SUPERSIZE ME

Holden Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles gives big Chevy right-hand-drive makeover

The Northern Star - - MOTORING - JOSHUA DOWLING

And you thought the cur­rent crop of utes were big. Look out, US mon­ster trucks are here. Dual-cab utes dom­i­nate the sales charts, so strap your­self in for some even big­ger brutes to hit the road in big­ger num­bers.

Full-size pick-ups like the Chevro­let Sil­ver­ado won’t chal­lenge the sales suc­cess of the Toy­ota HiLux and Ford Ranger lo­cally — and it’s a big leap from the $75,000 ver­sions of the Mercedes X-Class and VW Amarok utes, how­ever, it’s not too big a step up fi­nan­cially from a LandCruiser 200 Se­ries, and Toy­ota sells plenty of those.

The first batch of Chevro­let Sil­ver­ado pick-ups have started rolling into se­lected Holden show­rooms, so we grabbed the keys for a two-hour test drive of this three-and-a-half tonne beast.

IT’S HUGE

It goes with­out say­ing that US pick-ups are big­ger than our Toy­ota HiLux and Ford Ranger-style of utes, but I didn’t re­alise you ac­tu­ally peer down into them in ad­ja­cent lanes. Even the Toy­ota LandCruiser 200 Se­ries looks small by com­par­i­son.

The num­bers are stag­ger­ing: it’s more than six me­tres long, as wide as a Ken­worth truck, and has a 15.7-me­tre turn­ing cir­cle.

You also need to be care­ful not to scrape the roof on car park ceil­ings: it sneaks in un­der two me­tres tall at 1.985m.

You can feel the ex­tra space in­side: the cen­tre con­sole could dou­ble as a swim­ming pool and you al­most need to raise your voice for the front pas­sen­ger to hear you.

LOOKS FAC­TORY-BUILT

US pick-ups have been im­ported and con­verted lo­cally for decades by small in­de­pen­dent oper­a­tors but this Chevro­let is done by Holden Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles, which has a di­rect line to Gen­eral Mo­tors in the US.

It means key de­tails such as a lo­cal AM/FM ra­dio and nav­i­ga­tion unit and the speedo in km/h are fit­ted at the fac­tory.

Plus HSV has ac­cess to the same sup­pli­ers when mak­ing cer­tain right-hand drive parts. The dash­board looks fac­tory fit and the right-hand drive steer­ing sys­tem (long an Achilles heel of con­verted ve­hi­cles) is made by the same sup­plier that does the left-hand drive ver­sions, so it’s ex­actly as the maker in­tended.

More than 500 in­di­vid­ual com­po­nents have been made to cre­ate HSV’s right-hand drive Sil­ver­ado.

This might seem in­ci­den­tal but the in­vest­ment is in the mil­lions of dol­lars, beyond the reach of other con­vert­ers.

Each ve­hi­cle takes 100 man hours over five days to switch to right-hand drive. Un­like other lo­cally con­verted utes, the Sil­ver­ado — and the Ram, also con­verted lo­cally by the Walkin­shaw group — have been crash-tested here to en­sure the con­ver­sion is up to scratch.

The Sil­ver­ado also comes with a fac­tory-backed war­ranty and can be ser­viced at Holden deal­ers na­tion­ally.

NOT CHEAP

At $139,990 plus on-road costs the Sil­ver­ado LTZ Cus­tom Sport Edi­tion is se­ri­ous money.

The LTZ Cus­tom Sport im­ported by HSV is a top-of-the-range with op­tions added, such as the 6.6-litre turbo diesel V8, heavy duty trans­mis­sion and 4WD, heated and cooled leather seats with elec­tric ad­just­ment, heated steer­ing wheel, height-ad­justable ped­als, Bose au­dio, wire­less phone charg­ing, 20-inch pol­ished al­loy wheels, for­ward col­li­sion alert and lane de­par­ture warn­ing, front and rear park­ing sen­sors, Ran­cho shock ab­sorbers, a larger front sta­biliser bar, and ex­tra un­der­body pro­tec­tion.

It works out close to $US60,000 ($A81,500) be­fore taxes, dealer fees and des­ti­na­tion charges in the US. By the time you add freight from the Flint Michi­gan fac­tory, the ad­di­tion of 530 unique parts en­gi­neered and fit­ted lo­cally, 100 hours of labour, cur­rency ex­change rates, and dealer de­liv­ery fees, it’s close to $145,000 on the road here.

IT CAN HAUL

With 332kW of power and a mind-bog­gling 1234Nm of torque, the 6.6-litre turbo diesel V8 makes light work of this 3.5-tonne beast.

Un­laden, it flat­tens hills and the trans­mis­sion kicks down a gear with no ef­fort at all. More than able to keep flow with traf­fic, it ac­tu­ally ac­cel­er­ates up hills.

It can tow 3500kg with a 50mm ball, 4500kg with a 70mm ball and up to 5890kg with a heavy duty pin­tle hitch. Suf­fice to say it’ll tow more than a Toy­ota LandCruiser 200 Se­ries ($84,800 to $123,500) and our cur­rent crop of utes which max out at 3500kg.

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