramax engine, but for some, myself included, the added running costs might be worth the improved drivability, better fuel economy, and lower fuel costs (at least in California; diesel is more expensive in most states) versus the gas-powered Colorado.
We haven’t had the new Toyota Tacoma or Honda Ridgeline in our long-term fleet to directly compare our Colorado’s running costs to, but we did have a 2012 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X in our fleet five years ago. It costs us $700 in maintenance over 14 months and 31,000 miles.
In terms of reliability, our Chevy Colorado was not without its faults. It had a handful of issues throughout its stay with us. The issues were mostly small, annoying quality concerns such as the driver information center displaying the GMC logo on start-up when the truck was first delivered or the rubber seal by the right-rear door starting to strip toward the end of its stay with us. It also needed two single-night stays at the dealer. One was to replace the toggle switches on the center stack because they didn’t work properly when the truck was delivered, the other to replace a portion of the steering column that was causing the clunking sound. All of the issues our Colorado had were covered under warranty.
As for normal wear and tear, the Colorado held up pretty well. The only wear worth noting is the loose weather stripping and the felt seat back on the rear bench seat is looser than it was upon delivery. A plastic-backed rear seat such as the one found on the Toyota Tacoma would probably help for when the Colorado’s passenger compartment is called into cargo-hauling duty.
Ultimately, our year with the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 4×4 Duramax cements its status as our back-to-back 2015 and 2016 Truck of the Year winner. Sure, the diesel’s operating costs are higher than the gas version, but as our long-termer shows, the sheer capability and versatility of the Colorado simply can’t be beat. As for me, well, my next long-termer will have some mighty big shoes to fill.
READ MORE ON OUR 2016 CHEVROLET COLORADO Z71 DIESEL:
|SERVICE LIFE||12 mo / 28,097 mi|
|OPTIONS||Turbo diesel engine ($3,905: Exhaust brake; trailer-brake controller; 2-speed transfer case; 16 x 7.0-in steel spare wheel); Assist steps ($745); Bose audio ($500); MyLink audio ($495: 8-in touchscreen, navigation); Bedliner ($475); Trailering equipment ($250)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$41,905|
|AVG ECON/CO2||23.4 mpg / 0.95 lb/mi|
|PROBLEM AREAS||Steering shaft noises, switchgear, horn|
|MAINTENANCE COST||$562.92 (8-DEF; 4-oil change, tire rotation; 1-cabin air filter, engine air filter, diesel fuel filter)|
|3-YEAR RESIDUAL VALUE*||$33,700|
|*IntelliChoice data; assumes 42,000 miles at the end of 3-years|
|2016 Chevrolet Colorado 4WD Z71 (CrewCab Short Box)|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD|
|ENGINE TYPE||Turbodiesel, I-4, iron block/alum head|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||169.4 cu in/2,776 cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||181 hp @ 3,400 rpm*|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||369 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm*|
|REDLINE||4,500 rpm (fuel cut)|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||26.6 lb/hp|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; live axle, leaf springs|
|BRAKES, F; R||12.2-in vented disc; 12.8-in vented disc, ABS|
|WHEELS||8.0 x 17-in, cast aluminum|
|TIRES||255/65R17 M+S (110T) Goodyear Wrangler All Terrain Adventure|
|TRACK, F/R||62.4/62.4 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||212.7 x 74.3 x 70.6 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||41.3 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||4,821 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||57/43%|
|HEADROOM, F/R||41.4/38.3 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||45.0/35.8 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||57.5/56.2 in|
|PICKUP BOX L x W x H||61.7 x 57.8 x 20.9 in|
|CARGO VOLUME||41.3 cu ft|
|WIDTH BET WHEELHOUSES||44.4 in|
|PAYLOAD CAPACITY||1,379 lb|
|TOWING CAPACITY||7,600 lb|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||5.3|
|QUARTER MILE||16.8 sec @ 79.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||130 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.73 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||29.1 sec @ 0.56 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||1,600 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$41,905|
|AIRBAGS||Dual front, front side, f/r curtain|
|BASIC WARRANTY||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||5 yrs/100,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||5 yrs/100,000 miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||21.0 gal|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||21.5/31.9/25.2 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||20/28/23 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||189/135 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.97 lb/mi|