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2004 Chevrolet Colorado: Bigger, Bolder, Better
By: Michael LevinePosted: 01-05-03 00:00
© 2003

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In contrast to the quickening product lifecycle seen in full size pickups over the past few years, small truck designs still stick to the long road when it comes to model changeovers. So when entirely new trucks are offered in this segment it’s a chance to dramatically raise the bar and set higher standards over the outgoing model and the competition.

For 2004 Chevrolet introduces the all new Colorado midsize pickup to replace the 10-year old Chevy S-10. And from its powertrain to its sound system, from its wheels to its seals, the Colorado shares nothing with the truck it replaces.

At first look the Colorado sports unmistakable Chevy looks that are the most aggressive in the Chevy truck family. Its angular, chiseled lines take it a few steps past the Silverado, Avalanche and TrailBlazer and beyond most trucks in the compact and midsize segment except for, some could argue, the Dodge Dakota. A large chrome ‘power bar’, with embedded gold Chevy bow tie, cuts a prominent line through the mesh grille and surrounding headlights, readily thrusting Chevrolet small truck heritage right into the 21st century at full throttle. On Z71 models large fender flares over the wheels give the Colorado a wider, bulldogish appearance. Its bed is also wider and deeper than the model it replaces.

When it goes on sale the Colorado will offer the largest and most diverse model lineup in the segment. It will be available in regular, extended and crew cab models with two- and four-wheel drive offered on all cab styles. Three suspension packages – standard, sport, and off-road – will drive the exterior appearance.

The standard or base suspension (Z85) is a heavy-duty setup that applies to both two-and four-wheel drive vehicles. It includes chrome components, a modest use of color-keyed parts, with optional color-keyed exterior components. Wheel design depends on the trim level, and there’s also a new base level available with both regular and extended cabs.

The sport suspension (ZQ8) provides a lowered look, with low profile tires, color-keyed components, fog lamps and unique wheels. Special performance enhancements have also been made to the steering and suspension. The Xtreme trim package that was popular on the S-10 will not be available for 2004 but sources tell us to look for it again by 2005 or 2006.

Z71 Off-road two- and four-wheel drive trucks replace and expand where the well known ZR2 suspension package left off. These trucks get the macho treatment with tow hooks, raised suspension, contrasting exterior components, and 265 tires mounted on unique aluminum wheels. The 4x2 high stance Z71 suspension and trim package is Chevy’s response to Toyota’s popular PreRunner option.

The front suspensions on two-wheel drive trucks (except Z71) use an independent coil spring and stabilizer bar. The four-wheel drive and two wheel drive Z71 front suspensions have independent torsion bars and a stabilizer bar. All Colorado models use low friction, sealed-for-life ball joints.

In back, both two- and four-wheel drive trucks use semi-elliptic two-stage multileaf springs with solid axle and a rear stabilizer bar.

Inside, Chevrolet claims the Colorado has as much space as the Dodge Dakota. Its surfaces and instrument panel are much sleeker and better styled than the current S-10 but a little content is lost, namely the second cigarette lighter that can be used as a power port to charge your laptop or cell phone. Gained are two upright seats now in the rear of the extended cab model that are much easier and more comfortable to use than the S-10’s fold-down jump seats.

Chevrolet noted the growing popularity of crew cabs during the final three years of the S-10 with the introduction of the S-10 Crew Cab in 2001 and ZR5 model in 2002. For 2004 forty-percent of Colorado’s production volume is expected to come from this cab configuration. The remaining sixty-percent will be split forty-percent extended and twenty-percent regular cabs.

The chassis has been significantly upgraded on the Colorado. It’s 250% stiffer than the S-10’s and features hydroformed cross members.

New inline five and four cylinder engines replace the S-10’s V6 and four-cylinder powerplants. Siblings of the revolutionary Vortec I6 engine found in the Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Envoy and Oldsmobile Bravada, the Vortec 2800 I4 2.8-liter engine (175hp / 185lb-ft) and the Vortec 3500 I5 3.5-liter engine (220hp / 225lb-ft) bring better balance, smoothness and performance to the Colorado.

In addition to 25 more horsepower, the I5 engine promises 3 mpg better fuel economy over the V6 it replaces. The I4 is as powerful as most small truck V6 engines. What’s even more impressive about these engines is the number of parts that are common between the two, and between the I4, I5 and I6. A full 75% of the I4 and I5 parts are shared with the I6, and almost 90% of the part numbers are common between the I4 and I5.

I5 engine production is expected to edge out the I4 as the engine of choice.

With all the changes and upgrades on this new truck you would think there would be a significant price increase for the Colorado over the S-10 but Chevrolet claims that this won’t be the case.

During a media briefing outlining its midsize car and truck strategy, Tom Wallace, vehicle line executive for midsize trucks, identified the “heart of this market” to be in the $15,000-$25,000 range and says he expects half of Colorado sales volume to be under $20,000.

The Chevrolet Colorado will reach dealerships in October 2003.

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