2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2: Monthly Update for December 2017
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
Where Did We Drive It?
We added another 1,951 miles to our 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 this month, and a good chunk of it came from a road trip I took to drive a Jeep. The all-new 2018 Jeep Wrangler was introduced just outside of Tucson, Arizona, and I decided to drive instead of fly. I'll always make that call if the destination is within 500 miles or so. I'd rather deal with mpg than TSA. To get in the spirit of the whole off-road thing, I selected the ZR2.
I took the long way, so the trip represented about 1,100 miles of this month's total accumulation. The remainder came from errand-running and local driving during the holidays. The end result is a decent mix of driving, skewing a bit toward highway.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
The Tucson trip's highway mileage was far from a best-case scenario. At one point during the trip, I added a 30-mile off-road detour, and most of the day I fought a fairly substantial headwind. The air was mostly still on the return trip two days later, at least. Including the wind and the off-road detour, the ZR2 averaged 22.6 mpg over the entire trip, which compares very favorably to its highway rating of 22 mpg.
I didn't beat the ZR2's best-tank mark of 25.7 mpg, but I have a hard time taking that mark seriously because that was a short run of 121 miles that probably had a downward-trending elevation profile. On this trip's second tank, I set a new best-range mark of 453 miles, with the ZR2 averaging 23.3 mpg over that distance. The final tank of 24.4 mpg spanned the final 214 miles before I filled up at home to formally end the trip. The overall of 22.6 mpg is lower than these two impressive results because the first tank's headwind and off-roading resulted in a 21.1 mpg initial tank that dragged the average down.
To the surprise of no one, the errand-running and local driving suppressed the month's average below that of the road trip. The end result is an overall December fuel economy average of 21.2 mpg, and the truck's lifetime average over 7,772 miles now stands at 21.1 mpg. Both numbers are quite impressive when compared to the ZR2 diesel's EPA combined rating of 20 mpg.
Average lifetime mpg: 21.1
EPA mpg rating: 20 combined (19 city/22 highway)
Best fill mpg: 25.7
Best range: 453.1 miles
Current odometer: 7,772 miles
Maintenance and Upkeep
Several notable things happened during December, three of them routine, one of them unexpected.
The unplanned event happened during the off-road portion of the drive to Arizona. I made my way up a narrow canyon and got out for a hike. When I got back to the truck, I scrolled through the menus and glanced at the tire pressure monitoring system readout, something I do quite often, especially if I'm off-road. The warning light wasn't on, but the left rear tire was 4 pounds lower than its companions. All four had been the same before I climbed out of the truck for my hike.
I kept an eye on it as I drove back onto the highway, but the number continued to creep down. The warning lamp finally came as I was driving into Laughlin, Nevada. After digging up some quarters for a gas station's coin-operated compressor, I added air and pressed on. The leak continued, of course, but it also picked up speed. Sixty miles later, the pressure dropped enough to trigger the warning once again. I pulled into a roadside turnout and installed the spare tire. It's a full-size spare that's mounted on a matching alloy wheel, so I was good to go until I found time to have the flat fixed.
I took the truck to America's Tire when I got home, and no one could conclusively determine what caused the leak. A technician dunked the tire in a tank, and we could plainly see that the bubbles were coming from a point deep between the tread blocks. We could see a small entry wound, too, but nothing in the hole itself, and we could see no obvious tear in the inner liner. He applied a patch directly under the entry wound and the tire was soon good to go.
At this point it made sense to tackle the first routine maintenance item: Rotate the tires.
Cost: $0. That's right, America's Tire does flat repairs and routine rotations for free. This location did, at least.
The diesel exhaust fuel (DEF) indicator had looked fine throughout the trip, but as I got close to home the warning light came on and started counting down the mileage remaining. I took action when it got down to 200 miles. You may remember that Jay added some just recently, but he was in the middle of a long road trip and only added a single 2.5-gallon jug. He didn't fill the tank.
The ZR2 diesel's DEF tank is rated at 5.3 gallons. The warning was getting insistent, so I figured I could add two standard 2.5-gallon jugs of the stuff rather than one. Yes, I know that DEF at the pump is a thing, but not here in the suburbs of Orange County.
But my plan hit a snag. The tank was full after I added 4.5 gallons. The jug with the remaining half-gallon is still here under my desk.
I hate this. Either make the tank big enough for two standard jugs when the light comes on, or adjust the timing of the warning light so there's room for 5 gallons when the warning gets to a certain point. Add a physical gauge while you're at it, too.
The final item was an oil change. The oil life monitoring system had been counting down during the trip, and when I got home the oil life was down to 2 percent. At first I figured I'd have the dealer do it, so I wheeled into the closest one. But this was midmorning on a Saturday. I didn't have an appointment.
I was ignored by the service writers at Selman Chevrolet for a good 10 minutes, so I left and went to Guaranty Chevrolet, which was on my way home anyway. The service writer acknowledged me and said he'd be with me in five minutes, but he was working alone and had three cars in the appointment line. Five minutes turned into 15, so I wandered into the adjacent parts department and bought an oil filter.
My plan hit a snag when I went to buy 5W-30 motor oil. The ZR2 diesel takes a special kind. The GM Dexos1 standard is commonly met by a wide range of oils made by many companies. But the ZR2 Duramax diesel requires Dexos2, which I could not find at the first three auto parts stores I wandered into. This was complicated by the fact that Dexos1 Gen 2 exists, and this variant even has a little "2" at the bottom corner of the green Dexos logo. But that's not Dexos2. The Dexos2 logo is blue, not green.
Dexos2 is essentially the same special synthetic oil formulation that Volkswagen TDI diesel vehicles need. It contains different ingredients that help protect the diesel emissions system components. None of the people working the counters at the auto parts store knew any of this. They thought I was nuts. I eventually found a list of Dexos2 oils on the Dexos website while I stood hunched over my phone in one of the stores. Many oils on the list were European brands I've never seen, but there were some familiar names. Mobil 1 was one of them, but it had to be a specific formulation called "ESP Formula — Emission System Protection."
Then at a nearby Pep Boys, I found some, but only 4 quarts (liters, actually; another clue that Mobil 1 ESP is probably more common in Europe). The Dexos2 logo was absent, but the oil formulation name matched the Dexos2 online product list and the label on the back spelled out Dexos2 in text. The guy looked up the SKU and found more of it at another Pep Boys closer to my home. I went there to buy the last two, but the Dexos reference was absent from those labels. Turns out the production date stamped on the bottles predated the Dexos2 standard itself. Apparently the oil at this second Pep Boys (a service center, not a retail store) had been sitting on the shelf a long time. But the same VW and Audi TDI references were there, and the ESP label and the SKU matched the 4 quarts I'd bought at the previous store. I went ahead and bought them.
The oil change itself was the easiest one I've ever done. The ZR2's tall stance meant that there was no need to jack it up. The skid plate has a permanent access hole for the drain plug. The drain plug washer is a permanently installed O-ring that does not need replacement. And the oil filter is a cartridge-style affair that goes in from the top without the need for a special wrench. Once I'd gathered my tools, the whole thing was done in 20 minutes.
The search for oil had taken time, of course. But if I owned one of these, I'd avoid that problem by purchasing through Amazon and having it shipped to my house. Same goes for the filter. I'd probably save money this way, too, since the oil and filter are expensive. At least the service interval is 7,500 miles.
Cost: $109.70 total ($24.43 for the filter, $85.27 for the oil — $13.19 per liter before tax)
"The amount of torque on tap is impressive. It's not so much about speed; it's about effortlessness. It never takes much throttle to get this truck rolling, no matter what the terrain." — Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing
"I had to deal with strong winds for hours, but the ZR2 wasn't pushed around at all. It maintained a straight path without much countersteering on my part, even during big gusts." — DE
"The ZR2 glides over most road imperfections like they're not even there. You'd think that a burly off-road machine would ride like a pogo stick, but this suspension is calm and settled in most situations. Poise isn't a word you'd expect to use with a truck like this, but it sums it up nicely." — DE
"The MyLink system in our 2017 ZR2 is much less laggy than the 2014 Colorado we had when this truck was launched. And I find Apple CarPlay — something the older MyLink system didn't support — to be so convenient that I'm a lot more receptive to the idea of Apple Maps, the one that CarPlay supports. Do I wish CarPlay supported Google Maps, too? Sure. But I'm not holding my breath for the day when Apple and Google become best friends." — DE
"The folding rear seat in the crew-cab Colorado isn't nearly as smartly designed as the one in the Tacoma. Toyota's design offers up a flatter load floor that's also lower and easier to load. Here you get something that looks like a teetering pile of couch cushions." — DE
Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing @ 7,772 miles