The new pickups’ configurations are the same (regular, extended, and crew cabs, rear- or four-wheel drive, a choice of two engines), but everything else is new, starting with a fully boxed frame that’s two and a half times stiffer, which dramatically improves road manners. Whereas the Sonoma and the S10 would quiver as you passed over a bump and continue to tremble as they made their way down the road, the new trucks are unperturbed by even the worst pavement. The steering likewise is transformed by a switch from a recirculating-ball gear to a rack-and-pinion design, allowing the Colorado and the Canyon to track down the road without constant corrections.
Under the hood are two new engines. The 2.8-liter four-cylinder and the 3.5-liter five-cylinder have dual-overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, and variable valve timing on the exhaust camshaft, and either one can be combined with a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission. The modern mills make a healthy 175 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque in the four-cylinder, 220 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque in the five. Balance shafts quell the shakes that plague large four- and five-cylinders and give the engines a refinement missing from the hoary V-6 in the previous trucks. What the old engine did have was an easily accessible torque curve; the new ones feel like sports car engines-they gladly run to the redline but lack the old engine’s lazy power. GM claims its research shows that mid-size-pickup owners will be able to make do with decreased towing capacity:3500 pounds for the four and 4000 for the five, down from 6000 for the previous truck.
Climb into the Colorado or the Canyon, and you’ll find a comfortable seating position that places you well off the floor and a richly designed instrument panel that looks more frugally elegant than the TrailBlazer’s. Crew cabs offer a spacious rear seat, while extended-cab models have two small, forward-facing jump seats.
GM’s new middies are comfortable, good-looking, and reasonably priced. The lack of a six-cylinder engine may turn off those who equate cylinders with horsepower, but the new engines should attract import buyers who are used to having technically advanced engines in their trucks.