A detailed look at both trucks

These are exciting times for truck enthusiasts who also like off-roading. The 2017 Ford Raptor is out, launching the second generation of Ford’s halo F-150. Toyota has its new-for-2017 Tacoma TRD Pro that’s based on the new-for-2016 Tacoma. And Chevy comes late to the party with its Colorado ZR2 – a production truck based on the concept version from 2014. These three trucks represent the upper crust of the pickup segment. It’s a prestigious group that’s focused on going fast over rough terrain while still conquering the daily commute.

The Raptor might be the premiere pickup, having birthed this niche segment back in 2010, but the Toyota and Chevy new-comers aren’t slackers. In fact, thanks to their smaller sizes compared to the full-size Raptor, these mid-size pickups are more agile and can fit down narrower trails. The famed Rubicon train in California, for instance, is too narrow for the Raptor’s immensely wide track. The Tacoma TRD Pro and Colorado ZR2, however, should have no problem traversing the tight terrain.

The Toyota and Chevy are also less expensive (or rumored to be) than the Raptor. That puts them basically in a head-to-head fight for customers. Typical things like design, features, and brand loyalty goes a long way in choosing which truck is best, but a more objective comparison should be made. That’s especially true for someone who’s ready to pull the trigger on a purchase.

That’s where this article comes in. We’re going to dive deep into the features and specs of both the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and the Chevy Colorado ZR2 in order to help you, the customer, make a better-informed decision.

Continue reading for more information.

Exterior

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
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Chevy Colorado ZR2 Takes L.A. By Storm with Supercar Suspension High Resolution Exterior
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Both the Toyota and Chevy pickups come with unique bodywork that separates them from their conventional counterparts. The Tacoma TRD Pro has a unique grille with the throwback TOYOTA logo that harks to iconic vehicles like the FJ. It also has a hood scoop, unique fog lights from Rigid Industries, and a bumper with a high approach angle. Visible skid plates help protect vital components from damage. Bold fender flares and TRD Pro-specific wheels and tires give the truck a mean look. Toyota chose to run Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires that measures 265/70R16 – or a 30-inch tire for you off-road types. The tires aren’t all that aggressive, but they are reinforced with Kevlar, making them less susceptible to puncture. The Tacoma also gets a bevy of badges, including ones just below the side mirrors, on the tailgate, and the TRD Pro logo stamped into the bed wall sheet metal.

The Chevy Colorado ZR2 takes a similarly wild approach to styling. The front grille is specific to the ZR2, as is the shorty-style bumper with an incredibly high approach angle. Exposed tow hooks make vehicle recovery a breeze. Wider fenders are capped with black flares cover the widened suspension track. The truck is 3.5-inches wider than a standard Colorado, in fact. This is said to improve the trucks stability, both on- and off-road.

Around back, the ZR2 gives up the Colorado’s step bumpers in favor of an improved departure angle. A bed-mounted spare tire carrier is optional, but does cut into cargo space. Chevy says it’s offering the option to improve the truck’s departure angle while easing access to the spare should damage occur to a rolling tire. Speaking about tires, the ZR2 uses the Goodyear Duratrac sized at 31 inches on a 17-inch wheel. The Duratracs are more aggressive than the Toyota’s Wranglers, and also have the Triple Peak snowflake indicating their ability to operate without chains in winter conditions.

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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Protecting the ZR2’s underbelly is a full skid plate that runs from the bumper back towards the transfer case. The Colorado also has steel-tube rock sliders that protect the rocker panels from off-road damage. The rock sliders are strong enough to hold the weight of the truck, sparing damage from the door area.

When it comes to cab and bed configurations, the ZR2 offers both an extended and crew cab variations, while the TRD Pro only comes in the Double Cab with a short bed. This is how most folks would buy the truck, so it makes sense for Toyota to save time and money by skipping the Access Cab option.

Utility wise, both trucks are meant to still be…. trucks. The Colorado has the advantage thanks to its standard Extended Cab and long bed configuration. That bed measures six-foot, two-inches in length and has 49.9 cubic feet of cargo area. The Crew Cab Colorado has a five-foot, two-inch bed and has 41.3 cubic feet of cargo room. The Double Cab Tacoma only as a five-foot bed. Toyota doesn’t publish the Tacoma’s bed volume, but it is less that the Colorado’s short bed.

The two trucks also have different bed designs. The Tacoma uses a composite plastic bed while the Colorado uses a steel bed. The Tacoma does offer a storage box inside the bed wall and a 110-volt power outlet. The Chevy doesn’t offer either.

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro 2017 Chevy Colorado ZR2
Turning radius (ft) 40.6
Overall height (in) 71 70.7
Overall length (in) 212.3 212.7
Wheelbase (in) 127.4 128.3
Track (Front/Rear) (in) 64/64.2 65.9/65.9*
Payload (lbs) 1,420 1,100
Towing (lbs) 6,400 5,000

Interior

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro High Resolution Interior
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Chevy Colorado ZR2 Takes L.A. By Storm with Supercar Suspension
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Unlike the outsides, both the Chevy and Toyota have fairly mild interior updates accompanying these halo trims. The Toyota get TRD Pro-branded floor mats, embroidered headrests on the front seats, and a TRD Pro gearshift knob. Everything else is standard Tacoma bits.

That’s not a bad thing though, as Toyota did a great job updating the Tacoma for the 2016 model year. The truck offers Toyota’s seven-inch Entune infotainment system with a JBL audio system. It features navigation, satellite radio, voice commands, and apps like Aha and Pandora. The driver’s information screen shows vehicle metrics and supplements the analog speedometer with a digital one. The truck also has a Qi wireless phone charging plate, a couple 12-volt power outlets a one USB port for charging and phone connection. Both front occupants will enjoy the heated seats and dual-zone climate controls.

The Tacoma’s Double Cab offers a respectable amount of room for rear passengers, though no one will mistake Tacoma’s legroom for a Tundra’s. The rear seats can be folded upward, revealing storage compartments with lids. The seatbacks can also be laid forward, opening up storage space behind the seats and creating a flat load area for storage. Rear passengers don’t get HVAC vents in the center console, however, but there are two cup holders.

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro High Resolution Exterior
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Chevy Colorado ZR2 Takes L.A. By Storm with Supercar Suspension
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The Colorado also gets a few minor upgrades with the ZR2 trim package. Most noticeable are the embroidered headrests on the front seats. The ZR2 logo does look particularly good against the truck’s leather seats. A close inspection will reveal two new rocker switches on the center console. These switches operate the front and rear locking differentials. Other than that, the interior is basically stock.

The high-trimmed Colorado ZR2 comes with tons of standard features. The seven-inch MyLink infotainment system is one of the best in the business and offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It can also be had with navigation. Voice commands come standard, as does OnStar. Heated front seats are an added plus, but the single-zone HVAC system is a downer. The Colorado also lacks push-button starting like the Tacoma, leaving users to fumble with putting keys into the ignition.

The Colorado’s rear seats are comfortable and reasonably roomy. The seat bottoms fold upward to reveal an under-seat storage compartment. A USB port and 12-volt outlet reside on the back of the center console, but sadly no HVAC vents service the rear passengers.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Double Cab Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Extended Cab
Head room front/rear 39.7/38.3 41.4/36.7
Shoulder room front/rear 58.3/58.9 57.5/57.3
Legroom front/rear 42.9/32.6 45/35.8

Drivetrain

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
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2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
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The Colorado ZR2 and Tacoma TRD Pro both come standard with a V-6 gasoline engine, but there are plenty of differences, different transmission choices, and even an available turbodiesel in the Chevy.

The Tacoma comes with Toyota’s new 3.5-liter V-6 that brims with technology. The engine features both Otto and Atkinson combustion cycles, giving it the ability to save fuel with the Atkinson and generate more power when switched over to the Otto cycle. The transmission happens seamlessly without the driver known. The engine also features variable valve timing and both port and direct fuel injection. The result is an efficient engine that generates 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque.

The Tacoma comes standard with an honest six-speed manual transmission A six-speed automatic transmission is optional. The TRD Pro comes only in 4WD form, so the driver is treated to an electronically controls transfer case that seamlessly switches the drivetrain from RWD to 4WD high range on the move. When the going gets tough 4WD low range is available. The system also has an electronically locking rear differential.

The Tacoma TRD Pro also makes use of Toyota’s full suite of electronic traction aids. The driver-selectable Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control systems. Multi-Terrain Select gives the driver a choice between Mud and Sand, Loose Rock, Rock and Dirt, Mogul, and Rock Crawl modes. The system automatically adjusts the ABS, throttle, and traction control systems to cope differently with the different terrains. The Crawl Control system is basically a low-speed cruise control system that frees the driver to concentrate on steering while the computer handles the throttle and braking. The driver can select different speed ranging from a super slow crawl to a moderate walking pace.

Likewise, the Chevrolet comes standard with the same 3.6-liter V-6 that’s found in its pedestrian counterparts. The V-6 did receive some big updates for 2017, including an updated variable valve timing system, a reworked direct fuel injection, and the addition of Active Fuel Management, sometimes called cylinder deactivation. The changes result in more power and torque. It now produces 308 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. It mates to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Optionally, ZR2 customers can opt for the mighty 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder turbodiesel. It offers an impressive 181 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. This is the engine you’d want if towing or low-speed off-roading is a priority, though the Duramax will undoubtedly be good at the high-speed stuff as well. The turbodiesel mates to a six-speed automatic. No manual transmission is offered in the Colorado ZR2.

As for the 4WD system, it works much like the Toyota’s. It has an electronically controlled, two-speed transfer case that switches between RWD, 4WD high range, and 4WD low range. GM goes one step further by adding front and rear locking differentials. These are controlled by the new rocker switches on the Colorado’s center stack. Lastly, the Colorado ZR2 has an “Off-Road Mode” that modifies the traction control, stability control, ABS, and hill-descent control to offer a less-intrusive nanny system for when the more slip is needed.

While the EPA has not tested the 2017 Colorado ZR2’s new 3.6-liter V-6 for fuel economy, the non-ZR2 Colorado equipped with the Duramax and 4WD gets an EPA-estimated 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 23 mpg combined. That’s pretty darn good for a 4WD crew cab pickup. Hopefully those numbers won’t drop thanks to the ZR2’s modifications.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
Engine 3.5-Liter V6 3.6-liter V-6 2.8-liter Duramax I-4
Horsepower 278 HP @ 6,000 RPM 308 HP @ 6,800 RPM 181 HP @ 3,400 RPM
Torque 265 LB-FT @ 4,600 RPM 275 LB-FT @ 4,000 RPM 369 LB-FT @ 2,000 RPM
Curb weight 5,600 lbs TBA TBA
Towing capacity 6,400 lbs 5,000 pounds 5,000 pounds

Suspension

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro High Resolution Drivetrain
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Chevy Colorado ZR2 Takes L.A. By Storm with Supercar Suspension
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The Tacoma TRD Pro uses a traditional suspension setup with MacPherson struts up front and a leaf spring suspension with shocks holding the rear solid axle in place. Beyond the basics, the TRD Pro gets 2.5-inch diameter Fox Racing shocks with internal bypasses for controlling rebound and damping over rough terrain. The truck also features similar 2.5-inch Fox shocks out back to keep the rear from bouncing around on high-speed trails. The TRD Pro also has a one-inch suspension lift in the front over the standard Tacoma TRD Off-Road trim. The rear leaf springs are also unique to the TRD Pro and use a progressive-rate damping for off-road use.

While the Tacoma TRD Pro has a great suspension, the Colorado ZR2’s suspension is the heart of the truck. Its shock absorbers are of the spool valve variety from a company called Multimatic. Spool valve shocks are the latest in high-performance shocks and, until now, have been reserved for the upper echelon of high-performance, on-road super cars. The Aston Martin One-77 and fifth-generation Chevy Camaro Z/28 both had similar spool valve shocks from Multimatic. Oh, and then there’s nearly every F1 car that runs spool valves. Needless to say, the ZR2’s suspension is a big deal. It also represents the first time spool valve shocks have been used in an off-road application.

The shocks work by using spool valves mounted inside the main aluminum body. This gives the shocks different compression rates at different positions within its travel. Two spool valves provide both compression and rebound damping that is optimized for everyday driving. On chopper ground, a third, piston-mounted spool valve gives additional compression damping. The front shocks also feature an extra rebound valve that stops the sudden jerk felt when the suspension fully decompresses – say mid-air as the truck is flying over a jump. The shocks also allow for a full 8.6 inches of wheel travel up front and a 10 inches of travel out back.

The front control arms buck the current trend of cast aluminum in favor of old-school cast iron. This is said to add strength and long-term durability. Any weight gain will be worth that price.

Pricing

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro High Resolution Exterior
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Chevy Colorado ZR2 Takes L.A. By Storm with Supercar Suspension
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The 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro has just hit the market as of this writing. It currently carries a starting price of $40,760. That includes the Double Cab, short bed configuration with the V-6 and six-speed manual transmission. Adding the automatic transmission jacks the price skyward by a full $2,000. The manual-equipped TRD Pro does skimp on the Crawl Control feature, however, so the price isn’t just for the automatic. Toyota doesn’t currently offer any option packages, sop the price basically stays the same unless you go crazy with dealer add-on accessories.

Chevrolet has not yet releasing pricing for the Colorado ZR2, so it’s hard to compare the trucks with pure speculation. However, we do expect the ZR2 to carry a starting price around $41,000 with the gas-powered Expended Cab. Duramax Crew Cabs will command the most money, likely starting around $45,000.

Conclusion

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro High Resolution Exterior
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Chevy Colorado ZR2 Takes L.A. By Storm with Supercar Suspension
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Both the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 represent the best of their brands. Both have hard-core suspension systems, aggressive bodywork, and attitudes for high-speed desert running. Which truck is best will best suit your particular needs is up to you. If all you want in an extended cab truck, the Colorado is the only choice. If you want high-tech gadgets like Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select, the Toyota is for you. It just comes down to personal preference at the end of the day. Brand loyalty, ascetics, dealership experience, and financing deals are all major factors in what individual customers buy.

When it comes to an objective test between these two trucks, we’ll have to wait unit we drive them back-to-back. We’re suspecting the ZR2’s spool valve shocks will provide a smother and more controllable ride over rough terrain, while its aggressive body styling will also attract those wanting to stand out.

2017 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2

  • Leave it
    • Almost not interior updates
    • Could use more power, making it more special
    • Lack of high-tech traction systems like Toyota

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

- * Proven suspension design - * Bold exterior styling - * Manual transmission comes standard
- * V-6 is underpowered for this application - * Very few interior updates - * Will it be enough to compete?
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