Motor Trend selects Chevy Colorado Truck of the Year

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Warren — General Motors Co.'s new Chevrolet Colorado pickup is Motor Trend magazine's unanimous 2015 Truck of the Year winner, beating out the expected frontrunner, the new aluminum-bodied Ford F-150.

It’s the first major award for the Colorado, which went on sale this fall after GM re-entered the midsize truck market after a more than two-year absence.

The magazine and Chevy made the announcement Wednesday in an engineering employee meeting at the GM Tech Center in Warren. It's the first major award for the Colorado, which went on sale this fall after GM re-entered the midsize truck market after a more than two-year absence.

Mark Reuss, GM's head of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, told hundreds of employees Wednesday that the win over a serious competitor in the new F-150 was "unbelievable," and that GM gave its team the directive to reinvent the midsize truck segment.

"It's a big day for us after a tough year," Reuss said, thanking employees.

Reuss said the Colorado will add a diesel engine option in the second quarter next year.

"I think what we do from a diesel fuel economy standpoint will surprise people," he said. When asked later if he thought it would top 30 miles per gallon highway, he would not comment or elaborate.

Motor Trend magazine Editor-in-Chief Ed Loh said in an interview that the Colorado was the clear winner in the magazine's most rigorous Truck of the Year testing. He said it was a "controversial year" with the F-150, Transit van and GM returning to the midsize truck segment.

"GM's kind of built that right-sized honest pickup truck that I think will meet the needs of a lot of people," Loh said. "It's a good value. You can get a base work truck in the low $20,000s. You can get the 4-by-4 Z71 starting at $30,000 which is very cost competitive to Toyota and Nissan."

The off-road-inspired Colorado Z71 has been named Motor Trend magazine’s unanimous 2015 Truck of the Year.

Loh said Motor Trend's seven editors praised the Colorado's steering, handling, ride and spacious interior, plus its best-in-class fuel economy.

"It basically fixed everything that was wrong with the previous generation Colorado. And that thing was a dog," he said. "It was totally not competitive and GM knew it and they basically delivered a brand new, very capable, best-in-class pickup truck in our minds."

Loh said the F-150 was the prohibitive winner going into the testing.

"Ford built a really, really good truck. It's excellent across the board. They've been really fast, they've always been fast especially with the new EcoBoost engines. They've always been capable. This new one is quiet and has a lot of great features.

"But there are things like handling which we felt were a little light, a little nervous. Some of the new technology that they have, including lane keep assist. … very aggressive and needs a little refinement there. But fundamentally we know there's another truck within the segment that gets better fuel economy without having to go to aluminum. That was kind of a big deal for us."

Ford in a statement said it was proud of its truck.

"While we always are honored to earn awards and recognition, we are most proud of creating the toughest, smartest and most capable F-150 ever for customers," the Dearborn automaker said in a statement.

Loh said that truck is Ram's 1500 EcoDiesel. Motor Trend selected the Ram 1500 as its Truck of the Year last year.

Chevy learned it was selected as the winner recently, and even some executives were surprised, given the field and F-150 buzz this year.

"To win the award is crazy and we're super excited about that," said Tony Johnson, Colorado marketing manager.

Motor Trend does not compare the trucks against each other in testing, but considers them each for value, safety, fuel efficiency, advancement in design, engineering excellence and performance. Motor Trend reviewed new and significantly updated trucks including:

■Colorado work truck

■Colorado Z71

■Chevy Silverado 3500 heavy duty

■Ford F-150 with the 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine and 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine

■Ford F-450

■Ford Transit 350 HR and Transit 150 MR

■GMC Canyon SLT

■GMC Sierra Denali 2500 heavy duty.

Road and instrumenttests were conducted including zero to 60 miles per hour testing; quarter-mile acceleration; 60 mph to zero braking; payload testing including driving up and down the Davis Dam in Bullhead City, Arizona; handling tests at the proving ground; mountain driving; and real world miles per gallon testing.

Johnson said the recognition validates GM's strategy to re-enter the segment. Some analysts and competitors questioned GM's expensive decision to return to the shrinking segment. Chevrolet plans to use the award in advertising, Johnson said.

"It's a very prestigious award and we're very honored to receive it," he said. "Motor Trend carries some weight with customers ... (it's a) respected third-party publication that's just out there validating our product for us."

Johnson said the Colorado is selling well in its first few months on the market. In November, dealers sold 2,366 Colorado pickups.

"Early demand is through the roof," he said, adding the truck on average is on dealer lots for just 11 days.

On Tuesday, the F-150 was named best new pickup over the Colorado and Canyon by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. Next week, three finalists each in the car and truck categories will be named for the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. The Colorado, Canyon and F-150 are contenders.

The winner will be announced in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

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