Car reviews - Holden - Crewman - Cross 6 4-dr utility
Versatility, surprisingly effective four-wheel drive system
Room for improvement
Huge turning circle, thirst, upright back seat
24 Jun 2005
By TIM BRITTEN
HOLDEN'S Crewman Cross6 covers a lot of bases.
It's a ute, a five-passenger sedan and a four-wheel drive all in one. Four-wheel drive, that is, is the sense that it will comfortably go places rear-drive utes won't - but the deep bush where "real" off-roaders roam is strictly out of bounds.
The Cross6 offers an advantage over the Crewman Cross8 we are already familiar with too - because it uses a smaller engine than the latter's 5.7-litre V8, it's potentially more economical.
How economical depends on how you use it. A vehicle running permanent four-wheel drive and weighing close to two tonnes is disadvantaged from the start.
On test, we averaged 14.5 litres per 100km in our Cross6, which was considered pretty reasonable and maybe on the conservative side of what you'd expect running a fully loaded version on a day-to-day basis.
The interesting thing is how the Cross 6 drives.
The V6 engine displaces just 3.6 litres after all, so it's being asked to do quite a lot of work even if it's a close to start-of-the-art powerplant with all-alloy construction, twin overhead camshafts per bank, individual ignition coils for each cylinder, electronic throttle control and 24 valves.
It also uses variable camshaft timing that alters advance and retard on the inlet camshaft to help maximise power whichever end of the rpm band it is operating at.
The outcome is a pretty solid 175kW developed at 6000rpm and, more importantly, 320Nm of torque - at a relatively high 3600rpm. This is not as much as that produced by the 4.0-litre or so engines seen in many two-tonne-plus 4WDs, but it's getting there.
All this is fed via a standard four-speed automatic transmission to Holden's full-time 4WD system, which is an interesting and effective way of sending power to all four wheels and is used by a number of other all-wheel drive cars including, ironically enough, Ford's Territory wagon.
The three-differential system relies heavily on electronics and is biased towards rear-wheel drive to the tune of 62 per cent.
The system uses information fed to it from the ABS to determine the location of wheel slip and judiciously apply braking so traction is directed to the wheel(s) with most grip.
Of course, there's no low-range transfer box, or even the automatic downhill braking control used in the V6 Adventra wagon.
To allow a maximum load-toting capacity of 781kg, the Cross6's rear suspension departs from the independent system seen on the Adventra and employs a simpler, leaf-spring, live axle arrangement that seemingly takes us back 20 years in one leap.
The wheelbase of the Cross6 is the same as the rear-drive Crewman, which is to say massive. At more than 3.2 metres it approaches limo dimensions and contributes to a wide-arcing 12.4-metres turning circle.
The Cross6 is also jacked up to deal with the more challenging terrain it's likely to visit, and the ground clearance at kerb weight is a useful 226mm - which is equal to many a proper off-roader, although the long wheelbase does contribute to compromised "ramp-over" abilities.
This, along with the wider track and flared plastic guards, gives the Cross6 a distinctive look that ensures it will never be mistaken for an ordinary Crewman.
All this may sound like the on-road abilities of the Cross6 could be a little less than harmonious. In reality it has a tangibly greater sense of stickability than your average ute.
Driving the Cross6 on wet roads is less fraught, even when it's unladen, than you'd expect of a ute. There's less fear of unsticking the back-end with a careless prod of the accelerator pedal because a good proportion of the power is going to the front wheels as well. This only gets better as the tray gets loaded up.
The 3.6-litre V6 manages quite well, albeit a little noisily, but then again this is no Caprice. The upgraded 4L60 four-speed auto (it gets a new torque converter, control module and software recalibrations) is basic, offering no sequential control, but it's workmanlike, which is about all you should expect.
A surprise was that the 175kW engine, which appears to need a little working-out to deliver reasonable acceleration in other Commodore models, doesn't actually feel overwhelmed by the Cross 6's weight.
The ride isn't too bad either, once again partly due to the massive wheelbase that keeps well at bay any suggestions of fore-aft pitching. At 367mm longer than a Holden Statesman, this is understandable. But with the load-carrying aspects needing to be catered for, it's still quite abrupt.
The Cross6 steers quite well, all things considered. It's still the slightly over-weighted system we've become accustomed to in Commodores but the Cross6 can be wielded with some confidence once you realise just how much vehicle you are in control of here.
The weight and bulk can occasionally be felt under heavy braking, where it feels less eager to come to a halt than a Commodore sedan. And the difficulty of judging the rear-end extremities when parking suggests rear-bumper sensors would hardly be a luxury.
Of course there are other compromises with the Crewman Cross6. Among these is that despite its battleship proportions, the tray area is smaller than the regular Holden ute.
With a volume of 0.868 cubic metres, it is quite a bit below the ute's 1.307 cubic metres. And the actual tray area drops from the ute's 2.689 square metres to 1.794.
But it retains the ute's neat clip-in tonneau cover and can be had with a removable liner to protect not just the paintwork, but also whatever is being carried in the back.
The story inside is no different to other Holden Crewmen.
The front part of the cockpit is interchangeable with a regular Commodore, right down to the electric seat height adjustment, two-way steering wheel adjustment, cruise control, dual airbags, air-conditioning and power windows.
The back seat promises space for three, but it's not a really comfortable space because legroom is adequate rather than generous and the backrests are far too upright for long-distance travelling.
One good thing is that the rear seat can folded flat to allow a quite large load space if only two people are using the Cross6.
Like we said, the Crewman Cross6 covers a lot of bases and you'd be silly if you didn't expect compromises. But if you compare it with some of the more utilitarian four-wheel drive crew-cab utes it certainly comes across as quite refined, yet is also very capable in terms of load carrying and terrain-tackling.
And, importantly in this area of the market, it's a quite rugged-looking beast.
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