Could an extra-tough Colorado developed for America be the vehicle to give Holden Special Vehicles fresh direction?
HUGE Kiwi enthusiasm for one-tonne utes, a desire that already outpaces support we give V8 sedans, might well be heartening Holden Special Vehicles’ hope of making a new life once the Commodore ceases to provision in V8 form.
With the incoming Opel-built 2018 Commodore simply not suited to hot-rodding, the specialist HSV outfit based in the Melbourne suburb of Clayton will soon be left without the road car ride it has been reworking for 30 years.
However, HSV has been dropping hints of a survival plan beyond the Commodore, one that sees it quite literally keeping on trucking.
The new idea asks for a complete change of thinking and will see HSV challenge in a whole new terrain, where the word ‘track’ has nothing to do with racing.
As much as intent to create performance versions of Holden’s Colorado ute and its impending large sports utility wagon, the American-made Equinox, will seem an anathema to those for a taste for raw V8s, it’s increasingly seen as the only way forward – at least until it can win access to some pukka American heavy weaponry, the Camaro and Corvette being obvious candidates.
Speaking of: There is conjecture that HSV’s first post-Commodore project will be something that almost counts literally as much as metaphorically as the next number up from Holden’s most expensive Colorado ute, the flagship Z71, which costs $66,990 in automatic format.
The truck we know so well has virtually become a global offer, with infiltration even into North America now.
That’s potentially good news for HSV.
The brand-sanctioned speed shop might well be already pitching to lay hands on the architectural and mechanical elements that go into a more outrageous edition of the Brazilian-designed, Thai-built Colorado, developed by Chevrolet in the United States and about to go on sale there.
The Colorado ZR2 is a serious off-roading version of what Americans think of as a ‘small pickup.’
Handily for HSV, it provisions with a petrol performance engine, albeit a V6 rather than a V8. Importantly for New Zealand market tastes, it also kits with the same 2.8-litre turbodiesel that sole powers NZ-market Holden Colorado.
The power and torque outputs are no different for those cited for the NZ market Colorado, meaning 147kW and torque of 440Nm in manual format rising to 500Nm in automatic.
The V6, a 3.6-litre, is rated to give 228kW and 372Nm. Even though the ute sector here is almost wholly diesel-driven, and despite HSV not having had luck with a V6 previously, there is thought it might try to stir up interest in this engine nonetheless – HSV Commodore buyers, after all, have shown willingness to ignore obvious fuel burn issues, so why not power-hungry ute buyers?
Anyway, in the ZR2, the engines are not as much as an attraction as the gear they hook up to.
That starts with a transmission change. The Holden six-speed transmissions are not used by Chevrolet. Instead, its engines come with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The Chevrolet is also hard-out when it comes to it off-roading equip. The ZR2 not only has locking front and rear differentials, but there’s also a locking transfer case, and a total of nine drive modes that cover everything “from high speed desert running, to rock crawling and trips to the mall”.
The tow rating is lighter than for Holden’s models, topping out at 2.2 tonne, and so too the payload, which is roughly around 500kg.
Nonetheless it is a brawnier looking model than the Z71.
The body detailing is downright aggressive, with the lifted body, giant tires, and black tubular rocker protectors. A bad-boy look is created up front with a raised black dome hood, black grille insert, and the revised bumper with integrated skid plate.
In the rear, the model can be fitted with an optional bed-mounted spare-tire carrier, which Chevrolet notes can help prevent damage to the spare from off-road obstacles.
It features a 9cm wider track and 6cm lift compared to other Colorado versions, giving it 260mm of ground clearance, which is more than a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon offers.
It rides on a unique suspension featuring spool valve shocks made by Multimatic that use technology developed for Formula One race cars and the Camaro Z/28 and provide varying levels of damping depending on wheel position.
The body has been modified to offer improved approach and departure angles. A full complement of skid plates and steel tube rockers is standard, and a bed-mounted spare tire carrier is available to protect that crucial lifeline from being damaged underneath in the middle of nowhere.
Meantime, of course, HSV is busy pushing out the last of its VFII-based Commodore specials.
The final fling selection upgrades the Gen F2 range which has been given an upgrade to celebrate 2017 being 30 years since it kicked off trading, with the Holden SS Group A.
The F2 refresh includes 10kW more power from supercharged 6.2-litre LSA engine for ClubSport, Maloo and Senator Signature, plus other tweaks such as torque vectoring on the rear axle for better powering out of corners.
Also taking HSV to the end of its current business plan is a new GTSR that returns to the range after 20 years, this time with a 435kW supercharged LSA V8.
And then there’s the big one … the GTSR W1. Sharing the GTSR’s new-look styling, but with more carbon-fibre highlights and matte-black wheels, the W1 swaps the 435kW LSA V8 for the most powerful engine ever offered in an Australian car, the 474kW/815Nm LS9 that once graced the sixth-generation Chevrolet Corvette ZR1.
They’re talking 0-100km in 4.2 seconds from the most powerful, fastest, most sophisticated sedan ever made in Australia. It’s expensive ($189,900) and also exclusive – just 300 being built, of which a handful are coming to New Zealand.