By on August 12, 2017

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, Image: Stephen Elmer and Anthony Delacruz.

If you have dreams of racing in Baja, but lack a race team’s budget, it’s a good time to be in the market for a pickup truck. That is thanks to the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, two midsize off-road focused pickups with a special emphasis on high-speed desert running.

The Ford Raptor, now considered the granddaddy to both of these two young trucks, started this push into credible high-speed off-road packages from the factory, and both Chevy and Toyota have applied the treatment to their midsize pickups, each with something unique to offer would-be racers.

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, Image: Stephen Elmer and Anthony Delacruz.

Paper Showdown

Before we jump into the subjective aspect of these trucks, lets talk objective stats, and out of the gate, the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro seems to have the advantage on paper. That is thanks to 9.4-inches of ground clearance at the differential and an approach angle of 35 degrees compared to the 8.9-inches of clearance in the ZR2 and the 30-degree approach.

Breakover and departure are slightly better in the Toyota, which is also rated to handle more weight: 1,175 pounds of payload and a 6,800-pound trailer. Chevy sticks the ZR2 with a 1,100-pound payload rating and 5,000 pounds of towing. Curb weight also favors the TRD Pro, though just barely, as its 4,425-pound curb undercuts the Chevy’s 4734 pounds (or 4985 pounds with the diesel engine).

Now, despite the Toyota hauling more, this loss in hauling capability backs up the idea that Chevy took its truck further than Toyota when it comes to off-road preparedness, offering more wheel travel and softer springs and dampers to accommodate a beating on the trail. Not to mention, the ZR2 is fitted with locking differentials in the front and rear, again showing its commitment to making the ideal off-roader.

2017-chevy-colorado-zr2, Image: Stephen Elmer and Anthony Delacruz.

Packing power

The battle under the hood is won by the ZR2, with the Chevy offering a 3.6-liter gasoline-drive V6 making 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, compared to the 3.5-liter V6 found in the Tacoma, making 278 hp and 265 lb-ft.

Chevrolet also offers the ZR2 with a small 2.8-liter Duramax diesel (the engine found in our tester), which makes less hp than the TRD Pro at 186, but over 100 more lb-ft of torque sitting at 369 lb-ft, all of which is available at 2,000 rpm.

After a hard day off-road driving both trucks, the engines actually ended up being the biggest disappointment, but more on that after we explain makes both of these little wheelers so great.

2017-toyota-tacoma-trdpro-vs-chevy-colorado-zr2, Image: Stephen Elmer and Anthony Delacruz.

Down and Dirty

Midsize trucks are inherently ready for off-road duty thanks to their size, helping them feel nimble and lightweight on the trail and both the ZR2 and TRD Pro benefit from this, although the Toyota really takes it to heart.

Running at high speeds on rutted rocky trails, the TRD Pro feels compact and nimble, hugging the trail and communicating its every move to the driver like a small sports car. Steering feel is also tighter than in the Colorado, resulting in a direct connected feeling that makes the TRD Pro come alive when you’re blasting over the bumps.

That is easily the Tacoma’s best trait: it constantly feels pushed to the edge, making it an exciting little truck to drive. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best at what it does.

2017-toyota-tacoma-trdpro, Image: Stephen Elmer and Anthony Delacruz.

Standing in stark contrast, the best words to describe the Colorado ZR2 are calm and composed. Where the Tacoma’s FOX shocks have it kicking the rear end out or getting its nose pointing towards a tree, the Colorado’s DSSV system swallows up the ground beneath it, allowing the truck to stay flat and straight over the roughest terrain with minimal input needed from the driver.

A light steering rack and slightly vague feeling also add to that calm demeanour, as the wheel is never pulled too heavily in your hands. All of this combines to create a superhero feeling that tempts the driver to push the truck harder and faster all the time, and in our day on the trails, nothing we could do was too much for the ZR2.

At slow speeds, the ZR2 also excels, though admittedly its approach angle and ground clearance fall slightly short of the Toyota. The ZR2 makes up for it with locking differentials in the back and the front, a key for slow-speed crawling. More wheel travel also means that the ZR2 articulates better, not to mention you can get rock sliders on this truck as an option from the factory.

2017-chevy-colorado-zr2, Image: Stephen Elmer and Anthony Delacruz.

Toyota offers an electronic locking differential in the rear of its truck and the Crawl Control system (which controls throttle and brake for you during slow-speed off roading), but we would take two locking diffs over Toyota’s technology-based crawling system any day of the week.

Grip is also an advantage in the ZR2 thanks to its standard Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires. In the mud, these tires offer solid slow speed grip with the tread staying mostly clear, while on loose gravel and pavement the ZR2’s Wranglers seem to hug the ground better.

On the TRD Pro the stock Goodyear Wranglers with Kevlar Protection offer slightly less road noise than the ZR2, but nowhere near the same grip in the mud. It goes for on road, where the TRD Pro is much easier to break loose thanks to its tires.

Power Poor

So we’ve (hopefully) established that the suspension tuning in both of these trucks is impressive and makes them truly special (it is). Here’s the problem: the powertrains and interiors do very little to convince us that these trucks are anything different.

In the Tacoma, the 3.5-liter V6 never feels all that powerful, not surprising when you consider it makes its 278 horsepower all the way up at 6,000 rpm, same as the standard truck. Once you lose speed off-road, say to water or sand, you can pin the throttle and the Taco feels like it’s going nowhere.

2017-chevy-colorado-zr2, Image: Stephen Elmer and Anthony Delacruz.

On the flip side, the gas-powered Colorado has the same issue, making peak horsepower at 6,800 rpm, leaving the bottom end of the rev-range feeling sort of empty.

Our test truck came equipped with the 2.8-liter Duramax diesel, which solves the torque issue with its 369 b-ft at 2,000 rpm. Once in the mid-rpm range, the diesel has some urgency when you put your foot to the floor, able to actually power strongly through water or mud.

But it’s not all good. Off the line, the diesel takes some time to really build up steam, and it makes the truck over 200 pounds heavier, which is more to hold it back.

So the biggest issue with both of these trucks? They need more power. A more powerful engine in both packages would go a long way to making them truly remarkable. Look at granddaddy Raptor. It gets a unique engine that makes more power than all the other F-150’s, and it gets a special interior that includes a unique steering wheel, bolstered seats and more.

2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, Image: Stephen Elmer and Anthony Delacruz.

Insides

In the Toyota, you get Black TRD Pro Leather-trimmed heated front seats, a TRD shift knob and TRD floor mats. It’s almost the exact same in the ZR2, which gets stitched headrests and sill plates. Neither one feels all that special compared to the standard truck, though that is a knock against the package and not the trucks themselves.

When it comes to interior comfort and liveability, the Colorado is the better option in almost every sense. First, the seating position for the driver is great, with lots of adjustability, allowing you to sit high or nice and low in the truck depending on your size. In the Tacoma, the seat has a fixed height and thanks to the high floor, it is a tough truck to get comfortable in.

Same story goes for the back seats. The TRD Pro is only available as a Crew Cab, offering rear seat passengers 32.6 inches of legroom, while the largest ZR2 cab offers 35.8 inches. It doesn’t sound like too much, but in the real world, that is enough to mean the difference between an adult being comfortable or not.

2017-tacoma-trd-pro-interior, Image: Stephen Elmer and Anthony Delacruz.

And finally, the ZR2’s interior technology works better, too. Its off-road readout screen offers more info than the Tacoma, offering steering wheel angle, a diagram which shows you which wheels are slipping and the angle that the truck is sitting at, while the Taco only shows you its off-road angles.

For infotainment, MyLink in the Chevy is simple, well laid out and responsive. Toyota’s infotainment system is certainly plainer and more boring looking than the Chevy, while its screens are more convoluted and not as logically laid out.

Price

The Tacoma TRD Pro with a six-speed manual transmission will sell for $41,215, while adding an automatic brings the price up to $43,215.

At the base level, the Colorado is a little cheaper, starting at $40,995. However, once you start adding options — like the $3,500 diesel engine — this truck can get more expensive quick. Our tester also came with a set of sport bars from Chevy accessories, driving the price up to $47,265.

2017-toyota-tacoma-trdpro-vs-chevy-colorado-zr2, Image: Stephen Elmer and Anthony Delacruz.

The Verdict

It’s an amazing time to be an off-road enthusiast thanks to packages like TRD Pro and ZR2. Both of these trucks offer excellent suspension tuning, great off-road technology and serious gear to make sure that they can deliver smiles on the dirt for miles to come.

But one is certainly a better truck than the other. Its suspension delivers better when barrelling over the roughest terrain, but it can also stay stiff to keep things calm on the highway. Two locking differentials can carry you through the muddiest of bogs and aggressive tires grab the earth.

So if you’re looking for the truck that is more liveable every day and can deliver your Baja dreams on the weekend, you have to go with the Colorado ZR2.

[Images: Stephen Elmer and Anthony Delacruz]

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98 Comments on “In an Off-road Battle, Which Midsize Pickup Wins – Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 or Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro?...”


  • avatar
    FOG

    I am sorry, but I can’t get into a Truck that is a TuRD. That is what I see every time I read TRD. I know, it is immature, but it is real.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      The truck itself looks immature. Like a cartoon version of itself. Meanwhile, the Chevy looks ready for battle.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        As always John, if the badges were swapped your opinions would swap right along with them. Stance anything the way these two trucks are and it looks a bit silly, but put a Toyota badge on it–my God, now it’s fully immature.

        The Colorado’s bed-mounted spare tire is ridiculous and looks ridiculous. Where do you put your gear? You accused Tacoma buyers of wanting the poseur image statement the other day, so what do you call a pickup without a functional bed?

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Aww, did I hurt your feelings? Yes, I’m a Chevy fanatic. That’s why my screen name is JohnLumina.

          The tire takes up the *entire* bed? Must be a huge tire to render the entire truck completely useless.

          Badges have little to do with it, the front bumpers look car-like on the TuRD, while the ZR2 looks more off-road oriented. The oversized grille on the Toyota is silly, it doesn’t blend into the design, it looks like it was pasted over the top of it. That’s what I was referring to.

          The Tacoma is a poser because it’s a watered down version of the HiLux. Its a mall crawler, with its Camry V-6 and over the top styling.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            I should have mentioned, the Colorado has a car V-6 as well, but at least you can get a diesel with usable torque if your intentions are to use the truck as a truck and not an image projector.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            “Aww, did I hurt your feelings?”

            Not nearly as badly as some piece of Toyota-driving unobtainable @ss apparently hurt yours. Unfortunate, because when you curb your hyperbolic and obsessive brand tirades you often have something interesting to say.

            Doesn’t matter though. Your stated inability to participate in the new car market makes your opinion on this matchup as relevant as mine on the Lamborghini Aventador. But LOL at thinking the *thirty five hundred dollar* diesel makes the truck a real truck when half the bed is still taken up by the spare tire everyone else has managed to find storage for beneath. $47K rig that can barely fit a beach cooler, but let’s focus on the grill styling of the Toyota to define the word “poser”.

            And optional sport bars. A real truck needs sport bars. No image projection there.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Both trucks look pretty “car like”, the TRD looking like a Ford Fusion on steroids and the Chevy looking like a Honda CUV thing.

            But then again I prefer my trucks as basic crates, no fancy trim or anything to break.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          Without the spare tire visible in the bed, how would every know you’re a serious off-roader? This lets everyone know you’re a crazy MF on the trail and are so certain you are going to destroy a wheel at any moment now that you need it as accessible as possible.

          • 0 avatar
            Mandalorian

            Empirical evidence suggests that the purpose of the bed on 90% of Ford Raptors is storage and transportation of a spare wheel.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            On my last serious off-road trek (meaning we went up something that was more mountain hiking trail than road) we needed every cubic foot of an F-150 bed.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      If you had traveled to third-world countries within the past 40 years, the places with no real roads outside of provincial capitals, all you’d see on the roads would be those “turds” and hi-luxes all over the places, and practically zero Chevys. Moreover, most of those “turds” would be 20-30 years old and still running strong. Not bad for a “turd”. The reason is that those “turds” deliver, while the American trucks for the most part are being used as penis extension devices first, and all other functions next.

      • 0 avatar
        CaddyDaddy

        ……hmmm. As far as the Toyota lasting forever mantra I find that not to be the case. I would say in the 3rd world of Africa and Asia, the Turd’s tend to be 10 years old and just look old because the sheet metal being stamped is the same that was stamped in the 70’s. The Turd’s prevelience is more due to the distribution network, imo. Also, the real work of the 3rd would is usually being done by overloaded TATAs and Mercedes trucks.

        As far as old and working, in the Americas, I would say with authority, 40 year old pickups and 50 year old medium duty trucks still seem to be prevalent on farms and ranches from Canada to Argentina. …. and they all say F O R D on the hood.

        Having had to spend a few long road trips in a Turd, the seating position is horrid, towing a small trailer is a burden, paying the fuel bill is ouch and I find that the front ends eat themselves alive with glee.

        I don’t trust the CanyonRado. It’s a GM thing where I know they bean counted somewhere deep down below to save $0.50 in the driveline that will end up being $2,500 at 75,000 miles.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Week late to this, but… the steering-wheel controls!

          Maybe, just MAYBE, those buttons might last until the week after the warranty ends! (Membrane switches, actually!)

      • 0 avatar
        MrIcky

        My very limited 3rd world experience says Suzuki’s, Nissans, and Mahindras (sp?). I saw several vehicles that I THOUGHT were toyos at first and it turns out Mahindras make a ringer.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      Agreed. That’s always bothered me too. Well, actually it made me laugh because it’s an apt name for the direction that they took. A 1997 Supra Turbo with 60,000 miles on it recently bid up to $58,000 on bring a trailer right now. Drop this slow brodozer TuRD in the toilet, flush it, and get back to your proper direction. No charge for that advice Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      The gasoline Colorado beat the Tacoma too?!

      http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/2015-chevrolet-colorado-lt-crew-cab-4wd-vs-2016-toyota-tacoma-trd-off-road-double-cab-4×4-comparison-test

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Nicely written article, are you joining TTAC? Anyway, I would love to see more comparison tests like this one.

    For me, the Colorado wins on looks and powertrain (diesel) alone.

    Thanks, this was an enjoyable read.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      FOG and John – – –

      You guys are treating this so superficially. You may be suffering from “pretty sedan thinking” again…(^_^).

      The Tacoma hold the sales lead for midsize trucks by a dominant margin.
      Not the Colorado, not the Frontier, and not the Canyon, … and certainly not that ridiculous sinking Ridgeline.

      See http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/p/sales-stats.html

      ===========

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        What choice do we have but to treat them superficially? If only TTAC could afford to fly all of us in and test drive the trucks ourselves, maybe our opinions would go deeper than what we see and read here.

        Yes, the Tacoma sells well. That doesn’t mean its automatically better in every way. If that is the case, then the Ford, GM and Ram full sized trucks outsell it by a much wider margin. So, by your logic, the Taco TuRD is awful compared to the American full size trucks.

        Speaking of full size trucks, if Toyota is the superior truck maker, why is the Tundra pretty much a flop compared to anything aside from the Nissan Titan? Its idiotic blind brand loyalty, right? Which doesn’t apply to Toyota vehicles that do sell well. Then its just because they’re better. There’s no way that the US trucks are better, its just all the mouth breathing, Duck Dynasty-watching Neanderthals in the flyover states too stupid to buy the *right* truck, huh?

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @JohnTaurus – Stephen Elmer is a Canadian auto journalist that came up with the Canadian Truck King Challenge. I haven’t been a fan of most of them because there wasn’t a clear explanation of how they scored the tests or “weighted” each category. IIRC, he has a copyright on that name.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    TTAC: “The Ford Raptor, now considered the granddaddy to both of these two young trucks,..”

    Considered by whom? The ignorant TTAC staff?
    The Taco TRD packages preceded both the Raptor and Colorado ZR2.
    “Pro” is just the latest suffix. See comment and link:

    “The TRD Pro package was offered for 2015 models. Based on the TRD Off Road, the Pro package added a 2″ front lift with Bilstein 2.5-inch front shocks and 2.0-inch rear shocks with remote reservoirs for extra wheel travel, BFGoodrich all-terrain tires on 16-inch black and silver bead-lock-style wheels, and TRD cat-back exhaust system. Cosmetic upgrades included the scooped Sport hood, black badges, blackout lighting elements, a TRD Pro matte-black grille with TOYOTA lettering, and various TRD-badged interior parts. About 1200 TRD Pro Tacoma’s were made.”

    ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Tacoma

    =====================

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Well, that settles it. Toyota wins because the TuRD preceded the Raptor. And the TuRD is exactly as hardcore as the Raptor. Ford obviously stole the idea from Toyota.

      Anyone who doesn’t see the Toyota as the superior vehicle in every possible way must be ignorant. No opinion is correct unless its your opinion.

    • 0 avatar
      VW4motion

      Nmgom,
      Thinking before texting is not one of your strong suits. Especially when you’re defending the turd. Toyota basically ruined the taco with the crap 3.5 and constantly gear searching transmission. Again, do some research and think before typing. People on the site will not be entertained by your rants.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s true that TRD packages have been available for a while but I was at the introduction of the TRD Pro vehicles a couple of years ago at the Chicago Auto Show. It was pretty clear then that they were a response to the Raptor’s success. I have no skin in this particular game, but the Raptor was a bit of a game changer, certainly in terms of media attention.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @NMGOM – the TRD package has been around a long time just like Ford’s FX4 Off-road or GM’s Z71 package. The “Pro” package is a mild upgrade of the TRD which is fairly new.

      The Raptor *is* the truck that brought desert runner packages to market. In that respect, one can argue that the Raptor is indeed their “granddad”.
      The Power Wagon is arguably, the original off-road pickup.

      I do find it interesting that the Ford Raptor, Ram Power Wagon and Chevy Colorado ZR2 all stake out individual segments off the off-road pickup scene.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        “The Raptor *is* the truck that brought desert runner packages to market.”

        I’d argue Toyota’s Tacoma “Prerunner” and Nissan Frontier’s “Desert Runner” in the late 90s were the first to associate with desert running, but I agree that the Raptor took it to a whole new level of capability.

        • 0 avatar
          VW4motion

          “Prerunner and Desert Runner” are basically stickers on and side of the truck. Stickers can not be compared to the Raptor.

          • 0 avatar
            xeroxero

            Back the 1980s some people bought new Toyotas and Nissans to convert for SCORE or BITD racing. Almosts all of the trucks racing are 2WD – so those “pre-runner” trucks were closest to being spec’d out the door ready to race in the 7s or 7100 class.

            Add a full roll cage, replace the gas tank with a racing fuel cell, rip out the interior (no big loss on a $14K stripper Nissan in 1985) and you are ready to race.

            These current trucks (and the Raptor) are far bigger poser-trucks, with their fancy heated leather seats and $5,000 entertainment systems than the Dessert Runner ever was.

        • 0 avatar
          87 Morgan

          gtemnykh..I always thought the desert runner and prerunner designations were to let you know the truck was 2wd and not 4wd, but had the shocks and what not of the 4wd.

          I don’t know if the Raptor is AWD or 4wd, but I am fairly certain it is not 2wd

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @gtemnykh – my neighbour had a prerunner 4×2 Tacoma Doublecab. That was a sweet little truck but at the end of the day it was basically a 4×4 Tacoma without the T-case and front pumpkin.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I agree with all of these comments, I’m just saying the Raptor isn’t the first to try to connect a trim level of truck to desert racing. And yes in those cases the “pre-runner” style was all about the higher riding 4wd model’s suspension in a 2WD truck, with an optional rear locker and uprated shocks in the ‘Yota, I forget what all made up the D22 Frontier package.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I’d be leaning heavily towards the ZR2 as well, looks like Chevy did a thorough job with that package. I’d have to skip the diesel. That’s crack pipe pricing–there’s only so much you can layer atop an economy platform before it gets too ridiculous to swallow.

    The Tacoma is very capable, but they didn’t go nearly far enough with the redesign and the engine represents the wrong time to grab something from the corporate powertrain parts bin.

  • avatar
    ajla

    FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PUT A V8 IN THESE TRUCKS!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Why?

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Fun.

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          The desire for horsepower and the the desire for sex require no justification.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          “Fun.” Sheesh. You have no idea how much “fun” you can have with a four-banger and a stick shift. Sure, you might not get that huge surge of power but you’ll also stand less risk of getting into trouble with that ultra-light rear end constantly wanting to throw itself out from behind you, too. I have much more fun with a 4 or a 6 today than I ever did with a big V8.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            “I have much more fun with a 4 or a 6 today than I ever did with a big V8.”
            Does anyone by definition build a “big” V8?

            All of the current V8’s are basically small block engines. Some consider Ford’s 6.2 slightly bigger than a small block but a quick google indicates that it shares many similarities with Ford’s modular family making it a small block.

            The 251 lb weight penalty of the baby Duramax means that @ajla’s comment does warrant merit.

            These trucks are 9/10th the size of a 1/2 ton…….

            Why not a V8?

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Why not a V8? Because they’re simply no longer needed for anything smaller than a heavy hauler; you certainly don’t need one for the typical half-ton; they ran on I-6s long ago that were lucky to have 100-110 horses. My old Ranger has 112 horses in an I-4 and new ones are pushing over 200 horses now. Just how much horsepower do you need in a half-ton?

            You want torque? Ignore the cylinders. Ignore gasoline and diesel altogether. Electric drive is where the torque is now. There are already battery powered Class 6 and 7 trucks on the road in Europe and we’re very close to seeing the first Class 8 using either battery of fuel cells, meaning electric drive. The really big V8s, the 600+ hp models are very nearly obsolete. It’s only a matter of time.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “You have no idea how much ‘fun’ you can have with a four-banger and a stick shift.”

            “I have much more fun with a 4 or a 6 today than I ever did with a big V8.”

            I disagree, but that’s cool. However, I thought you were all about automotive choice Vulpine?

            There can theoretically at the same time be a V8 mid-size truck for me and a 4-cylinder minitruck for you.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Choice yes, Aija. But a much better choice is right over the horizon that will blow most ICE models away.

            But then, I’ll never forget how my little, lightweight, 101hp Fiat 500 beat so many big pickup trucks to 60mph from a dead stop over the years that I owned it. My Renegade tends to surprise them too.

            And finally… FINALLY, I’m getting that little Ranger’s engine broken in, too. Thing’s got enough grunt to spin the tires on dry pavement now, something it couldn’t do when I first got my hands on it. But then, it’s original owner put less than 20K miles on it in 18 years of owning it.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I just think we have extremely different preferences.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @Vulpine – I owned a 1984 Ford Ranger 2.8 litre 5 speed 4×4. I bought it brand new. It was under powered for off-road use or hauling. I often had to use 4lo and/or rev the sh!t out of it. It was fun but grew old rather quickly. Crossing a rocky creek bed in 3 feet of water or climbing a long steep hill knowing you needed rpm is exciting like being scared is exciting!
            I also owned a newer gen extended cab Ranger 4×4 with the much larger 4.0. It wasn’t that good on fuel. I’d much rather have a V8 under the hood than that engine.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The Chevy’s interior looks way better to me, and the improved ergonomics of the seat adjustments plus rear seat room are a big plus.

    Also, I don’t need to be jarred in my seat to believe my truck is a capable off-roader, so the softer Chevy springs/shocks appeal to me.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @SCE to AUX – I prefer the interior of the Colorado as well. Current technology means that you don’t need to have a pogo stick ride to run off-road. That is decidedly old school and even back then was woefully misguided.

  • avatar
    fiasco

    I must be a 43-year-old grumpy old man. I don’t get fancy interiors in pickup trucks. I also don’t get automatic transmissions in pickup trucks.

    I’d like to know what is “sluggish performance” in these modern trucks, if the 0-60 is 13 seconds unloaded, yeah, that’s slow, but if the Chevy diesel will do that with 6,000 lbs. behind it, that’s just fine to me.

    Toyota, you really blew it with a high-rpm engine in a truck. I used to think I’d want a Barcelona Red Taco, but I want to be able to pull with it, and for that I want torque down low. And don’t get me started with the “you need a 1 ton diesel dually to tow” attitude…these trucks have towing capacities that trump those of 80’s vintage pickups.

    • 0 avatar
      Mandalorian

      Automatic is actually quite desirable in many off-road circles as it makes it easier to “creep” the vehicle along at very low speed.

      • 0 avatar
        Jacob

        A real off-road vehicle with a manual transmission used to have a special lever for the “low gear”. Another lever for locking the differential. I guess it’s too geeky for the masses, so the manufacturers just went with the automatics these days.

        http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-vjgbDX5O5mQ/Vp3WQ2ZholI/AAAAAAAAH0s/Yk6uVjGvdXM/s1600/lada-Niva-Urban-3%255B3%255D.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I’ll chime in on comfy trucks. When I bought my first Avalanche in 2001, a couple of years later Consumer Reports did an off-road comparo test of 34 different vehicles of different categories and types (SUV, CUV, pickup based). The winner was the regular cab Toyota Tacoma TRD, second place, to Consumer Reports shock was the Chevy Avalanche Z71. The test was specific to off-road abilities.

      In Avalanche circles (yes such a thing exists) what we would talk about is that yes, a Jeep Wrangler can get places an Avalanche can’t get to due to size, and a Tacoma TRD regular cab has other advantages, but after a day of off-roading, someone in an Avalanche hasn’t been beaten to death from the process. Might take a bit longer for the fat girl to find her way up the trail, but you’re comfortable while you’re doing it.

      Will freely admit 98% of these vehicles will never go off-road, but for those of us who actually use the features, there are some specific advantages.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Personally I am frustrated by the inability to get a manual transmission in a 1/2 ton truck.

        I bought my 2004 F150 used so beggars couldn’t be choosers. Maybe it was for the best – after I put an aftermarket exhaust in it I would have spent much time in lower gears just to hear those pipes wail.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        hypnotoad: You never fail to amuse me: ” Might take a bit longer for the fat girl to find her way up the trail, but you’re comfortable while you’re doing it.” Thanks for the best laugh of the morning.

        While I could never spend the money for an Avalanche for myself, I’m hoping that GM re-boots the Avalanche on the Colorado chassis someday.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Just out of curiosity, how much do those ZR2 shocks cost to replace?

  • avatar
    volvo

    Off road in Baja? Or was that just a lead in for the article. Off road Baja very different than off road Utah.

    If I broke down off road in Baja I would want a Toyota and a satellite phone rather than a $4K info/navigation package and spiffy graphics. Repair parts and mechanics probably will be more available for the Toyota and it might be less likely to break down.

    With both Chevy and Toyota Build and price I compared V6 AWD Auto Transmission Z71 vs Tacoma TRD off road (the Z72 and TRD Pro seem to be mostly cosmetic/electronic technology items adding $8K to price).

    Specs pretty similar and price not that different between the two.

    For off road cred I was surprised that on both trucks skid plates were an option not standard and same for off road lighting. No winch package available but you would want to get your own aftermarket anyway. Also white or silver paint, light colored fabric interior (both these trucks only offer black interior) and A/C.

    And for serious rock crawling I would want an auto rather than manual and hopefully a locking differential. Then your start looking at Jeep.

  • avatar

    ZR2 all the way. I don’t understand how people find the cabin of a Tacoma comfortable.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Toyota. For 30 years, in your small pick ups, my bum sits at the same height as my ankles.
    VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. Please stop this. DEAL BREAKER !!!!

    I wonder what is the Mexico % content in the Chevy?

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      AALA reporting doesn’t break out the ZR2 but the Colorado line as a whole is just 49% US/Canadian content – which ties it with the BOF SUVs as the most American trucks that GM sells. The Silverado is just 38% US/Canadian.

      Meanwhile, the Jap Tacoma is 65% made here.

    • 0 avatar

      66% US/CAD content vs 60% for the Taco, half of which are going to come from Mexico now. 100% of Colorado/Canyons come from Ohio.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Wait, did TTaC just recommend a Chevy over a Toyota?

    In other news Hell froze over today, and Trump and Un were seen dancing the Hokey Pokey on basketball court.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I’m just enjoying the comments, note how such a blasphemous suggestion has everyone pointing fingers at the author and their “ignorance”, their thievery!

      How dare he go against the gearhead commandments!

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    While not in so many words, this article seems a direct echo of the Pickuptrucks dot com article on the exact same subject, albeit with different photos in a different (supposedly) location.

    Hey… how about some originality, hmmm?

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @Vulpine – not surprising since the presstitutes were most likely corralled at the same test venue and wined and dined.
      As I pointed out earlier, the author is Canadian and the Tacoma “Pro” isn’t available in Canada.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    “but we would take two locking diffs over Toyota’s technology-based crawling system any day of the week.”

    I’m curious, what scenario offroad did you find just the Toyota’s rear-locker lacking and the addition of the front locker in the ZR2 really making the difference?

    Locking diffs at both axles is definitely nothing short of badass in my book, but at the same time my understanding of GM’s front lockers in the past on IFS trucks (H3), if anything it is more of a sure way to snap a front axle than anything else.

    I overall don’t quite understand the TRD-Pro package I suppose, I think it’s overpriced compared to just the standard TRD-Offroad package that gets you the all-important locking rear diff. The Tacoma’s 3.5L is a turn-off, and I quite enjoyed the Colorado’s diesel that I test drove. At the same time, I would not want to be a long term owner of ANY modern diesel engine at this time. Also, the Colorado I test drove had some criminally awful sheetmetal alignment/welding towards the rear of the bed and tailgate. I legitimately thought it must have been a rebuild and secretly sold as a “new” truck. It was that bad. As in “seeing daylight through the tailgate gap through the rearview mirror” bad.

    • 0 avatar
      mason

      “Also, the Colorado I test drove had some criminally awful sheetmetal alignment/welding towards the rear of the bed and tailgate”

      When these first came out, a friend who owns an auto body shop and I saw a Colorado in the parking lot of a restaurant. Something caught his eye as he was walking by that prompted him to stop, and proceeded to pick out some pretty serious flaws. Hood to fender gaps and the lack of fasteners on the front inner fender Wells causing them to sag stick out in my memory but there were other things he pointed out. This was the first Colorado I had seen on the streets and it had temp tags (and looked brand new) so I really doubt it had been in any kind of accident.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    Great article I have been waiting for. Definitely gonna wait for the Jeep pickup and, if it is available, Ranger “Raptor.” Very much in the market for one of these. I like this Chevy better than the Taco, based upon what I have read here and elsewhere. Front and rear lockers and, I think, better suspension make the case. Still, the engine options are not ideal, considering the money that needs to be spent. The mid-size off-road wars between the four contenders are going to be great. So glad the Taco is getting increased competition.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I’ll stick with the Dakota I got recently.

  • avatar
    SC5door

    I see the TRD Pro model comes with FOX shocks instead of Bilstein’s. I wonder if they will hold up better than the Bilstein’s (on the Edmunds long term vehicle which is not a TRD Pro, but a TRD Off Road) on washboard surfaces.

    I did laugh a bit when the realization that the spare tire on the Chevy was in the bed—I suppose if you’re going for the look. I’d save on that $695 option.

    https://www.edmunds.com/toyota/tacoma/2016/long-term-road-test/2016-toyota-tacoma-making-sense-of-our-death-valley-results.html

    Let’s see what Jeep comes up with for the Wrangler based pickup, although likely just to be as pricey.

    Also, the Chevy interior shot is courtesy of GM.

  • avatar
    wintermutt

    Without a lot of testing i cannot prove the following , but… for the money i think we can do better with a full size pick up. Check out the base prices for full size and medium, add 4WD and some rims, see which is less money. Also note the wider selection of choices. BTW of these two choices i prefer the GM but only until the warranty runs out, at which point i might keep the Toyota but the GM would get sold. Long term reliability of GM products is suspect IMHO.

  • avatar
    statikboy

    Good comparison, but…

    It seems most truck buyers don’t give a fig about fuel economy but if you were going to use these for actual Baja style racing, tank size and as-tested fuel economy are important and useful comparo information. I would appreciate the official numbers too.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    I wonder if the 2 liter Turbo that is the base Camaro engine wouldn’t be a better option than the 3.6 V-6. The Turbo-4 has more HP and more torque starting way down the RPM band all the way up to peak, and I suspect it would also be superior to the diesel and lots cheaper to buy.

    • 0 avatar
      mason

      Or just turbo charge the 3.6 and be done with it :-0

      I really don’t have a need for something this small and I can’t afford to just go buy vehicles I want but a diesel engine would be my personal choice. In my fourwheeling days I took a mid 80’s straight axle Yota and mated a late 90’s TDI to a G52 5 speed. It did quite well for turning 35’s. Substantially better than any built 22R or 3.0, both which i had previously tried. I haven’t driven anything with the baby max so I can’t say for sure if it’s the right choice or not. One things for sure, all manufacturers are supplying massive gobs of torque management in these new diesels to save on the powertrain and warranty claims. Not so fun for the end user and plenty of negative reviews are the result.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        GM’s turbo 3.6L is expensive to build while getting the same EPA fuel economy rating as a *6.4L* Mopar (and worse than the GM 6.2L).

        Unless they are going to do some 500hp turbo-6 Syclone revival, I think one of their gasoline V8s is a better solution for a top-option engine.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Depending on the application, the current GM 2.0T makes 295lb-ft@3000 or 260lb-ft@2000. The 3.6L in the Colorado is rated at 275lb-ft@4000.

      So the turbo-4 might be a little better, but really the largest problem is that none of those numbers above are big enough.

      In Asia, South America, and Oceania this truck is sold almost exclusively with 2.5L or 2.8L diesel engines making 324 or 369lb-ft and that output is probably where the Colorado feels most comfortable. Our diesel delivers on torque & mileage, but the low horsepower gives it acceleration times close to a Chevy Spark and it comes with all the NOx filtration equipment hanging off it for emission reg compliance.

      In ajla’s dream US lineup the Canyorado would be 2.5L I4 -> 5.3L V8 -> 2.8TD I4

      • 0 avatar
        stingray65

        I think the problem is a turbo-60-degree V-6 or a non-turbo 90 degree V-8 would not fit very easily in the tight engine-bay of the Colorado, and even if they did fit there might be problems with heat dissipation during slow slogging off-road work. That is why a gas turbo-inline 4 would make sense, plus it has none of the emission control issues and higher costs of a diesel.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Every time I see these trucks I keep thinking I wish more midsize SUVs were like this.

    Toyota has the 4runner.

    Jeep Wrangler.

    What else is there? Maybe the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk?

    I see the appeal in these packages but I just don’t want the exposed bed.

    IMHO a new Bronco setup like these trucks can’t come soon enough. And I suspect GM could really get some sales with an SUV based on the Colorado/Canyon as well. New Trailblazer?

    Will there be a GMC version? Personally I think the Chevy styling looks cheap, always thought the Canyon was better styled.

  • avatar
    Prado

    Somewhat similar to Jerome10’s answer above, my answer to this comparo is neither. If you want a vehicle for off-road adventures, get a Wrangler, or a 4Runner. The shorter wheelbases will help significantly on the trail. If you actually need an open bed and the ability to be off-road, I would just go with a regular cab 4wd HD truck like an F250 or whatever your favorite is.

  • avatar
    merccoupe

    I understand that the Chevy makes your preferred overall truck. However, the title of the article clearly states, “In an Off-road battle”. From reading the body, it sounds a lot like the Tacoma is the better off-road choice.

  • avatar
    peeryog

    I would pick the Tacoma, not that I think it is better than then Colorado but for two reasons.

    1. I can get it with a MT which helps negate some of the hunting and
    2. Aftermarket support. At the moment the aftermarket is much bigger for the Tacoma (for example you can buy just the TRD Pro and for the difference by an OME suspension that is better than either in the PRO and the ZR2). Maybe in time the Colorado will catch up

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    The V6’s in both the Tacoma and Colorado don’t seem to be suited for use in a truck. I’d prefer much more low end torque. Off-road that is a must. the 1984 Ranger I owned needed a lot of rpm to get the job done in deep snow, sand, mud or long hills. Definitely not my idea of fun.
    I’d probably opt for the Colorado since the suspension is better and the diesel takes care of the torque issue. Another reason is the simple fact that Canadians don’t have access to the TRD-Pro package.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    I would have loved to see the Nissan Pro 4x included in this comparison.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I think the motor would have been the most satisfying of the trio. The VQ40 with how Nissan tunes it (with zero regard for fuel economy) makes it feel more like a smaller V8 in terms of low end response.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Thanks gtem, the engine comparison was the thing I was most interested in. I know that otherwise, the Nissan is considered outdated, but a better value. I don’t mind spending Colorado money, but I am not going to buy a vehicle unless the engine makes me smile. The Nissan might be the best choice AND be the cheapest.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          The general consensus on TTAC is that the seats are really strangely shaped, and the interior in general is the most cramped out of the current crop of midsizers, although it does have a more chair-like positiion than the Tacoma. I also happen to think that it’s easily the best looking midsizer available now. Between that, the competetive price, and the burly motor paired to a stick shift makes it a winner on paper, but the seat comfort issue cannot be ignored.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      Yes and Yes. My 2013 crew cab Frontier was never lacking for power, but my 2015 F150 super crew with the 2.7 gets better fuel economy in every scenario. But I’ve driven this Tacoma and the Pro 4x and between those two I’d take the Frontier.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Big Al, thank you. Can you tell me how reliable your Frontier has been?

        • 0 avatar
          mrwiizrd

          I purchased a new 2016 Frontier PRO-4X with the 6 speed manual in August of last year. Just turned 15,000 miles. Zero mechanical issues so far.

          The drivetrain really is the best part of the truck. I live in the rocky mountains and the torque of the engine paired with the manual transmission really is that good. Clutch engagement is linear and its easy to drive. I’m never left wanting for more power. The truck is excellent in snow, even the deep stuff. As has others have noted, that torque comes at a cost, fuel consumption. Mixed driving returns 18-19 mpg, but the truck will get 20+ in highway driving.

          I think the seats are fine, nothing special but not that bad either. I actually like the simplicity of the manually adjustable seats but that is personal preference. I have long legs and can’t stand the high floorboards of the taco. The biggest issue I have with the truck is the overly small door armrest. It starts to bug my elbow after extended driving. The interior is very basic, lots of plastics and big buttons which I prefer as it’s easy to keep clean.

          The PRO-4X wouldn’t be my first choice if I was doing alot of highway driving, it has some wind noise and it’s not super comfortable for long periods of time. But for commuting and inclement weather it’s great. Mechanically simple and reliable.

          One thing that is I’ve not seen mentioned is the stock Rockford Fosgate sound system in the PRO-4X. It sounds like a marketing gimmick but it is probably the best stock sound system of any vehicle I’ve owned.

          I also owned a previous generation frontier with very few issues FWIW.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            mrwiizrd, excellent mini-review and much appreciated. Thank you for taking the time. Something in this category is going to be my next purchase. In the meantime, gathering info and comparing trucks is very enjoyable.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al From 'Murica

          Mine was a 2013. It was an absolute base model crew cab with hand crank windows. Had the 4.0 though. I had no mechanical issues with mine, though I think pre 2012 models had timing chain issues and a transmission killing radiator problem.

          I did have some gripes with it though, outside of the fuel economy. First off, the bed was so thin crawling on your hands and knees would dent it. The interior plastic was pretty craptastic…even the parts shared with higher trim models. It scratched and gouged if you looked at it wrong.

          But as a basic, fleet spec truck it worked and it drove good. It always struck me as one of those trucks that would still be going at 300k but look like it had been a million miles.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Given the price of these fancy packages I often find myself wondering how much farther these bad boys can really go compared to a stripped down base model with an aftermarket locker and better tires.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I don’t think they’d go any ‘farther,’ but perhaps more competently gobble up high speed desert runs. Although looking at Edmunds’ recent experience with some horribly blown shocks on a new TRD Tacoma that they did some graded gravel road runs down in Death Valley with, yeesh.

      In the case of a ZR2 with front and rear lockers and massively better approach angle vs a standard Z71 package truck with its G80 rear auto-locker and more constrained wheel travel, the ZR2 is a vast enhancement in capability for tackling hard trails for sure.

  • avatar
    mason

    So the general consensus is the ZR2 outclasses the Tacoma. What does it say about both of these trucks that a 3/4 ton tank outclassed both the ZR2 and Raptor in an overland adventure? Obviously both trucks did certain things better than the Powerwagon could ever do but I find it rather interesting that a truck built on an HD platform was even in the running.
    It doesn’t speak well for either “midsize”

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      Overland is a different type of offroading. The heft of a 3/4 ton doesn’t work against the rig like it would on trail work. There are people that run unimogs and what not for this sort of thing. I enjoy these rigs but they are very different tools than trucks like those being discussed here.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    If the Chevy is a better off road vehicle than the Raptor…..then it certainly blows the Tacoma out of the water.

  • avatar
    xeroxero

    People do race small and mid-size trucks in the desert and the old Ford Ranger is the king of both the more stock and modified classes. The Toyota has a following, and is a distant second. Back in the 1990s there were a few Chevy’s running in the classes, but they are long gone. Chevy did just enter a factory prepped Colorado ZR2 in the Vegas-to-Reno race and it won it’s class, but with almost no other trucks in the class that doesn’t prove much.

    Neither of these trucks would make a great basis for desert racing. Almost all the Class 7/7000 trucks are two wheel drive. No reason to carry extra weight when you aren’t going to use it. Every racing class requires a full cage and strongly suggests removing all of the stock interior – so, plan on ripping out your leather covered upholstery and heated seats and replacing them with some stiff racing buckets. The trend in racing trucks is two spares in the bed, upright, side by side. And of course the tire carriers are integrated with the cage.

    The critical things in these classes is how strong the suspension design, including various mounting points for suspension components on the frame is. The Chevy looks to have a very beefy undercarriage, so it may turn out to be a good racer in a few years.

    It’s great that Chevy is trying to get into the game of building a more capable off-road truck. It could be the basis for a class 7 or 7000 racing truck, but the $45,000 price tag suggests (other than the factory version) they will be pretty scarce for quite a few years, until there are some used donor trucks out there.

    Desert racing does test every major component of a truck, and with the Chevy we have no idea how the motor, transmission, axles and steering will hold up. There is a lot of knowledge for Fords and Toyotas about how to beef up, or swap in a same-manufacturer part that works for the desert that the Chevy guys don’t have.

    The Toyota six-speed manual has proven to be a workable transmission for desert racing in the Taco, too bad that Chevy only offers theirs with the pip-squeak engine in the base model. Still, if anyone were going to buy a new Colorado for racing they would probably but the $20K stripper version and build it up, rather than buying a $45,000 truck and start stripping ito down.


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