2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2: Monthly Update for September 2018
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
Where Did We Drive It?
That sound you hear is the Edmunds staff applauding because our long-term 2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 hit its 20,000-mile target last month. Not only that, but the end of September also marked a full year of ownership. Usually these milestones would mean it's time to say goodbye, but we own this one outright. We're free to keep it as long as we want.
Our ZR2 is not going anywhere just yet because it's still a popular choice. And it's not as if everyone is off-roading all the time either. It's certainly being used for that, but it's also comfortable enough to get picked for road trips that any car, truck or SUV could handle. September's tally of 2,110 miles is a prime example of that.
The Colorado spent more than a week in the hands of our remote operative in California's Central Valley, which means he drove it more than 400 miles on a there-and-back road trip, plus a like number of miles of local commuting and errand-running. Another staffer took it to a remote undisclosed location in Kern County to maintain a duck blind, while a third drove it north to Monterey, California, to attend the Porsche Rennsport Reunion at Laguna Seca Raceway. Others may have even driven it to work and back in between.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
Yes, more than half of this month's 2,110 miles were highway miles, but it must be said that the drivers involved are not feather-footed. They're the sort who are, shall we say, eager to get where they're going, if you catch my drift. And the number of city miles they drove was not negligible either.
I'm pointing this out because September's average fuel economy worked out to 22.1 mpg. That's pretty remarkable considering the truck's EPA highway rating is 22 mpg. The EPA combined number, the figure we usually measure ourselves against, is 20 mpg. September's result also nudged our lifetime average up 0.1 mpg from July.
As I said last month, there's something about diesels that makes it much easier to hit their numbers than gasoline-powered machines. We see it all the time.
If you find yourself shaking your head and thinking that a 22 mpg highway rating isn't that great for a midsize diesel pickup, remember that this is the ZR2 we're talking about. It stands quite a bit taller and is significantly wider than a regular Colorado. Its front end has been almost comically pruned back to enable more off-road clearance. And don't forget about those knobby tires, which are also quite wide.
It would be a gross understatement, in other words, to say that a regular diesel Colorado has better aerodynamics. The difference in the frontal area and total drag is absolutely massive. A comparative look at the Colorado's EPA highway ratings bear this out: A non-ZR2 4x4 diesel is good for 28 mpg (plus 5 mpg/27 percent) and the Colorado 4x2 diesel is rated at 30 mpg (plus 8 mpg/36 percent).
But aerodynamics don't play nearly as big a role at lower city speeds, so the ZR2's 19 mpg city rating rises to just 20 mpg for the regular 4x4 Colorado diesel. A 4x2 diesel Colorado does a little better at 22 mpg, which is in line with the usual 1-2 mpg improvement that comes when you subtract the weight and mechanical drag of a 4x4 system.
Average mpg this month: 22.1
Average lifetime mpg: 21.1
EPA mpg rating: 20 combined (19 city/22 highway)
Best-fill mpg: 25.7
Best range: 513.3 miles
Current odometer: 21,201 miles
Maintenance and Upkeep
As predicted in the last update, our ZR2 Duramax diesel asked for some diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) just after the odometer rolled past 20,000 miles. I'm not sure precisely when the light came on, but Brent's logbook entry says he added 2.5 gallons of the stuff at 20,073 miles, which is 5,151 miles after we last filled it. Here's what else he had to say about it:
"While I was adding more DEF to our Colorado this month, I couldn't help but notice the multiple warnings on the box that you shouldn't add DEF to the fuel tank. I could see somebody making that mistake, either by a lack of knowledge or just being tired and mixing up the truck's fill spouts. Just hope it doesn't happen, though. Apparently, adding DEF to the diesel tank and then driving can wreak havoc on the truck's fuel system, and would likely require expensive repairs." — Brent Romans, senior editor, written content
Brent didn't fill it fully this time because DEF at the pump isn't easy to find around these parts. It's easier to buy it by the 2.5-gallon jug and pour it in right there in the parking lot of an auto parts store. Past experience has shown us that the Colorado doesn't have the capacity for two 2.5-gallon jugs, so we usually add just one and get back on the road. Sure, it's not full, but our ZR2's historical DEF economy hovers in the neighborhood of 1,100 mpg. A single jug buys us another 2,750 miles of driving before we have to think about it again.
"We've had a couple different opinions about our ZR2's diesel engine recently. Just last month, Dan Edmunds wrote: 'Can I tell you how much I love the diesel engine? Forget horsepower; torque is king.' But back in May, Travis Langness wrote: 'There's no way I'd buy [a Colorado] with the diesel.'
"I think I land somewhere in the middle. I enjoy the engine's relaxed power and distinctive clickity-clack soundtrack. Heck, if you could get this engine with a manual transmission, I'd like it even more. But in reality, I wouldn't buy it either. It's too expensive and too slow, and the modest gains in fuel economy and potential towing ability aren't enough to offset those downsides." — Brent Romans
"I know it's been said before, but one side effect of the ZR2's trick shocks is a fairly amazing highway ride. High frequency bumps, like the kind you find in a lane heavily used by semi-trucks, are nearly nonexistent. So are high-speed dips and drops like the kind you find on portions of Interstate 405 here in L.A. If your off-roading destinations take a few hours of driving to get to, this truck is probably the most comfortable way to get there." — Kurt Niebuhr, vehicle test editor
"Yesterday, I drove our Colorado ZR2 about 500 miles, the most I've ever driven it in one day. It was mostly highway driving, with about an hour of congested city traffic thrown in. At the end of the day, I was feeling pretty good. The ride quality can be a little bumpy at times, but the big tires and special DSSV shock absorbers take the edge off any truly rough pavement. The driver's seat is comfortable and the truck is stable at high speed. Even those knobby tires are reasonably quiet. I'd have no reservations about taking a ZR2 on a long road trip to get somewhere for dedicated off-roading." — Brent Romans
"One thing I love about having a pickup truck around is the ease in which you can load up bicycles. With any other vehicle, you have to deal with folding down seats, muscling bikes up on roof racks or installing tow-hitch attachments. With a pickup, you just throw your family's bikes in the bed and go. I found our Colorado's short bed is just long enough to hold my 29-inch bike." — Brent Romans