Holden did something rash earlier in the year, asking keen surfcaster Bruce Basher to put the Colorado Z71 model through its paces in the unforgiving terrain of the Far North. Will this great-looking wagon remain in good shape, and will Bruce give it back afterwards?
Like most people I love surprises, especially the pleasant ones! Such a surprise came in the form of the Holden Colorado Z71 the NZ Fishing News team had as transport for the 2016 Snapper Bonanza Surfcasting Contest. Knowing it is fitted with a 2.8-litre Duramax 2 diesel engine, it would be interesting to see how the Z71 model stacked up against its 3-litre and 3.2-litre rivals.
We loaded our fishing gear up at Schofield Motors, Great South Road, the cavernous deck with a lockable soft cover swallowing all the gear with room to spare. The friendly sales team not only pitched in, they also spent quite some time explaining all the controls and features, and even paired up my cell phone to the onboard Bluetooth system.
Then, loaded to the hilt, we headed out on the Northern Motorway – and this is where the biggest surprise came, with the Duramax engine making its presence felt in a big way, as it did throughout the whole nine-day test. In fact, this 2.8 diesel motor turned out to be the gruntiest and most willing I’ve ever encountered. (And to do the whole test, fully loaded, for an average fuel-consumption figure of 10.8 litres per hundred kilometres makes it even more extraordinary!)
Holden markets the vehicle with an ‘unbeaten 3.5-tonne towing capacity and an equally powerful 500Nm of torque – absolute power and performance’; over the period of the test I came to believe every word.
The six-speed auto transmission was well matched ratio-wise, and gear changes were almost seamless. Couple this with handling and suspension that any well-bred sedan would be proud of, and you have a sedan in utility clothing with the Z71.
But of course that’s not all: add a whole truck-load of safety features into the mix – far too many to list here – and it’s really easy to see why the Colorado range boasts an unbeatable five-star ANCAP safety rating.
One of the many features really stood out for me as a recreational user: the Z71 is fitted with roof rails, making fitting my own universal roof racks for our extra-long beach spikes and Kane and Jim’s long, two-piece rods easy. This feature should be fitted to all utility vehicles as standard equipment; it will also suit trade users such as plumbers, builders, electricians etc – anyone who needs to carry longer loads. After all, it is a utility vehicle isn’t it?
By the time we reached our destination at The Ninety Mile Beach Holiday Park, my co-pilot Steve Bryan and I were particularly happy with the vehicle’s stable and precise performance on the road – a very relaxing drive indeed. So we had something to look forward to: the next day we were going to see how it stacked up as an offroader!
We drove onto East Beach around 5am the next morning, a lack of sleep due to travel and anticipation of some hot fishing perhaps to blame for what happened soon after.
East Beach is well known for its soft and vehicle-bogging sand, and a couple of hundred metres onto the beach we found ourselves in real trouble, with the engine losing power when we needed it most; at one point I started wondering how I was going to tell Holden that their new vehicle had become part of Far North’s tidal zone!
Then Steve and I woke up about the same time. Turn off the traction-control electronic-stability systems! This feature comes on by default whenever the vehicle is started, and is probably the most valuable safety feature of the modern era. However, while the electronic stability and traction control systems are great for on-road conditions, automatically taking drive from slipping wheels and dropping engine power to prevent the vehicle from losing control on metal or wet, slippery roads, in off-road situations it can get the vehicle stuck very quickly – as we were currently finding out!
The moment Steve hit the ‘off button’ on the dash, the difference in performance was impressive, with the Holden commencing to chew through the sand with very little effort. I was so relieved, I nearly stuck my elbow out the window and put my hat on backwards!
Just as well we’d sorted things, too, because about 200 metres later the headlamps picked out a 20-metre strip of extra-soft sand.
A mess of deep tyre marks indicating that others had struggled or got stuck…
No trouble for the ‘born again’ Colorado though, despite still being on road-tyre pressure. All we noticed was a drop of about 300 revs per minute, then the transmission selecting a lower gear. Most of that 500Nm of torque was having an easy time.
Another aspect I like is how the Colorado’s 4WD engagement dial is sensibly placed on the console just behind the gear lever, enabling high range to be engaged ‘on the fly’ at speeds up to 100km/h. It’s great to be able to drop the left hand off the steering wheel onto the dial without taking your eyes off the road or having to grope for it on the dash – especially when suddenly encountering metal or heavily corrugated country roads.
There’s a lot more to like about the Colorado Z71 though – especially the double-cab configuration, which is fast becoming a very successful ‘one size fits all’ design. Why have a car, an off-roader, and a truck, when all you need is one double-cab Colorado?
Over the nine days of testing I did manage to find a couple of niggles to moan about, although neither affected me personally. The first concerns the steering column, which has plenty of height adjustment but does not extend or contract for very short or tall drivers. It was just right for Steve and me, though.
The second gripe involves the speedo and tacho; admittedly Steve needs reading glasses for smaller numbers or letters, but he found the numbers too small to read. Perhaps a ‘heads up’ display is an option? Mind you, there are plenty of aftermarket units that will do the trick.
IN SHORT, the Colorado range leaves no room for previously successful competitors to rest on their laurels; I can see a lot of new sales going the way of this great machine. With apologies to Julius Caesar: ‘Beware the Ides of Colorado!’
For anyone who’d like to bone up on all the technical stuff, and there’s plenty of it, go to www.schofieldholden.co.nz. Readers should also note that Holden has released an updated model of the Z71 since this review.
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