Upgrading Done Right: The Callaway Colorado SC410
We often discuss the problem of modding out of class in the world of Everyday Driver. Fans of the podcast and show often wonder just how many parts become one too many and how many "upgrades" end up costing more than what they're worth in time and repairs later down the road. The conclusion often leads us to wonder, "shouldn't I have just bought the better version of the vehicle I wanted in the first place?" instead of all of the effort and expense of tracking down and installing parts. After all, if the engineers could have given a vehicle more power and performance without sacrificing reliability, wouldn't they have done so? (And charged you more for it?)
Sure, some drivers like overlanders and track rats that have specific needs, and it makes sense for them to invest in their vehicles to make the most of these pursuits. But with OEMs pushing the envelope these days, an increasing number of vehicles are designed to explore the outdoors or carve corners right out of the box. Having been lucky enough to spend time in SUVs like the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and cars like Toyota 86 over the past few years, I can attest that, for many of us, upgrades are not as necessary as we might think.
With that said, allow me to be hypocritical for a moment. I own a Chevrolet Colorado ZR2. I want to upgrade it.
The truck is pretty great. It handles anything on the trails thanks to the front and rear locking differentials. It handles the road better than any other truck thanks to its Multimatic DSSV suspension that adapts to pavement as well as whoops and jumps. It has the space and practicality we all look for in a truck. The lifted stance and aggressive exterior get lots of thumbs up as well.
It is the top-of-the-line Colorado. But...it's not the fastest truck out there. And…its interior is neither comfortable no attractive.
Naturally, like all good enthusiasts, I started researching ways to personalize the truck not long after purchasing it. Besides some aesthetic mods and side steps for my wife and son to use, I resisted the urge to make any major upgrades. (Disclosure: I had GM accessories including a tonneau cover, cold air intake, performance exhaust, sport bar, and lights installed with dealer purchase.) After driving the truck for over a year, I felt I had given it a fair shake. I would love a new experience, but it fits my family's lifestyle too well at present. I started wondering if a bigger, more powerful, more nicely appointed truck might be worth pursuing. Then I stumbled upon Callaway Cars.
Founded in 1976, with locations in Old Lyme, CT, Temecula, CA, and Leingarten, Germany, Callaway Cars made a name for itself partnering with brands like Aston Martin, Mazda, Land Rover, Holden, and Alfa Romeo. They also have a significant racing pedigree, as they build and race Corvettes with success. Perhaps they are best known for their current work on GM vehicles including Camaros, Yukons, Escalades, and others. Sheldon Watrous, the company's Customer Care leader, talked with me about the rigorous testing that went into their version of the Colorado, the SC410. This truck is “engineered rather than tuned,” he explained, meaning that adding a supercharger, dual pass intercooler system, high flow intake, and low restriction exhaust enhances--rather than replaces--what is already good.
Tom Oates, Callaway’s Nation Sales Manager further elaborated on the differences between their approach versus tuning shops: “We design our own products to stay within factory tolerances and comply with all the existing laws, like EPA compliance. Our goal and mission is to improve performance, using the headroom that’s left, moving performance of the parts to the maximum amount. Our testing is validated by SAE methods and not just on a dyno, which can be inconsistent at best.”
Initial impressions show that Callaway’s philosophy is very effective. Instead of the upgrades drastically changing the truck, it feels like a higher trim level more than just a rolling collection of modifications. This makes sense, since Callaway warranties their work for three years and 36,000 miles in addition to what’s provided by the factory.
Driving the truck immediately reveals a powerband that is more linear and that obviously delivers more thrust. Peak horsepower and torque are achieved at 6500 and 4500 RPM, respectively, compared to the base V6's 6800 and 4000. This definitely smooths things out while accelerating. Worth mentioning are the power figures; the Callaway Colorado SC410 makes 410 horsepower and 400 pound feet of torque versus my stock ZR2 which makes 308 and 230. These stats definitely back up the marketing slogan “a V6 pickup with V8 power”.
While the ride and handling dynamics are identical to the stock ZR2, the overall character of the truck changes. Where in my own Colorado I need to coax power from the midrange to make the truck perform, the supercharged version lets the engine rev much higher and faster. It lets you solve driving problems with your right foot, whereas the standard truck requires more finesse in terms of planning for and timing acceleration runs. Not an outright speed demon, the SC410 feels more like a Gen 2 Raptor than I expected. It's solid and capable and controlled and doesn't feel like things are just bolted on like on some less capably modded rigs. It seems the Callaway Colorado has hit the gym--not the roids--becoming the midsize truck truck to beat for enthusiasts.
There is a lot more to share about Callaway Cars and the work they do. I am looking forward to driving the SC410 more for a full on- and off-road review as well. Check back soon for more on this story of upgrading done right.
Bill hosts a blog and YouTube channel that lead him to think more deeply about what it means to drive. The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.