Fresh start

The Colorado may be a global GM prod­uct, but Aussie en­gi­neers have played an even greater role in this mid-gen­er­a­tion re­make.

4 x 4 Australia - - Driven -

WHAT we have here is the top-spec Colorado dual-cab 4x4, the Z71. It’s not ex­actly the Colorado we wanted for this test, but it’s not ex­actly wrong ei­ther. What we asked for was a LTZ dual-cab – one spec down from the Z71 – to com­pare with the vol­ume-sell­ing Ranger XLT. The good news is that this top-spec Colorado is ac­tu­ally a price match with the up­per-mid spec Ranger XLT, which is al­ways a valid start­ing point for a com­par­i­son test. Ei­ther way, the Z71 and the LTZ are me­chan­i­cally iden­ti­cal; the Z71 just adds the rear body kit and leather and heated front seats, among a few de­tails.

The Colorado ar­rives af­ter a ground-up re­make: it’s been pulled com­pletely apart and put back to­gether.

This gen­er­a­tion Colorado is a GM prod­uct and not a re-badged Isuzu, and it emerged in 2012 from a GM de­sign and devel­op­ment pro­gram based in Brazil. A year later it was tweaked, and again in 2014, before this ma­jor over­haul for 2017.

Most of the lat­est changes are aimed at im­prov­ing re­fine­ment, with re­lo­cated en­gine bal­ance shafts, re­vised fuel in­jec­tion, ad­di­tional in­jec­tor sound­proof­ing, a new torque con­ver­tor for the auto, shorter fi­nal-drive gear­ing for the man­ual, new en­gine and trans­mis­sion mounts, new body mounts, re­cal­i­brated sus­pen­sion and elec­tric power steer­ing.

Also aimed at re­fine­ment are re­vised roof mould­ings, ex­te­rior mir­ror mounts, door seals, slid­ing glass chan­nels, B-pil­lar in­serts, and a thicker wind­screen. So there’s not much that hasn’t been worked over.

POW­ER­TRAIN AND PER­FOR­MANCE

THE en­gine re­mains the 2.8-litre four-cylin­der from Ital­ian diesel spe­cial­ist VM Mo­tori, part of the seem­ingly ever-grow­ing Fiat em­pire. As before, the en­gine claims max­i­mums of 147kw and 500Nm, although fuel map­ping has been tweaked for bet­ter drive­abil­ity.

What you no­tice most is how much qui­eter and more re­fined this en­gine is than before, which is a more than wel­come change from the gen­er­ally un­pleas­ant, rough and gruff thing it was before. It’s still no Amarok in terms of noise and run­ning re­fine­ment, but it’s now a match for the Ranger and may even be a bit qui­eter. Ei­ther way, it’s now a very pleas­ant en­gine – some­thing you couldn’t say about it pre­vi­ously.

There’s plenty of per­for­mance from its 2.8 litres and, pedal to the metal, the Colorado matches and can even bet­ter the big­ger five­cylin­der en­gine in the Ranger, although it does rev harder in the process. Peak power is at 3600rpm com­pared to the Ranger’s 3000.

The Colorado’s cause is helped by what is now a very good auto gear­box, with smoother, quicker and ‘smarter’ shifts than before thanks to the new torque con­verter and re­vised shift pro­to­cols. While no smoother than the Ranger’s six-speed, it’s a more proac­tive in its shifts, some­thing you no­tice on de­mand­ing, hilly, wind­ing roads.

ON-ROAD RIDE AND HAN­DLING

AMONG the chas­sis changes, the new Colorado’s elec­tric power steer­ing is the one you most no­tice. The ben­e­fit is very light steer­ing at park­ing speeds, com­bined with more weight and feel at high­way speeds.

In prac­tice it works very nicely, and with the front sus­pen­sion changes that run to softer springs, a thicker sway bar and di­gres­sive rather than lin­ear front dampers, it pro­vides a front end with more feel and a gen­er­ally more com­pli­ant and com­fort­able ride than before. On the down­side, the front end also seems to ‘crash’ more on the nasty washouts, pot­holes and bumps you might find on poorly main­tained back roads, when hit at speed.

The rear spring pack, pre­vi­ously only fit­ted to the Z71 but now com­mon across the range, com­bines a much softer ini­tial rate and a slightly firmer fi­nal rate than the de­fault spring pack fit­ted to non-z71 vari­ants before the MY17 up­date. It’s sur­pris­ingly com­fort­able, even when

un­laden. As with the front, the rear now has di­gres­sive rather than lin­ear dampers.

In­ter­est­ingly, of all the pop­u­lar utes, the Colorado is the only one to run a me­chan­i­cal rear lim­ited-slip diff in ad­di­tion to elec­tronic trac­tion con­trol. The idea is that the lim­ited-slip­per takes care of mod­er­ate wheel­spin so ETC isn’t trig­gered – po­ten­tially cut­ting en­gine power – when the driver is en­ter­ing a mov­ing traf­fic steam on a wet road and needs max­i­mum ac­cel­er­a­tion.

OFF-ROAD

THE Colorado’s new elec­tric power steer­ing is a win­ner off-road in terms of much-re­duced steer­ing ef­fort. The softer sus­pen­sion gen­er­ally works bet­ter for low-range work, while Holden has also worked on the elec­tronic trac­tion con­trol to im­prove its off-road ef­fec­tive­ness.

The end re­sult is a bet­ter ute when the road stops and the tracks start, but the Colorado is still not a front-run­ner when it comes to ve­hi­cle-stop­ping con­di­tions. Cru­cially the chas­sis doesn’t have as much travel as some com­peti­tors, the Ranger in­cluded. The Colorado also lacks a rear locker, and while all rear lock­ers fit­ted to cur­rent utes aren’t ef­fec­tive as they could be, the one on the Ranger cer­tainly is.

CABIN AND AC­COM­MO­DA­TION

THERE’S more good news in the Colorado’s cabin, with much im­proved fit and fin­ish that brings a qual­ity feel lack­ing in pre­vi­ous Colorados. There’s more equip­ment, too, right across the du­al­cab range.

At Z71 spec the Colorado feels quite lux­u­ri­ous thanks to its heated leather seats, although all Colorados lack tilt-an­dreach steer­ing wheel ad­just­ment. That said, the driv­ing po­si­tion is com­fort­able and pro­vides shorter driv­ers with good vi­sion over the bon­net and to the sides.

It’s got one of the big­ger and bet­ter back seats, too, if you need to ac­com­mo­date three adults – even if it’s not as roomy as the Ranger.

PRACTICALITIES

ALL Colorado dual-cab 4x4s are rated to carry more than a tonne (1000kg to­tal pay­load) and tow 3500kg. From our re­cent tow test we know the Colorado does both with rea­son­able ease.

Off-road practicalities in­clude two front tie down points – but none at the rear – a large air fil­ter that draws via the in­ner mud­guard, and a high-mounted al­ter­na­tor. Un­for­tu­nately there’s lit­tle room for a sec­ond bat­tery.

The Z71 runs on 265/60R18 tyres and, if the 18-inch wheels aren’t to your lik­ing, you can al­ways fit the 17s from the LT, which will open up a wider choice of all­ter­rain rubber.

1 2 3 1. Con­ve­nient, con­ven­tional

and in­tu­itive dash lay­out. 2. Large air fil­ter takes up a lot

of un­der-bon­net space. 3. Tame same-same rear be­lies

sporty front-end styling.

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