The launch of the Series 2 HSV SportsCat was an endorsement of the risky decision to take the performance brand into the crowded high-end ute market.
For three hours the torrential rain didn’t let up. Not the ideal start for a family trip to Taupo but perfect conditions to test the mettle of the all wheel drive Holden Tourer.
In an SUV obsessed world you don’t see too many of these on the roads. It’s a Commodore with some cosmetic nods to off-road styling and a 20mm lift to ride height. This hasn’t tempted many Kiwis out of their high riding family wagons. That’s a shame because the Tourer is a big luxury family wagon that can handle the full range of roads, short of a true off-road trail, transporting a family and heaps of luggage safely and comfortably.
In the near white out conditions we encountered, the cabin remained a calm and quiet haven. The car itself remained rock solid and untroubled by the terrible weather, its AWD system coming into its own on slippery roads, the long and low body and shark’s nose slicing through the torrent.
We arrived in Taupo in good shape, the kids happy with USB chargers in the back and all four passengers warmed by their own heated seat. ‘Management’ noted how smooth the trip had been. Happy wife, happy life.
The huge boot with electric tailgate easily swallowed the usual bags and bits a family takes away for a long weekend. And the 3.6L V6 moderated the fuel bill by drinking at an acceptable rate of 8.9L/100km.
Working through a 9-speed gearbox the 235kW engine kicks this big car along nicely and sounds okay too. It has enough torque (381Nm peak) to cruise on without having to drop down through the ratios all the time.
Being a Calais-V the amount of standard equipment is impressive. LED matrix headlights, full length sunroof, leather, Apple Car Play, sat-nav, Bose stereo, the list goes on and on.
The active safety features were a welcome addition. Lane keep assist can seem a bit nannying at first, gently turning the wheel if you get too close to a white line. But on a long trip it will help avoid that drift to the verge that too often can result in a panic overcorrect followed by a head-on.
Active cruise control allows you to set and forget your following distance, handy in heavy holiday traffic, and the collision avoidance system also earned its keep. These safety features have been steadily refined since finding their way into mainstream vehicles and the more cars they are fitted to in the national fleet, the safer we’ll all be.
So the Tourer is safe, comfortable and with AWD capable enough to take Kiwi families on adventures to most of the places they’d realistically ever want to go.
The lack of ground clearance and approach/departure angles prevent real off-roading, but the need for these things is usually more imagined than real.