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A blue 2023 Chevy Colorado ZR2 is shown from the side while driving on a dune.

2023 Colorado: Best-in-Class Off-Roading by the Numbers

After being treated as an automotive backwater for many years, the midsize truck segment has recently been revitalized with a slew of new models. While these smaller pickups are still nowhere near as popular as their full-size siblings, they have carved out a healthy niche for themselves as the go-to choice for serious off-roaders. When navigating narrow trails, the compact dimensions of models like the Tacoma, Gladiator, and Colorado allow them to outshine larger trucks, and manufacturers have begun leaning into the rugged reputation that surrounds their midsize trucks.

While the Toyota Tacoma has long been a staple of the trails, the new generation of off-road trucks was kicked into high gear when Chevy unveiled the Colorado ZR2 in 2016. Jeep was next to take up the gauntlet, adding a bed to the legendary Wrangler and dubbing it the Gladiator. Then Ford brought the Tremor package to the Ranger for 2021 and is promising us a Ranger Raptor for 2024. Now facing stiff competition in what was once a quiet segment, Chevy decided it was time to pull out all the stops for the 2023 Chevy Colorado and show everyone what a midsize truck is really capable of.

A blue 2023 Chevy Colorado ZR2 is shown from the rear while jumping off of a sand dune.

Angles Are an Off-Roader’s Friend

A lot of attention has been paid to the new Colorado’s powerful engine lineup and advanced tech features, and don’t worry, we’ll get to them, but one of the most important features of any off-road vehicle is its ground clearance. Not just its ride height but also its approach, breakover, and departure angles. This is one place where the 2023 Colorado has really wowed drivers, offering some of the best figures in its class. While it can’t quite overcome the unbelievable clearance of the purpose-built Gladiator, the Colorado handily defeats the more conventional trucks in the segment offers some pretty remarkable numbers for a conventional midsize pickup truck.

2023 Chevy Colorado ZR2

  • Ground Clearance: 10.7 inches
  • Approach Angle: 38.3 degrees
  • Breakover Angle: 24.6 degrees
  • Departure Angle: 25.1 degrees

2023 Jeep Gladiator Mojave

  • Ground Clearance: 11.6 inches
  • Approach Angle: 44.7 degrees
  • Breakover Angle: 20.9 degrees
  • Departure Angle: 25.5 degrees

2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

  • Ground Clearance: 9.4 inches
  • Approach Angle: 36.4 degrees
  • Breakover Angle: 24.7 degrees
  • Departure Angle: 26.6 degrees

2023 Ford Ranger Tremor

  • Ground Clearance: 9.7 inches
  • Approach Angle: 30.9 degrees
  • Breakover Angle: 24.2 degrees
  • Departure Angle: 25.5 degrees

Putting these numbers into perspective, the Colorado’s available 10.7 inches of overall ground clearance is a full inch more than the Tacoma or Ranger. The 38.3-degree approach angle, which is the most critical measurement since it dictates the sort of obstacles you can climb over, is also noticeably better than what the Toyota and Ford offer. Interestingly, there was even one place where the Colorado beat the Gladiator, and it isn’t an unimportant measurement either. Because the Gladiator has its front axle pushed so far forward to maximize the approach angle, it actually reduces the breakover angle. A high breakover angle is necessary to keep yourself from becoming high-centered on an obstacle, and the Colorado is 18% better than the Gladiator in that measurement!

Power to Roam the Wilds

Okay, you can put down your protractors now. It’s time to discuss the two specs all car enthusiasts love: horsepower and torque. The 2023 Colorado dropped its V6 and diesel engines from the lineup, standardizing on a 2.7L four-cylinder across the board. But this turbocharged engine was taken directly from the full-size Silverado 1500 and proves that good things come in small packages. Not only does the new Chevy 2.7L offer best-in-class horsepower, but it even comes close to matching the Gladiator’s V6 turbo-diesel in raw torque.

2023 Chevy Colorado ZR2

  • 2.7L I-4 Turbo: 310 hp / 430 lb-ft

2023 Jeep Gladiator Mojave

  • 3.6L V6: 285 hp / 260 lb-ft
  • 3.0L V6 Turbo-Diesel: 260 hp / 442 lb-ft

2023 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

  • 3.5L V6: 278 hp / 265 lb-ft

2023 Ford Ranger Tremor

  • 2.3L I-4: 270 hp / 310 lb-ft

With the new 2.7L, Chevy effectively copied what Ford did when it put a 2.3L EcoBoost in the Ranger, just with a much bigger and more powerful motor. The old naturally-aspirated V6 engines in the Tacoma and Gladiator are clearly outclassed here, leaving the Jeep turbo-diesel as the only real competitor. Unfortunately, it’s a diesel. Yes, diesel engines have a lot of fans, but the simple truth is that they are poorly suited to midsize trucks. The combination of high costs, little top end, and additional maintenance demands mean diesels are best left to heavy-duty pickups, not compact off-roaders––all of that just isn’t worth it to enjoy three percent more torque than the Colorado’s gasoline engine.

It’s the Little Things That Count

Spec sheets say a lot about a truck, and it’s critical to compare details like ground clearance and engine output to get an idea of what a vehicle is capable of. However, hard numbers aren’t everything. Having the right features can go a long way in making your next outdoor adventure easy, even if they aren’t as immediately obvious from a glance at the spec sheet. This is yet another place where the 2023 Colorado exceeds the competition by a considerable margin.

Any halfway serious off-road truck is going to have a four-wheel drive system with a two-stage transfer case, but not all four-wheel drive systems are created equal. Not by a long shot. What really separates the best from the rest is the differentials, and this is where the competition falls short. Although the Ranger Tremor, Tacoma TRD Pro, and Gladiator Mojave do have electronic locking rear differentials, they all use open front differentials, which means if one front wheel doesn’t have traction, you effectively have a rear-wheel drive truck. In contrast, the Colorado ZR2 is equipped with locking front and rear differentials.

Now, Jeep fans will be screaming that this is an unfair comparison because you can get front and rear lockers in the Gladiator Rubicon. That’s true––but that Rubicon has its own suspension issues. First off, the Gladiator Rubicon loses a half inch of ground clearance and track width compared to the Mojave. Second, the Rubicon uses smaller two-inch shocks instead of the 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks found in the Mojave, Colorado ZR2, or even Tacoma TRD Pro. This is an acceptable choice for the low-speed rock crawling the Rubicon was designed for, but it really hurts the model when it comes to higher-speed off-roading.

A blue 2023 Chevy Colorado ZR2 is shown from the front at an angle.

A Technical Tour de Force

The 2023 Colorado isn’t the best truck in every single possible measurement. In fact, the Gladiator is technically more capable in a lot of important metrics. However, the Colorado is by far the most well-rounded off-roader in the segment. Its combination of ground clearance, engine power, and drivetrain and suspension features is simply unmatched by any of the competition. It is also telling that only the Gladiator offers real competition––remember, the Colorado isn’t a purpose-built off-road machine like Jeep’s midsize truck. While Chevy has leaned into the model’s off-road reputation for the 2023 redesign, the Colorado remains your everyday pickup, catering to the same market as the Ford Ranger or Toyota Tacoma. The fact that Chevy has managed to make the 2023 Colorado so incredibly capable off-road without sacrificing its daily livability is what makes it a truly special truck.

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