We crawled around the entire lineup of 2023 Chevy Colorado pickups in Southern California, experiencing all but the ZR2 from behind the wheel.
The mid-size pickup segment currently has the most dated vehicles on the market. The latest Frontier is a really good truck, but is mostly a restyle of the outgoing truck that has been around for a very long time. The Gladiator is the only other competitor in the mid-size truck category on the North American market, but is more of a lifestyle vehicle than an all-around traditional pickup. Led Stadium Lighting
But, that’s about to change this year with the 2023 Chevy Colorado hitting dealers soon, and next-gen Tacoma and Ranger reveals expected before year’s end.
I spent some time on-road in the 2023 Chevrolet Colorado Work Truck (WT), LT, Z71, and Trail Boss models. And I went off-road in the Z71 and Trail Boss. I also crawled around the 2023 Colorado ZR2 (but didn’t drive it, yet).
There is a lot to like about these all-new mid-size Chevy pickups, but they also miss the mark in some key areas.
Let’s dive straight into the 2023 Chevy Colorado models, starting with my overall impressions. Then, I’ll work my way up through the lineup, especially the stuff you won’t find on a spec sheet.
First off, the 2023 Colorado is actually an all-new next-generation truck. Besides a few sections of the frame and the carry-over 8-speed automatic transmission — and still, no manual option — the truck is truly all-new.
For 2023, the Chevy Colorado only comes in a crew cab, pretty much the same size cab as the outgoing model. It has a 5-foot, 2-inch bed. The overall truck width essentially stays the same as the outgoing model, but the front axle moves 3.1 inches forward, and the front wheel wells get larger across all 2023 models.
The WT and LT trims have a one-speed transfer case, with either 2WD or AWD system. All other Colorado models carry a two-speed transfer case standard, providing 2WD, AWD, 4WD High, and 4WD Low driving options.
Each of these, along with driving modes (if equipped), are controlled by a rotary dial with a middle button, found next to the gear selector on the center console. Chevy expects 90% of Colorado’s sold to have 4WD.
Chevy only offers one engine on the 2023 Colorado, a 2.7L I-4 VVT Turbo. The automaker first introduced this motor on the 2019 Silverado. More than 300,000 of these engines have hit the road since production started in 2018.
The version fitted in the latest Colorado is 99% identical to the Silverado’s, meaning it’s a proven performer, and most aftermarket mods will work on both trucks.
This engine also boasts more horsepower than the outgoing V6, and more torque than the outgoing diesel, a significant win here. The I-4 also weighs in 80 pounds less than the previous V6.
One of the big keys to this small motor’s power is its cooling. An electric water pump — versus a traditional belt-driven pump — keeps things cool at all times, even when the truck comes back to idle from a big effort.
It also makes cab and engine heating fast, which will come in particularly handy in cold climates.
My only real gripe about the new Colorado’s engine is the sound. It puts out plenty of power for on- and off-road adventures, but it doesn’t sound great. Chevy tuned it to “sound more like a truck,” which even includes active sound tuning through the speakers in the cab.
But I’m not a fan. And to top it off, the engine has a whine that kinda drives me nuts. After talking to the lead engine engineer on the project, I found out that whine comes from the engine’s balance gears.
The four-cylinder comes in three configurations in the Colorado.
The base engine is called the 2.7L Turbo (L2R), comes standard on the WT and LT, puts out 237 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, and can tow up to 3,500 pounds. Chevy expects the base engine to only constitute 10-20% of Colorado sales.
The middle-tier engine is the 2.7L Turbo+ (L3B), which puts out 310 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque, and can tow up to 7,700 pounds. It is available on all but the ZR2.
And the top-spec engine is just a tune on that middle engine. It’s called the 2.7L Turbo High-Output (L3B). It has the same horsepower and towing, but bumps torque to an impressive 430 pound-feet. The High-Output engine comes standard on the ZR2, and as an option on all other Colorado models.
Plus, its tune puts out more torque than any other gas-powered mid-sized truck, by a lot. Only the Gladiator diesel offers more torque, and it’s not enough more to notice.
If you buy the Colorado with the mid-spec Turbo+, it is exactly the same as the top-tier engine, minus the tune. The dealer can add this high-output calibration later — even years later — as it just requires a computer flash. This tune is not available on the base engine, as some components are different, and it can’t handle the extra power reliably.
Noticeably absent on the 2023 Colorado is a hybrid option. I would have loved to see a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) on this truck, as it is a great size truck to run errands around town in full EV mode, and then adventure off the beaten path on weekends.
One update for the 2023 Colorado is the bolt pattern on the wheels. The pattern now mirrors that of the Silverado, opening up a bunch of OEM and aftermarket wheel options for Colorado owners.
Don’t worry, I asked the Chevrolet engineers about the smallest wheel and largest tire possible for this truck without modification. Generally, more sidewall and a larger tire provide more off-road capability.
The answer they gave was a 17-inch wheel — which comes on the ZR2 — with 31.7-inch tires on the Z71, or 33-inch tires on Trail Boss. No word yet on ZR2, but it comes with 33s and there was a suggestion that something larger would fit without modification.
The full-size spare under the truck bed has been raised 2 inches over the outgoing truck, offering better clearance and departure angle at the rear of the truck.
We know this spare location will fit a 33-inch tire — as comes on the ZR2 — but rumor is that an even bigger tire might fit.
Chevy lowered the bedsides of the truck just a bit, making it easier to reach over the side to access gear.
The real upgrade story, though, is the tailgate, which has better aerodynamics, is dampened, and has a mid-catch and optional storage hatch.
The odd-shaped lip on the top of the tailgate looks like it might hinder aerodynamics, but reality proves quite the opposite — Chevy added it solely for the aero benefits and fuel economy.
Finally, the StowFlex gear storage within the tailgate option is pretty slick. It comes standard on the ZR2, but is an option on all other models.
While I’m not a fan of the engine sound, the cabin on the new Colorado is pretty quiet for a pickup. And there were no squeaks or rattles in any of the models I drove. It seems these trucks are put together pretty well.
The new interior overall feels like a nice place to be. It is pretty nice for the price point of the vehicle across the board.
On the downside, do note that the WT and Trail Boss have very cheap-looking, and feeling, rubber and plastic everywhere — the worst being the steering wheel, which you touch every time you drive the truck.
Across all models, the one touch point that annoyed me was the door pull on the inside. It is hard plastic and just feels cheap. A shame, as it’s what you touch every time you shut the door.
The driver’s seat has good adjustability and feels pretty comfortable. But the passenger seat on all models requires manual adjustment for forward/back and tilt. There is no lumbar, base angle, or height adjustment available.
While the WT has no telescoping steering wheel, the other models do, but they don’t telescope enough to get in an ergonomic driving position for taller people — like me at 6’3″ with long arms.
As with many modern vehicles, the dash and hood feel very tall, even for a tall-torsoed person like myself. The visibility is still good, but you just don’t get the large glass greenhouse that you use to have in vehicles. For that, blame safety and aerodynamics/fuel economy.
A bright, beautiful, and responsive 11.3-inch central touchscreen comes standard across all 2023 Colorado trucks, along with an 8-inch color instrument display — all digital dash, no analog gauges.
You’ll find engaging, cool graphic pages on the big infotainment screen for each driving mode. Depending on the truck model, these modes include Normal, Tow/Haul, Off-road, Terrain, and Baja.
Baja mode comes on the Colorado ZR2 and helps dial in all systems for controlled high-speed loose conditions driving.
Terrain mode is basically one-pedal driving for slow-speed rock crawling and works in 4WD only. You must have Hill Descent Control off or the truck won’t allow you to enter Terrain mode. This was annoying, and something the engineers know about, so expect an over-the-air software update soon.
Hill descent control works up to 8 mph, and you can adjust it with the throttle pedal at 1 mph increments. Usually, you have to use the toggle on the steering wheel for this, which still works with the system as well.
This is a pretty slick system that worked very smoothly in my testing. The only part that I didn’t like was that you have to go a few pages deep in the infotainment system to toggle Hill Descent Control on or off, versus a hard button for it.
The big central display also shows off the (up to) 10 camera views on offer in the new Colorado. This includes an available underbody camera on the Z71 and ZR2.
The camera system is pretty high res, very configurable for your needs, and I came away impressed.
The steering is a bit heavier than the outgoing Colorado. I found this to be a good thing, and helps with the illusion of a quality steering feel — it’s all fly-by-wire these days. The brakes are progressive and adequate and the throttle response is very good.
Of course, the latest safety suite, Chevy Safety Assist 2, is standard across 2023 Colorado models.
The 2023 Chevy Colorado also offers best-in-class towing, at 7,700 pounds, which ties with the Gladiator.
Inside the glove box and owner’s manual is a notice stating that the 2023 Colorado, across all models, “should not be used to carry a slide-in camper.”
When I asked the representatives at Chevy about this, they said it was a legal thing, as no specific campers were certified for the vehicle, but it was something they were working on.
I was also assured that by adding a truck camper — as long as remaining under the GVWR — the factory warranty on the truck will remain fully intact.
Now, let’s dive into the specific pros and cons you’ll want to know about each of the 2023 Chevy Colorado models.
I got a bit of time with each of the models launching this year: WT, LT, Z71, Trail Boss, and ZR2.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to drive the ZR2 yet, but was able to drive all others on-road. I also spent some time on some moderate dirt roads in the Z71 and Trail Boss.
I don’t love the engine note of the new four-cylinder engine, but I do appreciate the torque and impressive fuel economy — I saw 22 mpg in the Z71 I drove.
The interior is a big step up from the previous generation, but could still use some upgrades in ergonomics and touchpoints. The screens are impressive for a mid-size pickup, and work well, but do require too many screens for some functions.
The backseats offer good headroom, okay legroom, and a comfortable back seat cushion angle. The front passenger seat would benefit from more adjustability.
If I were buying one of these trucks at launch, I’d probably hold out for the ZR2. If that was out of my budget, I’d be hard-pressed to make a decision.
The interior and front grille of the Trail Boss just feels cheap to me, but the truck has noticeably better on- and off-road manners than the rest of the lineup. The Z71 looks and feels good, but just isn’t as good off-road.
I really hope Chevy and AEV team up again and give us a Bison edition, as the last generation is one of the best off-road-capable trucks with a factory warranty I’ve ever driven.
With 2023 Colorado pricing starting at just over $30,000 and trucks hitting dealer lots this summer, I’m going to predict that it sees initial sales success.
Big question marks remain about its competitors, with lots of next-gen trucks being revealed later this year, so only time will tell how Colorado stacks up against its real competition.
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Bryon Dorr is the Motors Editor of GearJunkie. He has been writing about overland travel, off-road vehicles, whitewater kayaks, and outdoor and travel gear for 12+ years, with about 3-years of that at AllGear Digital. He has freelanced across a wide range of outdoor, automotive, and travel media outlets, both online and in print, as well as with a wide range of commercial clients as a photographer, social media marketer, and copy editor. Based in Portland, Oregon, Bryon is an avid kayaker, cyclist, skier/snowboarder, runner, and photographer. When not outdoors doing human-powered adventures you’ll find him behind the wheel or bars of something with a motor and wheels or enjoying a dark craft beer with friends.
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