Colorado Country

Holden has worked hard to improve the Colorado, and the latest version is undoubtedly its best yet.

It’s highly reassuring, though not necessarily a regular occurrence, when you find senior management of a vehicle manufacturer that is genuinely enthusiastic about its products.

It certainly used to be the case that anyone working in the car industry was an enthusiast. But these days the industry looks for tertiary qualifications ahead of passion and perception, forgetting perhaps that some of the great leaders of the auto industry came from racing or engineering backgrounds and started from the shop floor.

A recent conversation with Ben Lasry, of Holden’s light commercial marketing department, provided a high degree of hope that General Motors was once again rewarding interest and involvement in those that represented the brand. His enthusiasm in commenting on the improved ride and handling and substantial upgrades to the latest version of the Colorado were full of firsthand experiences rather than glib marketing phrases, so much so that at Delivery Magazine we thought we should return the compliment and spend more time with the product.

The bright red Z71 model we’ve been driving for the past week on evaluation is certainly not something to lose easily in a busy car park. Rather than blending in to its environment, the bright red paintwork and highlighted black bonnet panels have an element of HSV imagery about them, suggesting that the 2017 Colorado is indeed a cross-over vehicle, rather than an out-and-out off-road bush slogger.

Rather than downplaying its dual-purpose role of family transport and load lugger, the Z71, with its high bonnet and muscular almost US-styled “truck” appearance, suggests that it is capable of anything, while flexing its biceps and showing off its six-pack.

The 2.8-litre Duramax turbocharged and intercooled diesel engine is matched to a six-speed manual or automatic transmission in the Z71, with maximum power of 147 kW produced at 3600 rpm.

There’s a variation in engine programming when it comes to peak torque output between the manual and automatic transmission, with 440 Nm between 1600 and 2800 rpm for the manual, and 500 Nm between 2000 and 2200 rpm for the auto. The CO2 emission rating is 210 g/k.

The Z71 – or possibly we should call it Zee 71 as the company these days  is very much focused on its North American origins – is the top-of-the-line version in the Colorado range, and, as such, it comes with a    suite of goodies on top of the standard spec that in itself is pretty high with inclusions.

The big-ticket item across the entire range is the five-star ANCAP crash safety rating. Even the base model LS has daytime safety running lamps, seven SRS airbags, rear park assist including a rear camera, auto on/off headlamps, trailer sway control, hill descent control, electronic stability programme, cruise control and hill start assist.

By the time you move through the ranks from LS to LT and then to LTZ, you’ve gained forward collision alert,           lane departure warning, tyre pressure monitoring, a six-way powered driver’s seat and a few more media    infotainment enhancements.

As you progress through the various models the wheel rims increase in diameter and the rubber shrinks in terms of aspect ratio, reducing tyre squirm on cornering but tending not to absorb the road bumps quite as well. With the 16-inch steel rim of the LS the tyre fitment is a 245/70R16, the LT hits the road with a 17-inch rim and a fitment of 255/65R17, leaving the LTZ and Z71 to revel in the visual appeal of the 265/60R18s.

What is interesting with the Colorado is that the new 2017 version is such a better all-round vehicle. Noise levels are lower, ride comfort has improved, drive ability is certainly better and more sophisticated, and the electric powered steering is as positive and responsive as the average driver would notice.

The fitment of a rear-vision reverse camera on all crew-cabs (with wiring provided for cab-chassis models) is something that all vehicles should feature as mandatory. Also, coming from someone who is possibly anal when it comes to tyre pressures and tread depth, the inclusion of a pressure monitoring system means the ability to spot a potential tyre deflation before it becomes an accident, or, at the very least, a fractured and disintegrating rubber doughnut that can’t be repaired.

Being more interested in the mechanical bits and how it drives, rather than the extensive capabilities of the audio system, leaves me at least aware of the infotainment system that includes Holden’s MyLink system with mobile    phone projection via Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Most of the time, especially in heavy traffic, I travel with        the radio turned off, as I find the more comprehensive the audio entertainment, the more it encroaches on levels of concentration.

The driver intervention systems undoubtedly can save a life where  a driver is inexperienced or simply has drifted off in terms of the concentration levels that monitor the events occurring around them. While The Stig circumnavigated high-speed circuits for Top Gear accompanied by music of various origins at high volume, one can assume that, as it hasn’t   caught on with V8 Supercar or Formula 1 drivers, then most believe it does impinge on concentration levels and therefore safety.

There’s been a lot of change taking place under the bonnet on the 2.8-litre Duramax engine, which is sourced from engine manufacturer VM Motori.

For those readers that have not had much exposure to VM Motori, this is a company that can trace its origins back to 1947, when two Italian entrepreneurs, Vancini and Martelli, decided to combine forces to design and build diesel engines in Cento, Italy.

Ownership and affiliations have changed through the years, with VM Motori supplying diesel engines to Chrysler for fitment in the Voyager and Cherokee. Global acceptance of the company’s diesel engine technology resulted in further engine sales to other manufacturers such as Ford, General Motors, Rover and Alfa Romeo.

The General Motors connection developed after various equity transfers and ownerships with Detroit Diesel Corporation of North America, Daimler Chrysler and, subsequently, the Penske Group, which remains today as a 50 percent equity deal with General Motors.

As a Euro 5 emissions certified engine the Duramax 2.8-litre features a diesel particulate filter, and, thanks to a new acoustic sound insulation pack, the noise, vibration and harshness levels have substantially decreased.

Also worthy of note is the fuel economy, which ranks as one of the better performers in the ute category. Driving for fuel economy, Delivery Magazine found returns of around 6.8-7.4 l/100 km were quite achievable in highway running, bettering the Holden figures of 7.9 for the manual and 8.7 for the auto.

If there was anything we really didn’t like that much it was the current trend by manufacturers to run on high ride heights, then adding high-sided tubs so that it becomes almost impossible for a standard-height person to reach over the sidewall of the tub to access the cargo. It may add to the beefy macho appeal, but it’s difficult to live with on a   daily basis.

For those intent on towing their home or boat behind them, the GCM is 6000 kg (Gross Combined Mass) and the maximum towing limit out of that is 3500 kg. Maximum payload for the Z71 with an automatic transmission is 1007 kg. Remember though, to add the weight of the passengers and the cargo to the kerbweight of the vehicle, and then deduct that figure from the GCM to provide the safe laden weight options on the trailer.

A final aspect of the Colorado that does get the Delivery Magazine tick of approval is the effort that Holden has undertaken to provide a wide range of accessories, for once showing that a dealership can be a one-stop shop for all sorts of presents with which to adorn your new Colorado. From seat covers to light bars, bash plates, canopies and cargo liners, bike carriers and fender flares to additional cup holders, there’s a huge range of accessories that support the notion that Holden is very serious now about gaining market share.

As the best version of the Colorado to yet hit the market in its history, Delivery Magazine reckons that Ben Lasry was right on the money, providing a warning note, or is it a challenge, to the Ford Ranger.

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