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Road Test Review: 2023 Chevrolet Colorado Trail Boss Aims At Affordable Off-Roading And Overlanding

Feeling dazzled by the sheer number of off-road options available on the truck market? You might want to put on a second set of shades, because for 2023 Chevrolet adds yet another bauble to glimmer in the rockiest region of its showroom. If you’re counting, the Colorado Trail Boss is the third go-anywhere mid-size truck wearing a Bowtie, slotting in between the long-running Z71 package and the top-dog ZR2, and conservatively about the 37th tough truck that enthusiasts have been presented with overall during the past five years.

2023 Chevrolet Colorado Trail Boss front 3/4 view red in sand pit

Desperate to satisfy the seemingly insatiable appetites its customers have for the great outdoors, the Trail Boss doesn’t have too many surprises hidden underneath its lifted chassis. As a tweener, it surpasses the Z71’s “just the basics” approach to off-roading without trampling on the territory already claimed by the ZR2’s dune-bashing, rock-climbing prowess. Don’t write off this version of the redesigned Colorado simply because it doesn’t aim to overly impress on the spec sheet, however: this is still a compelling package for drivers who feel the need to leave asphalt behind, but who don’t want to deal with compromises that come with a truly hardcore platform.

Safe Mode Blues

The 2023 Chevrolet Colorado Trail Boss lets you know that it’s serious about getting dirty by basing its spec on the entry-level W/T (or “work truck”) trim level. That means there aren’t all that many luxuries to be found with the Trail Boss: think a black plastic grille and bumper, basic heating and air conditioning controls, and a distinct lack of luxuries. You do get wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, both on a reasonably-sized 11.3-inch screen, and the truck also featured a useful gauge cluster display that provided off-road info concerning horizontal and vertical angle.

2023 Chevrolet Colorado Trail Boss interior

Unfortunately, GM’s implementation of Google’s Android Automotive Operating System (which is the software layer under which everything else runs) can be frustrating to set up for the first time. In fact, I actually had to reset the infotainment system and reboot it in “safe mode” simply to pair my phone. When was the last time you had to put your truck in “safe mode?” It happened to me on day one of the week I spent behind the wheel of the Colorado, and a quick perusal of online message boards reveals that it’s a common issue for the model.

2023 Chevrolet Colorado Trail Boss side profile

Interior room is decent for a mid-size truck, with the Colorado pulling ahead of models like the current Tacoma and Ranger (each due for replacement). The rear seat folds up 60/40, but you can’t make maximum use of the space underneath due to a storage compartment molded into the floor of the passenger compartment. I ended up hauling larger items on the seat as a result.

2023 Chevrolet Colorado Trail Boss cargo bed full

The bed is large enough to be useful, but all 2023 editions feature a short-box configuration paired with the truck’s four-door body style. This means you’ll be running with the tailgate open if you hope to haul anything longer than five-foot-two. Pour one out for the long box that was offered across all cab configurations with the previous-generation truck, or head to a competitor if you prioritize utility in a pickup.

All The Gear You Need, None You Don’t

Most Trail Boss buyers are likely to be more concerned with the pickup’s mechanicals than its comfort gear, and here they are well-covered. Compared to the base Colorado, the Trail Boss gains 2 additional inches of ride height plus 3 inches of track, helping it to scoot over obstacles as well as add tire and stability during more precarious transitions on the trail. It doesn’t offer the same Rancho monotube shocks found on the full-size Silverado Trail Boss (as it features a twin-tube setup), but it does feature a choice of 32-inch tire designs (with A/T standard and M/T optional) on top of its standard locking rear differential and skid plates. If you plan to abuse the bottom of the truck, the ZR2’s underbody armor can be added at extra cost, as can its bash plate and rock rails.

2023 Chevrolet Colorado Trail Boss front view head-on

All of the above is paired with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that serves as the sole drivetrain choice for the Colorado. The Trail Boss gains the mightiest tune for the 2.7-liter unit, which checks in at 310 hp and 491 lb-ft of torque, which is enough power that few drivers will lament the absence of the older Colorado’s V6. Acceleration is generally quite good even when fully-laden, although the occasionally wheezy sound of the turbo takes some getting used to. Less impressive is the engine’s rough idle, a surprisingly bit of vibration in an otherwise well-attenuated cabin that I also observed when driving the same-engine GMC Canyon Denali earlier this year.

2023 Chevrolet Colorado Trail Boss rear view looking out over the sand dunes

An eight-speed automatic is included with every version of the Colorado. In the Trail Boss, I saw 22 mpg on the highway, and 18 mpg in mixed driving.

Priced Right, But Its Lead Is Brief

In both light mudding and regular driving I had no major complaints about the Colorado’s character. With its ruggedized suspension setup it’s less likely to forgive rapid transit over rough road, which will be a consideration for anyone whose daily commute is less than glass-smooth. That’s to be expected from any off-road oriented truck, however, particularly one whose reasonable price (starting at $38,495) means leaving trick technologies like the ZR2’s DSSV shocks on the shelf.

2023 Chevrolet Colorado Trail Boss close-up on logo

The updated Colorado is a worthwhile improvement versus the truck it replaces, and while it doesn’t come without its bugs, GM’s investment in its mid-size truck platform is encouraging to see. It’s also heartening to see pricing that truly separates the Colorado from the larger Silverado, with a roughly $10k gap between Trail Boss trims of each respective platform. That’s worthwhile savings for those who don’t want to deal with the bulk of a full-size pickup out in the woods or during the daily routine.

2023 Chevrolet Colorado Trail Boss rear 3/4 view in the sand pit

More importantly is how modern the new Chevrolet feels when compared against its main competitors from Ford, Toyota, and Nissan. It’s an advantage that won’t last much longer, given the previously-mentioned replacements for the Tacoma and the Ranger that will soon be coming down the pipe, but its engine and transmission can count on gapping the Frontier in terms of power delivery for the foreseeable future.

Nitto Trail Grappler tire on Chevy Trail Boss truck

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