BASALT, Colo. -- The new Colorado Z71 -- Chevrolet's mid-size truck in 4-door crew-cab configuration with a 4-wheel-drive system applying the 6-pack engine's powerful torque to all four wheels -- cuts a zigzag line along Fryingpan Road that traces the wiggly white-water Fryingpan River through a canyon in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Colorado -- the truck, not the state -- returns to Chevy's 2015 line following a 2-year hiatus in a tip-to-tail remake with options for two new forceful yet fuel-thrifty engines, two cab variations designed with more personal space and more comfort features, three trim tiers ranging from work-truck basic to leather-loaded plus heaps of sophisticated electronic controls to make the rig downright easy and safe to drive.
The 2015 editions of Colorado score a welded steel superstructure that rises from a boxed hydroformed steel frame in H-shaped pattern with cross bracing.
Sheetmetal styling for Colorado uses some design elements from Chevy's full-size Silverado and projects a powerful face dominated by a single-bar grille and corner headlamp clusters.
Overall shape of the truck is rather cubistic with squarish corners yet aerodynamic concessions like the sloping aluminum hood and canted windshield. The prow houses active aero grille shutters, which close at certain highway speeds to enhance aerodynamics.
Cabs consist of an Extended Cab with two rear-hinged doors set behind the two front doors, and the Crew Cab with four conventional front-hinged doors.
Colorado Extended Cab gains extra space behind first-row seats with a flat-load floor. There's a pair of jump seats in the rear plus below-seat storage bins.
Colorado Crew Cab installs a rear bench with enough room to house three full-frame adults comfortably. Front seats in the Crew Cab consist of twin buckets with a center console and floor-mounted shifter.
There are two different lengths for the rear truck box -- 6'2" (74 inches) and 5'2" (62 inches), each with CornerStep bumpers, 2-tier loading system, bed rail and tailgate protectors and 13 tie-down locations plus optional EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgate with internal torsion bar and a factory-installed spray-in bed liner. Colorado Extended Cab comes with the 6-foot box while Colorado Crew Cab lists both box lengths.
Colorado trims consist of WT (Work Truck), LT and Z71, each available in rear-wheel 2-wheel-drive or 4-wheel-drive.
The Z71 adopts styling cues from rugged off-road machines. It totes a grille ringed in gunmetal rather than chrome, then installs projector headlamps plus unique 17-inch aluminum wheels.
To propel the 2015 Colorado trucks, Chevrolet lists two high-tech engines featuring dual overhead cams (DOHC), electronic throttle control (ETC), direct injection (DI) technology and variable valve timing (VVT).
The standard plant is a 2.5-liter cast aluminum 4-in-line engine which develops 200 hp at 6400 rpm and 191 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm.
The optional engine is a cast aluminum 3.6-liter V6 which punches out 305 hp at 6950 rpm and 269 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm.
Primary transmission is a fuel-saving 6-speed electronically controlled automatic, but for the WT Extended Cab edition a 6-speed manual shifter is available.
A rack and pinion steering system gets electric power assistance, which contributes to powertrain fuel efficiency.
Brakes include a disc at every wheel -- ventilated front and rear -- with Duralife brake rotors and linkage to a 4-wheel anti-lock brake system with electronic traction and StabiliTrak electronic stability control including Hill Start Assist, plus optional Hill Descent Control.
Colorado's standard technology gear on-board includes a 3.4-inch driver information screen in the instrument cluster, a color 8-inch touch screen for LT and Z71 trims, multiple USB drives and a rear-vision camera.
Optional equipment ranges from OnStar, MyLink and navigation systems to forward collision alert and lane departure warning devices.
We estimate that Chevrolet's MSRP numbers for 2015 Colorado models to stretch from $20,995 to $34,900.