One of the Best Off-Road Pickup Trucks on Sale May Be in Trouble

The Chevy Colorado is a dynamite off-roader, thanks in part to its diesel engine. But that engine may not stick around much longer.

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Diesel power may have picked up something of a bad reputation in the wake of VW’s Dieselgate scandal and the others that followed, wherein carmakers were found to be fiddling with or downright lying about the levels of pollutants spewing from the tailpipes of their oil-burning rides. But while diesel engines might not be the powertrain of the future the way some had hoped, there’s no denying their many benefits, like superior fuel economy and beefy low-end torque. Those traits make Ol’ Rudy Diesel’s powerplant great not just for commercial use, but for off-roading and overlanding, too.

Yet apart from those of us who use gargantuan heavy-duty trucks to haul long trailers, diesel power hasn’t ever really caught on with Americans, leading carmakers to de-emphasize it here in the States. Lack of diesel interest is basically the only thing keeping the Ford Ranger Raptor from coming here — and now, it may lead to the loss of one of the Ranger’s main competitors, a truck that also happens to be one of the best overlanding rigs on sale today.

That truck, in case the picture at the top didn’t give it away, is the Chevrolet Colorado midsize pickup truck with the 2.8-liter Duramax turbodiesel inline-four. As we learned firsthand from chatting with participants at the Mid-Atlantic Overland Festival last summer, overlanders dig the diesel Colorado not just for the aforementioned torque and fuel economy (the latter very handy when you’re taking long trips away from gas pumps), but for the truck’s relatively compact proportions — and, in ZR2 and ZR2 Bison forms, solid off-road capabilities for a stock vehicle.

But that engine may soon be axed from the Colorado (and the related GMC Canyon), according to the GM authorities at GM Authority. General Motors, it seems, is set to cease its manufacturing and sales operations in Thailand this year, which means the plant that makes the 2.8-liter Duramax will be sold off to Great Wall Motors of China. While it’s possible that GM could shunt production to another factory, the carmaker refused to confirm to GM Authority whether the diesel-powered Colorado or Canyon would stick around past the current 2021 model year.

Granted, “no comment” is a fairly unexceptional reaction from an automaker when it comes to questions of future product. But between that, the Colorado’s flagging sales (even before the coronavirus pandemic, they were down versus the previous year’s numbers for the last 12 months) and the general attitude towards diesel-powered trucks in the sub-brobdingnagian classes, we wouldn’t be all that shocked if GM took this opportunity to slide the Duramax Colorado into retirement. We would, however, be disappointed.

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