First drive: Holden Colorado Z71 Xtreme takes on Great Barrier
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The problem with naming a place 'Great Barrier Island' is that it opens it up to misplaced scrutiny down the road from bored people with nothing better to do.
"Oh yeah, what's so Great about it?"
A half-hour flight out of Auckland Airport will see you land at Great Barrier — home to about 1000 people and the location of the launch of Holden's Colorado Z71 Xtreme. With an X.
Much like the island, the Holden carries similar naming concerns. 'Xtreme' opens the door to cynics, eager to leaf through the spec sheet to find out whether it lives up to the moniker.
The beefed-up dual-cab pick-up made its debut appearance at Fieldays earlier this year. Two years prior, Holden used the same event to showcase the Xtreme concept and interest was so high that they decided to make it. It will go on sale in November, at which time just 30 will be available to the New Zealand market.
Pricing starts at $79,990, placing it firmly in the range-topping ute mix. That makes it four grand more than the entry-level automatic HSV SportsCat and eight grand more than a Toyota Hilux Gladiator 3 — but also $3000 less than an HSV SportsCat+ automatic and $5000 less than a Ford Ranger Raptor.
But perhaps the most valid pricing comparison of them all is against the vehicle the Xtreme is based on; the $66,990 Colorado Z71 automatic.
The pairing share quite a bit with one another. They come with the same strong 2.8-litre turbo-diesel Duramax engine under the bonnet, producing 147kW and 500Nm — helping achieve a 3.5-tonne towing capacity and slightly over a tonne of payload capacity.
That engine is hooked up to a familiar six-speed automatic transmission (no manual is offered). And, the interiors are similar too save for leather seats with orange stitching and Xtreme logos woven into the headrests. Beyond that, the cabin carries over the Z71's impressive fit and finish and MyLink infotainment package, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Auckland | Wairau Valley
$258.06 p/w $1,032.23 p/m
Manawatu / Wanganui | Palmerston North
$806.60 p/w $3,226.40 p/m
But, just by looking at it, you can tell that the Xtreme is packing a bit of extra kit. The first thing that will catch the eye of many is the new winch-bar. It comes with an integrated winch (a significant point of difference over its rivals) tucked in behind the front license place with a 10,000lb load capacity to get yourself (or others) out of sticky off-road situations with its 30m of synthetic line.
The bulkier nose is complemented by additional cladding elsewhere, via an extended sports bar, black fender flares, new side-steps, tubing around the rear bumper, and a roof tray kit. An admittedly ineffectual bonnet bulge and bright Orange Crush colour-scheme complete the Tonka-like look.
Yes, there's also a snorkel attached for deep wading and dust filtering. But that's a $1160 option. Kiwis also miss out on the LED light bar that the Australian market gets.
Although it might look like it adopts a more aggressive stance on first look, ride-height is unchanged on the Xtreme. Front spring rates have been beefed up in the front, but this is namely to account for the added weight of the winch and all its supporting parts.
The more aggro stance is down to those new flared arches and the new all-terrain tyres that sit behind them. They're a Wrangler 265/60R18 tyre that offers better off-road performance than the Bridgestone Duelers on the standard Z71.
The four-wheel drive system — which makes used of a helical limited-slip differential instead of a locking rear diff — remains unchanged.
Our time behind the wheel of the Z71 Xtreme started at Medlands Beach. We'd then meander across the Great Barrier Island's twisty, cambered roads to Port Fitzroy before circling back to Tryphena. Most of the roads are narrow without lines, tight and with very little to protect you should things turn sour.
It's a very different place this one. It doesn't quite feel like anywhere else in New Zealand. Things look and feel like they're from a simpler period. Everyone driving the other direction waves at you.
Housing is a blend of old homes and sheds on their last legs mixed in with modern seaside baches. The closest rental car company to the airport is a home inundated with late-'80s Mazda 121s — all decorated in the colours of other countries. Did I mention that the scenery is gorgeous everywhere you look?
Great this island certainly is.
So does the Xtreme manage to live up to its name too? Well, that depends.
The route didn't necessarily test the ramped-up 'Rado's limits, but it did include numerous off-road tracks on a mixture of surfaces; including sand, gravel, and metal. The ute never left its default two-wheel drive setting and never felt challenged across the different forms of terrain even as our speeds increased throughout the day.
On road, it remains one of the class stand-outs thanks to the slickness of that six-speed automatic and the Centrifugal Pendulum Absorber torque converter that kills much of the 2.8-litre diesel engine's harshness before it reaches the cabin. And thankfully, the front-end suspension changes and all-terrain tyres haven't impacted on-road refinement.
A dollop of added wind noise at speed from the roof tray is one of the few flies in the Xtreme's ointment.
As we've touched on in the past, the sad fact of many players in this top end double-cab segment is that few of them will ever see the sort of workhorse off-roading that they were intended for.
Is this Colorado extreme? Well ... that's down to those who buy it and just how far off the beaten track they go.