The 2016 Chevy Colorado diesel and Lance 2155 travel trailer exceed expectations
We’re all accustomed to the expression “Less is more.” But is it, really? Everywhere we look, it seems that more is in fact more. What used to be a mobile phone is now a powerful device that can access the Internet, send and receive email, take pictures and provide navigation. Televisions seem to get bigger every month, and are loaded with apps that provide more convenience and value. Manufacturers of all kinds are fighting for your hard-earned dollar, and the fact of the matter is, the only way they’re going to get it is to provide you with — you guessed it — more. So it’s really no surprise that what was once considered a small truck can now tow as much as a full-size model from just a few years ago, and that travel trailers are available with features and amenities once reserved for their larger fifth-wheel cousins.
Case in point: The 2016 Chevy Colorado and Lance 2155 featured here. In the crew cab, longbed configuration, the test truck is just 14.7 inches shorter, 3.2 inches lower and 5.7 inches narrower than the equivalent full-size Silverado. When equipped with the new 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder diesel, it tows just 1,500 pounds less, gets better fuel economy (4 more mpg city, 7 more highway) and saves you almost $10,000. The Lance 2155, while measuring only 25 feet 8 inches, offers dual slideouts, a kitchen island and an entertainment center with an available fireplace, yet has a claimed dry weight of just 4,600 pounds. It seemed like these two were practically made for each other, so we hitched them up and headed to the Nevada desert for testing.
The Chevy Colorado and its sibling, the GMC Canyon, were all new for the 2015 model year, and this year added the diesel option as a coup de grâce to the midsize competition. Built in Thailand, the engine is part of GM’s global family of turbo-diesel four-cylinder engines. And like its bigger brother, the 6.6-liter Duramax offered in GM heavy-duty trucks, it features a variable-geometry turbo with a driver-selectable exhaust-brake function. It also uses a similar iron-block/aluminum-head configuration, and owing to its common-rail fuel injection and cooled-exhaust-gas recirculation system, it is the cleanest diesel truck engine ever produced by GM.
The engine is matched with a standard 6L50 six-speed automatic transmission with a torque converter featuring a so-called Centrifugal Pendulum Vibration Absorber (CPVA), an integrated damper that is designed to cancel out the engine’s torsional vibrations. Also new: A segment-exclusive integrated trailer-brake controller that is standard on diesel models.
The engine is smooth and powerful, and though unobtrusive, offers just enough clatter to let you know it’s a diesel. The transmission is smooth shifting, and while it offers a manual mode, we didn’t use it; the combination of diesel torque, exhaust brake and intelligent transmission logic made manual shifting unnecessary. The Colorado crested grades at 55 mph or better with the trailer in tow, and its long crew-cab wheelbase contributed to excellent stability on the oft-breezy Interstate 15, even as 18-wheelers passed.
Overall, the truck has a solid feel that leaves little doubt it can handle this job for years to come, but at the same time offers a quiet and comfortable ride. In fact, about the only mechanical improvements we could wish for would be better steering feel and stronger brakes; even though GM fits the truck with four-wheel discs, they felt spongy to us.
Chevy still has some work to do to make the interior more comfortable. The seats are not only firm, but also narrow, and the driver’s seat is offset to the right. That means sitting on the left bolster to be directly in front of the wheel, which feels like driving with a thick wallet in your back pocket. The upholstery is a sort of woven vinyl that doesn’t breathe very well in hot weather, and the climate-control system didn’t help matters; in Auto mode, it seemed like we were constantly fiddling with the fan speed to make it cooler.
But the biggest offender, at least from an ergonomic standpoint, is the four-wheel-drive control; it is located on the left side of the wheel, right next to the headlight knob, and is exactly the same size and shape. Putting it on the center console (like almost every other four-wheel-drive vehicle) would make a lot more sense.
If you can overlook these flaws, there is a lot of good in the Colorado’s office, including OnStar, an integrated 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot and the Chevrolet MyLink audio system, boasting an 8-inch color touch screen, Apple CarPlay and SiriusXM Radio. Our test truck was equipped with the optional navigation feature, a good buy at $495. Other options included a spray-in bedliner ($475) and a Trailering Equipment Package ($250), both of which we would recommend.
We arrived at our destination in the evening and were grateful for the 4WD system in the hilly darkness. Although the campground was completely full (many public sites are first-come, first-served and don’t take reservations), the gracious campsite host guided us to a couple of spots he reserves for latecomers like us. Setting up went pretty quickly, thanks to the optional electric A-frame jack ($239) and electric stabilizer jacks ($681), the latter of which took some getting used to. The power switch is on the streetside front corner behind a locked compartment, along with the switches for the front and rear jacks on that side. The switch for the jacks on the opposite side are on the curbside front corner, which necessitates walking side to side a few times to get things right, but it still beats manual jacks by a mile.
The 2155 has the customary front-storage compartment that is pretty roomy and can be optioned (as ours was) with a pull-out storage tray ($239) that is accessed from the curbside door. At first, we were concerned that we wouldn’t have enough room to store our 2,000-watt generator here but found that there was just enough space on the other side of the compartment, behind the bin.
Once inside the trailer, it becomes obvious that Lance made the living area its main priority, which makes sense, considering this is where most people will spend the bulk of their time. There is a closet, cabinet and pantry to the left of the entry door, which makes packing fast and easy, and the bathroom is located at the rear as well, so pit stops can be made without delay. This room is a bit on the tight side but has a large neo-angle shower with a glass enclosure and a porcelain toilet, plus adequate storage for necessities.
In the living area, the kitchen island — a first for Lance travel trailers — features drawers, storage cabinets, a large single-bowl sink with covers, and ends that open out to reveal large, deep shelves. And though the preproduction model we tested had a short residential-style faucet, we’re told production models will have a larger high-rise faucet. Food-prep space is plentiful, and there’s even more room to work on the curbside kitchen countertop. About the only thing we questioned was the placement of a storage cubby above the stove instead of the microwave, which is instead mounted beneath the countertop. We would vote to remove the cubby and put the microwave there instead, but that’s personal preference.
Aside from its smallest model, the 1475, the 2155 is the only trailer in Lance’s lineup that does not have a large U-shaped dinette. In its place is a booth dinette with reversible cushions that can still seat four very comfortably and converts quickly into an additional bed for two kids or small adults. As is customary in Lance trailers, there is a huge drawer underneath each side that can easily swallow blankets, extra pillows and the like. In the test unit, one side was partially occupied by a number of insulated, snap-on skylight covers, part of the Four Seasons All Weather Package ($583). They are designed to keep the heat in on cold evenings, but we found they were also useful for keeping the interior dark on sunny mornings.
At the front of the living area is the entertainment center, which comes standard with an AM/FM/DVD stereo, plus interior and exterior speakers, and Bluetooth connectivity. However, most buyers will probably opt for the available 32-inch LED television ($863) and/or the aforementioned electric fireplace ($297). Like many other trailers we’ve tested, the television rotates for viewing from the front bedroom, which is a cool idea, but traditionally has suffered from one major inconvenience: the head unit doesn’t turn with it, so you can’t adjust volume or change channels once in bed. Jensen, manufacturer of the head unit and the television, developed a work-around for this problem called J-Control, an app for your smartphone that lets you operate the entertainment system via Bluetooth.
The 2155’s compact front bedroom features what Lance calls a “semi walk-around” queen bed, which means you can stand on either side but not at the front. This will likely cause some aggravation if you are alone, as you’ll need to walk around the entertainment center to get to the other side of the bed several times while making it, and if you are taller than 6 feet, your toes will touch. Couples will have the most success, as they can make the bed from either side and will probably curl up at night anyway. On either side of the bed are good-size wardrobes for hanging clothes and, beneath them, roomy side tables with 120-volt AC outlets.
Speaking of power, one of the things we love about Lance trailers is that everything except for the microwave, air conditioner and fireplace works off 12-volt DC, including the television and USB charging ports. And Lance also offers a 160-watt solar panel to keep the dual batteries charged on extended stays.
Come to think of it, there’s another common expression we’re reminded of as we return home with this feature-laden duo: good things come in small packages.