The Chevrolet Colorado is a good little truck, certainly sturdy enough, leading me to believe that it is a capable enabler of various human endeavors that involve catapulting, hurtling, or generally straining one’s body across hill, dale, snow-capped extremity and Ace Hardware parking lot alike.
But its obvious novelty—one that so enraptured a certain publication’s staff to bestow it a pair of calipers that will hardly strain the Colorado’s 1500lb-plus payload—lies in its rejection of the idea that every pickup truck must be the approximate size of a Normandy landing craft.
That’s right—our cars are creeping ever so bigger, ever so clumsier, and if all cars must expand then trucks must do so exponentially, until comes the day when a Silverado rear-ends a Ram, causing Santa Monica to fall into the ocean. But we can do good to admit, even against American exceptionalism, that not every man, woman, and child needs a full-sized truck. (Are those black helicopters I’m hearing?) Until the day that we stop believing in the weirdness of the front-drive mini-truck, a Southern Hemisphere vestige as bizarre as cuy chactao and the Plymouth Scamp, this conveyance in Red Rock Metallic is exactly what some of us deserve: a vehicle that can’t haul as much, can’t tow as much, can’t be ordered with High Country leather the color and texture of your grandfather’s elbows—but something so refreshing that it snaps us awake from thinking that every new pickup needs to be bigger, squarer, more chrome-laden, more ready for ramming than the last hulking beast it replaces.
And yet, the Colorado still manages to dwarf a jellybean F-150 from the Clinton administration—thattenth-generation F-150, has a 10-inch shorter wheelbase and length in its smallest configuration than even the shortest Colorado. Think about that.
Meanwhile the Colorado seems to defy spatial logic. It looks enormously long but feels small; it feels narrow but it’s hamstring stretching tall; it’s long and narrow and tall but it drives with surprising nimbleness. Yes, even this four-doored long-box. (Remember when such trucks only belonged to railroad companies?) Those coming out of a full-sized Silverado will find little culture shock within its cabin, which is scaled down, sure, narrower now, but never snug and never cramped.
I didn’t get a chance to take the Colorado off-road, or to Colorado, or even to the nearest Canyon. Instead, I drove it around Los Angeles, committing occasional errands, then a sprint up the 101 Highway to a stupendously lavish hotel where the valets asked excitedly not about what I would be driving but about what I was.
The 3.6-liter V6 is a stout little engine, usually relaxed—but ask it firmly and it’ll muster up 305 horsepower with enthusiasm and a nice noise. The six-speed automatic transmission takes some time and a lot of throttle to react, but when on the move it’s plenty smooth. Brakes are very controllable and very powerful, and the accurate and evenly weighted steering isn’t just pretty good, for a truck—it’s pretty good, period. Body motions are nicely reduced to the occasional rumble and jostling, reinforcing the feeling that it’s Like A Bob Seger Song.
Inside, it’s a quiet place to be. Nice and roomy. MyLink dominates the center console, same as in your Impala, y’know—all square buttons and sharp gradients, homely but effective. The flat, two-color gauges are easy to read but also gravely stark. Seats are firm like a doctor’s waiting room, while the rear bottom cushions flip up to stash various unmentionables, just like the Silverado’s. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is terrific to behold.
Praise to Corvette for its trick temperature gauges, an idea so neat it’s trickled down to every Chevy product, with a retrofit for the 1987 Celebrity Eurosport VR available sometime next Monday—evidently the same people who design showerheads figured out the Colorado’s automatic climate control, because the temperature swings wildly from the ass-freezing cold to Florida-esque mugginess within a single knob click.
The Colorado starts at a hair over $20,000. Which is good. Because the one I tested was nearly twicethat—and for $38,870 you get sweet darkened five-spoke wheels ($1,000), leather seats ($950), MyLink ($495), lane departure and frontal collision warnings ($395, and remember, the life you save could be mine), and another thousand-dollar luxury package, which means the aforementioned touchy automatic controls and chrome bits. Humans love shiny things, and pick-em-up truckers even more so.
Macho posturing aside, the Colorado is far more accessible than any full-sized truck out there—small enough for a city, even one with four-lane boulevards, yet big enough to trick you into seeming invincible. Chevrolet’s marketing department imagines armies of scruffy young men in artfully cuffed denim and Target Merona plaid shirts staining their pits as they heave entire REI storefronts into the back, giving hardly a worry to the optional factory spray-in bedliner, before cranking the Black Keys through the seven-speaker Bose audio system (a $495 option!) and setting off to reclaim their manliness in lofty and Walden-esque ways, or at least tubing at Mt. Baldy. I don’t disagree with any of that. I know I’ve certainly helped load plenty of tents into tiny pickups during my time with Boy Scout Troop 227 of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, before heading off to summer camp and bounding down dirt roads at McRae-aping speeds while passing branches play drum solos off the A-pillars. Big trucks lumber, small trucks bound.
That would make a pretty good bumper sticker. Get me Chevrolet’s marketing department.
We imagine such possibilities of vehicles like the Chevrolet Colorado, the Nissan Frontier, the Toyota Tacoma—both of which are getting upgraded, soon enough—and, of course, it may be the nostalgia portion of my mind that remembers the 2001 Nissan Xterra of my childhood that enabled so many trips, so many adventures, so many ideas of taking the next off-ramp from the 101 and winding up thoroughly and wonderfully lost, so far away from water. Is it a truck, or a call to arms? The easy-access Colorado carries forth a go-get-‘em lifestyle that that sneakily guilts us into getting off our asses, to take up mountain biking or drywall installation.