When Chevy introduced its all-new midsize Colorado pickup to the media last fall, several competitive trucks were on hand for head-to-head comparisons. The Colorado (and GMC Canyon) were clearly superior to the Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier and even the larger Dodge Dakota, and bigger and substantially better than their 22-year-old predecessors (S-10 Blazer and Sonoma).
They ride smoothly and handle securely on a super-stiff new flame that's unrelated to GM's mid-size SUVs except that their DOHC, 4-valve, VVT in-line 2.8L 4- and 3.5L 5-cylinder engines are derived from the SUV's 4.2L in-line six. The four puts out 175 hp and 185 lb. ft. of torque, the optional five 220 hp and 225 lb. ft., both better than competitive standard fours and V6s.
Both offer choices of 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission; RWD or 4WD; sport, heavy-duty or Z-71 off-road suspension: Standard, Extended or Crew cab and three trim levels. They boast roomy and quiet interiors, marred only by some slightly cheap-looking materials, the largest bed volumes and most cargo tie-downs in class and segment-leading features such as roof rail side air bags, and a two-position locking tailgate.
That was then; this is now. Suddenly, there's a coming explosion in the mid-size market, with Dodge, Nissan and Toyota launching bigger and better new trucks for 2005 and Mitsubishi and Honda joining the party in 2006. The Nissan's optional V-6 will offer "250-plus" hp and "270-plus" lb.-ft., the Toyota's available turbocharged V-6 as much as 300 hp and the larger-then-ever Dodge will have a standard V-6 and optional 235-hp V-8. Ford apparently will stand pat for now with it's aging Ranger.
GM may have more work to do, and Ford had better wake up quick.
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