Turbodiesel engines and pickup trucks have long been synonymous with the heavy-duty models produced by Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. However, in recent years, the light-duty Ram 1500 pickup truck has gained such an engine and the overhauled 2016 Nissan Titan will also offer one.
Long absent from the party is a four-cylinder turbodiesel engine to power one of the smaller pickup trucks currently produced by Toyota, Nissan and GM. Beginning this fall, that deficiency will be addressed when a 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel becomes available with the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado and its twin, the GMC Canyon.
Both pickup trucks returned to the market last year after a three year absence. The combined sales thus far have put GM’s midsize pickup trucks firmly in second place, behind the Toyota Tacoma and ahead of the Nissan Frontier. A redesigned Tacoma debuts this fall, but comes to the market without a diesel option.
Like its competitors, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon offer an assortment of body styles, 4×2 and 4×4 configurations, and four- and six-cylinder gasoline engines. With a diesel option in the mix, GM seeks to provide its dynamic duo with an engineering and marketing edge.
The new turbodiesel engine displaces 2.8 liters. It is built by GM’s Duramax engine division and the manufacturer says it is its cleanest diesel yet. In the Colorado, it will be available in the LT and Z71 Crew Cab models only and at a price point that is $3,730 above comparably equipped models outfitted with its 3.6-liter V6 engine. GMC will offer the innovative engine in its SLE and SLT Crew Cab models.
As equipped, the base model for the Colorado diesel will come in at $31,700. This model will make 181 horsepower at 3,400 rpm and 369 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm. Maximum trailering comes in at 7,700 pounds for 4×2 models and 7,600 pounds for 4×4 models. That’s as much as a 10 percent increase over the 2015 Colorado and Canyon equipped with the 3.6-liter engine and the Z82 trailering package.
Fuel Economy and Equipment
Notably, GM is expected to achieve the coveted 30 mpg EPA highway rating for both trucks. That will equal a threshold attained by the larger Ram 1500 diesel and provide more than a 10 percent increase in fuel economy over the most efficient Colorado model. In effect, the Colorado equipped with the diesel engine will offer fuel efficiency that surpasses the 2.5-liter gasoline engine and performance that tops the larger V6 engine.
The Duramax diesel engine features an iron block and common rail direct injection, a high pressure arrangement that feeds individual solenoid valves instead of the unit injectors that low-pressure fuel pumps utilize. It also has a very high 16.5-to-1 compression ratio and features ceramic glow plugs to hasten heat up time and reach higher glow temperatures, a characteristic especially ideal during the winter. GM says that the engine is biodiesel capable and will run on B20 fuel representing a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel.
The diesel engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission equipped with centrifugal pendulum vibration absorber in the torque converter, technology that minimizes powertrain noise and vibration. That’s one more measure GM took to quiet the clatter inherent in these types of engines.
Diesel Exclusive Features
There are a number of features exclusive to (or included with) 2016 Chevrolet Colorado diesel models. For example, the Z82 towing package, offered as an option elsewhere, is standard. Moreover, that package includes a hitch receiver and a seven-pin connector.
Exclusive to the diesel line is an integrated brake trailer. Also, a G80 locking differential is standard, which increases traction in a variety of conditions. It is an automatic system requiring no driver intervention. A 3.42 rear axle is also included.
Four-wheel drive diesel models also receive an electronically controlled two-speed transfer case. A two-speed transfer case provides a lower gear ratio, thanks to an additional set of gears in the assemblage. The transfer case sends extra torque and a slow output speed to the wheels, and locks the front and rear axle driveshafts to turn all the wheels at the same time. This component is ideal for off-roading.
The Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon with an available diesel option will solidify these two models as Toyota releases a new Tacoma, Honda brings back an updated Ridgeline, and as Nissan readies a new Frontier for 2017. Remaining on the sidelines are the Ford Motor Company and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, content to serve customers with light- and heavy-duty versions of their full-size trucks. Both manufacturers were previous participants in the segment with the Ford Ranger and Dodge (Ram) Dakota offered.
Once considered part of a dying segment, the midsize GM pickup trucks have breathed new life into the small truck market and given customers options to the capable Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size trucks. Demand for the new turbodiesel is expected to be brisk, and Chevrolet and GMC dealers are now taking orders for fall delivery.