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Opinion: Can dual-cab utes be performance cars?

By Dylan Campbell, 01 Dec 2018 Features

Opinion Are we wrong to include performance dual-cab utes in MOTOR feature

Our December 2018 feature on "performance dual-cab utes" has left us wondering if this genre has proper MOTOR pedigree

The spectrum of possible feelings when driving a car is incredibly broad. In something like a Porsche 911 GT2 RS, with 515kW and rear-wheel drive, there’s a thrill bordering on terror experiencing full throttle no matter how many times you’ve done so. In a car like a Subaru BRZ, there is a dewy satisfaction derived from the sublime steering or dancy, on-the-limit handling.

Fun, meanwhile, is a cousin of, but not the same as, excitement, and is interesting for not being limited to vehicles with lots of power or even amazing handling – you can have a lot of fun in a gigantic long wheelbase Renault Trafic van in the right circumstances.

Such abstract thoughts flitted through my mind and those of the MOTOR team as we pondered testing the Ford Ranger Raptor and Holden Colorado SportsCat by HSV. Nevermind the old HSV Clubsport which started life as a passenger car, both these rigs started off as proper tradie’s workhorses.

Both weigh a bomb. Both are diesels. And both are not quick at all. Never mind a Toyota 86 or Mazda MX-5, these two would very likely lose a drag race with a fat jogger at the lights if such an entertaining comparison presented itself.

But they offer performance. And no, not wheel articulation or traction at crawling speeds, or wading depths, approach or departure angles, but performance at high speeds, even if it just takes a bit longer to get there.

In the Ranger Raptor, its FOX Racing dampers let you drive basically as fast as you want over the worst of dirt roads, enjoying understeer and oversteer in what is a large, lumbering car as it asks as much of your driving ability as any other vehicle in these pages.

Then there are the jumps. Completely pointless, but utterly hilarious. The last time I jumped a car was my paddock basher when I was 16. In the Ranger Raptor, you charge at a mound of earth with the throttle pinned, the front end absorbs the initial impact without so much as a thud, before you float silently through the air in what feels like slow motion, landing surprisingly softly almost entirely thanks to that tricky suspension. Jumping the Raptor, I have not laughed as hard in a car since likely my old paddock basher.

Now, don’t get us wrong, the Raptor would be a tyre-howling fish-out-of-water on a bitumen racetrack; and there is little fun to be had on a twisty sealed road. But on dirt? Bring it.

Some say the Raptor has the wrong engine, and a primal part of my brain does agree. Of course if it had a petrol V8 it would be more fun and a lot faster – but then it would cost a lot more. And a dual-cab ute can only handle so much power before it becomes almost dangerous – anyone who drove a TRD HiLux in the wet will attest to that.

Even if it was a rally-themed comparison test with sideways and jump shots galore, there will be those who disagree with our decision to feature the Ranger Raptor and HSV SportsCat in MOTOR. But if they don’t have much power, and relish being driven hard and fast, how do they differ in fundamental driving philosophy to cars like a Subaru BRZ or Mazda MX-5? It’s just in this case, there’s the extra catch of you probably will prefer being on dirt. Many would say dirt makes any car more fun no matter what it is.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this dual-cab ‘performance ute’ thing and whether it belongs in your magazine. Send us a note – motor@bauer-media.com.au.