2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2: Monthly Update for April 2018
by Calvin Kim, Road Test Engineer
Where Did We Drive It?
Our long-term 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 is a good multipurpose vehicle: It's been used for off-roading, city commuting and, in April, long-distance touring. Diesel engines like this sort of thing, so it was a good chance to hunker into the driver's seat and really stretch the ZR2's legs as editor Dan Frio drove up to Reno, Nevada, and back. How are the trick shocks on long highway stints? Any issues with the infotainment system? How is the road noise with those knobby tires?
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
Long highway drives at nearly constant speed are great for diesel engines, and the ZR2's oil-burner is no different. In April, our ZR2 covered 2,068 miles and achieved an average of 24.2 mpg, making it the second-best monthly average (after the first month's initial break-in miles).
Average lifetime mpg: 21.5
EPA mpg rating: 20 combined (19 city/22 highway)
Best fill mpg: 25.7
Best range: 453.1 miles
Current odometer: 12,950 miles
Maintenance and Upkeep
While our ZR2 has been issue-free, Staff Writer Dan Frio did have an observation about the way diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) level, a critical consumable fluid used in the emissions system, is displayed to the driver.
"Before leaving on a round-trip road trip from Orange County to Reno, I checked the onboard DEF level. A bit unhelpfully, the display read something like 'DEF Level OK.' No indication of how many miles might stand between 'OK' and 'Not OK.'
"At some point in the journey, the display showed a '25 Percent Remaining' notice. That was a bit more helpful. Then finally, a notification popped up that DEF would need replenishment after 998 miles. At least I knew it was something I could take care after I got home, and not during a gas stop in Barstow. A few days later, I added 2.5 gallons of DEF, to which the display responded, 'DEF Level OK.' " — Dan Frio, staff writer
"Definitely a 'plan-for-pass' truck, this one. Drove a long stretch of two-lane on U.S. 395, a highway that cuts north through California's Mojave Desert before skirting the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range (and on into Nevada and ultimately Canada). Much of the Mojave stretch is undulating two-lane, and when you get stuck behind a commercial semi and the two or three timid leeches behind it, well, you can kiss good-bye the idea of making good time to your destination. So when the lane-divider line turns to dashes and you have some space to make a pass, you need a good burst of juice to start moving up the line. And the Colorado just doesn't have it.
"There's just not enough top-end acceleration for quick leapfrogging, and you're forced to drop it into third gear, which the engine just really does not like. You need a lot of distance between you and the headlights of that oncoming car, and a lot of patience to work your way up the convoy. The Colorado forces you to dial back your driving attitude, or it should anyway. While it's nice to have that low-end grunt on a trail, on top of a boulder, or in a parking lot, the lack of top-end thrust can be a liability out on remote highways." — Dan Frio
"Will this madness never cease? Chrome belongs outside the car, not inside. And never on the steering wheel. The Colorado shines on in the late morning sun." — Dan Frio
"During an eight-hour highway drive, I was surprised at the muted tire noise. I thought those chunky tread blocks would announce themselves throughout the drive, but it was actually a persistent wind whistle over the windshield that was more noticeable. The clackety Duramax soundscape is actually quite soothing, the sound of a modern diesel doing its fuel-efficient work without excessive vibration or other vocal boasting. Too many diesels announce themselves with volume and bluster (I'm looking at you, neighbor guy, with the ridiculously loud Ford Power Stroke that I more often see dropping off the kids at school than pulling your dusty fifth-wheel). I like that the ZR2 keeps it as subtle as it can." — Dan Frio
"Experienced severe road-trip buzzkill when the ZR2's MyLink infotainment went into meltdown shortly after setting out on our journey. We were cooking down the highway when my rear-seat passenger plugged in her phone to the rear USB port. She only wanted to charge it, but it showed up as an iPod device in MyLink just the same. That would've been fine, except that it then somehow downgraded my phone — the primary audio device — to some sort of ex-significant-other status. It wouldn't play anything from my library via Bluetooth, and it wouldn't launch Apple CarPlay at all. Nor would it play anything from her device's library. It showed up as an available device but just wouldn't play anything.
"And while it did see my phone as a USB device, when I pressed the Play icon, music streamed out of my phone's speaker. No amount of rebooting phones, power-cycling MyLink, or cable-swapping did anything. I even pulled off the highway and ignition-cycled the truck. Nothing. We couldn't listen to any of our device music and were limited to satellite radio.
"I could only speculate that it was stuck in some bad processing loop and needed time to untangle itself. There seemed to be some validity to the theory when the system — MyLink, CarPlay and all — came back online again after a lengthy gas stop. There was again a minor freakout when said passenger later plugged in her phone. While I could regain playback through Bluetooth, the USB and CarPlay functions again disappeared. This was some weak-sauce performance from what seems like should be pretty elementary software protocol. Don't leave the driver stranded without preferred tunes!" — Dan Frio
"Pickups may not be everyone's idea of an ideal road-trip conveyance, but I'm not one of those people. I love them. You won't get great fuel economy like you might in a sedan. You won't get the convenience of an SUV; grabbing something from a bag stashed behind the third row isn't an option. And anything you pack in the bed of the truck is at the mercy of weather.
"But there's something, however misplaced, about heading out onto the open road with the feeling of solidity and security of a pickup. Even a midsizer like the Colorado. On my recent drive to northern Nevada, I stashed a few duffels, a box and a guitar case in the truck bed. Nothing major, and certainly nothing that required a pickup. Our long-term CX-5 or Camry could've handled the same.
"But an empty pickup bed offers possibility. I once crossed the country, from California to Georgia, in an Isuzu pickup. My companion ended up adopting a stray dog along the way. Lodging wasn't as dog-friendly then, so we spent a couple of nights under the stars in the bed of the truck. You won't get that in a Highlander.
"For this easy trip, I liked the Colorado's ride height and expansive view of the road. I liked the availability of four-wheel drive and the Colorado's chunky tires; early spring in Reno-Tahoe can be slick and slippery. I liked the truck's overall comfort. The cabin is relatively quiet and the ride is firm and stable, even with an essentially empty bed (our modest haul couldn't have amounted to more than about 150 pounds). The Colorado diesel's range and mpg are icing on the road-trip credentials; I averaged 437 miles of range and 22.8 mpg after about 1,200 miles of driving." — Dan Frio