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A Working Review of the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 4WD

After seeing the new 2015 Chevrolet Colorado win so many awards, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one to put it through my working world testing program to see if the truck voted the best in the US could keep up in an environment dominated by full sized trucks – and I was surprised by the results.

In addition to writing about the news and doing review of how new models like the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado, I own a few show horses and in owning show horses, I do quite a bit of towing and hauling. This means that when I get a truck for a test vehicle, it likely gets as hard of a workout as it will from anyone in the Metro Detroit area (if not the country). Where so many others review the truck based on how well it sits in rush hour traffic or how well it fits in the parking garage of their office build, the trucks that I test are expected to do real truck work.

Having read all about how the 2015 Colorado was one of the best trucks in America – beating out the new Ford F150 in some cases – I was very interested to put the new midsized Chevy to work to see if it could really keep up with the half ton trucks. I own a half ton truck of my own and I spend some of my time pulling with a 1-ton heavy duty pickup, but one of my trailers is light enough (around 5,000lbs loaded) that I can pull it with most trucks and SUVs. This is well within the 7,000 towing capacity of the properly equipped 2015 Colorado Z71, so when the shiny silver Chevy pulled into my driveway, I was ready to put it to work.

My 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 test truck was a four wheel drive model with the 3.6L V6, the Crew Cab and the short cargo box. This truck had a base price of $34,115, but when you factor in the Bose sound system ($500), the 8” infotainment center screen with navigation ($495), the spray in bed liner ($475), the Trailering Package ($250) and the $875 destination fee, the price as tested was $36,710. This Colorado Z71 was very well equipped and when you consider what you can get for a four wheel drive half ton pickup that will seat four adults, $37k doesn’t get you very far. Getting all of the goodies in my Colorado test truck in pretty much any half ton pickup would run you closer to the $40k range, but could the smaller Chevy do the work of the bigger trucks?

Putting the Colorado to Work
All of the trucks and SUVs (when applicable) which I test are subject to the same towing and hauling tests, so that I can get a feel for how different vehicles perform under the same load. For the hauling portion, I have 1,000lbs of bagged horse feed loaded into the bed while the trailer testing includes a 2-horse trailer, weighing right around 5,000lbs when loaded. My Colorado test truck had a payload capacity of 1,520lbs and a maximum towing capacity of 7,000lbs, so while both of my tests were in the upper range of the truck’s capabilities – they were both well within the limits of the vehicle.

colorado front

First up was the hauling test, which included loading twenty 50lb bags of horse feed into the bed of the Colorado. I generally like the bed of my truck to be at least 6 feet long, but with so many companies going to a 5-foot-something bed, the short box on my test truck has become fairly normal. I was able to pack the 20 bags of grain into the bed and the comparatively low height of the bed made loading all of that grain a little easier than with the higher riding half ton trucks. Once the grain was loaded, I hit the roads of Milford to see how the truck handled all of the extra weight.

The 3.6L V6 under the hood delivers 305 horsepower and 269lb-ft of torque, which makes the Colorado fairly quick when the bed is empty, but with the extra thousand pounds packed in the back, the acceleration was hindered a bit, but not enough to really affect drivability under normal conditions. Braking with the added weight wasn’t a problem, but I did notice that on a twisty backcountry road, the rear end swayed considerably more than when unloaded. You don’t get as much of that with the bigger trucks, but so long as you aren’t doing any road racing with a thousand pounds of ballast in the bed, the loss in handling performance while hauling a heavy load doesn’t make a world of difference. Around town in “average driving situations”, I was barely aware that the extra weight was out back, so shy of the slight decline in handling, the Colorado had no issues dealing with the thousand pound payload.

Hooking Up the Trailer
Next up was the towing test, where I hooked up the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 4WD up to my little 2-horse trailer for a quick trip to the vet. The Colorado does not have an option for an integrated trailer brake controller, but it does come with a 7-pin connector for the brake lights on the trailer and your own brake box, should you have one installed. I was a touched concerned about the 5,000 horse trailer behind the midsized pickup, mostly when trying to stop, and braking distances were extended a bit with the horses out back. I also found that on tight, twisty roads, my horse trailer seemed to be affecting the handling of the truck a bit, adding a touch of understeer at cruising speeds. I attribute this slightly to the low weight of the track, but also to the shifting weight of the horses moving around in the trailer. Where the Colorado far exceeded my expectations was in low and mid-range acceleration, as the 3.6L V6 had no issues getting the Z71 up to speed with the horses out back, nor did it struggle to maintain a normal speed when traveling on the highway.

colorado trailer

Ultimately, the 2015 Colorado had no real problems pulling my 5,000lb test trailer. While braking distances were stretched a bit and curves in the road required more braking than what I’m used to with a full size truck, I saw no reason that the new Colorado couldn’t comfortably tow a trailer of this weight regularly, especially if it is a more solid load such as a utility trailer, a jet ski trailer or something along those lines. For towing the horses, I find the added size and weight of a larger truck makes for a more confident ride, but this midsized Chevy is a better tow vehicle than many of the midsized SUVs on today’s market.

More importantly (and this is what those looking to work with their new truck need to take note of), the new Colorado performed my towing and trailering tests better than any of the other modern midsized trucks I’ve tested – including the previous Colorado. While I don’t think that I would swap my full sized truck for any midsized model, the Colorado performs better under load than any smaller truck Ive tested.

The Daily Drive
Of course, in addition to towing and hauling with the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71, I also used it for my daily driving purposes. This included a day where we had rain, then colder temperatures which turned the rain to ice and then covered the ice with snow. With a quick turn of the knob on the left side of the dash, I was able to slip the Colorado quickly into 4WD when the conditions got hairy and – not surprisingly – the midsized Chevy handled the icy roads without any problem. Also, living in Milford Michigan gives me access to a great many rough, unpaved roads that at times could swallow up a compact car. These roads have ruts, trenches and deep puddles, which allowed me to put the Z71 suspension to the test. Not only were these rough, muddy roads no problem, but the Colorado made the winter driving on the muddy roads a great deal of fun. Based on how it performed in some of the deep mud on these back roads, I expect that it would handle some light offroading very well, while backwoods hunting or fishing trails should be a breeze.

colorado low side

In terms of on-road handling, the stiff suspension of the Z71 gives this 2015 Colorado a slightly rougher ride on paved roads than what you might get with a less capable midsized truck – but this is a truck and rides like a truck should ride. It won’t beat you up on the highway at 75mph so this is one that your grandma likely won’t complain about being too rough, but it also doesn’t ride like a Cadillac. As smaller trucks go, the Colorado has a smoother, more planted feel in normal driving situations so whether the road is pavement or dirt, the Colorado offers a higher level ride quality compared to most trucks of the same size and larger.

The Cabin
My 2015 Colorado Z71 test truck was heavily equipped, so it included a nice looking and easy to use infotainment system, heated leather-trimmed front seats and plenty of buttons on the steering wheel to control the sound system, the hands-free phone system and voice control for the navigation – all of which made for easy adjustments while driving with gloves on in the bitter cold. While the Colorado has a very user friendly touchscreen system, the buttons on the steering wheel and the combination of buttons and knobs on the dash just below the infotainment screen allows you to skip the touch screen if you so desire. While the single zone climate control system is very simple, is it very straightforward and it does without the buttonfest that you get with many modern HVAC systems. Also, the heated seats warmed up in a hurry, which was a welcomed feature while trailing testing in the cold.

colorado front seats

Before getting the Colorado, I was concerned that the smaller truck would lead to a smaller cab and that would lead to less useful space – both for cargo and passengers. I found that with the seats adjusted to comfortably allow me (at just under 6’) to reach the pedals, there was a surprising amount of leg room for the rear passengers. The driver’s seat and front passenger’s seat both offer plenty of leg, knee, hip, shoulder and head room for even very tall drivers, but elbow space can get a little tight across the narrow central armrest. In addition to the generous amount of leg room in the back, rear riders also benefit from tons of space in every other dimension, so this is a truck that can very realistically seat four adults comfortably.

colorado dash

The interior of the Chevrolet Colorado Z71 won’t blow you away with redundant high tech features, but with all of the basic niceties like a touchscreen infotainment system, steering wheel and voice controls, heated power seats and plenty of room for front and rear passengers, this truck doesn’t leave you wanting for much – which is particularly impressive for a price as tested under $37k.

The Final Word
For someone who wants a very well equipped, four wheel drive pickup truck that will allow you two haul and tow almost as much as the half ton trucks, but for a far smaller price, the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 is a great option. While the bigger, pricier pickups will tow and haul more weight, those who don’t need to tow so much will find the Colorado to be a great option both for hard work and daily driving alike. Even with the smaller stature of the Colorado, it has a comfortably, roomy interior with all of the required technology and you can get all of this for under $37,000.

Realistically, if you are going to be doing a great deal of towing with weight levels towards the top of the Colorado’s limits, you may want to look at a new Silverado, but those who pull something smaller or who will only pull/haul occasionally, this new Chevy midsized truck is the best in the segment today.

Patrick Rall is a professional writer and photographer with a passion for all things automotive. Patrick has been sharing his automotive expertise in automotive journalism from Detroit for more than a decade covering the Big Three. Having grown up in his father’s performance shop, he spent extensive time at the oval track and drag strip – both driving and wrenching on various types of vehicles. In addition to working as a writer, Patrick previously worked as an automotive technician before moving on to a business office position with a chain of dealerships, and this broad spectrum of experience in the industry allows him to offer a unique look on the automotive world. Follow Patrick on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.


Dan (not verified)    February 23, 2016 - 9:05PM

The article says it did not struggle to maintain normal speed while on the highway. I'm curious what speed exactly that was. My current 2007 Colorado while towing a 3500lbs trailer in 3rd gear screams at two high of RPM at anything past 59mph. I don't like being past by semi's so I'm hoping the new Colorado is comfortable at 65-68mph

Ron Couturier (not verified)    March 20, 2016 - 9:16PM

i have te 2015 Chevy Colorado 2W drive Z71 with towing package. Do you think a Transmission cooler and a brake controller would be needed to pull a 3500 lbs trailer. I will most likely going through some mountainous areas.