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.
Sometimes a vehicle feels right, either because it drives well, is comfortable or the controls fall easily to hand.
If you’re very lucky you get a combination deal on all three.
After 10 days spent with the latest Holden Colorado Z71, things came close to this reviewer finding the perfect ute (that from a man who prefers the ‘softer’ ride of an SUV).
When the ‘domestic manager’ heard of the plan to leave at 5am, head down from Hamilton to Hastings then return the same day – a round trip of 650km -- there came the response, “In a ute? You must be having a mid-life crisis. You don’t even like utes.”
That got me thinking. But 20km into the trip, passing Cambridge, clearly the choice of the Z71 for a big day out wasn’t bad.
The Colorado range has had a refresh for the 2019-20 season. It has a more muscular front end, with a new grill, bumpers and lights. The stand-out feature was the power and torque on tap.
The VM Motori 4-cylinder engine pushes out 146kW and 500Nm torque -- the latter coming in at 2000 rpm. This means that at legal road speeds of 100-105 km/h there’s plenty of boogie.
Mated to a six-speed automatic box, the engine gave us progress south without fuss, eating up plenty of kilometres in a laid-back fashion.
In the spacious cabin, first impressions of the 2019 model are of a general tidy-up with a new infotainment system taking centre stage. It offers the must-haves -- Apple Car Play, Android Auto, Satnav, paring sensors, cameras and voice control. Add soft-touch plastics and classy, comfortable black leather and you’ll get the idea.
On the morning of the big trip we started in mid-winter Waikato fog then hit -7 degree C temperature passing the Kinloch Station on the Taupo to Napier highway.
Clearly the clever people at Holden had done good work on the suspension, delivering a better, less harsh, on-road feel, with more occupant comfort and less body roll.
This has been achieved with revised damper settings, a beefier front sway bar and slightly softer springing all round.
About the mid-point of SH3 towards Napier, and deep into the forest, black ice showed its hand. But the Z71 kept its nerve, staying on-line, with the only noticeable reaction being a kickback from the traction control system and a flash of a warning light.
For staying on course, the steering – now electrical – offers a quicker rate: 3.3 turns lock to lock make manoeuvring easy in tight spots and give excellent feedback on the open road.
Living with the Colorado is made easy by its commanding driving position, heated seats with plenty of adjustment for all sizes and about the right amount of vehicle data available without being distracting.
Towing capacity is 3.5 tonnes (braked) and load capacity is slightly under 1 tonne.
Off road, the selectable 4WD system should give peace of mind. But on wet Waikato paddocks the limited slip differential seemed to negate the need for all wheels being driven.
On the plus side of this vehicle’s ledger there’s a lot to like. On the minus side, for this rural dweller, the side steps and rear sports arch are a bit ho-hum, with the latter making visibility poor when reversing out of angle parking bays.
And come on Holden, the fiddly, soft tonneau cover won’t last long if the vehicle is expected to do a decent day’s work.
No doubt the Z71 will be compared to the market leading Ford Ranger WildTrak. But it still gets my vote for the great engine and those oh-so-comfortable seats.