GM designers have given the Chevrolet Colorado (left) and GMC Canyon a strong family resemblence.With so many new products and huge market growth in SUVs and full-size trucks in recent y" />

Issue: Oct 2003


Upperclassmen



GM redefines the compact pickup segment with the all new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size trucks.

by Gary Witzenburg






 
GM designers have given the Chevrolet Colorado (left) and GMC Canyon a strong family resemblence.
With so many new products and huge market growth in SUVs and full-size trucks in recent years, the compact/mid-size pickup market has seemed largely forgotten. Now comes General Motors ahead of the game this time with a pair of excellent new entries that raise the bar several notches in this still-important segment.

These all-new GMT355 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks are not evolutions of the S-10 and Sonoma, pickup versions of the TrailBlazer/Envoy or joint-venture vehicles with Isuzu, says assistant vehicle chief engineer Al Oppenheiser. What they are is bigger and substantially better than their 22-year-old GM predecessors and best-in-class in nearly every way, according to GM.

They share no parts save a seat frame with the venerable S-10 and Sonoma trucks they replace. And they share little in common with those GMT360/370 mid-size SUV stablemates except 2.8L I-4 and 3.5L I-5 derivations of the widely praised 4.2L DOHC VVT I-6 engine.











Interior material quality and fit and finish (top) is on par with GMs full-size offerings. The crew cabs 60/40-split forward-facing rear seat folds flat to facilitate cargo storage.

 
Comparing the base fours and the five to competitive standard V-6s, they offer better power, torque, economy and range, plus the largest interiors on regular and crew-cabs, the largest bed volumes and the most cargo tiedowns in their class. They also have at least two important exclusives: head curtain side air bags and a dual-position locking tailgate.

Besides the two available engines, they offer choices among two transmissions (5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic), two drivelines (2wd and 4wd), three suspensions (sport, heavy-duty and Z-71 off-road), three cabs (Standard, Extended and Crew) and three trim levels. All-new configurations include a 2wd Crew Cab and a 2wd highstance Z71 with the appearance and stance of the 4wd Z71, but without the transfer case.

Why not base them on GMs highly successful GMT360/370 mid-size SUV platform? Partly because with the addition of the Suzuki Ascender, Buick Ranier and soon-tocome Saab 9-7 derivative that component set will enjoy more than enough volume to keep its plants and suppliers busy. And largely because their missions are very different.

We made a strategic decision that we wanted to separate the pickup from the utility, says mid-Size truck vehicle line executive (VLE) Tom Wallace. With the old S-10/Blazer, we were always in a compromise position where we either couldnt put enough features into the utility or, when we did, we were over-costed for the pickup. As the market for utilities has gone further upscale, we decided to separate the two so we could do a lowcost pickup architecture although we can put a lot of amenities on this, too and keep it separate from the higher-cost, higher-content utility architecture.







 
Colorado and Canyon share only a seat frame with the S-10/Sonoma. Everything else is all new from the frame up.
The leaf-springs on this architecture, for example, are fine for pickups but not for utilities any more. The utilities have a five-link coilover in the rear...more expensive but needed on the utilities. This truck also has a less expensive lesser level of electrical architecture that can fulfill what we need in a truck.

The new Colorado/Canyon ladder frame though not constructed of hydroformed sections like the 360/370s is more than 250 percent torsionally stiffer than the S-10s, which improves both ride and handling. The rigid structure also improves crashworthiness and helps reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). Stabilizer bars front and rear enhance handling feel and performance, while power rack and pinion steering improves oncenter feel and sharpens response.

With bigger cabs, boxes and cargo volumes, a stance three inches wider and regular cab versions four inches longer than their predecessors closer to mid-size than compact they look and feel much more substantial. These trucks are bigger than all except Dakota, Wallace says, which is bigger in a couple of dimensions. We didnt think we needed to go that far because weve got a great stable of fullsize trucks, but we did need to get ahead of the others...and at least on the shopping list with Dakota. You dont give up much interior jumping out of a Dakota into this, but you gain a lot coming out of a Ranger, Tacoma or Frontier.

The new Vortec 2800 I-4 generates 175 hp and 185 lbs.-ft. of torque, stronger on both counts than competing fours. The optional Vortec 3500 I-5 pumps out 220 hp and 225 lbft, comparable to or better than competitors base-level V-6s. Both engines share parts with their 4.2L big-brother six, along with its variable valve timing (VVT) and cam phasing, and as a result need no external exhaust gas recirculation (EGR).











 
 

The optional Vortec 3500 I-5 (top) pumps out 220 hp and 225 lb-ft, comparable to or better than competitors base-level V-6s. Triple door seals (middle) keep out wind, dust and noise. The leaf-spring suspension (below) works well for a pickup and is quite a bit less expensive than the mid-size SUVs five-link coilover rear suspension.
 
We have a very good engine strategy, Wallace asserts. This combustion chamber is fantastic, and these engines have four or five of them instead of the six that are so successful in the utilities. Emissions requirements are not going to get any easier, fuel economy is coming at us harder and harder, and we should be well positioned for those challenges going forward.

Teamed with a five-speed manual, the I-4 is standard on all models except Z71 and ZQ8 Crew Cabs. The I-5 and a four-speed electronically controlled automatic are standard on those and optional on other models.

Styling is subjective, but we think both look terrific. With the Chevy trademark chrome (or body-color) bar bisecting stacked halogen headlamps or the GMC icon blacked-out grille they look like scaled-down versions of their fullsize Silverado and Sierra siblings, maybe better. With character creases over squared-off fender flares and wheels pushed nearly to the corners, their stance is at once rugged and sporting, especially the lowered sport versions.

Inside, Colorado and Canyon look and feel more like spacious, well-appointed full-size pickups than compact or mid-size trucks, with quality materials, craftsmanship and attention to detail evident throughout. Triple door seals, for example, keep out wind noise, water and dust.

About four inches longer than the S-10s, the Regular Cab provides class-leading legroom and usable storage behind the 60/40 cloth bench seat, and buckets are available with LS trim. The Crew Cab offers a 60/40-split/folding rear seat capable of accommodating three adults, while the Extended Cab has four-doors and forward-facing folding rear seats instead of the usual side-facing jump seats.

The pickup bed on Regular and Extended Cab models measures 6 ft., 1 in. long with tall sides to optimize box volume. The Crew Cabs bed is 5 ft., 1 in. long. Both offer two-tier cargo loading and a unique 55-degree tailgate opening that allows long items, such as the obligatory 4-by-8-ft plywood sheets, to be transported flat. The tailgate otherwise opens to a full 89 degrees and can be key-locked in place to prevent theft.

Safety equipment includes standard dualstage front air bags, pretensioners at the outboard front-seat positions and available roof-rail air bags for improved sideimpact protection. Front outboard seating positions and the rear outboard positions of Crew Cabs have adjustable upper guide loops for improved belt fit and comfort, and a center-rear three-point belt is standard in Crew Cabs.

Additional safety and security features include daytime running lights, content theft security, a driver information center with oil life monitor, PASSLock II vehicle theft protection, radio theft deterrence, lockout protection (with power locks), child security locks (on Crew Cab rear doors), battery rundown protection and an optional OnStar safety and security package.

A 4-speaker AM/FM stereo is standard, while the LS adds a CD player, Radio Data System (RDS) and two additional speakers. Also standard are air conditioning, intermittent wipers, a cargo box side step on 4wd models and tow hooks on 4wd models. Options include remote keyless entry, heated seats, fog lamps, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, XM Satellite Radio, running boards, leather seating, high-back bucket seats, rear sliding window, a selfdimming inside mirror and power left and right outside mirrors.

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