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Holden tackles Achilles heel with Colorado 7 SUV

Power of seven: The Holden Colorado 7 will debut Down Under at the Sydney motor show in October before going on sale several months later.

Forthcoming ute-based Colorado 7 wagon to fill a glaring void in Holden’s line-up

15 Jun 2012

HOLDEN will address the “Achilles heel” of its product line-up when it releases the seven-seat Colorado 7 SUV around the start of next year, according to chairman and managing director Mike Devereux.

First examples of the heavy-duty off-roader, which is based on the Colorado ute range launched in Australia earlier this week, officially rolled off the production line last week in Thailand – where it is badged as the Chevrolet Trailblazer.

The car is almost certain to make its Australian public debut at the Sydney motor show in October, and will hit local showrooms in either December or January.

Holden executive director of sales and marketing John Elsworth told GoAuto this week that the final arrival date of the car will be decided by the dealer network, who may want to hold out for 2013 compliance plates to help resale values down the line.

The Colorado 7 will be pitched against fellow body-on-frame off-roaders like the Mitsubishi Challenger and Ford’s forthcoming, Ranger-based T6 wagon, and will be Holden’s first foray into the hardcore off-road sector since the demise of the Isuzu-sourced Jackaroo in 2004.

The seven-seater will join an expanding Holden SUV line-up which also includes the Captiva 5 and 7, plus the Barina-based Trax which was last week confirmed for Australian sale from around the middle of next year.

Speaking at this week’s launch of the Colorado ute range, Mr Devereux said vehicles like the Colorado 7 would help Holden address concerns over its relatively sparse SUV portfolio.

13 center imageLeft: Chevrolet Trailblazer.

“It (a rugged SUV) is something that we used to have in our portfolio years and years ago and it’s something that will go very well in very different areas of the country that we currently don’t really sell SUVs into,” he said.

“We don’t have big SUV, (but) we are going to have one of those… we are going to hit the heart of the target market for those types of vehicles.”

Total SUV sales – ranging from small, medium, large and upper large – are up a substantial 30.3 per cent in Australia this year according to industry statistician VFACTS, and made up close to one third of overall vehicle sales to the end of May.

Thai Trailblazer/Colorado 7 models are sold in Thailand exclusively with diesel power – these being the same 110kW/350Nm 2.5 and 132kW/350Nm 2.8-litre turbocharged units sold in the Colorado ute here.

Holden executives at the Colorado launch said a two-wheel-drive Colorado 7 is unlikely for Australia, so given the smaller 2.5-litre engine is only available here in a single manual 4x2 base variant of the Colorado ute, the Australian version of the Colorado 7 may rely solely on the larger unit.

There is no word yet on a petrol powertrain option, with options possibly including an Australian-made V6 or the all-new 2.5-litre four-cylinder unit that will debut in the mid-sized Malibu sedan in the second quarter of next year.

The Colorado 7 is expected to get the same transmission options as the ute, including a five-speed manual gearbox and six-speed automatic.

The four-wheel drive system gets a new two-speed, electronically actuated part-time transfer box. The car is sold in Thailand in LT or LTZ specification levels, with the latter getting standard off-road features including Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control – neither of which are available on the Australian-delivered Colorado ute.

Standard on the Australian range will be Bluetooth telephone and USB connectivity, cruise control, electronic stability control, curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist.

The flagship LTZ variant is likely to get LED tail-lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, chrome exterior highlights on the side-steps and mirrors.

Thai specification sheets also indicate the presence of a seven-inch touch-screen system with satellite navigation, something not offered on the Australian ute.

Mr Elsworth said this omission was due to General Motors being in the process of rationalising its audio and infotainment system from dozens of variants to just three, resulting in a suitable unit not being available in time for the launch.

Holden is hoping the Colorado ute rang will mirror the five-star safety rating of rivals such as the Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50, and the Colorado 7 is a shoe-in to follow suit.

While the Trailblazer/Colorado 7 has the same 1570mm tracks front and rear as the ute on which it is based, its wheelbase is shorter at 2845mm (compared to 3096 for the ute), as it its overall length of 4878mm (5127mm).

Unlike the Colorado ute range, the Trailblazer/Colorado 7 comes with less utilitarian five-link coil rear suspension, rather than a leaf-spring set-up.

GM claims class-leading interior space – including in the third row – and describes its tumble and flat-fold seating arrangements as “intuitive”. The second-row seats are split 60/40 and, using a single latch, will fold forward under gravity. They also recline and have integrated folding armrests with cup-holders.

The third row is split 50/50, offers storage from a centre console and, according to GM Brazil design director Matt Noone, “isn’t an afterthought ... (but) an authentic third row where people can sit comfortably for long trips”.

The Trailblazer/Colorado 7 was designed in parallel with the Colorado ute in a $2 billion program based out of Brazil.

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