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First local drive: HSV uncovers Colorado SportsCat

Cat sound: The Colorado SportsCat will be offered in two variants and hits showrooms in late January.

The Colorado SportsCat is the first new HSV model for the former Commodore fixers

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HSV logo8 Dec 2017

By TIM ROBSON

HOLDEN Special Vehicles (HSV) has revealed its first new model since the end of Australian Commodore production, with the Holden Colorado-based SportsCat dual-cab ute set to hit the road in late January next year.

Based on the Colorado Z71 4x4 dual-cab, the HSV Colorado SportsCat – to give it its proper name – will be offered in two variants, the SportsCat and the SportsCat+.

The updated ute offers no additional power or torque from its 147kW/500Nm 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, but instead relies on chassis updates and body modifications to give it a point of difference from its Holden donor.

“Not only will we have a great benchmark for on-road dynamics, but we’ve improved the off-road capabilities, as well,” said HSV managing director Tim Jackson.

Mr Jackson said that the SportsCat had been in development for two years and that the company had grown more excited by the vehicle as the development period progressed.

“Previously, when we’ve stepped outside the Commodore space, we really haven’t invested much money,” he told journalists at the launch of the car in Queensland.

“This time, we’re really investing a lot of money, because we know it pays to do it well, and to do it effectively, we need to invest. The business case stacks up, and we’re typically conservative on business cases.”

He also acknowledged that the SportsCat would appeal to a different set of customers – and not necessarily existing customers of the brand.

“We’ve seen in our Maloo (Holden Commodore ute) owners moving into the dual-cab 4x4 segment, because it’s a more versatile segment,” Mr Jackson told GoAuto.

“We’ve got a high level of confidence that we’ll be well received with the product, and we’re going to be well-received by not only our existing customers, but potentially new customers.

“Will we keep everyone? Probably not. If you’re only in the market for a performance four-door car that’s been completely built in Australia, we’re probably not going to be able to keep you.”

Adding more power to the SportsCat came down to a cost-versus-benefits equation as well as issues around emissions requirements, according to Mr Jackson.

“The cost complexity for a minor power increase, and the impact to other elements, it didn’t make sense,” he said.

“Feedback from customers was that it’s about the total package. Traditional customers were about ‘power, power, power’, but now it’s the total package that’s important,” he said.

Pricing is yet to be announced for the pair, which will go on sale early in 2018. The Z71 costs $57,190 before on-road costs in automatic form, so expect the SportsCat to carry a premium, placing it somewhere between $60,000 and $70,000.

The most expensive dual-cab on the market, for now, is the more powerful Volkswagen Amarok V6 Ultimate at $67,990, but flagship versions of the imminent Mercedes-Benz X-Class are likely to exceed that..

It will go head to head with the incoming Ford Ranger Raptor, which is expected to launch later in 2018 and offer similar levels of power and chassis development.

Mr Jackson indicated that more that 50 per cent of the mix will lean towards the higher spec model, while he estimated sales to be “less than” 2000 units a year.

The SportsCat differs from the regular Colorado externally by dint of a revised grille, new LED spotlights and lower valance, stock wheel flares for the SportsCat and more aggressive versions and a bulged bonnet for the SportsCat+, and machined trims for the rear tray’s rollover bar supports.

The rear end is unchanged, save for the addition of a large trim decal and a strut for the tailgate, while a cantilevered quick-release hard tonneau cover is unique to the HSV. A pair of accessory mounting rails is also built into the tonneau cover.

Both versions use the same 18x10-inch forged alloy rim, with the SportsCat+ using a machined face version of the dark grey wheel. Bespoke Cooper all-terrain tyres are used on both variants, with a full size spare mounted on a custom wedge to improve the SportsCat’s departure angle measurement in off-road conditions.

The main changes come in the area of suspension set-up, with both versions sitting 25mm higher in the front on stiffer springs than the Z71. Re-valved Tenneco dampers – as used by HSV in the ClubSport R8 – are standard on both versions, while the SportsCat+ offers bespoke, large-diameter remote-canister dampers from Adelaide company Supashock as an option.

The top spec ute also uses a decoupling device on the rear sway bar, which disconnects the bar when low-range 4x4 is selected to aid articulation of the rear wheel. Rear springs are still leaf.

Larger four-piston AP Racing brakes are fitted to the front of the SportsCat+, but drum brakes are retained on both models in the rear.

HSV has also recalibrated the Colorado’s stability and traction control systems, along with its ABS capability.

Both utes retain a 3500kg braked trailer towing capacity, although payload capacity is slightly reduced thanks to the extra weight of the vehicle.

Inside, the front seats are rebuilt to HSV specifications from stock items, while the dash, steering wheel and gear shifters in both the six-speed manual and six-speed automatic versions are retrimmed in a combination of leather and suede.

The dash and steering wheel are retrimmed on the line in Thailand, while the seats, dash trim and centre console bin lid is done at HSV in Melbourne.

Both pick-ups offer an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio, remote window activation, remote start (on the auto only) and a seven-speaker audio, as well as driver technology aids like rain sensing wipers, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, front and rear park assist, rearview camera and seven airbags.

GoAuto tested the SportsCat+ briefly in the confines of the Mt Cotton driver training facility in Queensland, where the changes to the suspension system revealed themselves to be the real point of difference.

The SportsCat sits more firmly on the road, exhibiting markedly flatter composure during cornering exercises. The SupaShock-equipped utes are firmer than the base spec cars, but the damping is more sophisticated and active as speeds increase.

Steering has not been recalibrated, but feel from behind the wheel is definitely improved, thanks to the chassis tweaks.

The AP brakes are mated to a larger diameter master cylinder, which give the brake pedal a higher, firmer feel when compared to the stock Colorado. It is a shame that the rear end could not be upgraded to complement the front.

A steep, rutted off-road track was no match for the auto SportsCat+, with the decoupled rear bar helping the tyres find extra traction in bigger holes. The Colorado also offers a hill descent function. The wheel and tyre package, too, performed well in the rough, but we were unable to drive the SportsCat over regular terrain to get a read on the vehicle’s on-road composure.

Inside, it is very much a Colorado. The rebuilt seats are only marginally different at first glance to stock items, but offer a slightly lower, deeper stance. The steering wheel is not adjustable for reach, which does compromise driver position a little.

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