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2018 HSV SportsCat+ review

By Ryan Lewis, 22 May 2018 Reviews

2018 HSV SportsCat+ review

Holden Special Vehicles has lobbed a modified ute into its dealerships with turbo-diesel power under the bonnet. Can this be a good thing?

WHAT IS IT

In simplistic terms this spruced up dual-cab ute and its regular SportsCat (non-plus) sibling are the only HSVs on sale now Holden has ceased Commodore manufacture. There’s a subtle hint in its ‘proper’ name – Holden Colorado SportsCat+ by HSV – that Holden Special Vehicles has perhaps tried to put a little distance between this off-the-script departure and the brand name synonymous with Holden’s most desirable V8 sedans.

Nevertheless, this flagship Colorado has been on the receiving end of extensive re-engineering by HSV in all areas other than the one you might expect – power. Instead its $68,990 asking price as tested here (an $11,800 premium over the Colorado Z71 it’s based on) buys suspension, braking and styling enhancements honed by the team at Clayton.

Read next: Holden Colorado SportsCat+ by HSV quick review

WHY WE’RE TESTING IT

Dual cab utes are the most popular passenger cars in Australia, and a huge number of those being bought for both work and play are range-topping variants like this SportsCat+. Holden is up against it with such fierce competition in the segment, but could the expertise of HSV give Colorado an edge?

MAIN RIVALS

Ford Ranger Wildtrak, Toyota Hilux Rogue, Volkswagen Amarok TDI550 Ultimate, Nissan Navara ST-L, Mitsubishi Triton Exceed, Mercedes-Benz X250d

THE WHEELS VERDICT

While it’s not the HSV we know, SportsCat+ is more than just a collection of aftermarket bits bolted to a normal Colorado. There is engineering prowess at play here. Keen drivers won’t be flocking to it, but as a dual-purpose vehicle the SportsCat is more enjoyable on-road than other dual-cab utes, and has more off-road credibility than a normal Colorado to boot.

PLUS: Improved on- and off-road capability, road presence, clever de-coupling rear swaybar
MINUS: Same engine outputs as Colorado, silly name, hefty price premium

THE WHEELS REVIEW

THEY say America is the land of second acts. It might be the only place on earth where a heavily accented Austrian bodybuilder can make a Hollywood fortune then reinvent himself as a politician and govern the state that made him famous.

Read next: 2018 Holden Colorado SportsCat by HSV claws at new territory

Arnie’s metamorphosis could provide inspiration at a tough time for the folks at Holden Special Vehicles. Transformation is precisely what the local outfit is going through post Commodore, but a wary and judgemental Australian public means its second coming as a dual-cab ute vendor comes with a few unique hazards.

It only takes one glance at McPhillamy Park on the first weekend in October to see dual-cabs are precisely what once typical HSV customers are now driving. Ford and Toyota trucks dominate the Bathurst campground as well as the Aussie sales chart, and now HSV has entered the fray with the SportsCat.

Its full moniker is in fact Holden Colorado SportsCat by HSV. The awkward suffix suggests there’s a little discomfort at Clayton about going all-in with the HSV branding even though SportsCat is the only product in its dealerships for the time being.

Keeping it at arms-length may be due to the fact it makes no more power than a standard Colorado: 147kW and 440Nm with a manual ‘box, or 500Nm with the optional six-speed auto ($2200). There’s nothing wrong with the burly 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel in this application, but it’s a big departure for HSV, especially left untouched.

That’s not to say HSV has sat on its hands here. Both versions – SportsCat ($60,790) and SportsCat+ ($66,790) – have received extensive suspension, braking and styling upgrades to make them better on- and off-road. More than half of all buyers are expected to go for the pricier SportsCat+, as tested here.

It’s the more heavily stylised of the pair, and includes a non-functional bonnet bulge and optional rear sail-plane ($1300) inspired by ski boats. A lower bash plate, LED lamps and twin tow hooks add utility as well as road presence.

Read next: HSV’s odd but not forgotten back catalogue

Ride height has grown 25mm with a front suspension lift (to even out rake), and a taller 285/60R18 Cooper tyre developed with HSV adds another 10mm for total ground clearance of 251mm. Arch extensions house 18x10-inch forged alloys and keep the 30mm wider track within check. Strut bracing inside the arches adds rigidity, and a larger (33mm) front swaybar and the presence of a rear swaybar (22mm) in the SportsCat+ offer better cornering support.

On road the uprated suspension brings clear handling improvements, with better body control than expected from this class of vehicle without a pronounced impact on the somewhat rough and ready ride comfort that’s par for the course in this category. Buyers flush with cash can option even tougher SupaShock suspension ($3600) with external oil reservoirs similar to those in the HSV GTSR W1.

Increased approach and departure angles of 32 and 24 degrees respectively up SportsCat's off-road cred compared to Colorado, as does its standard rear swaybar that electronically decouples when low-range is selected to allow for full rear-axle articulation. Four-piston AP Racing brake calipers clamp 362mm front rotors, and a larger master cylinder reduces the necessary pedal travel for greater feel. The stoppers work well considering the 2274kg heft they’re arresting.

Read next: HSV GTSR W1 #1 saved from the crusher!

But this is obviously not a sports car, and still needs armfuls of steering to wind lock to lock. The rubber at each corner hangs on reasonably well at normal road speeds, but squeals early in faster cornering. Still, when driven like a dual cab should be it’s a more competent package than a regular Colorado.

HSV points out that while enthusiasts can bolt aftermarket parts to a Colorado for a seemingly similar result to the SportsCat, it takes a company like HSV to tune the electronic systems to optimally support those modifications, something it has done with the ESC for all three drive modes (2WD High, 4WD High and 4WD Low).

Sports seats inside feature a unique HSV base with larger bolsters trimmed in leather and suede with red stitching. It’s otherwise standard Colorado Z71 fare including Apple and Android connectivity, 8.0-inch screen, reversing camera, lane departure warning and remote start. Unique personalisation options for SportsCat include a tub liner, load master and roof rack. Integrated rails on the hard tonneau cover and inside the tray accommodate a variety of accessories.

Read next: HSV has ‘hundreds’ of GTS, GTSR models left

Few could have known 30 years ago that HSV was effectively building a house on sand by focusing on a single large sedan. SportsCat may seem a bit like a stab in the dark in Commodore’s immediate wake, but the execution is good enough that, with time, it could prove a solid foundation for HSV’s reinvention.

SPECS

Model: Holden Colorado SportsCat+ by HSV
Engine: 2776cc 4cyl, 16v, dohc, turbo-diesel
Max power: 147kW @ 3600rpm
Max torque: 500Nm @ 2000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 2274kg
0-100km/h: 10.5sec (estimated)
Economy: 9.1L/100km
Price: $68,990
On sale: Now