BE­HIND THE WHEEL

Editor’s thoughts and opin­ions on this month’s mo­tor­ing hap­pen­ings.

New Zealand LCV - - CONTENTS - IN A WORLD WHERE EN­GINE CA­PAC­I­TIES www.face­book.com/nzl­cv­mag

are get­ting smaller and be­ing green isn’t al­ways en­vied, the si­lence of hy­brids and elec­tric ve­hi­cles is deaf­en­ing, and chang­ing the way we com­mute. So it was great to get back to ‘tra­di­tion’, driv­ing this is­sue’s cover story, the EC Colorado V8, a re­minder that the more things change, the more we like the same old things. A V8 in a ute no longer ex­ists in a tra­di­tional Com­modore or Fal­con, so it’s in­spir­ing to see this con­ver­sion to a dual-cab ute of­fer­ing some­thing that a man­u­fac­turer may not be able to jus­tify, but a smaller com­pany can still prove that there are buy­ers out there who want more. Grow­ing up in the 1980s was prime time for evolv­ing tech­nol­ogy and the main­stream in­tro­duc­tion of tur­bos, fuel in­jec­tion and four­cylin­ders ca­pa­ble of beat­ing V8s. A four-cylin­der turbo qual­i­fied on pole po­si­tion at the Bathurst 1000 in 1984, and from a cost per­spec­tive, a four-cylin­der would be all my fam­ily could af­ford. So it wasn’t un­til the late-1980s when I first drove a V8, a school­mate’s VK Com­modore with a 4.9-litre and five-speed V8. As any teenager with a lust for speed would do, I planted the throt­tle at the first chance, and a sweet, thun­der­ous sound res­onated through the sub­urbs. It felt quick, smooth and lin­ear, out­put 196kw, and to­tally un­like the noth­ing-then-ev­ery­thing four-cylin­der tur­bos of that era. But I’d fi­nally driven a V8! The next mem­o­rable blip on the radar was the Jeep Chero­kee SRT8, a be­he­moth of a car, with a 6.4-litre Hemi V8. With 344kw, a 75 per­cent power in­crease on the Com­modore, there was also a big lug in both weight and econ­omy, close to 20l/100km in sub­ur­ban use. Fast for­ward a few years in car mag­a­zines, and we find our­selves in Alice Springs, with three V8 SUVS: a Mercedes-benz ML55, BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne twin-turbo, tasked with a sim­ple yet risky busi­ness: find each car’s top speed for a story that would run in mag­a­zines around the world. The Benz set off first, and once out of Alice Spring’s city lim­its, we pass the ‘un­re­stricted speed’ sign and with a clear road ahead, nail the throt­tle: 200 passes with rel­a­tive ease as the 5.4-litre V8 is singing through the gears, 220 and it’s start­ing to ta­per off, and as it passes 230km/h, we’re re­ally push­ing the aero brick wall and it just man­ages to squeeze out the last 10km/h be­fore top­ping out at 250km/h. Into the BMW, the en­gine’s no­tice­ably more eager, and though its rate of ac­cel­er­a­tion is sim­i­lar, it man­ages to squeeze out another 10km/h un­til bang on 260km/h. Then the Porsche rolls out, its twin tur­bos huff­ing and puff­ing and blow­ing the other two away, fly­ing past 230-240 and 250, and then up­ping the ante another 10km/h, to peak at 270km/h. So in the NASCAR tra­di­tion, we line up for a fi­nal run in con­voy: BMW lead­ing, Merc trail­ing, and me in the Porsche in third. We each climb to around 230km/h in con­voy, then the ham­mers go down: within a few sec­onds I’m al­ready in the slip­stream of the Mercedes, and the rush of air is no­tice­ably qui­eter sit­ting in the draft. I pull out to over­take, and pull back in be­hind the BMW that’s a good half a kilo­me­tre ahead. In what feels like just a few sec­onds, the Porsche is in the X5’s slip­stream and reel­ing it in with a no­tice­able boost in speed as the speedo passes the 260 and then 270 marks, and starts get­ting pep­pered with grains of dirt be­ing sucked up from the BMW in front. Just be­fore the Cayenne closes in to a safe over­tak­ing point, the dig­i­tal speed flashes up 280km/h as it pulls out to over­take and gets squashed back into form by aero­dy­nam­ics down to ‘just’ 270km/h. Af­ter 15 min­utes of this ‘re­search’, we need to stop, sim­ply be­cause we’re run­ning out of fuel so quickly, the SUVS are all un­der half a tank of 95 oc­tane al­ready; so we turn around and re­turn to Alice Springs, job done, no an­i­mals harmed – ex­cept di­nosaurs, with our fuel use as high as 48l/100km. It was a great les­son that tur­bos are fan­tas­tic, V8s are great, but com­bine the two and it’s a force that’s hard to beat. When the of­fer to see and drive the su­per­charged V8 Colorado was of­fered for this month’s fea­ture, we scooped up the tim­ing gear and set out to see what a 2018 ul­ti­mate per­for­mance ute is about, and when the num­bers rolled off, we were hugely im­pressed not just by its per­for­mance, but that it’s such a com­plete all-rounder with a fac­tory stan­dard look, fac­tory drive­abil­ity, re­li­a­bil­ity and that all-im­por­tant 2018 fac­tor: econ­omy. Rel­a­tively, at least… Dean Evans – dean@trucker.co.nz

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