First Drive: 2009 Chevy Colorado and 2009 GMC Canyon

Don Sherman
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BEHIND THE WHEEL

We test-drove one Colorado and one Canyon equipped with the new V-8. Both were attractive aqua blue crew cabs with snooty leather upholstery and five-foot beds. The Chevy--with Insta-Trac four-wheel drive, Z71 off-road suspension, and 2LT trim--topped out at $33,765. The GMC, in boy-racer guise, brought two-wheel-drive, a ZQ8 sport suspension package, and a $31,230 sticker to the party. We used the Colorado to deliver a face cord of firewood through a foot of snow, an assignment it fulfilled without flinching. The Canyon mainly hauled ass, although it also endured more than a 100 miles of boat towing in the dead of winter without whining.

Our Vbox test gear clocked the GMC Canyon's 0-to-60-mph run in seven seconds flat on the way to a 15.4-second, 93-mph quarter mile. The speed limiter kicked in at 125 mph. Hitched to a 5150-pound boat and trailer, the mighty V-8 hustled this pickup to 60 mph in 15.9 seconds and averaged a decent 11 mpg during suburban cruising. These results were achieved with a 3.42:1 axle ratio. For quicker acceleration (at the expense of fuel mileage), you can alternatively specify a 3.73:1 or a 4.10:1 ratio. The $295 locking differential should be considered essential equipment when the opposite end of the truck boasts V-8 vitality.

Thanks to fine-tuning by GM's Performance Division personnel, the ZQ8 package is well suited to anyone whose preferences lean in the car direction. Quicker steering, a one-inch lower ride height, stiffer spring and antiroll-bar rates, and Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires - size 235/50WR-18 - on eight-inch-wide aluminum wheels do an excellent job obliterating this truck's sordid past. The steering response is rapid and accurate, yet the ride is supple, even over Michigan's bombed-out excuse for pavement. The lack of steering feel will surely disappoint BMW worshippers, but a ZQ8-fortified Canyon or Colorado is about as good as trucks get.

Although swagger is in short supply when you're riding on a slammed suspension, the low step-in height is handy, and kids won't whine while climbing into the rear seats. The rear cabin of the crew cab is reasonably roomy for two passengers and will carry a third in a pinch. The 60/40 seat backs fold to divvy up the space between people and packages.

The five-foot cargo bed won't impress anyone used to a full-size pickup truck, but it is at least shrewdly configured. Perches molded into the standard bedliner sidewalls facilitate carrying four-by-eight-foot building materials on the level. The tailgate has a 55-degrees-open position to provide support at the tail end of the load. With the gate fully down, you've got an 81-inch-long load surface suitable for hauling motorcycles up to and including a Harley-Davidson Sportster. Sturdy tie-down anchors are provided.

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