Monthly Archives: April 2013

Regular Truck Jungle readers would be aware that locally complianced, RHD versions of Toyota’s Tundra US pickup truck are now available in Australia through specialist importers, which makes the ‘Tundra Sportsman’ design concept of more interest to Aussie truck buyers.

The Tundra Sportsman, which appeared at the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas, pushes the creative boundaries of a ute, serving double-duty as the ultimate sportsman fantasy transport and base camp.

The unique show truck began life as a Tundra Double Cab 4×4 equipped with the standard 5.7-litre DOHC V8 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission.

Modifications include a 3.0-inch suspension lift kit, custom air intake and snorkel, custom exhaust with pipes exiting the roof-top deck for improved water-crossing capability and ATX 18-inch Teflon-coated wheels fitted with 33 x 12.5-inch mud tyres.

Inside the truck is designed to be a command centre, with field electronics including a weather station and GPS. Bucket seats are upholstered in waterproof material and the standard 10-speaker JBL sound system is supplemented by JBL all-weather outdoor speakers.

Extensive modifications to the cargo bed create three unique zones, with equipment concealed and protected by a fabricated shell.

On the driver side, the entire bed side swings out to a 90-degree angle from the truck. It incorporates a work bench for cleaning essential gear. The passenger side of the bed incorporates cabinets and a closet, while the tailgate section includes a mobile kitchen with a small stove, sink and work surface, storage for cooking utensils and a built-in 26.5-litre water tank.

On top of the camper shell and cab, an 8.0 square metre platform accommodates a two-person tent as well as a camouflage blind.

Plenty of interesting ideas here. Makes you wonder what we could do with a dual-cab Hilux or 70 Series. TJ

 

The Isuzu D-MAX was today announced winner of the 2013 Australian 4WD Action Magazine’s Ute of the Year, along with two international awards.

Widely respected as one of Australia’s toughest 4×4 ute tests, the D-MAX triumphed over most of its main competitors in Australia’s one-tonne ute segment (why no Mitsubishi Triton?) which included the Toyota HiLux, Mazda BT-50, Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara, Holden Colorado and Volkswagen Amorok.

“Judging criteria for the 4WDer’s Ute of the Year was simple – we wanted to test the vehicles in a way that mimics how they’d be used in real life,” said Australian 4WD Action’s editor, Brendan Seymour.

“This meant loading them almost to their GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass), and then putting them through their paces in every off-road terrain imaginable, from mud to steep hills, sand and long stretches at higher speeds. Finally, we enlisted the help of seven real 4WDers to test the vehicles like only a true 4WDer can – and the D-MAX came out on top,” he added.

Not only did the Isuzu D-MAX pick up the overall award, but it also proved the most fuel efficient of the seven utes tested.

Giving further insight to the comprehensive assessment regime, tester Steven Collins explained; “We broke the off-road performance portion of the judging down into five categories and scored each ute based on how they performed off-road. We then compared and scored fuel economy (as tested), purchase price, running costs per year (comprehensive insurance and servicing) and payload to determine the final outcome.”

Today’s accolade comes hot on the heels of two recent international gongs for the Euro-spec Isuzu D-MAX –  ’4×4 Vehicle of the Year’ as voted by readers of Auto Bild Magazine in Germany and the ’2013 Vans A2Z Pick-Up of the Year Award’ in the UK.

The Auto Bild award is Europe’s version of Australia’s ‘Car of the Year’ awards and is organized by the continent’s most widely read automotive magazine. Based on a poll of more than 100,000 readers, the new Isuzu D-MAX took the honours in the imported pick-up category.

In winning the 2013 Vans A2Z ‘Pick-up of the Year’ award in London, the Vans A2Z team noted: “Unlike the latest generation pick-ups from Ford and Volkswagen, it retains the external dimensions of the traditional one-tonne truck and is all the better for it … it feels more nimble and less bulky to drive, while retaining an impressive work ethic.” Couldn’t have said it better ourselves. TJ

Engine: 2.8 litre Duramax in-line four cylinder common rail-direct injection turbo-diesel

Power: 132kW @ 3800 rpm   Torque: 470Nm @ 2000 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic with sequential manual shift option

Construction: Body-on-frame

Suspension: (F) upper and lower wishbone, coil springs (R) coil springs, live axle

Towing: 3.0 tonne (braked)

Economy: 9.1 litres/100 kms

Price: $50,490

Overview

We’ve always liked the concept of a big, chunky truck-based wagon like the Colorado 7. By ‘truck-based’ we mean an SUV that adheres to the traditional body-on-frame structure that all genuine heavy-duty 4×4 off roaders and hard-working pickup trucks have stuck to since the truck was invented.

Some ill-informed types might sneeringly call this traditional way of building trucks ‘old school’ but if you’ve ever ventured further off road than the dirt shoulder or carried/towed some big loads then you’ll appreciate why manufacturers of trucks large and small stick to this time-proven design.

Fact is, the integral body-chassis unit used in the construction of cars and light-duty SUVs just can’t match the strength, load-carrying capacity and durability of a traditional ladder-type chassis frame.

Holden’s Colorado 7 is a good example of what we reckon a seven-seater truck-based wagon should be. It was designed in parallel with the latest Colorado one-tonne ute (below), so it features the same rugged body-on-frame design, front suspension and drivetrain.

However, it differs in some key areas. Beyond the obvious differences in body styles, the Colorado 7 is 250mm shorter in wheelbase (C7 2845mm vs 3096mm), 469mm shorter in overall length (C7 4878mm vs 5347mm) but 249mm wider (C7 2131mm vs 1882mm).

It’s also 64 kgs heavier than the Colorado one-tonner (C7 2117 kgs vs 2053 kgs). So make no mistake – this is a big vehicle.

The shorter wheelbase makes little difference to the ramp break-over angle (22 degrees) and its approach angle (30 degrees) and departure angle (22 degrees) are identical to the ute.

While both models share the same independent coil-sprung double wishbone front suspension, Colorado 7 features a unique five-link, coil sprung live axle rear suspension in preference to the one tonne pickup’s more rigid and harsh-riding leaf springs.

This results in a smoother ride for passengers but also a 500 kg drop in peak towing capacity from the pickup’s 3.5 tonnes to 3.0 tonnes.

Models & Features

The Colorado 7 is available in two grades – entry level LT and top level LTZ. The LT buyer actually gets a pretty good deal in terms of not missing out on much of the stuff that matters compared to the up-spec model.

Only one powertrain and transmission combination is available, with the Duramax 2.8-litre 132kW/470Nm four cylinder turbo-diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission with Active Select (manual shift option).

Colorado 7 also shares the ANCAP five-star safety rating of its Crew Cab pickup stable-mate, with dual front airbags and full-length curtain airbags that extend to the third row of seating as standard equipment.

These passive safety features are backed by the usual array of dynamic safety features including Electronic Stability Control (ESC) incorporating Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Traction Control System (TCS).

Both models also share the pickup’s part-time 4×4 system with a two-speed shift-on-the-fly transfer case and limited slip diff, but get two extra features that the ute doesn’t have which are really useful off road including Descent Control System (DCS) and Hill Start Assist (HSA).

The key visual differences between LT and LTZ are most noticeable in the wheel packages, with 16-inch alloys on the LT and 18-inchers on the LTZ. The up-spec model also gets the usual up-spec bling like leather seat trim, electric driver’s seat, fancy lighting, more chrome etc.

However, the LT buyer doesn’t miss out on useful features like a reversing camera (which handily displays in the rear view mirror), Rear Park Assist (ie audible warnings), roof-mounted air conditioning controls with air vents for the second and third rows of seats, side steps and roof rails.

It also gets leather steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity and USB port, six-speaker audio system, multi-function steering wheel controls and rear auxiliary power outlet.

So if daily practicality and rugged off road use is more important than chrome and leather (which is probably going to get trashed in the bush anyway), the LT makes plenty of sense because it’s cheaper than the LTZ.

Our test vehicle

We sampled an LT model prior to getting our hands on an LTZ, mainly to compare equipment levels as their performance is the same. The silver Colorado 7 LTZ is featured in our test shots.

What will it carry?

Let’s start with the human cargo. The quality of seating doesn’t decline as noticeably from the ‘first class’ front seats to the ‘economy class’ back seats as some seven-seater SUVs we’ve trialled.

In fact, we’re happy to report that comfort for those sitting in the third row is relatively good, provided you’re not overly tall or wide. There’s sufficient head and shoulder room particularly for the kids (who usually ride there anyway) but what we really liked was the generous depth of the third row foot-well, which allows children and adult passengers of average size to sit with their thighs in a relaxed horizontal position and with sufficient knee room.

Some SUV third row seats have a flat floor in front of them to allow room underneath to store the seats away when not in use, but that means passengers have to sit with their knees raised, lower backs curved and their upper body weight concentrated on their bums – very uncomfortable.

By comparison, the Colorado 7’s third row seat-backs simply fold down flat when not in use, which eats into the available load space more but slightly favours passenger comfort over luggage capacity.

Which we reckon is a good thing, because a seven-seater should deliver on what its name suggests and provide SEVEN comfortable seats – not five with two after-thoughts down the back.

A deep foot-well, sufficient knee room and easy access makes life pretty comfortable for passengers seated in the third row.

With the second and third row seats folded down, Colorado 7 offers up to 1830 litres of cargo space and 30 separate storage options throughout the cabin.

The second row also has 60/40 split-folding seats which can be stowed in a forward tumble motion with a single latch in the seat back. This position also makes getting in and out of the third row really easy.

The second row seat-backs are also reclinable by up to six degrees, while the third row has a 50/50 split configuration. Both rows fold to create a flat load space.

Colorado 7 has a 235-litre rear cargo area with the third row in use (right size for a grocery shop) which increases to 878 litres with the third row folded into the floor. Additional storage is available with the second row tumbled (1780 litres) and even more when folded (1830 litres) with plenty of room to throw a mountain bike in.

Its maximum 3.0 tonne (braked) towing capacity may be 500 kgs less than the Colorado ute but it’s still a heavy-duty towing figure that matches – and in some cases exceeds – the peak tow ratings of several one-tonne utes on the market.

However, just like a one-tonne ute that is designed to carry a one-tonne payload, you must also take into account that this wagon is designed to carry up to seven passengers. And that these towing figures issued by manufacturers are based on a vehicle’s standard kerb weight with a full tank of fuel but no passengers and/or luggage on board.

So load her up with seven passengers and you could instantly have a payload of more than half a tonne, which drops your 3.0 tonne towing capacity down to less than 2.5 tonne. So, like any vehicle purchase, do your sums if you’re planning to tow something heavy with this jigger.

What’s it like to drive?

Like its Colorado and Isuzu D-Max one-tonne ute blood brothers, the Colorado 7’s truck building heritage has resulted in a very solid and robust feel with impressive rattle-free build quality and low road noise. Drop an ear to the ground and have a look underneath at those massive boxed chassis rails and cross-members if you want evidence.

With its softer riding coil spring suspension front and rear, it also displays the right ratio of sprung-to-unsprung weight with a compliant ride that soaks up bumps, pot holes and other road irregularities with greater poise than its leaf-sprung ute cousins and with minimal disruption to passengers.

With a hefty kerb weight of 2117 kgs, the LTZ wagon is 64 kgs heavier than the auto LTZ Colorado one-tonne ute (2053 kgs). We assume that most of this extra weight is in the wagon body, which only enhances the Colorado 7’s ride quality due to its greater sprung weight.

The wagon’s rack and pinion steering feels sharper than the ute’s with better response to steering input, which could well have something to do with the shorter wheelbase. The four wheel disc brakes are also more responsive with a more solid, reassuring pedal feel than the ute’s front disc/rear drum arrangement.

The Duramax 2.8 litre four cylinder turbo-diesel is a willing worker, with 132 kW of power at 3800 rpm and peak torque of 470Nm at 2000 rpm. However, it doesn’t feel like the top ratio in the six-speed automatic is properly matched to the torque characteristics of the engine at highway speeds.

At 100 km/h in auto mode the engine is grinding along at around 1800 rpm with that ‘growl’ that turbo-diesels make when they’re labouring unnecessarily, putting extra load stress on the drivetrain as they beg for a lower gear.

With a quick shift into the ‘Active Select’ mode, we dropped it back to fifth and instantly found the engine’s sweet spot for highway cruising at 2200 rpm – just above the torque peak of 2000 rpm. The growl was gone and the engine and drivetrain felt much happier.

We can only conclude that top gear is too tall for this vehicle’s weight and power, which is a shame because it is otherwise a pretty good package overall.

Off road performance is everything you would expect from a serious ‘heavy duty’ off roader like this, with its 231mm ground clearance and generous suspension travel. We trialled the LTZ over a variety of terrain from corrugated dirt roads to rugged narrow fire trails, without getting too adventurous given the road-biased 265/60 R18 tyres fitted to our test vehicle.

On several occasions we had to turn the on-the-fly selector dial from 2WD to 4WD but the big rig made light work of whatever we drove it through. Given the opportunity, we would really like to fit some more aggressive all terrain tyres and test its limits in low range 4WD. This truck would also look really good with some bigger off road rubber on it!

Holden claims fuel economy of 9.4 litres/100 kms. The best figure we saw was 10.5 from a ‘real world’ combination of highway and dirt road driving, stop-start peak hour traffic and some 4×4 trail work. Which is pretty good given the tell-em-their-dreamin’ laboratory conditions those factory-quoted economy figures are based on.

Conclusion

We like the Colorado 7, firstly because it delivers on what its name suggests. You really can carry seven passengers in relative comfort on and off the road, regardless of which of the three rows (or classes) they’re seated in.

Its chunky, purposeful appearance is matched by a solid build quality that reflects its heavy duty truck heritage and a compliant ride across all surfaces that is among the best we’ve experienced.

Despite our gripe about the overly tall highway gearing, the Colorado 7 is a competent and practical all-rounder with a spacious and flexible interior layout, good towing capacity and all terrain performance from suburban shopping hack to rugged bush track.

At around $50,000 for the top-shelf LTZ, the Colorado 7 is certainly worthy of consideration if you’re in the market for a serious truck-based off road wagon. TJ

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