Holden's workhorse has a makeover
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HOLDEN UPGRADES UTES TO FEED AND GROW DEMAND, WRITES COLIN SMITH
The formula for a modern pick-up is to blend workhorse credentials and a tough truck image at the same time as rounding off the rough edges from the driving experience.
A redeveloped Holden Colorado set to go on sale from September 10 heads down that road.
Among the changes — which extend well beyond the scope of a routine facelift — are a full-scale cabin makeover, powertrain refinements and key changes to the driving dynamics achieved through new steering and revised chassis tuning.
It means a substantial lift in appeal for New Zealand’s third best-selling utility.
Last year — and in the first seven months of 2016 — Colorado sales have run well behind the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux, though enjoyed a handy margin over the Mitsubishi Triton and Nissan Navara, battling for fourth position.
As well as being a solid number three in a fast-growing ute segment, the Colorado now accounts for 29 per cent of total Holden sales in New Zealand and is clearly ahead of Commodore as Holden’s best-seller.
Holden New Zealand sees the utility segment continuing to grow.
‘‘It’s a snowball effect,” managing director Kristian Aquilina said at last week’s Colorado press launch.
“The customers demand more and the vehicles deliver more and that draws more people to the segment. That’s what is fuelling it and it will continue to grow.”
The 2017 upgrades for Colorado carry Holden’s long-term hopes of making the Kiwi ute market a three-way fight — or threatening the Hilux for No. 2 status.
Colorado has been a smart-looking truck with competitive pricing since the current shape appeared in mid-2012. The shortcomings have been the gruff — but grunty — 2.8-litre Duramax diesel engine and an interior dressed with hard plastics that has been a disappointment.
No more. In a programme that has delivered a mix of global GM upgrades and specific improvements pushed for by Holden, the Brazil-designed and Thailand-built Colorado has been transformed.
It’s quieter, steers with greater precision, rides more comfortably on the highway and now boasts the modern dash architecture and quality materials that drivers demand from a multi-role vehicle.
The upgrades roll-out across the full Colorado line-up of Crew Cab, Space Cab and Single Cab bodystyles and in 4x2 and 4x4 configurations with a September 10 on-sale date.
Holden New Zealand is keeping the pricing under wraps till a couple of days before the truck hits the showrooms. In Australia the refinements and raised equipment levels are accompanied by small price reductions at lower grade levels and carryover pricing for the flagship Z71 models.
“Colorado is famous for value for money and that won’t change,” was the only hint Aquilina was sharing last week.
Holden’s strength has mainly been in high-spec 4x4 Crew Cab models but Aquilina sees an opportunity for the more highly specified LT models to gain sales momentum.
Visually the Colorado has a new face with a slimline upper grille, revised bonnet, LED daytime running lights and new wheel designs. The new Absolute Red hero colour is an attention-grabber.
But it’s inside where the Colorado has most advanced.
A new dash layout with soft-touch surfaces and cross-stitch highlights, more substantial plastics, revised switchgear on a much tidier centre stack and updated instrument graphics all contribute to the sense of progress.
Entry-level models have a seven-inch colour touchscreen with MyLink connectivity and digital radio while LTZ and flagship Z71 models have an eight-inch display and gain Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps with embedded navigation and voice recognition.
In terms of powertrain, the 2.8-litre Duramax engine continues with unchanged 147kW output and 500Nm of torque (440Nm on manual models) but now meets Euro5 emissions standards.
A new engine acoustic package comprising an injector insulator, metal timing cover and oil pan insulator has put the lid on those diesel decibels — inside the cabin and standing alongside the vehicle.
The balance shaft that is so important in large displacement four-cylinder units has been moved further forward in the engine block.
But the most effective change is a new Centrifugal Pendulum Absorber (CPA) torque converter, similar to that used in upmarket diesel passenger cars.
It smooths out torsional vibrations in the drivetrain and allows the torque converter to lock up earlier — which along with the move to electric steering has yielded a 0.5L/100km fuel efficiency gain. The CPA torque converter is among the changes specifically requested by Holden engineers.
The current generation of Colorado has never lacked grunt but a launch drive in Queensland last week confirms the delivery of power and torque now comes with less apparent effort and better light throttle refinement.
Holden’s 2017 Colorado LTZ and the flagship Z71 (below).
The work on smoothing the powertrain is accompanied by chassis improvements. The switch to electric power steering takes on lessons from the VF Commodore programme and adds a faster rack (3.29 turns lock-to-lock compared to 3.9 previously). Much less steering input is required at highway speeds.
There are also new traction control, stability control, hill descent control and trailer sway control calibrations. Holden selected a new Bridgestone Dueler tyre that offers improved wet performance and ride comfort.
Colorado becomes a more comfortable ride thanks to new digressive front and rear dampers, revised spring rates and an increase in front stabiliser bar diameter. And there’s significant benefit from attaching the body to the frame via new shear mounts.
On the highway, it sits flatter, with improved comfort and isolation and the engineers talk of reducing “head toss” — the amount of head movement passengers experience while cornering and over uneven surfaces. Up in front, reshaped seats also help the comfort levels.
Holden also uses a helical limited slip differential on Colorado models in a trade-off that provides enhanced handling on gravel and slippery surfaces but misses out on an electronic locking rear differential for more extreme terrain as used by many of its rivals.
Another engineering change is a shorter final drive ratio on the manual models, which provides improved towing performance.
The changes are aimed at achieving more car-like qualities from a ute in highway cruising, country roads and urban work.
But there’s no loss of workhorse credentials with the Colorado retaining a 3500kg braked towing capacity and a minimum one-tonne payload capacity (and up to 1048kg on workhorse LT models).
Equipment levels see the LT model gain additional features including a leather steering wheel and dusk sensing headlights, and all Crew Cab variants have gained rear ventilation outlets. Crew Cabs are now equipped with a reversing camera and rear park sensor and LTZ and Z71 models have a front parking sensor as well.
Other safety upgrades include the addition of a driver’s knee airbag on all models and a forward-facing camera provides Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning for the upscale LTZ and Z71 models.
Tyre pressure monitoring, LED tail lights and remote window control and engine start are features on the LTZ and Z71.
The LTZ model has 18-inch alloy wheels, an alloy sports bar and chrome door handles while at the top of the range, the Z71 has leather-appointed seats, the front ones heated.
Holden has also taken inspiration from the recent Colorado Xtreme concept vehicle and extended the range of genuine accessories with options such as a safari and nudge bars, underbody bash plate packages, tubular side steps, a steel rear step, snorkel and an LED light bar to add style and functionality.
While Holden Colorado is a global vehicle for General Motors it has ended up with a package of driving dynamics features and refinement measures that are unique to Australia and New Zealand. The programme follows soon after the launch of the Spark micro-car, another example of Holden tuning a global product to suit Australasian conditions.
The 2017 Holden Colorado is one of those upgrades in the middle ground between being substantially more than a facelift yet not a completely new vehicle.
The areas where Holden has worked to modernise its light truck model have delivered significant driving refinement and equipment gains, qualities that are powering the growth in this segment.