30 November 2012
Toolangi is an Aboriginal word, meaning tall trees. And the State Forest of that name is where Holden took us to play with the new Colorado 7, on a wet Spring day. 25mm of rain fell in a few hours early-morning, meaning two metro train lines were out, planes including those with interstate journos for our launch were held up by lightning over the airport and emergency services were busy with flooded roads and houses and a slew of fender benders and breakdowns.
The lateness meant they were being pretty game to continue on the launch plan, as we were also now driving in far more treacherous conditions with mud instead of dry trails, and starting with a 45 minute time lag. Their confidence in the new vehicle proved not misplaced.
Sharing the name of a commercial pickup is an interesting choice, for an SUV - considering the other name Holden used for previous popular BOF 4 x 4 passenger vehicles. A derivative of the global Colorado LCV tested here and co-developed, use of the same name is quite unusual, but maybe not so left-field as it seems. To get some obvious quibbles addressed early on: they would like to use the name Jackaroo (that's Australian slang for horse-mounted cow-wrangler) but that name like Rodeo actually accrues to Isuzu, who won't play ball despite not using it themselves. So it's out.
No real reason for including this pic, other than I like the colour - which won't be offered. LTZ with projectors, roofracks, a bit more tizz
Colorado since Holden started using it on the LCV ute line has grown quite a rep and continued Rodeo's lineage: Rodeo/Colorado buyers are more likely to rebuy than even Commodore drivers. Plus @ 2,000 October sales Colorado missed out by 70 units on making the Australian top 10 sellers last month. That would be Holden's best ever result for an LCV.
So lining them up this way, with so much in common like raw capability and given the niche nature of a BOF SUV it makes some sense to leverage the name. Certainly, the number of private Collys we saw up in the ranges is indicative of impressive penetration. You could even see some farmer families ending up with his'n'hers ute and 7-seater. For all the people who badmouth Holden, a lot still look favourably on the brand given the excuse of a decent drive.
Rear row is not bad, not as nice as the front two rows for seatshape, but decent leg-room. Rear two rows get their own aircon outlets and rear-mounted condensor
And yes, they wish they had this car eight-ten months back like originally planned, but a little event called a Tsunami intervened. Tough crap - build a bridge and get over it.
The focus of this new model is clear: if you are the sort who schmoozes around Toorak, or North Shore or the swish suburbs of Brisbane (does Brizvegas have any swish suburbs?) in an open neck-shirt, boutique jeans and Windsor Smith loafers: and the only offroading you do is terrorizing latte-sipping-lefties at sidewalk cafes by mounting the kerb, the Colorado 7 is probably not for you. Toyota has a petite little Kluger or Nissan has it's panty-waist Murano for you. Or you could confirm rich can mean clueless with a Cayenne.
At the recent Sydney Motor Show, hard-core dirt-battlers were turning up with tape measures to check out the Colorado's rear for double swags and camp mattresses (yes they fit) and to price them with the towpack and other accessories for heavy-duty offroading like bullbars and jerry-can racks. So it is likely going into a niche market of several thou a year - and mostly, they are people intending to put it to solid offroad use. They could care less about touchscreens - that's just something else to break; and they go places your smartphone won't work so streaming apps are if not pointless then not to be relied on. Plus, a lot of them just aren't of the techno-savvy generations.
You have to tow a boat across a sandy beach, or you travel with a float for high-country horseriding or need something to haul deer carcass out of boggy forest tracks, this is your baby. Not a few grey nomads will end up in one, I would hazard a guess. Towing a moderately large caravan would be a doddle. And fuel economy like the LCV seems a stong suit, with a number reporting figures around 10-11km/litre or about 21-23 USmpg which is remarkable given the tracks we navigated.
Colorados among a stand of 'young' Mountain Ash - these are 80 or so years old and charred from the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009. LT left, LTZ right
We were cartin' lathes and palin's from the slopes of Mount St. Leonard,
With our axles near the road-bed and the mud as stiff as glue;
And our bullocks weren't precisely what you'd call conditioned nicely,
And meself and Messmate Mitchell had our doubts of gettin' through.
It had rained a tidy skyful in the week before we started,
But our tucker-bag depended on the sellin' of our load;
So we punched 'em on by inches, liftin' 'em across the pinches,
Till we struck the final section of the worst part of the road.
We were just congratulatin' one another on the journey,
When we blundered in a pot-hole right within the sight of goal,
Where the bush-track joins the metal. Mitchell, as he saw her settle,
Justified his reputation at the peril of his soul.
We were in a glue-pot, certain —- red and stiff and most tenacious;
Over naves and over axles —- waggon sittin' on the road.
"'Struth," says I, "they'll never lift her. Take a shot from Hell to shift her.
Nothin' left us but unyoke 'em and sling off the blessed load."
From 'An Old Master' by C.J Dennis, published: The Bulletin, 4 August 1910
CJ Dennis was a famous Australian poet, and resident of Toolangi. He went there on expedition in 1908, and stayed due to the beauty of the country. Toolangi Forest is famous for Mountain Ash (Eucalytpus Regnans) - a prehistoric-era tree that only regenerates in bushfires, and splits easily into a honey-gold rot-resistant hardwood of long, straight planks. It's the tallest flowering plant in the world and grows 3 feet a year, but once was also the tallest living organism - until they cut them all down for lumber. One measured in 1872 , fallen and broken for many years, was 435 ft long lying on it's side and missing it's top: estimated to have been over 500ft tall when alive.
My total 4 x 4 experience at this point in time: 20 minutes.
Someone said on the launch that ithe Colorado 7 is the spiritual successor of the late and lamented square Nissan MQ Patrol. I haven't spent a lot of time in one of them, but if they mean it is tough, rugged and of a high basic all-terrain load-lugging capability, then I concur. 470nm of torque, 7 man-size seats, 3000kg of class-leading towing capacity. And like the Colorado LCV, when you load 'er to the gunwhales and take to the hills, it doesn't cry for it's mama.
The multilink coil spring LSD rear provides more comfort and better overall handling and roadholding than the leaf springs of the LCV ute; along with the double-A-arm coil front suspension it handles loads - and corners - not too bad at all. Indeed, for something so large, and so high, the roads we took it on, bitumen and dirt, were dispatched with ease. Not raising a sweat for driver or the vehicle's vitals.
Bruiser of a motor: LS1 torque at half the revs
Plus you gain all the good things from the LCV, like the capable, grunty 2.8 litre R428 VM Motori diesel with variable-geometry turbo, 6L50 transmission which gains hill-hold, crawl-descent and low-range, the integrated tow array receiver, a massive sump plate and the fuel cell mounted up under the rear seats.
It has pretty much everything you need and nothing you don't so obviously some people will be unhappy...
Apparently, the different font on the audio head unit to the aircon is a major issue.......for flower arrangers
This was typical of interior trim panel fit. Plain I'll warrant, but bearing in mind intended usage a surfeit of easily-marred frippery would seem a bit silly.It's got surfaces that will hose clean and not scratch, with no squeaks or rattles. It's rigid over chassis-breaking ridges
Camaro-style gauges - deeply hooded and clearly legible in any light conditions - end of story. The DIC between the gauges is highly-configurable as to what it displays.
Indeed, the last transport section to our accommodation via twisty Dandenong Ranges roads coming into Healesville, with the tyres dropped to 25 psi for the previous bush-bashing was run at a pace beyond what the average person will ever push to; with tyres squealing as a result in the switchback 25 and 35km/h turns by just winding on a bit more lock.
The Col sits pretty flat with moderate roll on the unique Australian suspension callibration, don't waggle or float and comes nowhere near the bump stops. And the more load you put in the back, the more it seems to settle. On the smooth freeway run out of Melbourne there was a slight waft over big undulations with two of us, and I was thinking bouncing on the sidewalls, or too much spring, or a smidge too little damping.
But with one extra person plus gear, it was spot on for ride and handling. We could crash over logs and ride around on the sump plate on deep ruts, and even with the wheels on lock it was manageable. On smooth bitumen or not so smooth, it still retained handling ability a wallow-when-entering Prado only wishes it had.
This one along with two others lost it's front plate to a mudhole: cavitation according to the 4WD grey-hairs will suck them straight off if they're not fastened along every edge.
On the rock climb Holden ran us over I failed to get it up - not the first time, I am reliably informed(!) - but I am a 4WD novice. An inch of rainfall turned the track up the incline into boulders lubricated with slippery clay. Fortunately I had a nuggety experienced 4WDer in Barry Park on board and he took the tiller after my failed half-dozen attempts where I was smoking 'em up. We also had the same Scott Broughy who was Holden's Camaro project engineering leader and apparently no mean offroader himself on board.
The street-oriented tyres clogged as each successive passing vehicle churned the slope up more. However, every Colorado eventually successfully passed this obstacle and suffered no damage and the Colorados themsleves barely raised a sweat. The motor on ours was slightly tight @ only 1600km, but seemed to relish being thrashed and was more willing at the end of the day.
The trick appears to be, take a long runup, give it the berries and never back off - damn the torpedos. It worked. Good onya Baz - an Old Master indeed. The bangs as it made it's way up and contortions of the steering wheel were quite alarming, but it seemed to not even be breathing hard at the top......
The day before when Holden recce'd it, this track was dry and the Colorados walked up it, according to Laurie, Holden's mother-duck/car wrangler. With a few more tries, all the vehicles made it over the pinnacle to the Healesville side of the range.
So: late start, quagmire roads and we made it through intact (apart from a few number plates) and with a set of straight panels and no mechanical problems.
The rock staircase that defeated me:fortunately, not the more experienced. If these guys seem relaxed about where they're standing, it's because this Colorado took five tries to get up this shelf
There is enough diesel clatter at idle to let you know there's an oiler there - the rest of the time it's pretty well indeterminate and no more than a distant murmur at worst. I don't mind it - there's a friendly gruff grumble that is reassuring.
The same 470nm as the Ute provides urgent thrust - despite it's bulk it has no shortage of grunt at the lights and in AWD mode is very rapid off the mark in the wet. LSD and a centre diff-lock with robust mechanicals means it's high capability offroad. The LSD is a HD Torsen-style spring and lever setup Holden has specced for every one and it's a good unit with a lock-on-the fly centre diff.
K1-W1 contingent at the launch. If you think 46 grand is dear, in UnZud it's $62K.
Unladen, there was some movement and wafting on fast corners - nothing you wouldn't expect of a solid axle vehicle - but with three people in it, it settled right down. The same positive steering as the Ute is now balanced by better weight distribution. The AWD system robs some steering feel, but it's still superior to something FWD-based like a Captiva. It's no MX5 but it has a positive feel and it's reassuringly solid in marginal conditions. The steering lets you know when it's pointing cockeyed on a trail due to following ruts for instance, so you won't suddenly get traction and go smack-bang into a tree at the side of the track. The longer dash-axle length also promotes a better weight distribution with most driveline weight behind the axle.
On smooth roads you can get the tyres howling and mild front push, and it still hangs on in 35km/h switchbacks,
A late start caused by delayed flights in to Tulla due to Spring storms and horrendous traffic jams in Melbourne meant a rush to make it to accommodation for dinner - the Colorados acquited themselves quite well being pushed into Healesville long a twisty country road.
Plenty of room for six footers in all three rows
The lag-free grunt of the motor and solid transmission meant it was easy to post good point-point times along both tracks and tarmac roads. Later, in the offroading fording bogholes and heavily rutted tracks was almost child's play. The Colorado has auto hill-hold and hill-descent assist. Putting the vehicle in 4WD low and manually selecting first gives a formidable crawl gear that will get up almost anything, limited only by traction and driver skill.
Holden weren't scared of us getting them dirty!
Other impressions are an unbreakable chassis and suspension setup - the other drivers who owned serious offroaders said with more offroad-oriented rubber not much would stop the Colorado. It has good approach and departure angles and little to nothing to snag underneath.
In heavy-duty circumstance, the Colorado 7 appears tough, rugged, hi-capability and able in usage unlikely to be inflicted by most users. It shares the virtues of the LCV ute of good basic dynamics - included being able to be hussled on the Black Spur - famous Victorian biker's road - and across the brow of Kinglake State Park with it's sheer drops. Initally like the LCV, the brakes appear slow to respond, but that is handy in that when you intially apply them they are not grabby, but quite progressive so while they aren't Brembo-immediate, the vehicle won't pitch and be unstable.
Seats on both are nicely shaped in the frist two rows. Very comfortable and hold you in place reasonably over broken ground
So who would buy it? If you are looking for a primarily urban cruiser, it probably isn't for you. It's designed for people who have large loads to transport over poor terrain, like a trailer-sailer, horsefloat or caravan. It's a serious, high-capability, heavy-duty tool. Holden says they don't expect enormous volumes - and the others in the class (BOF RWD) bear this out, with volumes of the BOF competition in the 2-300 range
Rock'n'roll fold 2nd row seats
The Colorado 7 on brief acquaintance appears to be competent and capable of filling it's primary role - a heavy-duty hauler of people and gear. There are some omissions of niceties which are no doubt coming as they make their way into the platform. But the vehicle builds on the strengths of the very capable Colorado LCV to produce something as capable in raw terms as virtually anything in it's class. It's easier to add a nicer infotainment unit, fancy ruched upholstery, satnav or rear seat DVD screens later on than it is to build in the high tow rating, adaptive suspension and solid performance.
So I think it should do OK. It adds another Holden into another market segment heretofore unrepresented and should be a high ATP vehicle. Current Colorado Ute is apparently being bought out of stock and the painted tub removed for an aluminium tray because customers don't want to wait, and dealer orders for the 7 are strong.
Recommended Retail Price:
Holden Nullarbor Accessories Pack - $4220
•Roof cross bars
•Tow bar kit
Load area is flat but slopes slightly