Pick-up trucks are a big part of the motoring culture here in Malaysia. A significant number of Malaysians do lust after trucks and that can be seen by the number of trucks being introduced in the market in the last decade. Maybe it’s the sense of indestructability, or the endless utility it offers, or maybe we all fantasized of being Marty McFly, opening our garage to find a mean black Toyota SR5 with big wheels and yellow foglamps (so 80’s!) from Back to the Future.
That reflects in the way trucks are made these days. Trucks these days are not only utilitarian but also are loaded with lots of creature comforts, and are properly styled, inside out. More and more trucks are becoming an extension of personality and less of a tool. Which is what I’d like to evaluate my latest candidate for the Route Hunters test. I believe if standing out and style is priority no.1, then the Chevy Colorado High Country is the best candidate in this class. So in proper Route Hunter style, we took it for a road trip to Pulau Indah and to Kuala Selangor to find out.
Aesthetics: Image is everything.
First off a disclaimer. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, so what might appeal to me might not to you. However, there are some common features about the 2016 Chevy Colorado High Country’s exterior that cannot be denied. In comparison to the Autobots-esque facia of the previous model, this one is more smooth, mature, and unfussy. Compared to the Hilux or the Navara, I feel the Colorado is a handsome, well groomed brute with some added style. Previously it was just a chisel jawed brute. The only car that comes close in terms of the exterior looks is the Ranger, but that too I feel is a little fussy at the grille area. The right lines, mix of chrome on black really gives this bad boy a strong yet subtle look. And next to the cab is the beautiful ‘High Country’ insignia. I felt like I went straight into a Marlboro ad when I saw that logo. What a name for a variant.
This is the success story of the Colorado. Whilst the steering wheel is similar to the Malibu, the centre console is miles ahead of the outgoing model. Big touch screen with beautiful switchgear apes the Camaro’s interior. I’m not gonna lie that I didn’t fantasize about pretending the Colorado was the Camaro. Or the Silverado. I have to say this car did tap my inner American. Noteworthy is that the switches are nice and big, making them a breeze to operate on uneven surfaces whilst on the move or even with gloves. The Bluetooth connects easily with my Samsung Note 5, and on the IPhone, you get to operate your phone functions via the Apple car app, handy. The seats and doors also sport the High Country emblem. The interior has a phosphorus blue glow about it which is very soothing at night.
Under the Skin: The mechanicals
The 2.8 Liter Duramax engine produces 195bhp and 500Nm of torque. Yes, 500 Newton Meters of earth moving force. That’s higher than even the 3.2 liter Ranger Wildtrak. Coupled with a 6 speed automatic transmission, this truck can really haul itself out of toll booths or on overtakes with minimal fuss. Just ride the boost and the gearbox takes care of the acceleration. Its noteworthy that the 500Nm is not as urgent as it seemed in the Colorado Sport we drove before. The power was linear and you get the sense that its design to be deployed more for haulage. Keep it at the power band though the car will easily reach big speeds in country lanes.
The ride is much more refined in this car compared to its predecessor. You are aware of the leaf springs at the rear but with the addition of an Electric Power Steering (EPAS) (and a freakishly small steering wheel) this car’s transformed a lot in terms of its driving dynamics. It’s much easier to drive, even on the twisty bits to Kuala Selangor from the LATAR highway. Its pretty much the same way you drive the previous gen Colorado (we experienced the Sport). Brake in to tuck in the weight and feed in the throttle upon turn in, making the car turn at the apex and gradually floor it there on out. With the EPAS theres much less effort in turning in the car. Initially it may seem vague but you will soon get the hang of it, the Colorado is pretty responsive in terms of the turn in and body balance.
The High Country does come with locking diffs and low ratio, which is easily engaged by turning the dial next to the gear lever (yes, just like in a Million ringgit Range Rover). I wouldn’t say the low ratio is overly aggressive, but then again I am comparing it to a Land Rover Defender. Having said that its much more easy to operate with low gear and can easily clear a 45 degree slope with ease. This is where the 500Nm torque comes in handy. I was a little sceptical if the tyres could cope with the power from the engine. Ground clearance is good for basic off beaten trails, good approach and departure angles. Only the side steps kind of got into the way in some obstacles. Otherwise it will be very good for the weekend getaway into the jungles, and with some light mods even overland adventures.
Riding on the High Country: Selangor
I made two trips with the High Country (HC), one on the SKVE via Pulau Indah, and the second one to Kuala Selangor. The latter was to discover a new driving road and for that the High Country proved to be really efficient.
On the highway the stability of the HC was more than enough, just bring it up to 6th gear and it will cruise at 120kph all day returning nearly 8.5l/100km easy. That’s damn good for a truck this size with this output. Of course it will easily punch beyond that speed at request, but I just don’t find it suitable for the character of this car.
The drive to Kuala Selangor allowed me to hustle the car into some nice curves and that’s where I saw the cars driving prowess. The Route, B27, started out from Kuala Selangor, just before Bukit Melawati towards Bestari Jaya. The initial part of the route was easy going and smooth flowing. Except for the occasional herds of cows, there was nothing much in the path of the Colorado. As we crossed fields of oil palm plantations, we bagged some power shots next to high powered power lines, as a metaphor for this powerful truck (so much power in one sentence!). As mentioned before, it’s not the urgent response you get from a hot hatch, but the lumbering build of steady yet unshakable momentum that marks the main behaviour of the truck.
The road headed all the way to the Bestari Jaya Unisel campus. There on out we entered the narrow twisting lanes of Route 3209. This is where I truly saw the limitation of the HC, not because it was not safe for the corners, but the size is so big that I barely kept it on the road. I had to dip the tyres into the ditch ala Initial D to ensure the truck made the turn. Sometimes it’s the back tyres sometimes it’s the front, the truck soldiered on. It was a workout but was less intense compared to the Sport. We reached Rawang in no time.
What can I round up about the Colorado High Country then? Once again, I guarantee this car has a style unlike the other trucks about it. You will stand out with the right colour, and with some light tyre and rim mod this truck will look a total badass on our roads.
But it’s not all looks and no substance, this is a highly capable truck that returns good mileage figures (7.1l/100km highway, 9.5l/100km city). Plus there are tonnes of tools in the display that shows you real time fuel consumption figures. In the age of consumption battles, tools like this make all the difference. Other tiny comfort features like Tyre Pressure Monitoring System help one from guessing if the tyres properly inflated or you’re heading towards a puncture.
A damn good car per say with loads of presence and style. Not to mention the technical prowess to match the face. Having said that, all I kept thinking was how the Sport version of this truck is going to be. Rumour has it that Chevy Malaysia is cooking up something, we shall wait and see…….