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Car reviews - Holden - Crewman - Cross 8 4-dr utility

Our Opinion

We like
Versatility, power, load carrying capacity
Room for improvement
Fuel consumption, rear seats, sheer size and weight

18 Apr 2004

SOMEWHERE in the bowels of Holden Design I hope my dream Crewman Cross8 is being created.

It would have a stripped-out water-proof interior, steel wheels, manual gearbox and a V6 engine – so it would actually be a Cross6 rather than a Cross8.

It would be perfect for those beach trips and weekends away. The gear could go in the back, the inevitably sandy, filthy family up front and when you get home just turn the hose on it inside and out to clean it up – the family too, for that matter.

For mine that would be a significant improvement over Holden’s first attempt at an all-wheel drive Crew Cab utility.

Right now it is too expensive, too thirsty to run - thanks to its Gen III 5.7-litre V8/four-speed auto drivetrain - and it’s too pretty inside. I shudder to think what my kids would do to the interior of this car after a day at the beach.

Who knows whether my minimalist Crewman ever makes it into production, but once the new HF V6 engine appears later this at least there is the potential for it to happen. And certainly Holden has plans to combine the Cross Trac all-wheel drive system with this new powerplant.

For now though, Holden is dabbling in this latest niche of a niche with just a single highly-specced Crewman Cross8.

For your $50,000-plus you get a reasonable amount of safety, security and luxury gear including ABS, driver and front passenger airbags, side airbags, remote central locking, front foglights, leather wrap steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake, cruise control, CD stereo system, electric four-way driver’s seat, air-conditioning and alloy pedal cluster.

Underneath that lot beats the 225kW/460Nm version of Gen III, bolted to the ancient 4L65 GM Hydra-Matic transmission. That mates with the traction control-based Cross Trac AWD system in exactly the same spec as on Adventra - 38/62 front/rear torque split and all.

The front half of the Cross8 - like all Holden utilities – is based on the Commodore sedan’s monocoque body, but with smaller rear doors and a virtually flat rear window. But the rear of the car – like Crewman and the One Tonner - is of separate chassis construction, the two parts joined by Holden’s "torque arm".

Up-front suspension is via MacPherson struts and down the back it’s leaf springs – as per Crewman and One Tonner but not the independently suspended two-seat rear-drive Holden utility.

Completing the fundamental mechanical package is the uprated brake package from Adventra as well as extra bracing and reinforcements around the chassis.

And while we are talking about the package, here are some numbers that should give an idea of just how big this thing is. Overall length is a massive 5323mm and body width 1954mm. It weighs in at 1947kg – thanks to the Cross Trac hardware that’s 163kg more than the rear-wheel drive Crewman SS.

And then there’s the turning circle – a massive 12.4 metres! That’s at least partially due to the 20mm-plus increase in track front and rear necessitated by Cross Trac.

The message is quite plain – this is not a vehicle suited to constant urban use. It swallows up one-and-a-half shopping centre carpark spaces and reversing is an exercise in faith.

But it is also compromised because the rear seat space is poor, too cramped for extended use by adults and too upright for the use of baby and child seats. A fix has been executed but as our test car already had it we can't say we were too impressed. At least the doors open wide and there’s always that deep – albeit shorter - tray to chuck your stuff in.

Out on the open road the Crewman is not a bad conveyance. There’s plenty of power, albeit compromised by that sloppy old auto it is mated to, which is neither smooth or decisive in its actions.

Thankfully, Cross8 runs on regular unleaded fuel because you’ll be using plenty. Our road test yielded an average of 16.9L/100km with frequent instant readings beyond 30L/100km under acceleration. Combine that with a pretty small 68.5-litre fuel tank and you’ll be using the tray to store petrol drums if you are headed beyond the beaten track.

There’s no doubt the Cross8 can cop gravel and sandy roads in its stride and its ultra-long 3207mm wheelbase means it is very stable. This is a great car for country blasting. The 2500kg braked towing capacity means you can take your off-road trailer-camper with you.

But Cross8 is less happy as the conditions get more closed in and rougher. That long wheelbase and significant overhangs at both ends mean plenty of touch-downs underneath despite the 188mm minimum ground clearance.

There are standard bash plates up front and at the rear, but an engine and transmission underbody protection plate is an option.

Holden claims the approach angle is 20.6 degrees, break-over 19.4 degrees and departure angle is 18 degrees. The limitations of those figures become obvious when you compare them to a true off-roader like the 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser that claims a minimum 31 degrees approach, 25 degree break-over and 24 degrees departure.

The Cross8 is so wide – more than two metres when you count the mirrors – that you will also have to pick and choose how deeply off-road you go. Bushes and trees will quickly start making a mess of the paintwork.

If you want further proof that this is not a true off-roader, then the lack of low range gearing is a big clue, as are the relatively low profile 225/55 R17 97H rubber and 17-inch wheels.

But back on bitumen road and for a big, heavy truck with leaf spring rear suspension this is actually quite respectable behaviour. Turn-in is sharp, although it gets vaguer from there. It’s not too rolly-polly or sloppy and the rear-end usually behaves itself. But you are always aware there is a lot of car following you through the corner.

Hit a sizeable bump in a corner one-up and the rear-end will kick about, but the more load the better behaved it is. Speaking of which, Holden says maximum carrying capacity is 738kg – that’s inclusive of passengers. That means with driver only on board the tray will comfortably take half-a-metre of soil or mulch – just get your local garden supplier to load it in diagonally.

The Cross8 comes standard with a soft cover but the way it secures to the tray is nowhere near as efficient as the traditional elasticised bands that the Falcon utility uses. Back to the future here guys.

Inside, from the driver’s pew, this is one comfortable utility – the seat is big and comfy in that typical Holden fashion and the steering wheel small-ish, leather-clad and grippy.

There are various faux-metal pointers to this being basically SS-spec around the cabin. It’s also demonstrably and instantly identifiably Holden in the presentation and design of the cabin.

It will be interesting to see if there will be more internal and external differentiation between the different models that make up the Holden range when the all-new VE cars start appearing in 2006.

Up until then Crewman Cross8 is the ultimate expression of Holden’s ability to niche within a niche within a niche.

But remember guys, if there’s a Crewman Cross6 "hose-out" coming post-2006, you can count me in as a customer.

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