Off-roading is a growing market. There have always been those special adventurers who have taken to the sport, but more and more brands are starting to offer off-roading features, packages, editions, and even models (think about the Bronco’s big comeback). A special sector of the off-roading market is off-roading trucks. These are a special beast because trucks are traditionally associated with worksite activities, while off-roading vehicles are traditionally compact little SUVs. While some of the larger trucks are holding their own on the off-roading market, the most ideal off-roading pickups are the mid-size ones, and the all-new 2023 Chevy Colorado is proof of this. In providing the build of a pickup with the compact athleticism of an off-roader, a truck like the Colorado is well-equipped to hit the trails.
Interestingly enough, the Colorado has been somewhat ahead of the Silverado in terms of off-roading. While the Silverado introduced its ZR2 model for the 2022 model year, the Colorado did the same thing back in 2018. What it boils down to is that the Colorado is designed with recreation at the forefront due to its mid-sized architecture, whereas the Silverado’s full-size-to-heavy-duty architecture makes it a natural fit for the worksite. The exciting part, though, is that each of the trucks can tap into the other’s territory. The Colorado is every bit a pickup truck and can certainly hold its own on the worksite with the right-size workload, and, as has been proven, the Silverado can tear up the trails.
That being said, compactness tends to work in favor of the off-roader. The journeys that come with off-roading tend to require tight maneuvers, flexibility, and agility. Those are not necessarily the buzzwords associated with pickup trucks. But, giving a pickup truck a smaller build like the Colorado allows it to be more nimble. Of course, a compact build isn’t the only thing that makes a good off-road vehicle. You can toss a Honda Civic on the trails if you want, but I’m willing to bet that it probably won’t go too well.You have to utilize the benefits of that compact build in such a way that off-roading capability is maximized. So how does the 2023 Colorado do this?
A New Engine
Well, actually a not-so-new engine. New to the Colorado, yes, but tried and true on the Silverado. The 2.7-liter turbo engine has been propelling Chevy’s iconic full-size truck, so now that power is being taken to the mid-size Colorado with up to 310 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque. Mid-size pickups aren’t usually looking at the 400+ range for torque, but the Colorado is breaking boundaries for the upcoming year. The engine itself is breaking boundaries with higher output than previous versions, making it all-new in a sense for this new Colorado.
The engine is the foundation of all performance capability, but it is not the landing place. The engine gives life to the bones of the vehicle, but the bones must be constructed properly. The 2023 Colorado has done some reconstructing, making it more prepared for off-roading.
The 2023 Colorado has received a significant chassis update. Three, actually. Yes, three new chassis designs across three different trims. The three chassis designs are the standard, two-inch factory-lifted ultra-wide stance, and high-performance three-inch factory-installed lift and wide stance. You may have noticed that those became longer mouthfuls as the list progressed, so let’s translate.
There’s the standard chassis, a chassis that is slightly elevated and significantly wider, and a chassis that is slightly wider and significantly elevated. So, you can have both taller and wider, but you can also prioritize which one is more important to you. The standard chassis is available on the WT, LT, and Z71 trims. The Z71 trim is a specific off-roading trim, and is in some ways the precursor to the ZR2. The third chassis option listed is the one hosted by the ZR2 trim. The ZR2 really takes off-roading to the next level by giving the truck a complete overhaul; the vehicle goes from being an “off-road-capable vehicle” to an “off-roader.” The second (middle) chassis option listed, however, brings with it some exciting news: the introduction of the Trail Boss trim.
This is a new trim for the Colorado, but one that has, like the engine, been proven on the Silverado. The ultra-wide stance makes for a bolder look, fit for a truck unafraid to take up its own space. This is an exciting edition for the Colorado as it adds a kind of intermediate off-roading trim. However, the observation made above about the ZR2 trim really transforming the Colorado holds true, and the ZR2 is the most capable of the off-roading trims (Z71, Trail Boss, and ZR2). The three-inch suspension means it has the most ground clearance, plus its capability is being increased through upgraded Multimatic DSSV dampers.
New chassis designs in themselves merit the title of “all-new.” The chassis is so integral to the vehicle that to redesign it means to redesign the whole vehicle. And with a whole new vehicle comes a whole new way of driving.
Driving Modes to Enhance the Experience
The Colorado is moving up, and so are its driving options. With up to five selectable driving modes, the Colorado is ready for anything. There’s one in particular, though, that is super exciting and unique.
So, there’s Normal. Not much to report there––you’ll have a great drive on the road. Tow/Haul mode will help you with your cargo-hauling, whether you’re using a trailer or the pickup bed. Off-Road is where things start to get exciting; this driving mode focuses on traction, readying the vehicle for terrains other than pavement. Terrain mode is where things get wild since this mode’s purpose is low-speed rock crawling. Maybe your rock climbing career never took off, but you’ll be able to find it again behind the wheel of the Colorado with throttle control and enhanced braking. This mode alone has three settings depending on the situation, so you’ll be able to climb flexibly. But there’s one more driving mode you’ve probably never seen on a truck like this.
Baja. Yes, Baja. This mode is designed specifically for high-speed desert running. If you’ve never enjoyed the open space of the desert sand with no traffic, regulations, or other infringements, then you’ve never experienced driving to the fullest. Baja mode is here to help you with that.
Driving to the Fullest
Not all vehicles allow you to drive to the fullest, but that is the goal of the 2023 Colorado. Off-roading allows you to understand and interact with your vehicle in a way that on-road driving simply cannot offer. Off-roading adventures require you to engage with the drive, with the vehicle, and with the terrain. The 2023 Colorado provides you with what you need to do just this. The Z71, Trail Boss, and ZR2 trims all help enable these off-road adventures too, but if you’re really looking to drive to the fullest, then the ZR2 trim is the one that wins, hands down. This mid-size truck is so versatile and is, in many ways, the ideal off-roading truck. You don’t need to have a Wrangler and a pickup if you want to enjoy the trails and the worksite; the Colorado allows you to have both.