HSV turns its sights on the pick-up market by honing the talents of the Holden Colorado. Is it really better both on- and off-road as claimed?
The Aussie car industry sure is a different beast these days, big scale manufacturing now dusted, but the likes of HSV keep the wheels turning. It’s ramping up its operations with the ‘re-production’ of Chevrolets for local consumption and is also fiddling with the Holden Colorado. That meddling has led to the Colorado SportsCat by HSV, to give it its full name.
A quick SportsCat recap
HSV’s aim with the SportsCat, which starts life as a regular Colorado Z71, was to create a package that improves both the on- and off-road prowess of the donor vehicle. Nothing like a challenge then. They add sports suspension with new dampers and springs which brings a touch more firmness to the ride but also reduces roll and improves the steering response, as does an additional strut brace under the bonnet and a thicker 33mm roll bar.
The new springs lift the front by 25mm to level off the stance and they improve the approach angle to 32 degrees. The wheels are 18-inch forged items and come wrapped in a Cooper ‘Sports All-Terrain’ tyre that was specifically developed for HSV to deliver both the added on-road grip and off-road capability they were looking for. Mounted on an offset, the track increases by 30mm, while the bigger tyres add further ground clearance, measuring a total of 251mm. The ESP has been retuned to suit as well.
There are two models, the SportsCat and the SportsCat Plus, the latter gaining a rear sway bar to further reduce understeer and this is a de-coupling unit to allow better axle articulation off-road. The Plus also gains a brake upgrade with four-piston AP Racing calipers and 362mm rotors up front (drums remain on the rear) along with a bigger master cylinder. HSV also offers optional SupaShock dampers ($4000) which are designed to better handle a thrashing off-road, though are said to improve wheel control on-road as well.
Visual additions amount to the new front-end, wheels and over flares, while the Plus is differentiated further with a more aggressive look up front comprising a unique grille and bonnet bulge treatment, and larger wheel arch protection. The tailgate is plastered with a bold Colorado graphic and while the hard lid is standard the tub liner ($400) and sailplane-type sports bar ($1500) are extras.
The seats have been reprofiled with a new base and larger bolsters, and are retrimmed in suede and perforated leather. Suede also features on the dash pad, while red stitching is used as an accent throughout the cabin. The SportsCat kicks off at $73,990, though not many Kiwis are interested in that one, most plumping for the Plus, which is $80,990 for the manual, the auto $2k more. An auto 4×4 Z71 by comparison is $66,990.
A slower HSV?
HSVs of yore boasted about their power figures, proudly wearing them on their rear ends, but the SportsCat features a stock standard powertrain. HSV says the SportsCat is more about capability than performance, but it’s a fact that it’s actually slower than the donor Z71. The big wheel and tyre package effectively increases the gearing, and all the extras add weight (Z71 2163kg vs SportsCat 2282kg) which means it’s slower to 100km/h, 10.4sec versus 9.9sec for the Z71, but it’s still faster than a standard Wildtrak, which is what really matters.
The wilds tamed
With added clearance and those big chunky Coopers, the SportsCat has the potential to go further into the wilds before getting stuck. Which of course we did in the soft sand, but they can’t engineer against stupidity. We drove this off-road in Australia where it tackled steep rocky inclines with ease, the tyres providing good purchase in the loose.
And the rubber has good traction in the mud too, the SportsCat tracking faithfully in the slush through the water splash, the ground so slick we found it hard to walk across without slipping over. The Plus is fitted with a rear sway bar which, when four low is selected, can decouple. The sway bar is a two-piece item and within the decoupling unit is where the mechanical magic happens. Inside this unit, the grooved bar ends are married together by a collar with an internal spline to form a rigid bar.
When four low is selected, an electric actuator moves a shift fork connected to the collar which pushes the bars apart, effectively decoupling the sway bar. The benefit is more axle articulation when you need it in the rough, and when it’s back together, better on-road stability at higher speeds.
For a 4×4 ute it is, for not only is there better grip off-road but better stick in the tarmac turns too. With the added roll control at each end and the firming of the dampers, this is keener in the bends than your average one-tonne ute. While the steering will never rival a Porsche’s, there is added immediacy and accuracy to go with the additional resistance to understeer. With the big Coopers, and the added roll stability at the rear, this doesn’t start sledging wide like most in the class when pressed harder through curves.
It’s all too easy to get a ute’s front tyres howling, but it’s harder to elicit a squeak from the SportsCat’s front end. When triggered, the ESP works with you, unlike the traction control. The latter is best switched out as it can nobble your fun for no good reason, and this also lets the Torsen LSD do its job better. In terms of big all terrain rubber, these Coopers are relatively quiet on road, and don’t completely surrender their grip when the road is wet. While some A/Ts hold on well to a point and then quickly break away, these give a good feel for the limit.
The dampers bring additional firmess to the ride, but aren’t detrimental to civility and the SportsCat’s rear end is less affected by mid-corner nasties. The brakes are a marked improvement too, the solid pedal feel preferable to the usual ute mush, and so too the set-up’s longevity.
The Colorado’s engine is punchy, with its meaty midrange surge and revs well for a truck. Maybe HSV could have done something to sharpen the shifts of the gearbox for it’s a little slushy and slow with swaps, and so you end up in manual mode when chasing corners, flicking between third and fourth, and the diesel pulls well from 2000rpm through to four, where it’s about done. As we said, it’s a Colorado underneath it all. As to fuel use, expect about 12L/100km for the usual mix of driving, a figure that will be welcomed by long-time HSV owners used to visiting the gas station every few days.
All good then?
There are a few aspects of the SportsCat that you might need to consider. The driveline isn’t all that happy churning along at between 80-90km/h in top gear. It’s likely due to the tyres affecting the gearing, which also throws the speedo out.
At an indicated 100km/h, the GPS logger was showing 104km/h. Careful around speed cameras then. The added clearance makes entry that much more of a climb, but side steps are standard. Utes don’t have best turning circles but this one’s bigger still, one which I misunderestimated, as George W would say. I thought I had plenty of room to turn around in but somehow managed to clip the kerb, gashing what have to be the most ungarkable wheels on the market given the sizeable sidewalls. And those turning dimensions, (13.4m vs 12.7m for the Z71) make carpark manoeuvring trickier than usual.
But otherwise it’s a practical ute retaining its 3500kg tow rating and a GVM of 3150kg. Standard is a hard lid, made by a firm in Hamilton to HSV specification which includes a locking mechanism that works off the remote key fob, an LED light that illuminates the tray area and a rubber strip along the rear edge to stop water dripping into the tray when you raise the lid. The whole thing can also be removed by unscrewing just two bolts, and so there aren’t any of those tricky sliding hinge pins to try and relocate.
The look we like, especially in white, which shows off all the styling additions and while the interior has been spruced up, it’s still a ute with hard plastics and little in the way of active safety features or niceties like a smart key.
Some might baulk at the $83k ask, but the market is now used to big dollar utes, and it’s just $3k more than what Holden is asking for the Colorado Xtreme. This is certainly the most comprehensive hot up of a double cab ute we have experienced, though we’d wait to see what the Raptor offers first.
|Model||Colorado Sportscat by HSV|
|Engine||2776cc, IL4, TDI, 147kW/500Nm|
|Drivetrain||6-speed auto, switchable 4×4|