Years before you officially saw it, we at MC&T first broke the news that the next-generation Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon would streamline and simplify its engine lineup by replacing three old motors with a new one: a 2.7L four-cylinder turbo. Fast forward to last year’s reveal of the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado and 2023 GMC Canyon, and that turned out to be exactly the case. And after driving the new Colorado with its new engine – codenamed L3B – it’s easy to understand why. The Colorado finally has an engine that perfectly suited for it: a turbocharged four cylinder with more horsepower than a V6, more torque than a diesel, and fuel economy that goes uncompromised. The L3B has also proven itself in the larger Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 trucks.
More to the point, customers can opt for a power upgrade with this engine on their 2023 Chevrolet Colorado, unlocking a full 310 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque from the engine. And it’s interesting for several reasons, primarily being because it suggests that GM could be looking at offering more dealer-installed performance tunes in the future.
HIGH-OUTPUT L3B TUNE: NOT JUST AN OTA UPDATE
Speaking with engineers at the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado drive in San Diego, California, I was able to confirm a few details on just how the L3B high output engine tuning process works for customers.
First off, even though the 2023 Colorado features GM’s Vehicle Intelligence Platform (aka Global B) electrical architecture, which allows for over-the-air (OTA) updates to software, the L3B high-output engine tune needs to be done at a dealership with authorized technicians. It can’t just beam into the truck from the customer’s driveway.
“You buy your truck with a mid (L3B), two years down the road you’re like ‘I want the high output’, and they flash it. It’s a great value versus aftermarket cal, and it’s fully validated,” said 2023 Colorado chief engineer Nick Katcherian.
The L3B high output tune is available for the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado LT, Trail Boss, and Z71 for just $395 USD a la carte. It’s standard on the 2023 Colorado ZR2, as well as the entire 2023 GMC Canyon lineup. It’s unavailable on the Colorado WT or LT with the standard L2R engine. The L2R is also a 2.7L turbo, but cheapened up a bit to meet cost targets. Thus, it lacks the sturdy internals to support as much as 430 lb-ft of torque.
The L2R produces 237 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. The standard L3B on the Colorado produces 310 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. So really what you’re paying $395 for is the extra 39 lb-ft of torque. About $10 a pound-foot. Steaks are more expensive.
ON THE POSSIBILITY OF EXPANDING OPTIONAL ENGINE TUNES
So, does the L3B high-output tune suggest that GM will offer more in-house performance packages for its products, similar to what Ford Performance offers on the likes of the Ford Bronco, Ranger, Explorer and Mustang with their EcoBoost engines? Or, perhaps even more expansive, what Dodge is doing with Direct Connection? It’s definitely something for Chevy Performance enthusiasts to keep an eye out, but at the moment, mum’s the word.
“Right now we’re probably not ready for it,” said Katcherian. “But it is something that we’re looking at overall in the future of ‘how do we make the vehicle perform better without having somebody go into a dealership and complete the transaction from their driveway?”
Additionally, this performance calibration doesn’t mean that the aftermarket will be able to easily offer something similar. Such is the nature of the encrypted control units of GM Global B.
That said, some aftermarket tuners have managed to circumvent the cybersecurity of new GM vehicles and offer performance packages nevertheless. You see with with Lingenfelter Performance Engineering with their supercharged C8 Corvette package, Specialty Vehicle Engineering with their supercharged Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe packages, and Callaway Cars with their supercharged C8 Corvette Stingray, to name a few. Should they get their hands on a new 2023 Chevrolet Colorado or GMC Canyon, it’s likely that they’ll be able to extract even more power out of the 2.7L turbocharged four-cylinder engine than what GM offers, eventually.
ON THE POSSIBILITY OF AN L3B CRATE ENGINE
Chevrolet Performance at one point dabbled in the four-cylinder turbo crate engine business with a 2.0L LTG crate motor offering. The LTG currently serves as the base engine for the Chevrolet Camaro, with 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. However, the take rate on the four cylinder crate engine was so low that Chevy pulled it from the performance catalog, as MC&T first reported. While it was power dense and packaged well, the issue was likely the price. Coming in around $8,000-$9,000 USD over its life cycle from 2015 to 2020, the LTG crate engine cost more than a Small Block V8 crate engine in some cases, and nearly as much as an LS3 crate engine.
But perhaps the business case can be improved with an L3B crate engine, should Chevrolet Performance choose to offer it.
“If the customers are interested then we’ll do a crate engine,” said Luchansky.