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The cars that GMSV should (and shouldn’t) bring to Australia

By Ash Westerman, 09 Sep 2020 Features

The cars that GMSV should (and shouldn’t) bring to Australia

The American metal we want – and the stuff the Yanks can keep

So HSV as we knew it is no more, and instead selected vehicles from the GM empire will come Down Under via the newly established General Motors Specialty Vehicles (GMSV).

The cars we know are locked in for 2021 are the C8 Corvette plus the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and 2500. Beyond, that, though, the senior executives at GMSV are not saying.

So let’s have a comb through the GM catalogue, and consider what’s available, what we’d like to see make it here, and assess the likelihood of viability in the Aussie market.

Read next: HSV officially confirms transformation into GMSV for Australia

Model: Chevrolet Tahoe

The all-new fifth-gen Tahoe retains a separate chassis, or body-on-frame construction, (as opposed to monocoque) which makes it well-suited to owners towing vans or boats. With the Holden Trailblazer set to bite the dust, this could serve as a useful (larger) seven-seater substitute.

Its rear suspension is independent, not a live axle, and when fully specced, the Tahoe can be had with magnetic dampers and air springs. US road tests reckon the ride is nothing like that of a typical separate-chassis SUV, even on the baller-spec 22-inch wheels.

In the US, the Tahoe is offered with a choice of three engines.

The opener is a 5.3-litre V8 making 266kW, while the top-spec model comes with a 6.2-litre V8 good for 315kW/624Nm; the engine we’re familiar with here thanks to the Silverado 1500. There’s also a new 3.0-litre turbo-diesel inline six, with all engines hooked to the 10-speed transmission co-developed with Ford (as fitted to the Mustang).

The Tahoe can also be specced with AWD, a two-speed transfer case, hill-descent control, all-terrain mode and front skid plate, giving it decent off-road ability. And as a tow rig? In the US, the Max Trailering Package adds a more robust radiator and cooling fan, plus hitch guidance and hitch view in the reversing camera, a package we reckon could find a welcome market here given the rise in van-dragging grey nomads.

Verdict: Bring it

Model: Chevrolet Suburban

Take everything we’ve just said about the Tahoe – separate chassis, IRS, option of active dampers, powertrain choice – and now just add even more hugeness.

This thing is a whopper – at 5732mm, it’s nearly 400mm longer than the XL-sized Tahoe – so no sane person dealing with inner-city streets and multi-story car parks would go near one.

Read next: A 500kW Chevrolet Silverado Aussie special is happening

But it does mean a third row that can accommodate adults, so it’s possible there’s a niche for it here for big families, hire-car companies and lovers of all things massive.

But enough to justify the whopper price tag ours would carry, once converted? In the US, a top-spec Suburban is around $US75,000, so don’t expect any change from $150,000 if GMSV was to offer it. 

Verdict: Ah, go on then, bring it.

Model: Cadillac CT4

This is the American premium brand’s competitor for the BMW 3 Series/ Audi A4/ Merc C-Class, but just as Genesis does here, Cadillac attempts to offer US customers higher engine outputs and a richer spec list for similar money to the Germans.

The top-spec CT4 V-Series, which would be the only model with a hope of finding a niche here, is built on GM’s Alpha architecture, and packs a more powerful version (242kW) of the 2.7-litre turbo four-cylinder engine, 10-speed auto along with mechanical limited-slip differential, Brembo brakes, magnetic ride control, 14-speaker Bose audio, and wireless phone charger, among other refinements.

Read next: Is GMC coming to Australia?

On paper, it looks like a more powerful rival for the Genesis G70 2.0T Ultimate, but the Korean offering is under $70,000, whereas the Cadillac is around US$45K in the States, which could translate to close to A$90K here.

Could GMSV find enough Aussies ready to drop that kind of money of a four-pot sports sedan to justify the cost and complexity of conversion? Unlikely, we reckon.

Verdict: Keep it.

Model: Cadillac CT5

Caddy’s 5 Series/ E-Class competitor ups the ante with the availability of a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 making 270kW and 550Nm when fitted to the most sporting of the line-up, the CT5 V.

These are pretty handy numbers when compared to the outputs achieved by BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz from their respective turbo-petrol sixes of the same capacity. CT5 V features similar performance equipment as little bro CT4 V, although the LSD is electronic, not mechanical.

It can be had with AWD, as per the CT4, although we’d question whether Aussies not living in the snowy pockets would really net significant benefit from it. But here’s the thing: in the US, the CT5 V is not massively more expensive than its four-pot junior sibling, so could that translate to a sub-$100K price tag from GMSV here in Oz? If so, it has our interest.

Verdict? Bring it.

Model: Cadillac XT6

There are currently five SUVs in the Cadillac line-up: the XT4, XT5, and XT6, before stepping up to the iconic big boy, the Escalade, and topping out with the massive Escalade ESV, a long-wheelbase beast seemingly built purely to chauffeur hip-hop stars and their entourages to night clubs.

The XT6 is the seven-seater option below Escalade, and is built on the same front/AWD platform as the soon-to-be-defunct Holden Acadia, and shares similar dimensions. Powertrain choice is limited to an atmo 3.6-litre V6 making 231kW and 367Nm, hooked to a nine-speed auto. So all a bit yawn-burger, as rivals roll out mild hybrid tech and PHEV alternatives delivering livelier performance and better consumption.

And therein lies the issue with the XT6 – it’s a competent, capable luxo SUV, but one that doesn’t really advance the cause enough to get us excited about it, especially given the (very) premium price tag it would carry by the time it was offered here as a right-hooker.

Verdict: Keep it.

Model: GMC Canyon

Here’s another GMC model that could potentially fill a void left by the Colorado as the Holden brand turns to dust. This one is classified as a ‘small pick-up’ in size-obsessed America, meaning it’s the right dimensions to be an alternative to Hilux, Ranger, et al.

In the US it’s offered with either a 3.6-litre petrol V6 making 231kW, or a version of the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four used in Colorado making similar outputs to the exiting Holden. And as you’d expect for a model made for ‘Murica, there’s the option to go rich on the spec, with 20-inch wheels, heated and ventilated seats, multi-speaker Bose audio, and ample driver aids all on the menu.

But given the emergence of Nissan’s N-Trek Warrior and Ford’s debut with the off-road-focused FX4 Ranger, we reckon the smarter play may be for GMSV to spec an Aussie-market Canyon with the dirty weekend package that brings 31-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tyres, 4WD with locking rear diff, two-speed AutoTrac transfer case, off-road suspension set-up, and more advanced hill descent control.

If the numbers for it crunched favourably, we’d bet that this one would find Aussie homes.

Verdict: Bring it

Model: Chevrolet Colorado ZR2

Think of this one as a 4x4 dual-cab ute from half a class size above our Colorado/Hilux/ Ranger and fitted with the sort of off-road hardware intended to make it more of a rival, in terms of bush-bashing ability, for the (smaller) Jeep Gladiator Rubicon.

In the US it’s offered with the same powertrain options as the GMC Canyon – atmo petrol 3.6-litre V6 or 2.8-litre turbo-diesel. Bushi bragging rights extend to Multimatic shocks specced to help provide up to 48mm more lift, front/rear electronic locking diffs, skid plates and rock sliders.

Given the obvious appetite for 4x4 utes larger than our mainstream offerings – witness Silverado and Ram – we’ll give this one the nod, although strictly for the rare few ready to get their circa $120K big rig down and dirty.

Verdict: Bring it

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