***NOTE: All prices in Canadian Dollars*** First Drive: 2004 Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon by Paul Williams Georgian Bay, Ontario - When you think of the term “designer vehicle,” you probably think of an exclusive and expensive sports car. In fact, it’s the truck buyer who gets all the choice. With the new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size pickup trucks, for example, General Motors introduces three cab styles (regular, extended and crew), two-wheel and four-wheel drive versions, two new engines, two box sizes, two transmissions, three trim levels, three suspensions (standard, off-road and sport), and nine colours, two of them red. You just don’t get such flexibility when buying your average car. Then there’s an array of options and accessories to further personalize each truck, including the OnStar communications system, heated leather seats, tailgate protectors, tonneau covers and even a two-person sport tent that attaches behind the cab so your truck bed can actually, you know, be a bed What’s different between the Colorado and the Canyon? Not much, really. Beyond the badge on the grille, they’re effectively the same truck, with some differences in available suspensions and paint. In Canada, GM truck buyers are split evenly between the Chevrolet and GMC nameplates, so it’s not like we even have a preference for one brand over the other. The new models replace the Chevrolet S-10 and GMC Sonoma. According to GM research, small trucks are typically used for the same purposes as cars: getting to work, running errands, and pleasure driving. But they’re also used for towing motorcycle or personal watercraft trailers, carrying sports gear, transporting materials for home improvement projects, or for light industrial/trades applications. Consequently, although the Colorado/Canyon is a mid-size truck, not specifically targeted to the full-size truck user, it is nonetheless a heavy-duty vehicle. It’s a body on ladder-type frame design that, depending on the configuration, can tow 3,900 pounds and carry a payload of 1,733 pounds. Colorado/Canyons are powered by an all-aluminum four or five-cylinder, dual overhead camshaft, inline Vortec engine (the five-cylinder version is the first ever offered by GM, although Audi and Volvo have considerable experience and success with inline-fives). These engines form the Vortec family of inline motors from GM, started with the 275-horsepower, 4.2-litre Vortec I-6 introduced in 2002 with the Chevrolet Trail Blazer and GMC Envoy SUVs. The 3.5-litre I-5 version has one less cylinder, and in the Colorado/Canyon it makes 220-horsepower and 225 lb.-ft of torque. The 2.8-litre I-4 loses one more cylinder and generates 175-horsepower and 185 lb.-ft of torque. The motors use electronic throttle control, variable valve timing, coil-on-plug ignition systems that don’t require spark plug leads, and dual balance shafts to help provide quiet and smooth operation. The benefits of this kind of motor, according to Ron Kociba, Vortec chief engineer, are their light weight, high power, low emissions and fuel efficiency. Transmissions are the GM Hydra-Matic 4L60-E four-speed automatic that will be found in all the early production trucks, or a five-speed Aisin manual, available early in 2004. Three rear-end gear ratios are available as is a locking differential on both the two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive models. The driving wheels are selected with a dash-mounted electronic “shift-on-the-fly” system that activates 2WD, 4WD high and 4WD low ranges. During a press preview held recently in the Georgian Bay area, the trucks impressed with their quiet ride and brisk acceleration (only the I-5 was tested; the I-4 is not yet available). The suspension is firm but compliant, with little body roll in corners. Engine noise is usually inaudible, as is wind-noise around the cab. Anti-lock brakes are standard equipment on all Colorado/Canyon models and the entire truck feels rigid and tough. The cab interiors are notable for their roominess (they’re 7.5-centimeters longer than the cabs in the S-10/Sonoma). Additionally, the interiors have been optimized for size by redesigning the door panels and facia, which gives improved shoulder and hip room. The seats are comfortable and visibility is excellent. Three-point seatbelts are supplied for the three rear-seat passengers, as are outboard rear-seat head restraints. The outside rear-view mirrors are commendably big, and an interior auto-dimming mirror with compass is available, as are head curtain side airbags. Boxes come in five and six-feet lengths, with eight tie-downs. An interesting feature is the dual position tailgate (it opens flat or détentes at 55 degrees). This permits the user to support one end of a long item (a piece of plywood, for example) on the partially open tailgate, and the other on supports at the front of the box. Additional items can thus be stored below the plywood. For security, the tailgate and optional tonneau cover are lockable. There’s a choice of three suspensions: the ZQ8 sport (low-rider) suspension, the Z71 off-road suspension, and the Z85 standard suspension. Ride height of the ZQ8 sport suspension is 50 mm lower than the standard suspension, and would appeal perhaps to a younger buyer, more interested in current street tuner tastes. This suspension, which makes the truck look very sharp, is only available on 2WD Colorados. Furthermore, if you want the Z71 off-road suspension and the chunky-looking matte-black fender flares that come with it, again you’ll have to opt for the Chevy. The GMC’s are painted body-colour. So there you have it: two new trucks with a seemingly endless amount of variations, options and accessories that share virtually every component. But maybe the Chevrolet leans toward a more recreational/youthful image, and the GMC perhaps toward more of a work-oriented, industrial image. So (if you like) GMC can be more of a truck driver’s truck. After all, GMC doesn’t make cars, right? 2004 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups are priced between $16,995 and $29,290. ***NOTE: All prices in Canadian Dollars*** -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Looks like GM has a winner on it's hands here.