Story & Photos by Mercedes Lilienthal

2023 Chevy Colorado Makes a Comeback

The 2023 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 & Trail Boss Showcase All-New Appeal With Tip-to-Tail Makeovers

After nearly nine years on the market, the midsize Chevrolet Colorado pickup gets a revamp—and it’s a major one. The 2023 Colorado lineup boasts an exterior redesign, a more powerful engine, new technology, and significant updates throughout its new crew cab/short box body style. We took the new 2023 Chevy Colorado Z71 and the first-ever Colorado Trail Boss out for a day of soggy, cold on- and off-road testing near La Jolla, California, to see if they’re setting the bar high for other manufacturers.

The 2023 Colorado lineup boasts an exterior redesign, a more powerful engine, new technology, and significant updates throughout its new crew cab/short box body style.

The 2023 Colorado lineup evokes a tough persona from every angle.

Basic Statistics

The all-new 2023 Chevy Colorado features five models: the WT (Work Truck) and LT for on-road use, and three off-roaders, the affordable Trail Boss, the fully loaded Z71, and their flagship ZR2. The Colorados include three different chassis: the standard chassis for WT, LT, and Z71 trim levels, a two-inch factory-lifted, ultra-wide stance for the Trail Boss, and a high-performance three-inch OEM lift kit and a wide stance for the ZR2.

The new third-gen Chevy Colorado offers an enhanced 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that powers the lineup with three turbo-output variants. It’s the same engine already proven in the fullsize Silverado; all three available outputs surpass the current Colorado’s horsepower and torque to make the refined pickup powerful for its size and responsive to throttle changes.

Journalists piloted a Colorado Trail Boss on the trail going one direction, then switched to the Z71 to reverse course in the opposite direction.

Additionally, four different interior trim levels are offered. They include more camera angles than class competitors, with up to 10 camera views via its infotainment screen. This includes a segment-first available underbody camera, found only on Z71 and ZR2 models—especially helpful when navigating through rocky or washed-out terrain.

An Updated Design

From any angle, the Colorado Z71 and Trail Boss boast an athletic, masculine appearance. An angular front grille and body lines, slim headlights with LED lighting, and 18-inch wheels (including 32-inch all-terrains on the Trail Boss) exude a much-needed style update and strong personality.

Although the Z71 is part of Chevy’s off-roading trio (Trail Boss and ZR2 are the other two), it’s the least off-road capable of them when in stock form.

At first glance, the interior is refined, simple, and fairly intuitive to use—except when you want to turn on the headlights, those features are buried in the infotainment system somewhere. There are four new interior trim choices, we tested the fully loaded Z71 and the more affordable Trail Boss.

A standard 11.3-inch infotainment screen is the focal point of the center stack. It’s accented by a segment-first standard 8-inch all-digital instrument display. Knobs, pushbuttons, and airplane-style switches round out the center (the Z71 includes more buttons and features than the simplified Trail Boss). Hard plastic is prevalent throughout the entire cabin. Thick, rough fabric adorns center dash section, too. How well will that clean up after a dusty day on the trail?

Although attractive looking, the high-gloss piano black rear bumper may be a prime target for scratches and gravel rash after off-pavement miles are experienced.

Interior Refresh

The new interior moved the shifter to the right-hand side for easier access to the drive mode selector. An electronic parking brake is also featured, a first for this segment. Front USB ports (data and charge-only) and front storage round out the center stack’s lower portion. Our Z71’s USB plastic trim panel was loose as I charged my smartphone, it jiggled in place as I used one of its outlets.

Overall, the interior cabin is spacious and well-designed. There is plenty of room for front seat occupants though the rear legroom felt cramped for taller adults. However, no matter where you sit, updated seats keep you comfortable.

The Turbo Plus and Turbo High-Output engines produce more horsepower and torque than the current model’s available 3.6-liter V6 and 2.8-liter turbo-diesel engines. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Short Bed But Lots of Carrying Potential

Despite its short 62-inch bed, there is increased functionality over previous model years. Standard on the ZR2 and available on the Z71 and Trail Boss, an available tailgate storage area offers secure and watertight storage. In the down position, the tailgate’s lockable lid opens a concealed 45-inch wide and 4-inch deep compartment that includes a drain hole. It’s the perfect place to stash small essentials. The tailgate also offers two cupholders and a molded measuring stick that’s formed into the plastic.

The Trail Boss’ lifted suspension and wider track easily evened out our ride when traversing over craggy rocks and off-camber washouts.

Though we didn’t carry cargo during our testing time, we learned the Colorado has eight standard fixed tie-downs. Up to nine additional accessory tie-downs combine with them for 17 total available tie-down points. The tailgate can support up to 500 lbs. and also has a convenient halfway position, enabling storage of longer items.

The new third-gen Colorado adopts a more upright grille design, creating a similar look to its larger sibling, the Silverado.

An available 110V outlet optionally located in the bed can power any off-road fridge or other necessities. Available remote tailgate locking and unlocking can make loading and unloading cargo easier, too. Both Trail Boss and Z71 pickups have a maximum payload capacity of 1,587 pounds but be careful of the rear bumper—the high-gloss piano black finish won’t stay picture-perfect for long if you plan to take it off-road.

The vast majority of the Colorado interior is hard plastic. Surely a cost-savings measure, but parts rattled, including the Z71 tester’s USB outlet body panel.

A Trio of Turbo Variants

The third-gen Chevy Colorado offers an enhanced 2.7-liter turbo engine with three turbo output options. All three exceed the outgoing model and previous three engines. The Turbo, Turbo Plus, and Turbo High-Output are pairs to specific models. Turbo Plus was the standard option with our Z71 and Trail Boss testers.

The Turbo Plus powerplant generates an impressive 310 horsepower and 390 lb. ft. of torque alongside a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. Chevy stated the new powerplant includes a more rigid cylinder block casting and a 30% stiffer crankshaft. Those enhancements accompany a forged bottom end and durable materials typically used in their diesel engines to deliver added reliability.

The standard 11.3-inch infotainment screen shows a brilliant display of all camera angles, including backup and 360-degree views.

Depending on the model, up to five drive modes tailor the Colorado for specific driving conditions. These include an off-road setting, increasing traction and other dynamic performance features for added off-pavement capability. A terrain mode assists with low-speed rock crawling. It includes three settings that calibrate the throttle, braking, and other specifics. A tow/haul option changes transmission shift points and throttle responses to optimize cargo-hauling duties when towing up to 7,700 pounds (the ZR2 can tow up to 6,000 pounds).

The hills outside of La Jolla, California, were picturesque. However, swaths of rainstorms and fog rolled through as we tested the Z71 and Trail Boss off road.

Angles of Articulation

Both Colorado Trail Boss and Z71 were chomping at the bit for harder challenges than the trail we drove. Armed with high- and low-range capability, hill descent control, underbody camera (available on the Z71 and ZR2), and off-road and terrain modes, even the least “off-roady” of the off-roading trio, the Z71, was surefooted and could have handled more.

Both Trail Boss and Z71 were chomping at the bit for harder challenges than the trail we drove.

The Colorado Z71 and Trail Boss have a 131.4-inch wheelbase, but that’s where the similarities end. The Trail Boss is 0.2 inches longer (213.2 inches), 0.3 inches taller at maximum height, and has greater ground clearance; the Z71 has 8.9 inches of ground clearance whereas the Trail Boss steps it up to 9.5 inches.

The new fully loaded Z71 includes round outboard vents, wrapped and stitched door knee pads and center console, and contrast stitching. (Photo: Chevrolet)

The 2023 Chevy Colorado Trail Boss also has greater approach, departure, and break-over angles, which was evident when clearing obstacles with zero scraping. The Trail Boss features an approach angle of 30.5 degrees, a departure angle of 22.4 degrees, and 21 degrees of break-over angle. The Z71 comes in just shy with an approach angle of 29.1 degrees, a departure angle of 22.3 degrees, and 19.5 degrees of break-over angle.

Offered in yellow, red, blue, and even muted colors, the 2023 Chevy Colorado lineup offers a wide variety of hues to choose from.

Wrapping it Up

The 2023 Chevy Colorado Z71 and Trail Boss are fresh alternatives to the midsize truck lineup, which includes the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, and Ford Ranger. The Z71’s pricing starts at $39,900 with our Nitro Yellow Metallic tester topping out at $49,660, including $8,265 of available packages and a $1,495 destination charge. The Trail Boss begins at $37,000 while our demo was $42,115, including $1,495 destination. As the midsize truck segment gains popularity, we’re confident Chevy will do well with the Colorado’s redesign.

The 2023 Colorado Z71 and Trail Boss are fresh alternatives to the midsize truck lineup, which include the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, and Ford Ranger.

Available on the Z71 and Trail Boss, a secret tailgate storage area offers protected and watertight storage space. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Editor’s Note: A version of this article appeared in TREAD July/August 2023.

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