2015 Chevrolet Colorado injects new technologies into midsize pickup segment

  • 21-Nov-2013 10:28 EST

GM planners decided not to offer a standard-cab model. Fleet customers can order a rear-seat-delete option as an alternative.

General Motors is aiming to light a fire underneath the almost dormant midsized pickup truck segment, with its 2015 Chevrolet Colorado. Unveiled at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show and slated for 3Q14 production, the all-new Colorado is virtually a scaled-down Silverado that is about 900 lb (408 kg) lighter than its full-size cousin. It is also approximately 16 in (406 mm) shorter, 5 in (127 mm) narrower, and 3 in (76 mm) lower overall; GM has not yet released full specifications.

A GMC Canyon version with “wildly different” exterior styling, according to GM North America President Mark Reuss, is expected to be introduced at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in January. The trucks feature a number of significant segment firsts: aluminum hood, active grille shutters to improve highway fuel efficiency, available forward collision-alert, lane-departure warning, and an optional diesel engine.

Based on the GMI700 body-on-frame platform that underpins the Thailand- and Brazil-built global Colorado launched in 2011, the new North American truck has two key missions in GM’s product portfolio: serve those pickup customers who don’t require (or want) a Silverado and help GM meet the aggressive new CAFE regulations that culminate in a 30.2-mpg average expected of light trucks in 2025.

A 2.8-L I4 Thailand-built Duramax turbodiesel will be available in MY2016; GM engineers indicate they hope to certify diesel models at least at 30 mpg highway. The engine mix at launch includes a standard gasoline 2.5-L I4 rated at approximately 193 hp and 183 lb•ft (143 kW and 248 N•m) with 90% of peak torque available from 2000 to 6200 rpm. An optional 3.6-L V6 is estimated to produce 302 hp and 270 lb•ft (224 kW and 366 N•m); SAE power ratings are not yet finalized.

The 6L50 6-speed automatic is the sole transmission for all 4x2 and 4x4 versions.

HSS-enhanced frame

According to Chief Engineer Jeff Luke, the 2015 Colorado shares minimal content with the outgoing GMT355-based model that was produced from 2004-2012 and reached 163,668 peak sales in 2005. The business case for midsized trucks in the U.S. traditionally has been difficult, Luke acknowledged, as they cost roughly as much to manufacture as a similarly equipped full-size truck while delivering lower profit margins. Only Nissan and Toyota remain in the segment in North America.

GM will try to lure customers into the Colorado with superior fuel economy and lower price than a similarly equipped Silverado, said Bill Rinna, Manager of North American Vehicle Forecasts at LMC Automotive.

“The lifestyle truck buyer is moving away from full-size trucks, which creates an opportunity for the new Colorado/Canyon—if GM can keep their price well distanced from Silverado,” Rinna told AEI. Defining that price point is tricky, he said, because pickup buyers in general spend a larger percentage of their household incomes to purchase their vehicles than those in any other car or light-truck segment.

The Chevy/GMC models will be offered in three cab/bed configurations: extended cab with a 6-ft-long (1.8-m) bed; crew cab with a 5-ft (1.5-m) bed; and crew cab with a 6-ft bed. With the tailgate down, the 6-ft bed allows 8-ft-long (2.4-m) items to be hauled within the vehicle. There is no regular cab; GM will offer a rear-seat-delete option on extended-cab models, primarily for fleets.

Development of the North American truck was led by engineers in Warren, MI, with key input from GM Brazil engineers, Luke said. The centerpiece of the development program involved upgrading the ladder frame used on the global Colorado (originally co-engineered by GM Thailand and Holden) with high-strength-steel (HSS) cross members. The addition of HSS helped reduce the frame’s overall weight by 40% while improving torsional and bending stiffness, Luke noted.

Chassis features

Payload and trailering capability were paramount criteria for the program. The Colorado/Canyon are SAE J2807 compliant and are expected to offer more than 6700 lb (3039 kg) payload and towing capacity.

Suspension is by coil-over dampers in front and leaf springs in rear. The front knuckles are cast aluminum, and lower control arms are steel fabrications. The truck’s front anti-roll bar boasts perhaps the largest diameter of any non-full-size pickup (AEI did not have its tape measure on hand during the media unveiling, unfortunately.)

Dana drive axles are spun by an aluminum driveshaft. The trucks use electric power steering; their turning circle is 41 ft (12.5 m). Four-wheel disc brakes with four-pot front calipers are standard. They feature GM’s patented Duralife noncorrosive rotors.

WT, LT, and Z71 trims are available, all in 4x2 or 4x4. The off-road-capable Z71 package includes a G80 automatic locking rear differential as standard. Final drive ratio on the standard gearing setup will be “greater than 3.50,” Luke said. Z71 models come with standard StabiliTrak stability control with rollover mitigation, trailer sway control, hill start assist, and hill descent control.

Tenneco will supply the trucks’ exhaust system, AEI has learned.

All-new interior

According to Exterior Design Director Jeff Perkins, “many hundreds of hours” of wind-tunnel time were spent honing the truck’s exterior form for optimum aerodynamics. The WT and LT variants come with a front airdam/splitter that is molded into the bumper and is not included on the Z71 package.

Discussing the exterior details, Perkins admitted that he would have preferred the cab’s roof-to-bodyside intersection be a laser-welded joint (of the type GM is using increasingly on various passenger cars) rather than the lower-cost ditch joint with its plastic cover strip that is difficult to align and fit flush.

Like the 2014 Silverado, the Colorado and Canyon feature handy corner steps integrated into the rear bumper, to ease ingress into the cargo bed. There is also available an “EZ Lift-and-Lower” tailgate that uses an internal torsion bar and damper for easier control, 13 standard tie-down locations, and factory-sprayed-on bedliner.

The truck’s interior is completely different than the global GMI700 trucks. Cab doors are triple sealed for reduced wind noise. Interior amenities are vastly upgraded from the previous midsize trucks and give the GM models a significant leg up on their Japanese competitors. In addition to the active safety technologies previously noted, the Colorado features an 8-in (203-mm) diagonal color touch screen (on LT and Z71) and multiple USB drives. The instrument cluster has a 4.2-in (107-mm) diagonal driver information screen.

Navigation, next-gen OnStar and Chevrolet MyLink, with gesture recognition and natural language voice recognition, are optional. And finally, leather seats (inserts actually) are available in a midsize GM truck!

Technical specification changes are likely to come through SOP, as GM engineers finalize development. Assembly of the 2015 Colorado will be in Wentzville, MO; Rayong, Thailand; and São José dos Campos, Brazil.

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