While the Toyota Tacoma remains atop of the midsize truck sales mountain here in the United States, it’s GM that can be accredited to reviving the segment nearly a decade ago with the last-generation Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Fast forward to 2023, and the Colorado and Canyon nameplates are entering their third generation, and aim to replenish a segment that’s starved for new product.
So, how will Chevy do it? By riding the big off-road performance lifestyle wave that continues to wash through the automotive landscape. You see it specifically with the elevated performance of the new 2023 Chevrolet Colorado Z71, as well as the 2023 Colorado Trail Boss, which is its own trim level for the first time. You see it in the ability to individually option out tire upgrades, and high-output engine tunes, and skid plate packages, and tow hooks, and on, and on, and on. And we haven’t even gotten to the new Colorado ZR2 yet. However, with an emphasis on premium and capability, the new Chevy Colorado is no longer as frugal and utilitarian as before.
2023 Chevrolet Colorado WT: What Is A Work Truck?
Here’s where I differ from most of my colleagues on opinion: $30k+ for a base midsize truck feels like it misses the plot. There needs to be a cheaper option. I wouldn’t care so much if GM would actually build and sell a Ford Maverick fighter here in the USA. And considering all of the industry red flags regarding ATP, rising vehicle prices, inflated car payments, rising repossessions, and obscene levels of consumer leverage, it’s about time that automakers recognize the need for a savvy solution in an effort to keep the market healthy. And the government has to let them do it. Lest it all becomes a sort of corporate tragedy of the commons.
At launch, the standalone crew cab/short box only configuration limits frugal fleet truck appeal. Be that as it may, a 2023 Chevrolet Colorado WT (Work Truck) trim does exist. But no single cab, no long box, and no basics like crank windows, to say nothing of the premium infotainment screen that one is immediately greeted with upon entry. It’s almost as if GM has to tack on the content just to offset the added costs of the very sophisticated 2.7L turbo engine and new 8-speed automatic transmission. Look, it’s no pushrod V6 that shares commonality with GM’s pot of gold known as the Gen V Small Block, nor is it the phoned-in 2.5L EcoTec engine that was found in the last-gen Colorado. That is to say: it’s gonna cost more than a buck to make.
There’s good reason for that. This engine – known as the L3B – had to be good enough to exceed V6 engines in horsepower, and diesel engines in torque. And with an available 310 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque – the latter figure matching that of the legendary LS3 with half the cylinder count – it smacks the rest of the midsize truck segment right in the mouth. In an effort to keep costs down, though, the 2.7L turbo in 2023 Chevrolet Colorado WT, known as L2R, features slightly less robust internals, and forgoes some sound-deadening hardware. In this base application, the 2.7L turbo yields 237 hp, and 260 lb-ft. All configurations require just regular unleaded fuel, not premium, which is another plus for this truck.
The rebuttal of this pricing critique is of course “value, value, value.” Look how much “value” one gets with this class-leading powertrain. Look how much “value” that comes with all of this new technology. Behold the “value” in such a modern design. Look at how much “value” the $106,000 Corvette Z06 has. Indeed, that’s all true. And it’s all relative at the same time.
$30,000+ for a work truck is still $30,000+ for a work truck. That’s about $10-grand more than when the last-gen Colorado launched in 2014. Arguably, the new Colorado WT is too nice, and it’s too sophisticated for me to truly describe it as a “work truck.” Maybe Chevrolet should have called it the Colorado Custom, or something.
Sometimes people just want a beater with a bed, you know? Sometimes they don’t want to have to resort to a hand-me-down truck with 100,000 miles of who-knows-what-happened. Or several years of somebody else farting in the seat. Sometimes, people want to have first dibs. And the market is so thirsty for it, that Ford can’t build enough of those unibody front-wheel drive-based caddy carts they call the Maverick. At this point, I’d wager that nobody even has to even try that hard for a small truck – any small truck, or simply a cheap $20,000 truck – to do well in the USA/Canada market.
2023 Chevrolet Colorado Trail Boss And Z71: Heart Of The Market, Right On The Money
Enough complaining from me. Because, oppositely, the new Chevrolet Colorado Trail Boss and Z71 will amaze. And this is where the bulk of Chevrolet Colorado sales are expected to be, and that’s where GM concentrated its efforts on (that goes double for the GMC Canyon, with every truck coming standard with a widebody style and a lift, even the Denali). The business case of this truck is not based on the Uhaul-spec series that only weirdos like me will fixate on. And the results of GM’s efforts to prioritize premium and a rugged persona with its new midsize truck lineup are worthy of praise. After a day on the road and on the trails, here are the major takeaways of the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado Trail Boss and 2023 Chevrolet Colorado Z71:
- Pay close attention to the tires. Each wheel size yields different rubber. From the big-wheel-fitting Bridgestone Dueler (yuck), to the standard Goodyear Wrangler Territory AT (just okay) to the 18- or 17- inch wheel option that unlocks the Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT (now we’re talking). The Territory MT is also the same tire that Chevrolet chose for the last-gen Colorado ZR2, the Silverado ZR2, and the new Colorado ZR2. Ironically, this tire is not immediately available on the new Colorado Z71, which starts at a higher price than the new Colorado TB.
- Considering how every automobile is really just a vessel for tires, these options will affect the off-road and on-road performance of the Colorado TB and Z71 quite a bit. In short, if you want decent rubber for the occasion that you’ll trek on some trails, leave the 19- and 20-inch rims on the shelf. Get the optional 18 inch wheels with the Territory MTs and thank me later.
- The 2023 Chevrolet Colorado Trail Boss is almost ZR2-like in its unwavering capability over the unpaved. While true that the new Colorado Trail Boss and Z71 lack a locking front differential and all of the standard underbody plating of the ZR2, the new trucks have nearly identical suspension travel as the old ZR2, a bigger tire than the old ZR2, and improved suspension mounts and geometry on the rear end compared to before, while matching the old truck’s approach angle of 30.5 degrees. So, like in many ways where the base Corvette meets or exceeds the Grand Sport variant of the last generation, the new Colorado’s basic off-road offerings are coming within the capabilities of the last-gen ZR2 – the truck’s top model and now a sub-brand with serious credibility. This only goes to show just how formidable the new Colorado ZR2 can be off-road, let alone an inevitable ZR2 Bison.
- Even with off-road oriented suspension, you give up nothing on the street. The new 2023 Chevrolet Colorado Trail Boss and 2023 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 maintain effortless drivability and suspension neutrality (minimal pitch/roll/yaw) – even through the narrow mountain roads of rural SoCal.
- The new 8-speed is smart and smooth. Just about everything about it is different from the notorious last-generation 8-speed. From the interior machining on the housing, to the internal parts, to the calibrations. No longer jarring or afflicted with confusion. In fact, I often forgot about it, which is what you want with an automatic.
- The clever StowFlex tailgate that adds compartment space complete with a drain plug is not standard equipment, but will make you the life of the outdoor party.
- The L2R and L3B are both gasoline engines that run on regular fuel, but behave like diesels in many respects. Max torque is at just 1,800 RPM, needing next to no effort to get things moving. The sound of the turbocharger spinning and spooling is also omnipresent. So if you like that powerful pitch, you’ll love this new engine. And if you want to know more about how this power puncher produces performance, you’ll want to read our deep-dive interview with its creator.
- Fuel economy for the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado is still not officially EPA-rated, but the trip computer averaged 15.0 MPG over 1,059 miles of driving in a Trail Boss. That’s 1,059 “not my truck, not my gas” miles of driving, if you know what I mean.
The 2023 Chevrolet Colorado WT, LT, Trail Boss and Z71 pickups are powerful, premium trucks in relation to their competitors, and their price tags reflect this. If you want to choke down the taste of $34-grand for a new Chevrolet midsize truck as basic as you can get one, nobody is going to stop you. But if you want to feel like you truly got what you paid for, have yourself a heaping portion Trail Boss. Extra output on the engine, optional MT tires, and easy on the extras.