Introduction: The Desert Warrior
Two days after scooping up the keys to our new Holden colorado, it was off to Alice Springs for the Finke Desert Race.
IF THERE was one big mover among the nine four-wheel drive double-cab utes we had in the big test last month, it was the Holden Colorado.
The revisions to the long-serving model back in 2017 have elevated it from a back-of-the-pack player to one worth serious consideration if you’re in the double-cab ute market. The improvements in refinement, equipment, styling and, most of all, off-road ability have seen it climb up the leaderboard of this ultra-competitive segment.
We thought the improvements were so significant that it warranted a closer look, so we secured this Colorado LTZ for the next three months. We picked it up from Holden on a Friday, I packed it Saturday and on Sunday took off on a drive to Alice Springs to watch the Finke Desert Race – a 5000km round trip covering highways, back roads and the Oodnadatta Track.
The Colorado doesn’t have a 12-volt power outlet in the cargo tub like many other utes these days, but travelling solo meant I had plenty of interior space. With the backseat folded up I was able to secure a 47-litre ARB fridge and a power pack behind the driver’s seat and power them via the 12-volt outlet at the rear of the console.
Other soft goods took up the rest of the backseat, while a swag, stretcher, barbecue hotplate, chairs, table, firewood, saw and a large Space Case that holds most of my camping gear went in the tub. It all fitted neatly under the factory tonneau cover, which protected the load from rain but not dust. The fine red outback dust sucks in from the tailgate, as it does on all utes without aftermarket seals fitted, and left its signature over everything.
The Colorado LTZ’s 2.8-litre diesel engine is a grunty yet noisy little rattler that gets along well thanks to its abundance of torque and the quick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. With 500Nm on tap, this Italian-made mill is the torquiest four-cylinder engine in its class, beaten only by V6 diesels … for now.
More impressive than the grunt of the engine is the fuel economy. After our previous two long-termers – Y62 Patrol and the G-Professional Mercedes-Benz – the Colorado is a fuel miser. Average fuel use for the trip was 9.83L/100km, with the worst fuel numbers of 10.94L/100km scored on the 130km/h sections of the NT highway. On the highway run from Adelaide to Melbourne, it averaged 8.2L/100km.
With no time to replace the OE tyres on the LTZ’s 18-inch alloys before we left, I was concerned about the durability of them on the rougher sections of the Oodnadatta Track, so I was very careful as we travelled its length.
Shopping for an ute? Find the best in our 2018 Ute Test
Still, travelling at a fair clip I was constantly mindful of the tyres and the rocks on the track and checked them for damage each morning before leaving camp. It was with relief when we hit the highway at Marla not having to replace any of the tyres, which inspired confidence in the Bridgestone Dueler H/T 684s.
The OE suspension coped pretty well with the rough and tumble as well. Some sections of the track were pretty corrugated and had my Land Cruiser-driving mate complaining about the conditions. The Colorado wasn’t fazed by them; although, the leaf-sprung live rear end was prone to kick out a bit as you crossed over them, but you expect that of a mid-size truck.
The Colorado LTZ applied itself well as an outback tourer: it was comfortable, economical, carried the load well and didn’t let me down.
If I was going to be using it in this terrain more regularly I’d be fitting some tougher tyres for more confidence in their dependability, some frontal protection in the form of a bullbar, and a dual-battery system to keep the cans cold in the fridge. The weight of those accessories would probably warrant a suspension upgrade as well, but in stock-standard guise this Holden goes all right.
Any journey is an adventure with 4x4 Shed
4x4 Shed Log 1: 2018 Holden Colorado LTZ
Current mileage: 10,513km
Date acquired: June 2018
Price: $50,490 + ORC
Mileage this month: 5463km
Average fuel consumption: 9.53L/100km
Update 1: Living' the commuter life
Swapping outback dust for around-town duties
DOUBLE-CAB utes are the multi-tool of the four-wheel drive world. They are made to do everything from outback touring, family commuting, towing, hauling a load and heading off-road. We ticked off the outback touring part of the equation last month when we took the Colorado LTZ to Alice Springs and back via Oodnadatta and the Finke Desert Race, and it performed impeccably in those conditions.
This month it played the commuter: running around town, picking up crap and doing general ute stuff. As a load-lugger it has continued its excellent performance; we haven’t had anything heavy stored in the back, but the tie-down points are well-positioned and easy to use and the plastic bedliner protects the metal tray from scratches. We’re still getting the outback dust out of it, though.
The Colorado is proving to be a convenient vehicle to get about town in, but any dual-cab is long – generally upwards of five metres – and the Holden is no exception. As such, it generally overhangs most city parking spaces. However, parking is made easier with the standard rear-view camera and sensors on the front to warn you when you’re getting too close.
General visibility from the driver’s seat isn’t great, but it’s on par with any of these late-model utes. The doors come up high and the A-pillars are thick and swept back; both these traits restrict vision around the car. The cabin is also average for the class, as most dual-cabs lack a big driver’s compartment.
I can’t sit up straight without my hair rubbing the roof (185cm), but there is plenty of elbow room, adequate leg room and the seat is comfortable and remained so on the long haul.
Standard sat-nav, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay all make living with the Colorado easy, both on the highway and around town; although, another USB outlet in addition to the single one in the console would be appreciated.
Holden did a great job improving the refinement of the Colorado with the 2017 makeover, even making changes to the four-cylinder Duramax diesel engine, but it remains noisy and harsh. It has a niggling vibration at around the 1500rpm mark, which is where the engine cruises on at 80km/h – a small annoyance, not a deal breaker. All four-cylinder diesels are the same, so it comes back to how well the vehicle isolates it.
The Duramax’s 500Nm is really appreciated around town as it delivers snappy off-the-mark acceleration, which is great for pulling out of side streets and into moving traffic – this punchy performance more than makes up for the niggling NVH.
That 500Nm figure makes the Duramax the most powerful four-cylinder diesel in the class for now, until Ford’s bi-turbo 2.0-litre lands later this year; but the Duramax does it with a single turbocharger and more capacity. It’s somewhat economical, too, delivering 11.29L/100km around town over the past month.
Jacked, prepped, and driven on 4x4 Shed
4x4 Shed Log 2: 2018 Holden Colorado LTZ
Current mileage: 11,472km
Mileage this month: 959km
Average fuel consumption: 11.29L/100km
Update 2: Conclusion
The time has come to give our Holden Colorado back, but we certainly made the most of our time with it.
TIME flies when you’re racking up kays, and we sure racked ’em up over the three months we had the Colorado with us. That time is now done and, while I’m still not a huge fan of double-cab utes, the Holden did give me an appreciation of their versatility.
The Colorado showed its broad depth of uses: we took it up the Oodnadatta Track to Alice Springs as soon as we got it; it ferried people, bikes and gear around in Melbourne between trips; and then we took it up to Queensland for a bit of island-hopping between North Stradbroke and Fraser Island. More than 11,000km over all kinds of terrain in three months isn’t bad-going for any car.
The two most impressive things about the Colorado were its performance and fuel economy. The VM Motori-sourced 2.8-litre diesel engine which GM labels ‘Duramax’ remains a bit rattly and harsh despite extensive updates made to it in 2017, but it makes up for any NVH issues when you put your foot down and pull-up at the high-flow pump.
With 500Nm on tap the engine is the class-leader for four-cylinder diesels in utes, only recently matched by Ford’s new bi-turbo 2.0-litre mill. Yet we’ve sampled the new Ford engine in both the Ranger Raptor and Everest, and the GM product sure feels punchier than either Ford when you give it the berries.
Be it shooting out of side streets around town, overtaking road trains on the highway, or charging through heavy sand with a load of firewood in the back, the Colorado never felt lacking.
The performance doesn’t come with a cost at the fuel pump, either. On the 100km/h highways the Colorado averaged in the high 8.0L/100km bracket, and that would edge up to the mid-9s on the 110 and 130km/h highways. Around town it was recording 11s, with an overall average of 10.3L/100km for its full stint with us.
The LTZ-spec is reasonably comfortable and well-equipped for road trips. Apple CarPlay links your tunes and phone to the car; although, having just the single USB port was annoying at times – at least one more would be appreciated.
The cabin is still a bit small for my large frame (or a family with teenage kids), but with no full-size truck available here with factory RHD, these mid-size units will have to do. They are also half the price of imported and converted full-size trucks.
The Colorado is one of the few utes in its class that doesn’t have a factory-fitted rear diff lock as standard, and in the past this has severely limited its off-road ability on steep, rutted tracks. But the calibration changes made to the electronic traction control for the 2017 updates went a long way to negating the need for a locker and the ETC does a great job under most conditions.
As seen in the recently released Colorado Z71 Extreme model, Holden has got its act together with factory accessories, which include five-star safety-approved protection bars, LED and HID lighting, underbody protection, a Warn winch offering, tow bars, styling kit, canvas seat covers, storage solutions and load coverings.
The only non-factory item we fitted to our LTZ was a set of Nitto Trail Grappler tyres for the Queensland trip, for some added dependability. For a standard vehicle on factory suspension, the Colorado coped very well, particularly on the rough Oodnadatta Track.
As a double-cab 4x4 ute, Holden’s Colorado does a fine job of it. Versatility, performance and economy are its strong points, with good factory and aftermarket support to kit it up to your likings. The current version jumped up the rankings in our most recent ute comparison test, and this long-termer verified our findings.
On-road, off-road, and everything in between on 4x4 Shed
4x4 Shed Log 3: 2018 Holden Colorado LTZ
Current mileage: 17,265km
Mileage this month: 5793km
Average fuel consumption: 9.8L/100km