ZB Tourer multi-task­ing at its best

Hamilton News - - Front Page - By Colin Smith

MY aver­sion to mul­ti­task­ing sits in con­tra­dic­tion to some of the ve­hi­cles I find the most ap­peal­ing.

New­est to the realm of mul­ti­taskers is Holden’s high-ride ZB Tourer.

It shifts the new gen­er­a­tion Com­modore a half-step to­ward the realm of SUVS in a sim­i­lar style to a Subaru Out­back or Volk­swa­gen Pas­sat All­track — two cars in which I find the in­for­mal­ity of wagon styling and SUV ca­pa­bil­ity with min­i­mum dy­namic com­pro­mises achieve a smart so­lu­tion.

I’ve held a sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion for driv­ing the Tourer fol­low­ing an early start to the re­la­tion­ship. Back in late 2016 with the ink fresh on a non-dis­clo­sure agree­ment, I walked through the doors of the Holden styling stu­dio in Melbourne and was shown two full-size next-gen Com­modore clay mod­els — the five-door lift­back and a hand­some high-ride wagon that had no name at the time. Tourer be­came the name of the high-rider and I’ve had brief drives at Holden’s Lang Lang prov­ing ground in Vic­to­ria and for a short seg­ment of the New Zealand ZB Com­modore press launch in March.

The chance to clock up about 400km on Otago high­ways and gravel back roads was the per­fect chance to sam­ple the Tourer in its nat­u­ral habi­tat.

Multi-task­ing was to the fore over a week­end of ve­hi­cle eval­u­a­tion meshed with cov­er­age of the Otago Rally. And the rally chase had the third el­e­ment as I fielded plenty of ques­tions about the new Holden from rally en­thu­si­asts.

Tourer builds on the sport­wagon bodystyle of the ZB Com­modore and lifts the V6 all-wheel-drive load car­rier by a mod­er­ate 20mm. The ex­tra ground clear­ance is em­pha­sised by some ad­di­tional body cladding, wheel arch sur­rounds and slim­line roof rails.

Per­for­mance is pro­vided by the pre­mium pow­er­train choice in the ZB fam­ily — the di­rect in­jec­tion 235kw 3.6-litre V6 en­gine, nine­speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion and clever “Twin­ster” all-wheel-drive sys­tem that is a twin clutch con­trolled rear-drive unit rather than a dif­fer­en­tial.

An ex­tra 20mm of ground clear­ance doesn’t take you of­froad­ing. But for a week­end of rally chas­ing — or any other ac­tiv­ity that takes you a lit­tle off the beaten track — it’s a help­ful stance.

Ar­rive at a pop­u­lar spec­ta­tor point where dozens of spec­ta­tor cars are lin­ing the road­side and the ground clear­ance is a bonus when mak­ing a U-turn across a high crowned road in a long wheel­base ve­hi­cle. And some of the grassy berms be­come part of the park­ing op­por­tu­nity and a 360-de­gree cam­era sys­tem helps to guide the ma­noeu­vre.

Otago roads show­cased the work Holden’s en­gi­neers com­pleted in Aus­tralia to cal­i­brate the ZB’S elec­tric power steer­ing, sus­pen­sion tune and the re­sponses of the sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol elec­tron­ics.

On some steep and nar­row gravel the Tourer was sure-footed with its con­sis­tent steer­ing feel and a blend of sus­pen­sion travel and all-wheeldrive poise that in­spires con­fi­dence. Best of all, the cal­i­bra­tion of the sta­bil­ity con­trol and ABS never comes to the fore­front of the ex­pe­ri­ence and the Twin­ster sys­tem man­ages power and trac­tion so the Tourer makes smooth progress on the loose stuff rather than stum­bling from one elec­tronic in­ter­ven­tion to the next.

On the sur­faces where low pro­file tyres would be a hand­i­cap the Tourer’s 18-inch wheels and taller side­wall tyres pro­vide com­fort and grip lev­els across lumpy sur­faces. Even out of tight up­hill cor­ners the way power goes to the road is un­fazed by cor­ru­ga­tions.

On high­way there is all-wheeldrive poise, in­for­ma­tive steer­ing and pro­gres­sive sus­pen­sion con­trol so the Tourer blends a com­fort­able ride with steer­ing ac­cu­racy that makes a big car re­spon­sive to small wheel inputs.

The nine-speed au­to­matic is a re­laxed match to a V6 that has a lit­tle more punch than it had in the VF II. On a light throt­tle around the city or out on the high­way the V6 does most of its work tick­ing over in the 1500-2000rpm range.

Ap­ply more throt­tle and the trans­mis­sion kicks down a gear or three with min­i­mum fuss and there are pad­dle shifters if se­quen­tial man­ual con­trol is pre­ferred. Over 400km of rally chas­ing the Tourer av­er­aged 9.6 litres per 100km.

Among other ap­peal­ing

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