HSV tough guy misses mark
WHEN Holden ended vehicle manufacturing in Australia, it seemed logical that Holden Special Vehicles - HSV - would be a casualty.
After all, HSV's business was turning Holden V8 Commodores into some of the world's best muscle cars. No V8 Commodores, no HSV.
General Motors and HSV's owner, the Walkinshaw Group, had other ideas.
HSV is now spearheading the entry of GM's Chevrolet brand into Australia, doing factory-backed, Chevy-badged, right-hand drive conversions of the Silverado truck range, available now, and Camaro 2SS V8 coupe, due in a couple of months.
HSV-branded and engineered hardware is, for the time being, restricted to the new Colorado Sportscat dual-cab 4WD one-tonner.
The Sportscat, at $60,790 plus on-road costs, runs the standard Colorado set-up: a VM Motori 2.8-litre turbo diesel (147kW/440Nm) matched with a six-speed manual and part-time dual-range 4WD.
A limited-slip differential is fitted, rather than the lockable type in most rivals. A six-speed automatic adds $2200; autos also gain 60Nm of torque.
Mechanicals are stock but HSV has made telling engineering changes to the Colorado's running gear, including stiffer suspension, a 25mm front end lift that gives the Sportscat a more level stance, wider tracks (via 15mm greater offsets on bespoke 18-inch alloy wheels) and 285/60 Cooper all-terrain tyres, which add a further 20mm of lift at both ends.
The Colorado's anti-lock brakes and traction and stability control have been recalibrated to suit, with the traction control less obtrusive under power.
The Sportscat+, priced from $66,790, adds front AP Racing forged four-piston brake calipers and larger discs (the rear brakes are still drums) plus a decoupling rear anti-roll bar for greater axle articulation off-road.
GM's premium Supa Shock low friction suspension dampers, as fitted to our test ute, are a $3600 option.
HSV also supplies cosmetics, including model specific grilles, fascias, wheel arch flares, bonnet bulge and machine-faced alloys on theSportscat+, sports bar, tonneau cover, tailgate applique, side steps and huge Sportscat stickers on the tub.
It's a pretty low-rent reno. The flimsy, hard plastic garnishes aren't even painted. From the driver's seat, the bonnet bulge looks like a lump of grey plastic packaging left there by mistake.
Chief designer Julian Quincey claims that the extra Sportscat+ styling touches "really dial up the aggression factor" with a "more distinctive and threatening look". Pathetic, isn't it? Who's the target market - angry boys?
It's industrial-grade Colorado grey in the cabin, dressed up with perforated leather/suede dash trim, red stitching and HSV's sports front seats, also upholstered in leather and suede.
The driver's seat is hard - especially the cushion bolsters - and the backrest provides little upper body support when cornering. As with the HiLux, the Colorado forces tall drivers into a slightly cramped, knees-up position.
The rear seat, in contrast, is one of the most comfortable and spacious in the class.
Infotainment is high-spec, with eight-inch touchscreen, digital radio, full smartphone projection, plus embedded voice control for navigation, audio and phone. Radio reception
The tonneau cover and tailgate are strut-assisted. A tub liner adds $300 and a clever Load Master tool storage/partition package adds $795. Eye bolts that fit to the Load Master's side tracks are $75. Each. Cough.
Forward collision alert is so sensitive in traffic you will probably turn it off. Seven airbags, lane departure warning, parking sensors and a camera are also standard. The Sportscat hasn't been ANCAP crash tested; the Colorado scores five stars.
The Colorado is one of the better drives in one-tonner world. Its 2.8-litre/six-speed automatic combination pulls harder, is more responsive and less affected by turbo lag than most rivals.
In the Sportscat+, it easily copes with the extra 141kg kerb mass (over the top-spec Colorado Z71 automatic), though maximum payload drops from the latter's 1007kg to 876kg. Towing capacity is 3500kg and payload with that on the hook is reduced to 526kg.
On the highway, 8L-8.5L/100km is thirsty. Around town, expect 11L-14L.
One-tanners are sporty in the same way that a dancing brontosaurus is sporty but the HSV treatment works wonders. The Sportscat+ turns immediately and accurately into corners, with relatively little body roll, compared with other one-tonners.
Its premium quality Supa Shock dampers absorb high and low speed impacts quietly, efficiently and with disciplined control, so roadholding is secure. The ride, though very firm, doesn't disintegrate into harshness and chaos on rough surfaces.
Our test car's AP brakes had lived a hard life - I blame the media - and felt unresponsive around town. Power and progression improved with more heat, speed and pedal pressure.
All my life I've wanted to inspire fear and loathing in my fellow human beings. Now I can, in my "threatening" Sportscat ute. Why are they laughing at me?
If any outfit can make a one-tonner handle respectably, it's HSV. This will go nicely with the GTS in the garage.
FORD RANGER WILDTRAK FROM $63,990
This price is for the 2019 update due in September, with 157kW 2.0-litre twin turbo diesel/10-speed automatic/dual-range 4WD, AEB with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise and 961kg payload. Five-year warranty.
TOYOTA HILUX RUGGED X FROM $61,690
Standard HiLux SR5 mechanicals and equipment supplemented with high-quality off-road gear, including front bar, bashplate, snorkel, rock rails and towbar plus tasteful bling.
The Colorado is an underrated truck and HSV's engineering expertise makes Sportscat+ the best handler in the class. Shame it's dressed up in cheap stick-on plastics and a puerile design philosophy.
PRICE $66,790 (pricey)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 3-year warranty (short), no HSV capped priced servicing (Colorado $1656 for three years; average)
ENGINE 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, 147kW/500Nm (excellent)
SAFETY Not yet tested, 7 airbags, forward collision warning, lane departure warning. No AEB, adaptive cruise control or blind spot monitoring (not good enough)
THIRST 8.7L/100km (thirsty)
SPARE Full-size (Excellent)
BOOT Payload 876kg (below par)