From the archives: 2004 Holden Crewman Cross 8
Holden’s new Cross 8 aims to be the ultimate ute. Equipped with a 5.7 litre V8 and all-wheel-drive, it brings a high-performance persona to the workplace. But don’t expect it to burn rubber
We never thought there’d be an Aussie V8 ute that was no good at burnouts but new Cross 8 sure proved us wrong. This Holden ute ain’t a thing for yobbos and no, you won’t see it with a set of old wheels and tyres on the rear looking for a place to smoke it up. The Cross 8 is the Holden ute refined to the max. It could be the ultimate family vehicle, in a Tim ‘the tool man’ Taylor kind of way. Don’t get it confused with a workhorse, however; you’re more likely to see them with an unmarked tray liner, kids’ toys in the rear seat and the boss behind the wheel, cellphone glued to the ear, making sure the job’s being done on time.
Cross 8 takes the crossover concept to the max, car at the front, ute at the back and 4WD underneath. It doesn’t get any more interbred than this. It’s another car from Holden’s good old V car platform, apparently the 35th in the long line of spin-offs dating back to the first VB Commie. Not bad going from Holden and it goes to show you don’t need to invest huge sums of money into new product lines when you can just keep milking the same cow.
Just like the rear-drive Crewman, the Cross 8 is the fusion of a monocoque Commodore front section and the one-tonner’s full frame chassis at the rear. They connect via Holden’s torque arm system consisting of two vertical uprights extending from the front of the ladder chassis, bolting on to the back of the monocoque cab. The result is much the same as the regular Crewman, but with the extra bracing required for the Cross Trac system, the Cross 8 feels more solid with better levels of NHV.
It’s instantly recognisable from the regular Crewman with its high-rider stance, wide-boy wheel arches and plastic running strips along the sills. The 17-inch alloys are the same as those the Adventra LX8 rides on and give the Cross 8 an upmarket look.
There’s only one variant and its top of the line stuff. There’s no “worker” model, which is a shame, and the high price may well rule it out for serious work and for the regular tradesperson. Think of it more as a Calais with a tray. It wears a price tag of $62,300, $6000 above the Crewman SS. The interior is plushly trimmed: well-padded leather seats, chrome highlights here and there, a full array of electrics, auto air and a six disc CD stereo, just like a top spec SS or Calais. Like the Crewman, it has the same cramped rear seat, an area where Holden could have done better. Head and shoulder room is hunky dory but there’s little legroom for full growns (and none for a centre passenger due to the large transmission tunnel). The back seat squab is still uncomfortable despite Holden’s attempts at reclining it a tad. If it’s kids you’ve got to carry, no worries mate, they’ll fit and they all get three point seat belts.
At present, Holden’s Cross Trac 4WD system remains V8 only. In the Cross 8 that means a 225kW/460Nm version of the Canadian assembled Gen III, bolted to the good old 4L65 GM Hydramatic transmission. The driveline is a touch noisy but nothing Commodore drivers won’t be used to. You can hear the box slurring away between shifts and will notice the odd clunk when the power comes on. Diff whine isn’t as notable as it was in the rear-drive Crewman. Holden’s new HF V6 engine appears later this year and the company plans to use it in conjunction with the Cross Trac 4wd system. This will give the model range more scope with hopefully more choice in spec and more importantly a better price allied to better fuel economy.
Underneath you’ll find beefed up, longer-travel suspension with MacPherson struts on the front followed by leaf springs and a good old solid live axle down at the back – as per Crewman and One Tonner. The Cross 8 tipped the scales at just a smidge under two tonnes, the extra 4x4 hardware and chassis cross-bracing adding another 148kg to the total of the rear drive SS Crewman we weighed at the start of the year. To cope with the extra weight, Holden fitted an uprated braking package. Like the V8 Crewman, Cross 8 has a payload of 738kg and can tow 2500kg braked with the appropriate towing kit fitted.
Holden utes and slippery terrain have never got on well together. Add a V8 to the mix and its more than likely you’ll make a big mess on your way to being buried axle-deep in the mud. The Crewman Cross 8 has been designed to remedy this little problem. It uses the same all wheel drive system as the Adventra to help with its off road duties. It’s a traction control-based system using the ABS sensors to detect wheel slippage. The system can brake the spinning wheels individually while redistributing the power to the wheels that are gripping. Engine power isn’t hindered during the process, the distribution systems making sure the power goes to the wheels that have traction. The distribution remains constant between the axles with 62 per cent of the torque sent rearwards.
True off road prowess is something Cross 8 doesn’t claim to have as it’s not equipped with the right hardware. As a crossover vehicle, its off road duties are limited by its overhangs, ground clearance (188mm) and its overall mass. It will easily tackle a rough gravel track with the long-travel suspension smoothing the bumps. Understeer moments can happen in deep metal and the brakes will lock momentarily causing more sliding, especially when travelling down hill. The rear drive bias is felt on the gravel with the Cross 8 prepared to set up a nice drift when throttled through a corner.
The Cross 8 surprised us at just how well it handled once it was let off the leash. The regular Crewman feels just that – regular, but Cross 8 feels as though it has had some input from Subaru the way it hangs on. It’s got heaps of grip, heaps of poise and a sure footedness you don’t get with rear drive V8 utes. With the Commodore donating its front end and with the addition of extra drive to the front wheels, Cross 8 responds diligently to steering inputs, turning-in well while resisting understeer. There’s plenty of weight in the steering and as such, it requires a stern effort to change direction. It has a reasonable feel and filters out harsh kick back over rutted roads. With the front well behaved, the rear is left to sort itself out as best it can. The leaf-sprung rear can hop and skip through corners but otherwise it's pretty competent considering, especially in its delivery of a rather compliant ride around town.
With four wheels to drive and almost two tonnes to move, the big-engined Cross 8 is never going to win any fuel economy prizes. We travelled 370km in it (and had to inject another $40 worth of unleaded) and the fuel readout told us we had burned through 72 litres of gas. We’d given the throttle a few good stomps but also feathered it around town to try and bring the average down. But that’s still 19.4L/100km. Gulp. No doubt more fastidious use of the go pedal would see the average improve. As a small consolation, the V8 is able to combust the cheaper variety of petrol. Interestingly, Holden doesn’t publish a claimed fuel consumption figure.
At over five metres long and almost two metres wide, it takes up a lot of road. You’ll get used to using those side mirrors when backing, as it’s hard to judge the dimensions of Cross 8 looking out the back window. Like Adventra, Cross 8 has rather heavy steering and with a 12.4 metre turning circle, parking manoeuvres require a bit of forward thinking, while the parallel variety obviously requires a careful selection of available space.
It’s only the fact that its appeal is limited by the one specification and driveline option that puts a mark against the well devised Cross 8. Once a Cross 6 becomes available with Holden’s new alloy V6, this competent machine should find favour with more buyers and be cheaper to operate.
Model Holden Crewman Cross 8 Price $62,300
Engine 5665cc, V8, EFI, 225kW/460Nm
Transmission 4-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Vitals 7.54sec 0-100km/h, n/a L/100km, n/a g/km, 1994kg