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Car reviews - Holden - Adventra - range

Our Opinion

We like
Refinement, transmission, V6 fuel consumption, passenger-like ride and handling, price, value
Room for improvement
LX8 transmission, heavy steering, lack of differentiation to Commodore wagon, lack of interior versatility compared to Territory, performance drop compared to high-series Commodores, reasonable off-road ability

11 Feb 2005

THIS is the Adventra Holden should have released in October 2003, but didn’t because its two-valve pushrod V6 was on the eve of its long-overdue use-by date.

In the meantime, V8-only Adventra sales have been well below par – despite a massive advertising spend and subsequent $4000 price drop – and the reputation of Holden’s first, and highly capable, crossover has been tarnished.

Which is a shame, because in V6 guise – which introduces premium 190kW DOHC V6 performance and a silky-smooth five-speed auto – Adventra finally puts forward substantive arguments when it comes to refinement, practicality and versatility.

The Commodore wagon-based Adventra may not offer the SUV appearance that differentiates other soft-roaders from their passenger car stablemates, but not everybody wants the truck look attached to the extra traction, ground clearance, active safety and versatility they desire in a modern crossover.

And the fact remains that with at least 200mm of ground clearance, an effective and high-tech all-wheel drive system, enough passenger and cargo space to rival some large off-roaders and a marginal increase in ride height (providing just enough of what Ford calls Territory’s "command" driving position), Adventra meets many of the criteria today’s crossover customer demands.

Like Territory, Adventra also does it without compromising too much of the passenger car-style ride and handling attributes we all demand on the bitumen, most of the time.

It’s just that it took a modern V6 for most of us to realise it.

Granted, VZ Adventra V8 delivers improved auto shift quality, noticeably more power and torque, and improved responsive and power delivery through its electronic throttle.

But at $41,000, the base Adventra’s top-shelf Alloytec 190 and five-speed auto is a comparative revelation that will leave many VZ Berlina wagon buyers wondering why they paid more than $5000 extra for the basic 175kW V6 and a reworked version of the VN Commodore-based four-speed auto.

No, GM’s global V6 doesn’t sound anything like some European or Japanese sixes or even the Territory’s, offering too much clatter at high speeds and a characterless note that’s all induction noise.

But, as in VZ Commodores, Alloytec 190 does deliver significant advances in refinement, flexibility and emissions (but not fuel consumption) over its Ecotec predecessor, plus a measurable performance boost over the base Alloytec 175 V6. Only Ford’s homegrown 24-valve inline six beats it for torque.

Combined with a slick-shifting five-speed auto, it lifts the Adventra driving experience to a new, more polished level and makes the four-speed GM unit found in Adventra LX8 and low-series V6 Commodores feel archaic - despite its significant improvements in VZ form.

There’s no traditional manual shift gate: instead you must pay extra for the mid-spec CX6, which gains intuitive shift paddles on the steering wheel, providing full manual control.

The latter point is significant, because in the absence of a dual-range transmission, Adventra’s tall overall gearing makes the ability to apply engine braking a crucial asset in any off-bitumen situation.

Of course, the addition of standard hill descent control (something else Adventra V8 misses out on) reduces the need for low-ratio gearing in many situations, and the ability to toggle, via the cruise control stalk, between the default 5km/h and 35km/h is handy. Especially when useful engine braking only begins at around 3500rpm, which equates to 40km/h in first gear.

Part of the latest Bosch 8.0 stability control system also offered standard in Territory, HDC (which is optional in the base Ford) also remains in standby mode up to about 65km/h, in readiness for when speeds drop back into its useable range, and the system can be overridden by throttle inputs of more than 18 per cent. It’s a very clever system that’s simple to use and has many off-road advantages, but doesn’t make Adventra a rock-hopper.

That said, one advantage the Holden continues to have over its Ford and Toyota (Kluger) rivals is ground clearance, its 200mm bettering them by at least 20mm.

Like the V8, Adventra V6 therefore offers a surprisingly wide envelope of ability, and is equally happy to traverse high-speed outback tracks as it is to tackle twisty pieces of bitumen.

At nearly two tonnes, Adventra doesn’t feel as spritely as its Alloytec 190-equipped sedan siblings, but thanks to its 62 per cent rear-biased AWD system, it loses little of Commodore’s rear-wheel driving experience, especially off-road.

A new lightweight steering pump and hoses addresses reliability issues that surfaced in its predecessors, while a recalibrated power steering control valve and revised front stabiliser bar aim to reduce steering effort, but Adventra steering still feels a little under-assisted to us.

Aside from stability control, the V6 also introduces significant passive safety advances like electronic brake assist (which Adventra V8 also misses out on because of its use of the older Bosch 5.3 chassis control system).

As the first Australian-made four-wheel drive, Adventra’s combination of passenger wagon dynamics and surprisingly broad off-road ability finally makes sense in V6 form, which throws affordable fuel consumption, competitive transmission performance, worthwhile safety features, refinement and mass market affordability into the mix.

Its Commodore wagon roots mean Adventra can never be the complete package Territory is, but with V6 motivation and a realistic pricetag it should find a sizeable niche in the SUV market.

Adventra V6’s value proposition will undoubtedly be far more popular than its thirstier, more expensive V8 predecessor’s - even if it’s at the expense of some its more mainstream Commodore stablemates.

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