Off-road debut: HSV Colorado SportsCat+ gets tested
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You would think that in today's world of urban sprawl and Uber Eats that big bohemoths like the Colorado SportsCat would be redundant showroom stragglers.
Yet, the registration figures issued monthly on both sides of the Tasman each month don't lie — double-cab utes are the new bread and butter of new-car sales. And, the Holden Colorado SportsCat by HSV is quite possibly the best looking and best driving model of them all.
But, there's a catch.
This is the range-topping SportsCat+ model, which comes with an intricate 'egg-crate' grill, (faux) bonnet bulge, and cog-like wheel-arch extensions to help it stand out from the standard SportsCat — as well as the Z71 Colorado upon which it's based.
Tasteful improvements continue inside by virtue of leather and suede panels on the dashboard and on the re-profiled front seats; the latter a big improvement in the comfort stakes over the standard examples. This is particularly noticeable on long journeys, though it comes at the sacrifice of lateral support.
Which is a slight shame, given how well the SportsCat+ corners on Tarmac.
Under the suede and leather, HSV's engineers created a surprisingly chuckable device. Granted, it's still a ute … your center of gravity is still high and its proportions feel gigantic on a typical winding Kiwi road. But nonetheless the SportsCat+'s steering has an impressive level of positive initial bite on turn-in with minimal body roll, making it easy to string corners together with aplomb.
It's something HSV achieved through some pretty comprehensive revisions to the Colorado's suspension. Though the ride-height has increased on all four corners, an increased front spring-rate, wider track, and bigger front anti-roll bar helps make up the difference with change to spare.
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Advanced SupaShock dampers — a remote-reservoir system that helps increase shock reliability that also features in HSV's fire breathing sell-your-kids-and-kidneys GTS-R W1 — are also an option for the SportsCat, but our tester came with the standard 'Sports Suspension'
Having sampled both set-ups the SportsCat launch last year, the differences between the two on road will be negligible to most. The SupaShocks further tame the Colorado's desire to bounce on bumps, but simultaneously make it a less comfortable ride.
Brakes have been beefed up, too, with a pair of forged 4-piston AP Racing calipers paired with considerable 362mm front rotors. These are mated to an improvement you can't see, a 25.4mm diameter brake master cylinder, and combined they give the SportsCat face-melting stopping power.
And, don't assume that the SportsCat is merely an urban workhorse.
That increased rideheight we mentioned earlier also gives the SportsCat some impressive off-road figures. Overall, it's 36mm taller than a standard Colorado, and subsequently approach, departure, and ramp-over angles all go up to 32 degrees, 24 degrees, and 27 degrees respectively.
But the biggest feather in its cap is its off-road hat is its decoupling 22mm rear anti-roll bar — unique to the SportsCat+. The theory here is that drivers can have the best of both worlds; a ute with a more pliant rear end with the bar coupled and ready for action, and (when switched into four low with the bar disengaged) a ute with a more straightforward rear end for tackling rough terrain.
And a second dosage of the SportsCat off-road simply strengthened our view that it's a capable go-anywhere do-anything machine.
If there's one complaint in this arena, it's regarding the Cooper Zeon LTD Pro all-terrain tyres. These are Cooper's first factory-supplied tyre, having been developed specifically for HSV. They're marvelous things on road, but in our testing they struggled a touch with preventing slippage in muddier conditions.
Nonetheless, most of this — the looks, the impressive handling — sounds spectacular. But, there are two big walls to navigate with the SportsCat. And one of them you're probably already aware of; the engine.
Contrary to what you would expect from a jumped up 'performance' ute, the SportsCat (even in this 'plus' model) comes with zero changes under the bonnet. There is no V8, no twin-turbo V6 — instead the 2.8-litre Duramax turbodiesel remains, untouched. Does this spoil the whole party?
Well, it's not that simple.
Its 147kW of power and 500Nm of torque means it can still be considered among the segment's better power trains, and in practice it's ample power for towing — with a 3500kg towing capacity — and having fun (though, as we noted at launch, low-end grunt could be better). Consider too that swapping to a larger, more nose-heavy engine could've compromised the SportsCat's finely tuned balance.
But while it might be adequate, the engine does point to what's arguably an even bigger problem — pricing.
It starts at $73,990; $9000 more than the equivalent Z71. That's bold alone, but the SportsCat+ goes even further with a $80,990 starting price.
An automatic SportsCat+ is another two grand more, and by the time you've fitted the optional $4,000 SupaShock suspension, 'Sail Plane' sports bar, and tub liner (yes, a tub liner isn't standard), the required outlay increases to a dizzying $88,890.
That's more than the more comprehensively upgraded Ford Ranger Raptor, as well as a whole host of other utes.
Granted, the upgrades to the SportsCat are comprehensive — from suspension and brakes to thankless things like uprated door hinges and a 'soft-opening' tailgate. But it's missing a number of features you would simply assume a vehicle in this bracket would have; like a proximity key, an electric seat for the front passenger, blind-spot monitoring, or disc brakes in the rear.
And in that vein, the lack of additives under the bonnet remains a sticking point, too. Particularly given that we're talking about HSV here … a company known for their love of chucking obscene amounts of power into their sports sedans of old.
Peppered with questions at the launch, Holden and HSV defended the move by saying customers simply aren't interested in having more power.
And, I find that hard to believe.
2018 Holden Colorado SportsCat+ by HSV
Price: $83,990 ($84,890 as tested)
Pros: Sharp driving experience on and off road, looks smart
Cons: Tall pricing, no power upgrades, missing features