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Where are the true performance utes?

By Matt Raudonikis, 23 Jun 2018 Opinion

Where are the true performance utes?

The recent spat of performance utes isn't striking a chord with the editor

In the fifth 4X4 Shed update on our Nissan Patrol I talk about not missing something until it’s gone.

In specific, the many comfort and convenience features of the Ti-L Patrol that many potential buyers would deem unnecessary, but are taken for granted when you drive such a car. I just got back into the Patrol after a month of driving a slew of gutless mid-sized utes, and the idea of not missing it ’til it’s gone couldn’t ring truer.

From the ease of entry through a big door opening, to a spacious and well-appointed cabin, and then that stonking 5.6-litre V8 performance, the Patrol is a very hard act to follow indeed. Especially when you consider that none of the popular 4x4 utes can match the Patrol in any of these aspects.

We share our offices with the crews from Wheels and MOTOR magazines and I often hear the terms performance utes and sports utes bandied around the joint.

Back when Ford and Holden were still making great two-wheel-drive utes locally you could get away with such terms, but you can’t apply it to any of the factory production 4x4 utes. Those 2WD Ford and Holden utes proved there is a market for hot-rod versions of them and again, they are missed now that they are gone.

While many 2WD ute buyers may be switching to 4x4 mid-size utes, they’ll be sorely disappointed by the performance of the lazy diesel engines. It astounds me why the manufacturers haven’t brought out petrol, V8-powered variants to serve the market what it is sorely missing. Thankfully the aftermarket is answering the call, but it isn’t the same – or affordable, for some.

Opinion: The future of the 'ute' in Australia

Ford, Holden, Nissan and Toyota all have modern V8 engines that would slot right into the current crop of 4x4 utes, but none of them have the balls to do it. General Motors has in its LS/LT range of petrol V8s – what is arguably the best, most versatile internal-combustion engine ever made – and it goes well into any vehicle, 4x4 utes included.

The modern GM V8 is relatively light and compact thanks to its aluminium block and heads and single cam-in-block construction. There’s no bulk of overhead camshafts, no unnecessary and unreliable turbochargers to get in the way or fail, and no bloody DPFs, AdBlue or other crap to mess you around. Just pure, efficient performance.

Also in the news: Harrop Engineering unleashes LS-powered Colorado

In the meantime, the car companies will serve up another Black Edition or sticker pack ute to fool the masses.