Mark Oastler

Mitsubishi Motors’ long awaited new generation Triton pick-up truck made its international debut in Thailand this week.

Presented for the first time in production form, Mitsubishi claims that the 2015 Triton one-tonner will be more efficient, offer high levels of safety and raise the bar for passenger car-like steering performance, quietness, and ride comfort across the LCV (Light Commercial Vehicle) class.

Fact is, the new Triton is effectively a restyled version of the current model on the same chassis, with small increases in passenger space but still with that giant rear overhang. It will be interesting to see if Mitsubishi has been able to alter the high floor/low roof structure of the current model, which makes it feel more cramped inside compared to other one-tonne dual cabs.

It is to be powered by a choice of two turbo-diesels, including the current 2.5 litre (131kW/400Nm) and a new all-aluminium 2.4-litre MIVEC engine (133kW/430Nm) with variable geometry turbo. Transmission choices include a new six-speed manual transmission or optional five-speed automatic.

Peak towing figures are yet to be revealed, although expectations of an increase from its current 3000 kg limit would not be unreasonable given that 3.5 tonnes is now the benchmark in this vehicle category. Not that we’d like to ever have to tow 3.5 tonnes with one these one-tonne utes, but that 3.5 figure is important from a marketing viewpoint.

Mitsubishi says the new generation model retains Triton’s working vehicle durability and load-carrying capacity without compromising passenger and drive comfort. It is designed to be as easy to manoeuvre as a passenger car, but then they all are these days.

With new exterior styling, the 2015 Triton is also claimed to achieve outstanding aerodynamic performance for a pick-up, contributing to Triton’s fuel efficiency and quiet performance while retaining traditional Triton styling cues. Fuel consumption figures are yet to be released.

It’s unfortunate that the excessive rear overhang seen on the previous model continues with the new one, because this can result in too much weight being carried behind the rear axle line, with a negative effect on steering response and handling.

The new model will be available in three body styles – single cab, double cab and club cab. Strategic placement of sound insulation materials is claimed to contribute significantly to improved cabin quietness.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia Executive Director of Marketing Tony Principe said the new generation Triton is designed to successfully perform the dual role of work truck and family car. Again, nothing ground-breaking there, because being able to perform those two roles really well these days is crucial to success in this highly competitive market segment.

The new generation Triton will be launched progressively in 150 countries across ASEAN, Oceania, the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Latin America in coming months.

Now in its eighth year of sales, the current Triton continues to be the highest-selling Mitsubishi model in Australia. It achieved a best-ever sales result of 4,125 units in June 2014 thanks largely to run-out pricing on the venerable current model.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia will announce details of the new Australian specification Triton closer to its local launch in mid-2015. TJ

Toyota Australia has expanded its HiLux range with a new variant specifically developed for the mining sector and for small to medium-size businesses such as plumbers, electricians and other building industry contractors.

Toyota claims the latest HiLux 4×4 SR Double Cab is designed to provide a more flexible, affordable and comfortable workhorse tailored to suit these job requirements, by combining for the first time the cab-chassis body style with a turbo-diesel engine and automatic transmission.

Toyota in Japan developed the vehicle specifically for Australia following feedback from the local company about customer demand for this specification. It lifts the number of HiLux variants in Australia to 23.

The cab-chassis body style is particularly suited to industries needing customised fit-outs that typically include storage lockers and toolboxes, the ability to carry additional spare tyres and water or fuel tanks, right through to full mining specification.

The latest HiLux package retains the Double-Cab’s ability to transport five occupants, while meeting growing driver preference for the five-speed automatic in combination with the venerable 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine.

Mated to the auto transmission, it develops peak torque of 360Nm from just 1400rpm through to 3200rpm. Maximum power is 126kW at 3600rpm, with claimed fuel economy of 8.7 litres/100 km.

Toyota Australia executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb said the development of the new HiLux variant demonstrated the importance of Australia and its customers to the global company.

“This new 4×4 HiLux package has been uniquely developed to meet the demands of workers in the harsh and remote conditions experienced in Australia’s mining and exploration industries,” Mr Cramb said.

“Equally, those attributes make it a rugged, dependable and affordable choice for businesses and individuals around the country, many of whom spend large amounts equipping their HiLux as a workhorse,” he said.

“Our dealers are targeting an overall increase in volume as a direct result of the new variant, ensuring HiLux will continue its extensive record of sales leadership.”

Pricing starts at $43,740 – a saving of $1,500 compared with the identically equipped pick-up version.


Ford’s Australian designed and engineered Ranger is becoming one of Australia’s most popular pick-ups in 2014, reaching No. 2 in the sales charts and eating into the Toyota Hilux’s lead.

According to Ford, in the first quarter of 2014 the Ranger sold 5,818 units, which represents a year-on-year sales growth of 945 units, or an increase of 42 per cent.

This is the second highest quarterly sales result for Ranger. Including April’s VFACTS figures, Ford has sold 7912 Rangers year-to-date (YTD), up from 6556 for the same period last year.

Apart from strong fleet sales, Ranger is also gaining customers in the private sector with YTD sales figures showing a huge 158 per cent increase in private buyers compared to the same period last year. Retail sales (a combination of private and small fleets) now make up 69 per cent of total Ranger sales.

In YTD sales data from VFACTS in the hotly contested local pick-up truck segment, the Ford Ranger is now ahead of the Mazda BT-50, Holden Colorado, Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara, Isuzu D-Max and Volkswagen Amarok.

Ford Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Service, Graeme Whickman, said Ranger had clearly struck a chord with Australian buyers.

“The fact that Ranger was designed and engineered in Australia means it has proven capability in our harsh conditions; something that our customers recognise,” he said.

“With petrol and diesel variants available in both 4×2 and 4×4, it’s a vehicle that fits perfectly with the requirements of customers across Australia and the world.

“When you look at the Ranger model line-up, with key customer-focused features like Bluetooth®2 connectivity, 5-star ANCAP safety across the range and then add in high levels of refinement and capability, it’s no wonder customers are flocking to dealers.”

New Zealand
Ford claims that Ranger has also been selling in healthy numbers across the Tasman, where it outsold the Toyota Hilux for the month of December 2013 and in 2014 has become the top selling pick-up truck YTD.

This year, Ranger sales in NZ are up 33 per cent for the first quarter compared to the same time last year. It also won NZ 4WD Magazine’s 2013 4×4 Award of the Year. TJ

Holden has released a new VF Commodore Storm Special Edition available on ute, sedan and Sportwagon body styles.

The VF Storm is based on the popular SV6 and SS models which already offer an impressive list of high-tech standard equipment including Auto Park Assist, Blind Spot Alert, Rear View Camera with Reverse Traffic Alert, and the Holden MyLink infotainment system with an 8 inch colour touch screen display.

The VF Storm Special Edition comes with the following extras:

  • Satellite Navigation
  • Unique alloys – dark finish on the wheel ports
  • Front fog lamps with chrome highlights
  • Unique interior touches such as red stitching on seats and ‘Storm’ embroidery
    on the dash
  • Exterior Storm badges

Philip Brook, Executive Director of Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing, said “The SV6 and SS Commodore have always been incredibly sporty, stylish and aspirational while representing fantastic value for money – the VF Storm takes that to a new level and is without a doubt the most compelling Commodore offer yet.

“With standard features such as satellite navigation and unique alloys, we’re confident this special edition will create serious excitement for new car buyers.

“So far this year, VF sales are up 62.3% which is over 3,000 units. That’s more than any other car in the market and the Storm Special Edition will help add to that success.”

The VF Commodore Storm Special Edition is available for an additional $500 above the recommended retail price of a VF SV6 and SS.

Good to see GM-Holden is determined to send the last of its great Australian utes out in fine style rather then let it wither on the vine awaiting its demise.

With local Holden vehicle production due to end by 2017, the VF will effectively book-end a proud Holden ute heritage which stretches all the way back to the first FX-based ute released in 1951.

* VF Commodore Storm Special Edition is not available with optional leather-appointed seats. TJ

Ford Australia has beefed up its Ranger one-tonne range with the addition of the Ranger 4×4 XL Plus, designed to meet the needs of the mining industry and government agencies as well as private customers.

Available from May 2014, the new Ranger variant has specifications and features tailored to suit industry fleet buyers, including mining companies, government departments and organisations seeking more from their vehicle fleets. If perceptions of mining fleet king Toyota becoming complacent are true, then this aggressive push from Ford should shake things up.

On top of the existing Ranger XL specification, the Ranger XL Plus adds running boards, a second battery, expanded wiring harness, all-terrain tyres, an optional steel bull-bar and other features which, according to Ford, are exactly what customers in this segment have been asking for.

The Ranger 4×4 XL Plus will be available in a choice of Single Cab Chassis, Double Cab Chassis and Double Cab Pick-up. The new model takes advantage of Ranger’s 5-star ANCAP safety rating, required for new vehicle purchases by most large fleet companies these days.

Ranger 4×4 XL Plus comes standard with Ford’s 3.2-litre turbo-diesel engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It also has a locking rear differential and a tow bar rated to the truck’s peak 3,500 kg towing capacity. Other standard features include:

  • 4×4 shields / mud flaps
  • Daytime running lights
  • Running boards (Double Cabs only)
  • 17-inch steel wheels and All-Terrain tyres (Continental 265/65 R17)
  • Heavy duty canvas seat covers (as shown above which do not obstruct seat-mounted thorax airbag deployment)
  • Expanded wiring harness with extra pre-wired electrical circuits and switch bezel (for easy installation of extra lights, radios etc)
  • Front battery 75 amp hours
  • Second battery 80 amp hours deep cycle discharge gel battery
  • Second battery isolator
  • Moulded black bumpers

Optional: Steel bull bar (retains 5-star ANCAP rating with mountings for driving lights, antennas, flags etc)

As with all Rangers, the Ranger 4×4 XL Plus has Bluetooth®1, USB and iPod2 integration and voice control over the radio, CD, iPod, USB, and mobile phone. Similarly, cruise control is standard across the entire range.

80 amp hour auxiliary battery is housed in this protective case located at the right rear corner of the pick-up’s load box. This feature has been widely requested by fleet and private buyers to power everything from electric winches to fridges to caravan electrical systems. Isolator switch should ensure fast charging.

Ford Australia Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Service, Graeme Whickman, said Ford had worked with key industries, including the mining sector, to develop the Ranger XL Plus.

“These industries have very specific demands on their vehicles so that’s why we created the Ranger 4×4 XL Plus,” Whickman said.

“It will be a popular addition to mining industry and business sector fleets but we also expect there to be strong support from private customers who have a particular need for this type of vehicle.”

The XL’s road-biased tyres have been replaced with more aggressive all-terrains on the 4×4 XL Plus.

The Manufacturer’s List Price is $46,280 for the Single Cab Chassis, $51,760 for the Double Cab Chassis and $52,760 for the Double Cab Pick-up.

The 4×4 XL Plus complements the recently improved Ranger line-up for 2014, which includes SRS airbags across the range, addition of the Ranger XLS model in both 2.2-litre manual/auto and 3.2 auto variants and improved supply of the top-of-the-range Wildtrak model.

In 2013 the Ford Ranger was named the International Pick-up of the Year. It is being manufactured in three continents and sold in more than 180 countries.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Australia has expanded its award-winning Amarok range to include the new Canyon Special Edition.

Based on the TDI400 and TDI420 Highline models, the Canyon comes standard with an array of features which sets it above other Amaroks in the range.

Canyon features black gloss sports and side bars, 17-inch Roca alloy wheels with Pirelli Scorpion AT-R tyres, impact and UV-resistant load area coating in the tray, tinted tail lamps and unique ‘Canyon’ rear and side decals.

The interior is also equipped with a higher grade of unique standard features, including satellite navigation, reversing camera and two-tone Nappa leather interior with orange stitching.

Canyon is available in a choice of four colours, including Candy White, Deep Black metallic, Reflex Silver metallic and unique to the Canyon range, Copper Orange metallic (as shown here).

RRP for Canyon TDI400 six-speed manual is $56,990 plus ORC. RRP for Canyon TDI420 8-sp Automatic is $59,990 plus ORC. TJ

Isuzu UTE Australia (IUA) has handed the keys to a brand new Isuzu MU-X to Child Safety Education crusaders Bruce and Denise Morcombe to help them continue to deliver their award-winning Child Safety programs to school children and parents across Australia.

“After clocking up almost 60,000km in their trusty D-MAX we thought it would be nice to upgrade Bruce and Denise to our new MU-X,” IUA’s Assistant General Manager of Marketing & PR Dave Harding said.

“We all know it has been a pretty heavy start to the year for everyone involved with the Foundation and this was our little way of helping with the determined work Bruce, Denise and their team do,” he added.

Daniel Morcombe’s legacy is the Foundation named in his honour, and has provided Child Safety Education and Awareness to millions of Australians over the past nine years.

Thanks to the efforts of the Foundation, Queensland’s Department of Education, Training and Employment developed the Daniel Morcombe Child Safety Curriculum which aims to teach children about personal safety and awareness, including cybersafety and phone safety, by focusing on three key safety messages: Recognise, React and Report. It is hoped other states and territories will soon adopt this curriculum.

“Isuzu UTE have been supporters of the Foundation for a few years now and we’re very appreciative of this assistance,” Bruce Morcombe said.

“When you consider how many k’s we do each year, it takes a lot of stress out of our day-to-day running of our program knowing we have a reliable and economical vehicle on hand to get us to the hundreds of school visits we do each year,” Bruce added.

Ford Australia has added a heavy duty steel bull-bar as a genuine Ford accessory on its award-winning PX Ranger one-tonne pickup to compliment the alloy bull-bar already available.

The new heavy duty bull-bar is constructed of strong but lightweight steel and was developed primarily for the demanding environments of the mining industry.

ADR-compliant and designed to integrate with PX Ranger’s safety systems, the new heavy duty bull-bar maintains a five-star Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rating when fitted to a five-star rated PX Ranger.

The Ford bar features a lower splash shield designed to prevent excess water getting into the engine bay. Finished in a grey powder coat, the new bull-bar also offers auxiliary lamps and two antenna brackets.

“We designed the heavy duty bull-bar for the harsh environments experienced in the mining industry but some of our more adventurous private customers put their Rangers through worse (conditions) every weekend,” said Ford marketing manager David Katic.

“We’ve received a lot of customer inquiries for a heavy duty bull-bar. This is a serious accessory for the serious Ranger customer.”

When fitted prior to delivery the genuine Ford accessory bull-bar is covered by Ford’s three year / 100,000kms new car warranty and is available from Ford dealers for RRP $2107.00 installed.

Mitsubishi has launched a limited edition variant of its aging Triton dual cab 4×4 pick-up and added new features across the Triton range, to try to keep sales buoyant during the countdown to its all-new replacement in 2015.

The GLX-R Warrior comes with a range of extra features including a diff lock, Mitsubishi’s Multi Communication System with USB input, voice recognition and Bluetooth, iPhone and iPod connectivity, eight-speaker audio system and MPSS power amplifier, black leather seat trim and six-way power adjustable driver’s seat.

The Warrior’s exterior styling includes an alloy front nudge bar (a bull bar is also available), flush-fit soft tonneau cover and Warrior decals on the front doors. It’s available in a choice of Charcoal, Cool Silver, Ironbark and White and only 200 are being made available.

Drive-away pricing for the GLX-R Warrior is $43,990 with five-speed manual transmission, while the five-speed automatic is $45,990. By comparison, the standard GLX-R manual is $45,740 plus on-roads.

Running changes to the Triton range include an upgraded audio system across all models. GL and GLX also feature Bluetooth functionality, mobile phone and iPod hands-free operation with voice recognition and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

All dual cab Triton models are also equipped with two ISOFIX child seat anchorage points, while GLX-R Triton gains a black interior colour theme.

With early 2014 sales of the ageing Triton 4×4 range in freefall compared to the same time last year, Mitsubishi will no doubt be looking forward to the Triton’s replacement due for release early in 2015.

The new generation one-tonner is tipped to take its styling cues from the striking GR-HEV concept unveiled last year. The current Triton range, which was launched in 2006, is now one of the oldest on the Australian market.

Isuzu UTE Australia has introduced a limited edition D-MAX to its award-winning one-tonne ute range – the 2014 X-RUNNER.

On sale from March 17, only 660 units of the X-RUNNER will be available. Based on an Isuzu D-MAX 4×4 LS-U, the 2014 X-RUNNER comes in a choice of two metallic colours – pearlescent white or black mica, with unique contrasting striping and decals.

This special edition D-MAX also features additional exterior styling tweaks in the form of gun metal grey alloy wheels and side steps, front and rear body kit, black sports bar and tub liner. The interior has red and black two-tone seat trim, red contrast steering wheel stitching and a high-gloss piano black dash trim.

The X-RUNNER is covered by Isuzu’s five-year warranty and five-year roadside assistance and has a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

Available in both auto and manual transmissions, the 2014 X-RUNNER is priced from $46,490 drive-away (manual).

 

Ford has today given Australia – and the world – the first look at a rugged, seven-seater design called the Ford Everest Concept, which is the clearest indication yet of what the company’s long awaited Ranger-based SUV will look like.

The Everest SUV concept was created by Ford’s design and product development team in Australia, which also created the multi award-winning Ranger one-tonne pickup range which is sold in Australia and around the world.

Ford’s vision of the future was brought to life in a major event held at Fox Studios in Sydney to define what its fully imported local vehicle line-up will look like by 2017, after the company has ceased local vehicle production.

Among several Blue Oval top brass in attendance were Ford Motor Company Chief Operating Officer, Mark Fields and Ford Australia President and CEO, Bob Graziano.

“This is our vision for a large, seven-seat off-road SUV to allow our customers to take on the world and it was created by our world-class design team here in Australia,” Fields said.

“We believe our customers will love the distinctive design, which clearly showcases the Ford Everest Concept’s exceptional off-road capability and toughness.”

Fields said the Ford Everest Concept was unmistakably a new member of the Ford family, featuring an inverted trapezoidal grille set high on the front of the car which provides a strong clue as to where future Ranger styling may be headed. If so, it gets a big thumbs-up from us! TJ

Holden has released a special edition ‘Thunder’ package for its Colorado one-tonne pickup truck as the end of the financial year looms.

Colorado’s  extra value Thunder pack includes nudge bar, towing package, soft tonneau cover*, front carpet floor mats, one-piece rear carpet floor mat, bonnet protector, slimline weather shields and unique Thunder badging.

The Colorado Thunder pack is available on LX 4×4 Crew Cab Chassis and Pickup, and LT and LTZ 4×4 Crew Cab Pickup models.

Holden is offering the Thunder pack at no additional cost on Colorado 4×4 LT Crew Cab with special drive away pricing of $39,990.

Holden Marketing Manager Kristian Aquilina said the Colorado Thunder is outstanding value for customers looking to upgrade their light commercial vehicle – either sedan-based ute or pickup – before the end of the financial year.

“Holden has a solid reputation for offering feature packed special edition models that traditionally command strong resale value when it comes time to upgrade, and the Thunder pack is no different,” he said. “It bundles together all of our most popular Colorado accessories in one pack.”

Vehicle line-up and specification are detailed below.  Customers interesting in Special Edition Colorado Thunder models should contact their local Holden dealer for pricing details.

LX 4×4 Crew Cab Chassis

  • Nudge bar
  • Towing package
  • Front carpet floor mats
  • One-piece rear carpet floor mat
  • Bonnet protector
  • Slimline weather shields
  • Thunder badging

LX 4×4 Crew Cab Pick Up

  • Nudge bar
  • Towing package
  • Soft tonneau cover
  • Front carpet floor mats
  • One-piece rear carpet floor mat
  • Bonnet protector
  • Slimline weather shields
  • Thunder badging

LT 4×4 Crew Cab Pick Up

  • Nudge bar
  • Towing package
  • Soft tonneau cover
  • Front carpet floor mats
  • One-piece rear carpet floor mat
  • Bonnet protector
  • Slimline weather shields
  • Thunder badging

LTZ 4×4 Crew Cab Pick Up

  • Nudge bar
  • Towing package
  • Front carpet floor mats
  • One-piece rear carpet floor mat
  • Bonnet protector
  • Slimline weather shields
  • Thunder badging

*Soft tonneau standard feature on LTZ 4×4 Crew Cab Pickup and not included on LX 4×4 Crew Cab Chassis model.

News Ltd has published images of what it claims to be a prototype of the much anticipated SUV version of the current PX Ford Ranger, which it claims is due for public release in the second half of 2014.

The truck-based (ie body-on-frame) heavy duty SUV will be the second derivative from Ford’s award-winning T6 light truck program which has already produced the widely acclaimed PX Ranger one-tonne pickup and its Mazda BT50 sibling.

These images, reportedly snapped by a Carsguide reader with a smartphone (which would explain the rear window heater cores running across the first image) were claimed to have been taken on the Princes Highway on Melbourne’s outskirts.

If these shots are genuine (we are skeptical about everything in this digital age!) it looks like Ford engineers have cut-and-shut a Ranger pickup front and a Territory SUV rear for these testing purposes.

News Ltd claims this vehicle carries the wording ‘Left Hand Drive’ and ‘Engineering Evaluation Vehicle’ on the tailgate and that it is one of several prototypes currently being tested on Victorian roads and at the company’s vehicle proving ground at You Yangs. TJ

FE Holden Utes & Vans

Holden built on the success of its FX and FJ commercial range with the release of the new-look FE series station wagons, utes (above) and vans in February 1957.

Eight months earlier, their FE sedan sibling had raised the curtain on the long awaited new Holden and the Australian public instantly warmed to the more modern lines of ‘Australia’s Own Car’.

There was no confusing the larger and slightly heavier new FE sedan with the outgoing FX-FJ series. The handsome body design was all new with a lowered belt line, bonnet and boot that resulted in a 40 per cent increase in glass area, including a new one-piece curved windscreen replacing the first Holden’s split-screen.

The rear mudguards were now integrated with the body shell and featured new chrome-plated die-cast taillight clusters. Headlight rims were also die-cast chrome items. In addition to the latest push-button door handles, there was extra bright-work even on the entry level Standard models.

Electric blinkers (or direction indicators) were now standard equipment on Special models and optional on other grades. Yes, you read that right – optional. Back in those simpler times, it was accepted practice for drivers to indicate which direction they wanted to go by using hand signals out the driver’s window!

The front blinker light assemblies were mounted below the headlights, with the parking lights still integrated within the headlights. The rear blinkers followed US practice by flashing the left or right red brake lights on and off.

Provision was made for optional reversing lights with a clear lens below the brake/taillight lens but these were rarely optioned and almost never used. Holden would find a good use for these later though (see FC series).

The bonnet was mounted on modern spring-loaded hinges that did away with the previous model’s support rod that had to be un-clipped and propped in place each time the bonnet needed to be held open.

From this dazzling new sedan emerged Holden’s new commercial range of utes and panel vans eight months later, which proved to be just as rugged, willing and capable as their predecessors.

A little known historical fact is that the media announcement for these new vehicles (plus the station wagon) was made all at once in February 1957 before each was phased into production over the following three months.

Engine

Like the FX/FJ, the new FE ute (FE/2106) and panel van (FE/2104) came in only one basic workhorse specification with no top shelf Special variant like the sedan and wagon.

They were still powered by the same 132 cid (2.2 litre) inline six cylinder pushrod overhead valve ‘Grey’ motor (above), so named because the entire engine and gearbox unit were painted a drab grey colour in production.

Elegantly simple, low in maintenance and silky smooth, the Grey’s power output increased by 10 bhp to 70 bhp in the FE thanks to a slight increase in compression ratio (6.5 to 6.8), larger valves and improvements in cylinder head porting.

Peak torque also improved from 100 ft/lbs @ 2000 rpm to 110 ft/lbs at a remarkably low 1200 rpm, making it even better suited to the demands of commercial vehicle use which often required hauling and towing heavy loads.

From mid-1957 an Australian-made carburettor with Bendix-Stromberg branding replaced the US-made Stromberg unit and in January 1958 the engine’s cooling system pressure was raised from 4.0 to 7.0 psi to cope with higher engine demands.

A large heavy-duty oil bath air filter, which was only available as an option in the FX-FJ series aimed at rural buyers on dusty roads, became standard equipment on the FE engine.

The electrical system was also upgraded from the sluggish 6 volts to 12 volts with a higher capacity generator driven by a narrower and more efficient 11mm fan belt and pulley set (earlier models used a 15mm-wide belt).

Drivetrain & Chassis

The FX-FJ three-speed column shift manual gearbox with non-synchro first gear and Holden’s signature Banjo-style hypoid differential with semi-floating axles and 3.89 final drive ratio were carried over, but many mechanical improvements were made across the board.

The clutch was now hydraulically operated in place of the FX-FJ’s mechanical arrangement and the clutch and brake pedals were upgraded to the newer ‘pendulum’ type, which pivoted from under the dash rather than through the floor.

Both hydraulic master cylinders for the brakes and clutch were mounted high on the firewall for easier servicing access. Braking was also upgraded with the four-wheel drums now separate from the wheel hubs. Rear axle shafts were now stronger one-piece items with forged flanges.

The steering was improved with a newly designed, fully sealed recirculating ball steering box and new linkages. A front stabiliser bar was also fitted for sharper handling, as Australian roads continued to improve and speeds continued to rise with them.

New smaller diameter wheels and tyres were slightly wider and resulted in a 17mm drop in ground clearance compared to the previous FJ model (186mm vs 203mm). 4.5 x 13-inch rims with a five-stud pattern replaced the FX-FJ’s skinnier and taller 4.0 x 15-inch items. 6.40-13 six-ply tyres were fitted only to the commercial range, up from four-ply on the sedans.

The new Holden commercials were also heavier than their predecessors. The FE ute’s tare weight (or unladen weight) was up 21 kgs on the FJ version (1064 kgs vs 1043 kgs) while the FE van was only 4.0 kgs heavier than the FJ van (1070 kgs vs 1066 kgs).

Fortunately, maximum payload ratings also increased, with the FE ute up 31 kgs to 410 kgs and the van up 46 kgs to 403 kgs. Even so, Holden was well aware that many ute and van owners often expected these vehicles to carry up to double their recommended payload and sometimes more, so we suspect these ratings were (like the FX/FJ) quite conservative!

On FE utes and panel vans the fuel filler cap was located on the left-hand rear guard. The spare tyre storage was also different to the sedan, as it sat within a small fold-down compartment (in a similar style to the previous model) with the lid located externally between the rear bumperettes.

Unlike virtually all other Holden series, the FE panel van was based on the wagon and not the utility. Even though they shared the same drop-down spare tyre lid, there were many detailed areas where the panel van was more similar to the wagon than the ute.

Panel vans had a full steel paneled upper tailgate as standard but could be ordered with an optional glass window (RPO 333) as it shared the wagon’s upper tailgate. The standard van tailgate was created simply by welding a section of sheet metal into the window aperture and painting it body colour. Utes featured a stylish three-piece curved rear window.

Interior

Interiors designs were all new (above) with wider, improved seating and better sound insulation throughout the cabin. The dash featured a matt charcoal-black finish to reduce driver glare with relocated instruments and controls to make them easier to use.

There was also a large centrally-mounted radio speaker grille, lockable glove-box and an ashtray (remember those?) with a lift-up lid in the top centre of the dashboard.

Other new features included a speedometer that read to 110 mph (176 km/h) and a key operated combined ignition/starter switch in place of the previous model’s separate key ignition switch and push button starter. The steering wheel also featured a full circle horn ring.

A sign of how far we’ve come since the 1950s is that windscreen washers and a heater/windscreen demister were only available as optional extras on the FE!

Total FE production (including all models) reached 155,161 from July 1956 to the FC’s introduction in May 1958.

FC Holden Utes & Panel Vans

The FC (above) was a mild facelift of the FE series. This was during a period of staggering market domination by GM-H, with Holden’s market share at one stage exceeding 50 per cent. No wonder Ford and Chrysler wanted a slice of this huge pie.

Unlike its predecessor, the entire range of FC sedans, wagons and commercials was released at the same time but the ute and van commercials were still only available in the one ‘no-frills’ workhorse specification.

Body sheet metal was identical to the FE but there were many revisions to exterior and interior trim and ornamentation.

A new grille was the most prominent change with bolder horizontal and vertical bars incorporating parking lights at either end of the wider, lower bar. If blinkers were optioned they shared these front parking light housings, so it was not possible to tell if an FC was fitted with front blinkers unless they were activated.

The FC’s rear blinkers continued to use the US-style flashing brake lights until October 1959, when an amber blinker lens was installed in the (hardly used) reversing light housing. These amber rears carried over to the FB/EK series commercials that followed.

Another interesting historical fact is that when launched the new FC ute and panel van featured grille, headlight rims and taillight surrounds painted body colour as a point of difference (see above) instead of the more attractive chrome-plated items used on the FE and all other FC models.

The chrome-plated grille and headlight rims returned to the commercial range in mid-FC production. This not only looked better but saved GM-H having to produce painted and chromed versions of the same parts.

Mechanically the FC was a carry-over from the FE series with improvements to engine, suspension and numerous other components that continued Holden’s process of ongoing refinement.

Published engine output levels remained unchanged for the FC series even though small revisions had been made for better driveability, smoothness and lower noise levels. This included replacement of the old oil-bath air filter with a new paper-type disposable filter design in late 1959.

The most notable changes to the 2.2 litre six were a slight increase in compression ratio (6.8 to 7.0:1) to take advantage of Australia’s improving fuel quality and a revised camshaft profile. These changes resulted in peak torque moving further up the rev range from 1200 rpm to 1400 rpm.

Interestingly, the FC ute and van range saw slight increases in kerb weights (or tare weights) with the FC ute gaining 21 kgs over the FE version (1085 kgs vs 1064 kgs) while the FC van (below) was 25 kgs heavier than the FE van (1095 kgs vs 1070 kgs).

There were no real differences in equipment between the FE and FC ranges, which would suggest such a weight increase was due to on-going upgrades to the body structures to handle the increasingly tough jobs these commercials were being expected to perform.

As a result of such weight increases, the payload ratings were reduced with the FC ute dropping 22 kgs to 388 kgs and the FC van down 25 kgs to 378 kgs. Even so, these ratings were generally ignored by many owners, who continued to overload their hard-working Holden utes and vans to alarming levels.

Seat and door trims were improved and the dash was enhanced with a new radio speaker grille with vertical bars. Air Chief transistor-powered radios became available as an accessory from late 1959, replacing the old valve type which was vulnerable to shock and vibrations.

There was also a new black plastic surround for the instrument cluster and minor controls on the dash had new black bezel surrounds grouped in pairs. The full circle horn ring on the steering wheel was also reduced to a semi-circular design to improve the driver’s view of the instruments.

Total FC production including all models far exceeded that of the FE reaching a staggering 191,724 vehicles between May 1958 and January 1960 when replaced by the new FB series. TJ

*Special thanks to Holden expert Terry Bebbington for his assistance with this article. Terry is the author of a 100-chapter, 352-page, hard cover book titled “60 Years of Holden” which is a complete encyclopedia of all Holden models produced from 1948 to the current models. The sheer volume of detailed specifications makes this book a unique and valuable source of reference. For more information visit: www.haynesmanuals.com.au

  • To better position the company to compete in a highly fragmented and competitive market, Ford Australia announced today that it will cease local manufacturing of Falcon, Falcon Ute and Territory in October 2016. The iconic Falcon nameplate will also be retired at that time. It said that all entitlements are protected for the 1200 employees whose jobs are affected, and the company will work through the next three years to provide support
  • Ford said it is transforming its Australian business by accelerating the introduction of new products for Australian customers, enhancing the sales and service experience, and improving its business efficiency and profitability
  • Ford will proceed with plans to launch updated versions of the Falcon, Falcon Ute and Territory in 2014, as well as offering imported products such as the Ford Kuga, Ranger and Focus. The company will also strengthen its product lineup with a 30 per cent increase in the number of new vehicles offered to Australian customers by 2016
  • Ford’s said its presence in Australia will remain significant – with 1500 employees, more than 200 dealers nationwide and a continued  commitment to supporting the communities in which the company operates

Ford Motor Company is transforming its business operations in Australia to provide customers with more new products and improved sales and service, while creating a more efficient and profitable business structure.

Ford announced the plan today, including its intention to cease its local manufacturing operations in October 2016. The decision on local manufacturing was driven by increasingly challenging market conditions – including market fragmentation and the high cost of manufacturing. Ford losses in Australia in the last five years have totaled approximately $600 million (AUD).

“All of us at Ford remain committed to our long history of serving Australian customers with the very best vehicles that deliver cutting edge technology at an affordable cost,” said Bob Graziano, president and CEO of Ford Australia. “Unfortunately, due to challenging market conditions we are unable to do that longer-term while continuing to manufacture locally.”

Support for Employees

Approximately 1200 jobs in Ford’s Broadmeadows and Geelong manufacturing plants will become redundant when manufacturing at those sites ceases in 2016.

All manufacturing employees’ benefits will be provided in line with current agreements. During the next three years, Ford will work with affected employees and their representatives on support arrangements and provide clarity about the closure process.

“We know this announcement is very difficult, especially for our employees,” said Graziano. “Providing support to those in our team whose roles will be affected is a key priority for us during this three-year transition period.”

Future vision for Ford Australia

While the way Ford is structured is changing, Ford said its commitment to Australia remains strong.

“Ford will remain a significant employer in Australia, with more than 1500 team members, as will our network of more than 200 dealers around the country,” said Graziano. “The Australian team’s role as a global centre of excellence for vehicle development also will continue to be an important focus for us.”

Australia is currently one of four product development hubs for Ford globally. Recently, the Australian team has been responsible for designing, engineering and testing global vehicles, including the Ford Ranger and Ford Figo, and will continue this expertise.

Today, Ford has more than 1000 staff in product development in Australia, giving the company more designers and engineers than any other auto company in Australia.

“Our customers will buy and service Ford vehicles through the same great dealers we have throughout the country today, and we will continue to support the communities in which we operate,” said Graziano.

Decision follows comprehensive review process

Given the changing dynamics of the auto industry, a number of business scenarios were reviewed during the past year to determine next steps for Ford’s Australian business.

All viable alternatives were evaluated as part of the process including manufacturing various types and combinations of vehicles for local sale as well as the viability of a significant export program. The scenarios investigated also included varying levels of government support, manufacturing cost reductions and productivity improvements.

Australia has annual sales of approximately 1.1 million new vehicles, and customers have access to more than 65 brands and 365 models available for sale. This makes Australia one of the most competitive and crowded automotive markets in the world.

“Given the fragmented marketplace and the low model volumes that result, we decided that manufacturing locally is no longer viable,” said Graziano.

More New Products

As part of the transformation, Ford plans to introduce more new products for Australian customers – including a 30 per cent increase in the number of new vehicles offered to Australian customers by 2016. That is in addition to already announced new versions of the Ford Falcon, Falcon Ute and Territory, as well the new Ford Kuga, Ranger and Focus.

“We will be introducing a number of exciting new vehicles and technologies during the next few years that will excite our Australian customers,” said Graziano. “The breadth of our line-up will increase by more than 30 per cent, ensuring we continue to offer our customers an outstanding range of cars, SUVs and light trucks long into the future.”

Upgraded Sales and Service Experience

Ford also said it is enhancing its approach to the sales and service experience. The company has appointed a dedicated Consumer Experience team to introduce a series of initiatives to provide customers with even better after-sales care.

“We have a range of projects under way to significantly enhance our customer’s experience with Ford,” said Graziano. “This includes one of the only programs in Australia that provides a capped price on all servicing costs for seven years.”

Ford continues to be part of Australian communities

“Ford vehicles have been part of the automotive landscape in Australia for almost 110 years and we have manufactured here since 1925. We are proud of that history. We are proud of our role in Australia and we haven’t made this decision lightly.

“Overall, we are changing, but our commitment to Australia remains strong. We’ll move through this transition and continue to be a vibrant and strong part of the Australian driving experience,” said Graziano. TJ

LandCruiser 200 Series Sahara

Australia’s love affair with Toyota LandCruiser is showing no signs of cooling off, with the Cruiser family now accounting for almost one out of every five Toyota vehicles sold nationally.

The Cruiser range – 200 series, Prado, FJ and 70 series – contributed 38,767 sales last year, or more than 17.7 per cent of Toyota’s 218,167 market-leading tally. In fact, as a franchise in its own right, the Cruiser family would have taken 10th place in the Australian market.

Last year’s total was an increase of 36.6 per cent over the previous year when the Cruiser clan was responsible for 28,377 units, or 15.6 per cent of all Toyota vehicles delivered by its dealers.

The share of Toyota sales attributable to these off-road vehicles has risen this year to 18.8 per cent, delivering 12,230 units out of Toyota’s 64,947 total.

LandCruiser Prado

Toyota’s executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb said demand for the Cruiser family included city dwellers wanting a luxury SUV, as well as regional, rural and mining customers requiring a rugged and durable off-roader.

“Toyota is extremely proud of the capabilities and reliability of its LandCruiser family and we are very fortunate to have such an extremely loyal customer base that continues to support us with their buying choices,” Mr Cramb said.

“Our strong national dealer coverage is instrumental because there are some parts of rural and outback Australia where people tell me the only vehicles they see regularly are LandCruisers,” he said.

“This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it underlines the enviable reputation LandCruiser has developed as the ‘king off the road’, particularly in some of the harshest country a vehicle will encounter.”

FJ Cruiser

The 200 series and the 70 series wagon together command more than three-quarters of sales in the upper-large SUV segment. As the perennial leader of the segment, Toyota last month achieved a share of 87.2 per cent – remarkably strong in a two-cornered contest with Nissan’s Patrol.

Last year, sales of the LandCruiser 200 series wagon jumped 31 per cent to 8,089 registrations. This year, they have continued to rise – up more than 13.1 per cent to 3,033 units, supported by improvements to safety, comfort and convenience.

The 200 series has become the first vehicle in the Toyota range to adopt Trailer Sway Control – a driver assist technology designed to help control a towed vehicle that has been unsettled by crosswinds, bumpy roads or sharp turns of the steering wheel.

LandCruiser 200 has also gained knee airbags for the driver and front passenger in GX and volume-selling GXL model grades, bringing the total number of airbags to eight.

All LandCruiser 200 series models have a five-star ANCAP safety rating with GX and volume-selling GXL grades now fitted with eight airbags, including two that offer protection for the driver and front-passenger knees. Upper models have 10 airbags.

The classic FJ Cruiser has received a sales boost of 10.6 per cent this year and has benefited from gaining a sub-tank that more than doubles its driving range plus the addition an off-road cruise-control system, CRAWL Control.

LandCruiser Prado continues as the best-selling vehicle in the large SUV segment following a record 17,045 registrations in 2012. Prado recently became the first vehicle in its segment to post 200,000 sales in Australia with its popularity growing since it debuted here in 1996.

Over the past decade, customers have bought an average of more than 14,600 a year, making Prado a significant contributor during a period in which Toyota has been the overall market leader.

LandCruiser LC79 double-cab ute

Toyota’s tough 70 series range has also contributed to the company’s growth so far this year. Sales of the pick-up and cab-chassis workhorses have risen two per cent in the four months to the end of April, which comes on top of solid growth of 21.3 per cent in 2012.

The vehicle maker increased the appeal of the 70 series range last year with the introduction of a double-cab variant.

Toyota is now on its way to an 11th straight year as the market leader in Australia, and its 17th year overall at the top. It is the only brand with market share in double figures, achieving 19.9 per cent for the month of April 2013.

Toyota has sold 64,947 vehicles so far this year – 1,000 more than the corresponding period in 2012 and in excess of 30,000 sales ahead of any other brand. TJ

Imagine the possibilities” was the opening line of a print ad featuring this great photo of a Suzuki LJ50 4×4 on an inflatable raft that appeared in Australian off road magazines in the 1970s, when anything seemed possible during the early days of our RV boom.

The ad was for a company called 4×4 Australia P/L which in addition to being an authorised Suzuki 4×4 dealer also offered all kinds of off road and adventure equipment including “Avon inflatable Craft”.

The advert boasts that they were “the people who’ve really got it all together.” Guess that’s why they decided to put an LJ50 on a tiny inflatable raft with an outboard motor.

This photo certainly made us “imagine the possibilities” for the bloke on the back trying to steer the outboard while hanging onto the roof gutter with his fingernails. And check out the flex in the raft floor groaning under the weight of a nice new Suzuki 4×4. Hope he wasn’t going far.

We just can’t figure out how our intrepid adventurer got the LJ50 onto the raft in the first place? And how he was going to get it off again when he reached the other side?

If anyone knows how this story started – and more importantly finished – please contact Truck Jungle. Please. TJ

VF Commodore SV6 Ute

Holden has added cutting-edge technology and features to its famous Ute and reduced recommended retail prices (RRP) by up to $5,500 across the range.

The entry level 3.6 litre SIDI V6 automatic has a new RRP of just $32,990, down $2,500, and comes standard with the premium features Holden has introduced across the VF range including Auto Park Assist, front and rear parking sensors, remote vehicle start (automatic models only) and a rear view camera.

VF Ute also comes standard with the class-leading Holden MyLink infotainment system. With an eight-inch, high-resolution colour touch screen, MyLink features enhanced voice recognition, full iPod integration including Siri Eyes Free integration and embedded app technology including Pandora and Stitcher SmartRadio.

Holden has rolled out its new VF vehicle technology, including electric park brake with automatic release, Hill Start Assist, Trailer Sway Control and remote vehicle start (automatic transmission only), across every model in the Ute range.

Holden Executive Director Sales and Marketing, Philip Brook, said VF’s design and technology made the Holden Ute anything but utilitarian.

“VF offers the sort of world-class user technology that will redefine what it means to drive a ‘tool of trade’ vehicle. The Ute is so much more than its humble beginnings – it’s become an incredible vehicle by any definition,” he said.

“For performance lovers the Ute has become Holden’s ultimate two-door sports machine with half of our Ute customers choosing a V8 model. VF Ute offers more of what people want – great performance, luxury features and the latest safety technology – and red hot prices across the range.”

The first sports model in the Ute range is the SV6 manual with an RRP of $32,990.  Standard with a manual transmission, SV6 is also powered by the 3.6L SIDI V6 with significantly more features and a price rollback of $5,500.

SV6 gains the following features over the entry level Holden Ute:

  • Blind Spot Alert
  • Reverse Traffic Alert
  • FE2 sports suspension
  • 18 inch alloy wheels and chrome exhaust tip
  • limited slip differential (manual only)
  • exterior sports styling and sports seats
  • projector headlamps and LED daylight running lights
  • soft tonneau cover.

With the same features and technology, the famous SS Ute adds the 6.0 litre Gen IV V8 engine and comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. The new RRP for the manual SS Ute is $38,990, down $3,500 on the previous model.

Mr Brook said Holden had created a logical walk up for the Ute sport range, from SS to the coveted SS V-Series, which mirrored the sedan and Sportwagon line-up.

“We’ve reduced the new RRP for SS V-Series by $5,000 to $42,490. Which means for just $3,500, customers can add new 19 inch alloys, leather appointed seats, satellite navigation, colour multi-function driver information display and passive entry sensor key technology with push button start,” he said.

At the top of the performance table sits SS V Redline. Holden has added a significant number of advanced new technological features, yet still reduced the RRP for the manual SS V Redline Ute by $1,500 to $48,490.

In addition to the SS V-Series features, Redline adds Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning and Head-up Display driver safety technology. Redline also adds the  updated sports-tuned FE3 suspension package, Brembo brakes, forged 19 inch alloys as well as wider rear wheels for extra traction and competition mode with launch control and track settings.

“We’re so proud of the Holden engineering work across the VF range, but particularly on our Redline models. Commodore’s ground breaking technology and our upgraded Redline suspension will absolutely make the new SS V Redline Ute our ultimate Australian sports machine,” Mr Brook said.

Holden dealers can now take orders for VF Ute models with the start of production later this month.

2013 VF Commodore Ute (base model)

Ute highlights:

  • 3.6L SIDI V6 engine
  • 6 airbags (dual front driver and passenger, side impact thorax/pelvis and curtain airbags)
  • ECS, ABS & TCS
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Electric Power Steering (EPS)
  • Auto Park Assist
    • Rear view camera
    • Front and Rear Park Assist
  • Automatic release electric park brake
  • Hill Start Assist
  • Trailer Sway Control
  • Remote vehicle start (automatic models only)
    • Enhanced multi-function display (monochrome) with:
    • Vehicle information menu
    • Trip information menu
    • Fuel economy menu
    • Warning/messages
  • Holden MyLink Infotainment System with 8” high-resolution colour touch-screen display
  • Embedded Apps including Pandora® and Stitcher Smartradio
  • Single CD player with MP3 capability
  • Full iPod integration including Siri Eyes Free and touch screen access for playlists, artist, albums, songs and genres
  • Enhanced voice recognition: phone calls, radio, navigation, smartphone/iPod/MP3 or USB audio control
  • Bluetooth audio streaming and auxiliary input jack

SV6 and SS Ute highlights over Ute:

  • 3.6L SIDI V6 engine (SV6) and 6.0-litre Gen IV V8 engine and dual exhaust (SS)
  • Front & rear sports fascia
  • 18 inch alloy wheels (4)
  • Projector headlamps and LED daylight running lamps
  • Sportec/cloth sports seats
  • Blind Spot Alert (option on Ute)
  • Reverse Traffic Alert (option on Ute)
  • Chrome exhaust tip
  • Soft tonneau cover

SS V Series Ute highlights over SS:

  • 6.0-litre Gen IV V8 engine standard
  • Leather appointed seats
  • 19 inch alloy wheels (4)
  • Sensor key technology with push button start
  • Front fog lamps
  • Colour digital instrument display: vehicle information menu, trip information menu, fuel economy menu, warning/messages
  • Satellite Navigation with full colour mapping with live traffic updates, traffic management control and points of interest
  • Footwell lamps
  • DVD playback (playable when stationary)

SS V Redline highlights over SS V:

  • Brembo brakes
  • Forged 19 inch alloy wheels (4)
  • Colour Head-up Display
  • Forward Collision Alert
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Updated FE3 ultra sports tuned suspension

VF Ute Pricing

Recommended retail prices, excluding dealer delivery and government charges:

Model

VE

VF pricing

Rollback

Ute (auto only)

$35,490 (Omega)

$32,990

- $2,500

SV6 (manual)

$38,490

$32,990

-$5,500

SS (manual)

$42,490

$38,990

-$3,500

SS-V (manual)

$47,490

$42,490

-$5,000

SS-V Redline (manual)

$49,990

$48,490

-$1,500

Automatic transmission adds     $2,200 including GST
Prestige paint adds                          $550 including GST

VF Ute Factory Fit Option Pricing (includes GST)

Holden Ute
Blind Spot Alert and Reverse Traffic Alert (bundled)     $350
Satellite Navigation                                                                $750
Soft tonneau cover                                                                  $490

SV6
Satellite Navigation                                                                  $750
Leather Appointed seats                                                         $1,000

SS
Satellite Navigation                                                                  $750

TJ

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

Ford Australia has added a new model to its popular PX Ranger one-tonne 4×4 ute range in response to strong customer demand for a mid-range offering between the entry level XL and upper level XLT.

The new Ranger XLS is aimed at private and small business customers that will hit Ford showrooms in May with a Manufacturer’s List Price of $48,090.

The XLS is based on the 4×4 XL Double Cab Pick-Up 3.2-litre model with six-speed manual transmission.

The mid-level XLS comes equipped with a locking rear differential, 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, carpeted floor coverings and additional exterior trim highlights.

This brings to 22 the number of Ranger combinations available for Ford customers, including the range-topping Wildtrak.

Since its Australian launch in October 2011 the PX Ranger one-tonne truck has been doing good business for Ford, with the 4×4 XL and 4×4 XLT series the two most popular variants for Australian buyers.

The 4×4 XLS has the following additional features as standard equipment compared to the XL:

4×4 XLS Double Cab Pick-Up 3.2L 4×4 XL Double Cab Pick-Up 3.2L
16-inch alloy wheels 16-inch steel wheels
Front fog lights N/A
Accent painted radiator grille in silver Black radiator grille
Body coloured mirror housing Black exterior mirrors
Carpet floor coverings Vinyl floor covering
Locking Rear Differential Open Rear Differential with Traction Control System

Engine: 2.2 litre four cylinder common-rail turbo-diesel

Power: 110kW @ 3700rpm    Torque: 375Nm @ 1500-2500rpm

Trans: six-speed manual or six-speed automatic

Construction: Body-on-frame

Suspension: (F) coil-over strut/upper & lower wishbones (R) leaf springs & live axle

Payload: 1166 kgs max

Towing: 3.5 tonnes max (braked)

Economy: 8.1 litres/100 kms (manual)

Price: $47, 986

Overview

We like trucks with a simple and honest work ethic. Toyota’s 70 Series WorkMate is a good example. Just big, basic and strong with no frills. Designed to do a tough job and not afraid to get dirty doing it – on the outside and inside.

Ford’s Ranger XL is another hard worker in the 70 Series mould. Built with a back-to-basics approach with none of the bling found in its more glamorous and expensive XLT and WildTrak stable-mates.

And it’s that minimalist, no-frills persona that makes the entry level Ranger XL Double Cab a smart buy for a variety of potential customers. Beyond the obvious appeal for government and private fleet buyers, it’s also got plenty of appeal for farmers, tradies and even urban families that value low maintenance practicality.

Park the Ranger XL alongside the XLT and its lack of eye candy is immediately apparent. However, beyond such a simple visual comparison, there are a number of financial and performance reasons why the Ranger XL might well be a better buy depending on your intended usage.

Our test vehicle

Our typically plain white Ranger XL Double Cab 4×4 Pickup was fitted with the 2.2 litre Duratorq TDCi four cylinder turbo-diesel engine and six-speed manual gearbox.

The 16 valve, common rail, direct injection 2.2 is the smaller of the two turbo-diesels available for this model, with the other being the five-cylinder 3.2 litre Duratorq unit.

Both are from Ford’s ‘Puma’ engine family and according to Ford the 2.2 litre is the same engine fitted to the current Transit Van.

XL vs XLT

So what do you miss out on? Well, where there’s chrome on the XLT you get flat black and body-colour. Where there’s carpeting, you get vinyl flooring. Where there’s alloy wheels, you get painted steel rims. And where there’s a tubular chrome sports bar in the load bed you get a body-coloured load rack/window protector.

Have a look at the standard equipment lists for both models and the XL buyer also misses out on some of the more useful stuff like the XLT’s cooled console box, third power point in the rear of the console, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, tow bar (although our test truck was fitted with one), side steps, auto headlights and fog lights.

XL buyers also miss out on the XLT’s rear parking sensors, locking rear differential, protective bed-liner with 12 volt power socket, dual-zone climate control, larger 4.2-inch multi-function dashboard display monitor and four speaker sound system.

However, even with the 2.2 litre engine – which has one less cylinder and is 1.0 litre smaller in capacity than the XLT’s five cylinder version – you do get everything else that makes the Ranger XLT 4×4 such a formidable competitor in the one-tonne ute market.

These including air-conditioning, front, seat side and side curtain airbags, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) incorporating ABS, Hill Launch Assist, Trailer Sway Control, Emergency Brake Assist and Hill Descent Control. And you get a bigger payload than XLT as well.

What will it carry?

The 2.2 litre XL with six-speed auto or manual transmission matches the 3.2 XLT’s peak towing capacity (at least on paper) of 3.5 tonnes of braked trailer, 750 kgs without trailer brakes, 6.0 tonne Gross Combination Mass (GCM) and 800mm fording ability.

However, because the XL is 125 kgs lighter in kerb weight (XL 2034 kgs vs XLT 2159 kgs) it’s rewarded with a corresponding 125 kgs greater payload (1166 kgs vs 1041 kgs). That’s about six bags of cement, so it’s a fair difference.

And in manual form, Ford claims that it also drinks less diesel than the XLT (8.1L/100 kms vs 9.4L/100 kms) but we always take these factory supplied figures (from any manufacturer) with more than a grain of salt.

We averaged 9.7L/100 kms during our time with the XL, which was a combination of stop-start city driving and sealed and unsealed rural roads, with and without loads. The best we saw was 8.4 after a long freeway run, so it shows how ‘ideal’ these quoted figures are.

Even so, with one less cylinder and one litre less cubic capacity than the 3.2, it has to be more economical which is another plus.

The Double Cab’s load floor length is 1549mm and the width between the wheel housings is 1139mm, meaning standard 900mm-wide builder’s sheets of plywood, gyprock etc will lay flat between them with the gate down, but the wider 1200mm sheets and up won’t.

The standard 1100 x 1100mm Asian pallet, which is increasingly common in this part of the world, will slot neatly between them. There’s also plenty of stout tie-down points in the box to secure your load.

What we found particularly useful at the front of the pick-up bed was the painted frame that serves as both a load frame and rear window protector.

Sure, it doesn’t look as sexy as the XLT chrome tubular roll bar but it’s a lot more useful if you’ve got long lengths of wood, electrical conduit, concrete reinforcing mesh or PVC pipes you need to carry. The pivoting brackets mounted on each side swing up and lock into position to stop these long items from falling off the sides after you’ve strapped them in place.

What’s it like to drive?

You may be thinking that being smaller in engine capacity, the 2.2 litre four-pot XL would feel a bit sluggish compared to its more powerful 3.2 litre five-pot sibling. We can happily report that’s not the case.

The 2.2 produces 110kW @ 3700 rpm compared to the 3.2’s 147 kW @ 3000 rpm – a deficit of 37 kW. Of more importance to us though are the torque figures; 375 Nm  @ 1500-2500 rpm for the 2.2 compared to 470 Nm @ 1500-2750 rpm for the 3.2 – a difference of 95 Nm.

37 kW less power and 95 Nm less torque seems like a lot on paper, but as we discovered with our recent test of the Isuzu D-Max Crew Cab one-tonner, power to weight ratio makes a big difference to a truck’s throttle response and overall agility despite having less cubic engine capacity and torque than some of its competitors.

When Ford confirmed that the Transit Van and XL 2.2 turbo-diesels were the same, it put an instant smile on our dials because having driven the latest Transit Van we were already aware of the excellence of this 2.2 litre four as a light truck engine.

It not only has an abundance of low down torque and pulling power, but it’s the way the torque is delivered that is impressive. The response is instant whenever you get back on the throttle pedal. It’s a smooth and unrelenting surge with none of the turbo lag or comparatively sluggish response we have experienced in other small bore turbo-diesels.

We didn’t get a chance to do any heavy towing during our brief time with this truck, so we can’t comment on how the 2.2 performed with a big load hanging off the tow-ball. We suspect that the 95 Nm difference between the 2.2 and 3.2 would be more noticeable when towing, so we would appreciate any feedback from people that have towed big loads with the 2.2.

You don’t need to rev the 2.2 beyond 2500 rpm between shifts, because when you pick up the next cog it’s generally in that 1500-2500 rpm maximum torque band.

The six-speed manual gearbox is light and precise to use, well matched to the engine’s torque characteristics with a useful selection of ratios for everything this truck needs to do. The overdriven top gear is handy on the highway too, where you can sit at 110 km/h with only 2000 rpm on the tacho.

We didn’t venture too far off road in the XL, largely due to the road tyres fitted to our test vehicle. They don’t tend to grip very well, particular when you strike mud and the shallow treads quickly clog up. Given the amount of rain at the time, we decided not to get too adventurous.

The fact that the XL doesn’t come with the XLT’s Locking Rear Differential (which is not available as an option) shows where Ford is aiming this workhorse and what its typical buyer needs.

Conclusion

If you want a hard working Ford Ranger that can do pretty much everything the XLT can do without all the bells and whistles, the 2.2 litre manual XL Double Cab Pickup represents a massive saving of around $10,000 in purchase price over the 3.2 XLT version (XL $47,986 vs XLT $57,768 based on Ford drive-away estimates).

Even if you fitted an aftermarket tow bar and replaced the ‘poverty pack’ appearance of those steel wheels with a nice set of Ford Accessory or aftermarket alloys and chunkier off road tyres, you’d still be way ahead.

And you never have to worry about scratches on your premium metallic paint. Or muddy boots, beach sand or sticky kids’ stuff ruining your carpet. There’s a lot be said for back-to-basics in this market segment. TJ

Recently revealed images of Holden’s new VF Commodore Ute, which will be part of the technologically advanced VF range to be launched mid-year, made us feel more than a little nostalgic at Truck Jungle.

The VF will be the last Commodore Ute to be built on the Aussie designed and engineering ‘Zeta’ rear wheel drive platform before Holden switches to GM global vehicle architecture for the VF’s successor in about four years’ time.

Therefore, as far as we’re concerned, the VF will be the last truly ‘Australian’ Holden Ute, which has a lineage that can be traced back more than 60 years to 1951 when the company launched the original 50-2106 or FX Holden Ute.

This six decade bloodline was severed only once. That was back in the 1980s, between the end of the much loved WB Series commercials in 1984 and the beginning of the Commodore-based utes in 1990. Even so, the Holden Ute has become an Australian motoring and cultural icon that has played a huge role in the post-war development of our nation.

So, as the last of the truly Aussie Holden Utes, the VF is sure to be something of a collector’s item for true blue Ute lovers – and the queue starts here!

Holden has confirmed that all three VF Commodore body styles – sedan, Sportwagon and Ute – will go on sale at the same time, as it  ramps up customer quality and on-road engineering evaluation programs around Australia.

As part of VF’s ongoing development, Holden engineers will conduct more than 1.4 million kilometres of local and overseas validation testing before the first VF Commodore reaches Holden showrooms.

This includes 350,000 kilometres of customer verification testing of early production models by Holden employees across the business over the coming months.

Since the program’s inception in 2009, Holden has introduced a range of new measures to ensure the 2013 VF Commodore exceeds customer expectations.

With a focus on the needs of Australian car buyers, Holden has mined customer feedback dating from 2003 to define program quality targets and develop vehicle functionality, content and features.

Holden Chief Engineer Brett Vivian said customer experiences of Holden and competitor products were front-loaded into VF program planning from the start.

“Our aim with VF was to challenge people’s perceptions about our cars and get them excited about large cars again,” he said.

“The insights we’ve gained from customer feedback have played a critical role in shaping the VF program, resulting in a fantastic-looking car that is the most refined Commodore we’ve ever engineered.

“It’s also packed full of features and technology that take the driving experience to new levels.

“We’ve put VF through its paces around the globe, from Sweden to North America to the Middle East, but the most critical testing is the thousands of evaluation kilometres we cover on local roads in Australia. Whether sedan, Sportwagon or Ute, the new VF is a car we can all be very proud of – it’s a truly great drive.”

We have no doubts about that, but what on earth will the boys at the Deni Ute Muster drive when there’s no more Holden Utes? TJ

Mitsubishi’s Sport Utility Truck (SUT) design concept ‘GR-HEV’ that was unveiled at the recent Geneva International Motor Show is a good indicator of where the Japanese giant is heading with its next generation Triton one-tonne ute.

The company claims its latest SUT concept brings about further enhancements in environmental and driving performance, based on a combination of sedan or SUV-like comfort levels with the rugged practicality of its Triton Ute.

The exterior design sets it well apart from the current crop of one-tonne pickup trucks, combining flowing lines with a muscular look that provide good aerodynamics without compromising the functional elements of a pickup truck.

The GR-HEV certainly looks to be a more integrated and visually appealing design than the current model Triton, which continues to polarise opinions. It’s also 305mm longer than the existing Triton Crew Cab pickup and 130mm wider, but shares the same wheelbase and overall height.

Nice body detailing includes the company’s diamond motif applied to the LED headlamp system and LED rear combination lamp system.

The SUT concept uses a diesel-hybrid drivetrain with CO2 emissions of 149 g/km or below, aimed at achieving the highest levels of environmental performance in its class.

This comprises a 2.5 litre ‘clean diesel’ engine combined with an electric motor and battery that work together to maximise performance and economy like all hybrids do.

The drivetrain is Mitsubishi’s next-generation 4WD system that combines the company’s Super Select 4WD (SS4) and Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) systems, which in people speak means switchable 2WD/4WD and dynamic stability control.

The SUT concept is also fitted with an AC power supply system to eliminate the need for carrying power generators in the vehicle, to enhance its convenience for use in leisure and work situations. We’ll watch these developments with great interest. TJ

Toyota has boosted the appeal of its love-it-or-loath-it FJ Cruiser 4×4 by more than doubling its fuel tank capacity and adding an off-road cruise control system known as CRAWL.

The Prado-based SUV’s fuel-tank capacity has been expanded to a total of 159 litres with the 72-litre main tank now supplemented by a new 87-litre sub-tank. Not too difficult a job, given that its Prado underpinnings were originally designed to carry two tanks anyway.

Toyota claims this extra tank results in a ‘theoretical’ driving range for its 4.0 litre V6 petrol engine of 1,060 kms in the city and more than 1,700 kms on the highway. Based on Toyota’s combined-cycle fuel economy figures of 11.4 litres/100km, that’s a ‘notional’ range of almost 1,400 kms. Impressive, although we wish it had a diesel engine option.

Off-road driving competence is also enhanced with CRAWL – a ‘feet-off’ control system that helps take the vehicle over severe or slippery terrain. It can assist in climbing or descending steep hills and freeing the vehicle if it gets stuck. It’s also helpful in mud, sand, gravel and when fording water.

CRAWL control engages in L4 (low-range 4×4) and temporarily disengages at speeds above 25km/h or above 10km/h when the rear differential is locked. A speed-selector dial on the overhead console provides the choice of five crawling speeds.

The system automatically maintains a low uniform vehicle speed uphill and downhill by controlling both engine output and brake hydraulic pressure, allowing the driver to concentrate fully on steering the vehicle.

It increases vehicle stability in extreme four-wheel driving conditions by minimising wheel spin and tyre lock-up. It also reduces load on the drivetrain by smoothly controlling engine output and brake application.

FJ Cruiser is Toyota’s fifth SUV and most recent addition to the LandCruiser family.  It’s 200kW, 380Nm 4.0-litre V6 petrol engine is matched to a five-speed automatic transmission, part-time 4×4, electrically activated rear differential lock and switchable ‘Active Traction Control’ technology to maximise off-road climbing ability.

Off road it features an impressive 36-degree approach angle, 31-degree departure angle and 29-degree break-over angle. The latter two dimensions are the best for any vehicle in Toyota’s local 4×4 range and make it damn near unstoppable in the rough stuff.

FJ Cruiser pays homage to several styling themes seen on the LandCruiser FJ40, of which more than 1.1 million were produced between 1960 and 1984.

These include some sharp angular lines, round headlights set either side of a wide mesh grille, an upright windscreen with three wiper blades, a white roof and wrap-around rear corner windows. Some like the styling and some hate it, but there’s no denying there’s a seriously good off roader under all that retro-inspired steel.

Offered in a single grade with a high level of specification, the upgraded FJ Cruiser is priced from just under $48,000. TJ

1972 was a big year for the Dodge Truck division in the US, breaking the 300,000 unit annual sales barrier for the first time with a staggering production increase of almost 60 per cent.

Pivotal in that success was the new light duty Dodge pickup range which was all new from the ground up, following more than three years of planning, designing, engineering and testing and a huge (at the time) $50 million investment.

The new Dodge pickups were called “Life Style” trucks because a growing number of American car buyers were starting to choose pickup trucks instead, because of their ability to serve dual purpose roles – an honest hard worker during the week and a fun and practical escape machine on the weekend.

Several decades later, the dual-purpose appeal of the pickup truck in the US (and one-tonne ute in Australia/New Zealand) is showing no signs of slowing down. The demand has never been greater and the level of competition between the brands never hotter.

This classic TV commercial shown on US television proudly introduced the new-for-1972 Dodge pickup line and its dual-purpose appeal and car-like comfort is certainly pushed hard in the dialogue from just about every angle.

It all looks very ‘Bonanza’ in its presentation and feel – including the host! It’s a great time capsule that captures the booming US automotive scene in the early 1970s before the world’s first oil crisis struck. Enjoy.

Toyota’s popular 200 Series full-size SUV, which can tow up to 3.5 tonnes, has become the first vehicle in the Toyota range to finally adopt the added safety of Trailer Sway Control.

The system, which is already available in a number of one-tonne utes from rival manufacturers, is integrated with the existing vehicle stability control systems to help the driver in the event that a trailer starts to swing from side to side.

It is designed to suppress swaying that can be triggered by factors such as crosswinds, bumpy roads and sharp turns of the steering wheel. It detects trailer sway based on information from the vehicle’s yaw-rate sensor, acceleration sensor and steering sensor.

If sway is detected, the system uses deceleration control and yaw-moment control to suppress the effects. It warns the driver via the slip indicator in the instrument cluster and alerts following drivers by illuminating the stop lamps.

The system operates seamlessly and does not require the addition of hardware or any change to the trailer. We only hope Toyota doesn’t drag the chain in adapting the same technology to its popular HiLux and 70 Series one-tonne trucks, which are also popular for towing.

Another safety enhancement for the five-star ANCAP safety-rated 200 Series is the addition of knee airbags for the driver and front passenger in GX and volume-selling GXL model grades, bringing the total number of airbags to eight. High-grade VX and Sahara have 10 SRS airbags, including rear-seat side airbags.

LandCruiser 200 models are available with a choice of V8 engines – a 4.6-litre petrol or a 4.5-litre twin-turbo diesel – mated to six-speed automatic transmissions.

The petrol V8, with variable valve timing on both the inlet and exhaust ports, produces maximum power of 227kW at 5500rpm and peak torque of 439Nm at 3400rpm. The twin-turbo common-rail diesel engine delivers maximum power output of 195kW and a thumping 650Nm of torque.

Engine: 3.0 litre four cylinder, common rail, direct injection, turbo-diesel

Power:  130kW @ 3600rpm   Torque:  380Nm @ 1800-3000 rpm

Transmission: Five-speed manual or five-speed automatic

Construction: Body-on-frame

Suspension: (F) upper/lower wishbones, coil springs (R) live axle, leaf springs

Payload: 1015 kgs

Towing: 3.0 tonnes (braked)

Economy: 8.0-8.3 litres/100 kms

Price: $27,200 (SX Single Cab-chassis 4×2) – $51,700 (LS-Terrain Crew Cab)

Overview

General Motors and Isuzu have a long history of model-sharing in work utes, going right back to the early 1970s when GM first bought a stake in the Japanese manufacturer and its local subsidiary Holden started importing the Isuzu KB ute, which was sold as the Chevrolet LUV (Light Utility Vehicle).

By 1980, the Chevy nameplate had been replaced by Holden Rodeo. And it stayed that way through four generations of Isuzu-built, Holden-badged workhorses sold by Holden dealers, until Isuzu and GM formally split in 2006 when Isuzu regained full ownership.

As part of the divorce, Isuzu established its own Australian dealer network (Isuzu Ute Australia) in 2008 and also took back its Rodeo nameplate, forcing Holden to switch to the ‘Colorado’ badge and (until 2012) sell in direct competition to the nearly identical Isuzu version on which it was based.

However, a solution for both brands was on the way, because back in 2006 GM and Isuzu had also agreed to a fresh joint venture to develop an all-new one tonne ute platform from which the two manufacturers could create their own distinctly different model derivatives.

So when the all-new Holden Colorado and Isuzu D-Max utes were launched in 2012, Holden and Isuzu made plenty of noise about major differences in drivetrains and body styling to change perceptions created by the previous models that Holden and Isuzu utes were one and the same.

These new claims of autonomy were certainly credible, given that the latest Isuzu D-Max features sheet metal that can no longer be confused with the Colorado’s latest styling direction.

Although the Colorado and Isuzu share the same chassis and cabin/interior architecture, the body work apart from perhaps the roof panel is unique to each truck. This includes the doors, which share the same frame structures but different outer skins.

Even though we love the latest Colorado’s bold Chevy Silverado-inspired grille design, we think Isuzu has done a better job with the styling overall. And that’s largely because the bulbous wheel arch flares front and rear give the D-Max a more broad shouldered ‘big foot’ stance than the Colorado’s more narrow, upright appearance.

The rounded D-Max grille and front end shape, with recessed fog lights and smooth polycarbonate headlight covers, is also designed to minimise injuries to pedestrians in the case of a collision.

And the D-Max/Colorado pair feature entirely different engines, manual gearboxes and automatic transmissions, which makes them more individual than the current Ford Ranger/Mazda BT50 duo which rely mainly on different body styling to tell them apart.

D-Max LS-U Space Cab 4X4 Hi-Ride

Our test vehicles

The latest D-Max range offers a big choice of models with 4×2 or 4×4 drivetrains and standard height or Hi-Ride suspension variants. These start at $27,200 for the 4×2 SX Single Cab manual cab-chassis workhorse and finish at the $51,700 4×4 LS-Terrain Crew Cab Hi-Ride auto with all the fruit.

Like its major competitors, there’s also a third body variant called the Space Cab which conveniently slots in between the Single Cab and Crew Cab.

In the 4×4 Hi-Ride models, which are available in Space Cab or Crew Cab, the D-Max buyer has a choice of four model grades in manual or auto starting at SX followed by LS-M then LS-U and finally LS-Terrain.

Truck Jungle tested two of these 4×4 Hi-Riders – the Space Cab LS-U manual and Crew Cab LS-Terrain auto – to sample what the latest D-Max has to offer the one tonne ute buyer.

Design & Features

The new D-Max ute is a big, strong truck. Riding on an all-new heavy duty ladder-type chassis with seven cross-members, it provides a 45mm increase in wheelbase over the previous model (now 3095mm) and a 50mm increase in track width front and back.

Independent front suspension features coil springs and upper and lower wishbones with the usual leaf springs (mounted above the axle on Hi-Ride models) and live rear axle arrangement.

The Crew Cab ute’s overall length of 5295mm and width of 1860mm (helped by those big wheel arch flares) is on par or slightly larger than its main competitors which has resulted in greatly improved cabin space, larger door openings and a more comfortable back rest angle in the rear seat.

Active and passive safety features were top priorities in the design of the new D-Max which now features six airbags, Electronic Stability Control and ABS with Electronic Brake Force Distribution which automatically moves a higher proportion of braking power to the rear brakes depending on payload.

The Euro IV-compliant 3.0 litre turbo-diesel produces 130 kW at 3600rpm, but more importantly has a nice fat 380 Nm serving of torque from 1800-3000 rpm (manual) and 1800-2800rpm (auto).  These figures represent a 10kW power increase and 20Nm boost in torque over the previous model.

Interior comfort and safety

Like its Colorado sibling, the interior is spacious with all controls easy to use and identify. The LS-Terrain cockpit is packed with features including full leather trim (we’re told the awful brown with charcoal leather combo will not be continued), satellite navigation with touchscreen, reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity, USB input with IPod connectivity and MP3 compatible CD player.

Like its main competitors, the steering column is adjustable for tilt only but for some baffling reason the steering wheel in the top-shelf LS-Terrain is not equipped with the remote audio and phone controls available in some lower-spec models. Like the brown leather, this needs to be addressed.

The driver’s seat has enough adjustment for different shapes and sizes to get reasonably comfortable. There’s plenty of room on the rear bench seat, too, with generous window glass, head room and sufficient rake on the backrest for a comfortable seating position.

At the time of writing, the Crew Cab’s six-airbag survival cell was sitting one star short of the maximum five-star ANCAP crash safety rating due to its use of single seatbelt pre-tensioners, but Isuzu is addressing these shortcomings and aiming to achieve the five-star rating as soon as possible.

A glaring omission in the D-Max safety menu is the lack of rear parking sensors, which aren’t available as an option or even as a factory accessory. And the reversing camera is only available in the top-of-the-range LS-Terrain as it relies on that model’s touch-screen feature to function.

Even so, with its use of high strength steel side intrusion beams combined with driver/passenger front airbags and full length side-curtain airbags, it’s a huge advance in active and passive safety over the previous generation D-Max.

What will it carry?

The 4×4 models we tested can carry a 1000-plus kg payload and pull 3000 kgs on a braked trailer or 750 kgs without brakes.

In key dimensions, the load floor length of the D-Max Crew Cab’s load box is 65mm shorter and 25mm narrower than the current Ford Ranger benchmark. In practical terms, that can mean the difference between being able to close the tailgate with a pushbike or wheelbarrow laying straight or having to carry it across the load floor to allow enough room to close it.

The distance between the wheel arches inside the load area is 17mm narrower than the Ranger at 1122 mm, so standard 900mm-wide builder sheets will lay flat between them and the standard 1100mm x 1100mm Asian pallet will also just squeeze in there with 11mm each side to spare.

What’s it like to drive?

The D-Max has great build integrity and rattle-free operation. It feels like a lot of truck building experience has gone into it, which is not surprising given the sizeable amount of input Isuzu had in its shared platform design.

The D-Max’s Isuzu 4JJ1-TC Hi-Power four cylinder common rail turbo-diesel is a gem of an engine for this application and showcases the company’s expertise in truck engine design and refinement.

On face value that 380 Nm falls short of the 470 Nm peak torque figures quoted for its Colorado cousin and Ford Ranger/Mazda BT50, but you wouldn’t know when you’re driving it. This is helped by the D-Max’s more athletic kerb weight, which even in the heaviest model (LS-Terrain Crew Cab auto) is 1940 kgs or about 150 kgs lighter than the Ranger XLT Crew Cab pickup.

The D-Max engine is super flexible and very refined. It is quiet and remarkably smooth in operation without the noise, vibration and harshness we sometimes associate with small bore diesel engines. On or off road, there’s no shortage of torque where you need it most, bang in the middle of that 2000-3000 rpm sweet spot whether you’ve got a manual or automatic behind it.

Service intervals have also been doubled from 10,000 to 20,000 kms backed by a five year/130,000 km warranty, thanks to some robust hardware changes within.

Isuzu’s MUX five-speed manual is a sweet-shifting transmission with a good spread of ratios, although it can be a bit notchy when cold. The beefy 265mm diameter clutch has plenty of bite with a pedal weight that makes it easy to use.

The Aisin AW TB50-LS five-speed automatic is also a good unit, featuring a sequential shift option which is great for towing when you need to hold it in one gear at times and a fuel-saving lock-up torque converter on all gears from second to fifth.

The Adaptive Grade Logic Control also holds third gear in varied gradient descents and automatically selects third on steep descents to maintain your set speed using powerful engine braking.

The 4×4 drivetrain shared with the Colorado features what Isuzu calls ‘Terrain Command’ control which with the turn of a console dial allows shifting from 2WD to high range 4WD while on the move at speeds up to 100 km/h.

It’s an impressive performer off road, thanks to the outstanding flexibility of its turbo-diesel engine, well-matched gearing and supple suspension.  Both the auto and manual performed well during our test that included a variety of rugged terrain, although when the going got tougher in places we preferred the more direct control and throttle response of the five-speed manual.

It rides, handles and stops well on the bitumen but the D-Max’s ride quality when you venture away from sealed roads is remarkable for a ute. It is one of the best we’ve driven, particularly unladen, absorbing the kidney-rattling corrugations of rough dirt roads and chassis-twisting irregularities of narrow bush tracks with great composure and passenger comfort.

Across the board, the ride quality just keeps getting better in these one-tonne utes, but it will never be as good as a sedan given the weight of their live rear axles and leaf springs required to carry one tonne and tow more than three. You can’t have everything!

Conclusion

Overall the latest Isuzu D-Max is an excellent one-tonne ute that now stands proudly on its own. It is competitively priced, backed by a solid Isuzu dealer network and is every bit as tough and capable as its main rivals.

It’s only major drawback is perhaps lingering market perceptions of GM-Isuzu ‘badge engineering’ from the past affecting buying decisions, which is an injustice given its new-found individuality in styling and drivetrain. And particularly that great engine!

So if you’re in the market for a new one-tonner, make sure you include the D-Max on your list of potential purchases. We reckon you’ll be surprised and impressed by a vehicle you may well have overlooked.  There’s not much to dislike here. TJ

The first Australian Falcon ute and van heralded not only the creation of Ford’s first locally designed and built compact sedan-based six cylinder commercial half-tonne truck range.

It also drew Ford Australia’s first symbolic line in the sand in terms of how the local Ford branch would manufacturer its ‘Australian’ Falcon, by starting with the basis of a US design and then modifying it to withstand the more robust demands of Australian drivers and car-busting roads.

It was unfortunate that the reputation of Australia’s first Falcon, which was fundamentally a good car, was so badly (and on reflection unfairly) tarnished by an engineering fault that soon emerged in the front suspension ball joints.

The imported UK components were being made using a manufacturing process that differed from that being used in the US. The problem was quickly solved by switching to the stronger ball joints shared with the compact Fairlane, but the Falcon’s reputation had been badly damaged by the problem.

There were other smaller quality control issues with those first cars that were typical of the times but the perception of weakness in the new Falcon soon spread far and wide, resulting in sliding showroom sales and fleet buyers turning their backs in droves.

All the problems were quickly solved of course and the Falcon was continually improved. And by paying a lot of attention to fleet buyers to win them back and through some brilliant marketing strategies, the public’s faith in the Falcon was eventually restored.

By the time this first generation of Aussie Falcon utes and vans was phased out in 1966, having evolved through four model changes (XK-XL-XM-XP) that were mild variants of the original, memories of those early failures had been replaced by widespread respect for a half-tonne ute and van range that was as rugged, stylish and confident as the wide brown land it was built for.

XK Falcon Ute & Van

Australia’s first Falcon ute and van range was launched in May 1961 which was about eight months after the XK sedan made its star-studded debut in September 1960 (the station wagon launch was delayed until November 1960).

Like the sedan and station wagon, the new ute and panel van shared a fresh and striking design based on the latest US Falcon-based Ford Ranchero pickup (ute) and Sedan Delivery (van).

Even so, the Australian Falcon range differed noticeably from the US version, with a more compact and practical design tailored to suit tough Australian conditions.

The key difference was that the US Ranchero and Sedan Delivery used the longer doors of the two-door Falcon model, which in turn pushed more of the load floor behind the rear wheels to create greater overall length and more rear overhang.

For a fully laden workhorse, this US design was too vulnerable to major damage while negotiating Australian work sites, creek crossings, spoon drains and other outback obstacles.

And because the US Falcon wagon shared the same shortcomings, Ford Australia presented a unique short-tailed version of the Falcon sedan, wagon, ute and panel van range all sharing the same 109.5-inch wheelbase and 181-inch overall length.

Original Ford Australia design office renderings show how the company made four different XK Falcon models off the same 109.5-inch wheelbase. Note the name L.T Bandt at the bottom right of the drawing – the same man who created the world’s first coupe utility in the 1930s.

Unitary Body & Chassis

Even though all four XK Falcon models were the same forward of the B pillar, Ford Australia cleverly mixed and matched the rear panel sets to maximise the number of times a single panel could be shared across the four different models (see images above and below).

The ute and panel van shared the same side panels and tailgate (the van’s roof panel and tailgate with sliding glass window and external winder were shared with the wagon), heavy duty under-body frame and floor, spare wheel compartment located under the floor behind the rear axle, small spring-loaded rubber bumperettes and a 12.5 gallon fuel tank and filler neck located ahead of the rear axle.

A later Ford Australia sketch clearly illustrates how Ford was able to share its XK panels across different models to minimise tooling and production costs.

Stylish extended B pillars and a rear parcel shelf also gave Aussie Falcon ute drivers some useful extra storage space inside and a little extra shade from the hot sun, while the sedan’s shorter front doors freed up more load space ahead of the rear axle.

Load floor length was just under 2.0 metres, but with its tailgate opened and laid flat the XK Falcon ute and van offered more than 2.4 metres of tray length.

Front suspension was the same as the sedan and wagon, with independent coil-sprung upper wishbones and lower control arms located by radius rods with an anti-sway bar.

The simple and rugged leaf-spring rear suspension though was beefed up to handle the ute/van’s 1196 lbs (542 Kg) payload with rugged two-stage springs. These consisted of three-leaf overload spring packs added to the standard four-leafs, which only came into operation when the vehicle was heavily loaded. This ensured a smoother ride when the vehicles were unladen.

New stronger five-stud wheel hubs were used along with an improvement in braking performance over the sedan and wagon with larger brake shoes in the four wheel drums.

Tyres were also slightly wider and stronger to cope with the increased loads, too, featuring 6.70 x 13 six-ply construction as against 6.00 x 13 four-ply on the sedan.

Engine & Drivetrain

The XK Falcon sedan was launched in November 1960 with a neat and simple 144 cid (2.4 litre) overhead valve inline six cylinder engine. This low maintenance US design featured an over-square 3.5-inch bore x 2.5-inch stroke, four-bearing crankshaft, intake manifold cast integral with the cylinder head, single barrel carburettor with manual choke and a 12 volt electrical system.

This engine was available in a choice of high compression or low compression specification, which was a common requirement for local manufacturers at the time.

The standard high compression version (8.7:1) produced a claimed 90 bhp (67.5 kW) at 4200 rpm and 138 ft/lbs (186Nm) of torque at 2000 rpm.

The low compression version (7.5:1) produced slightly less power (85 bhp) but was designed to suit Falcon owners living in remote rural areas where it was common for only one grade of low octane or ‘standard’ petrol to be available.

The low-comp version also targeted fleet buyers for whom lower fuel costs were more important than performance. There was also a belief amongst the fleets that lower compression engines were less stressed and tended to last longer, which certainly had merit.

Most importantly, at launch in 1960 the Falcon’s 144 cid/90 bhp was comfortably ahead of its then dominant competitor – the FB Holden – with its smaller and less powerful 138 cid/75 bhp inline six.

Even so, behind the scenes Ford was unhappy with the Falcon’s engine, feeling it still had inadequate power for Australian driving conditions; a problem that was amplified when ordered with the power-sapping Fordomatic two-speed automatic transmission.

Ford soon upped the ante in the power stakes with the introduction of a longer stroke 170 cid (2.8 litre) version in November 1961, which it named the 170 Pursuit.

Smooth and powerful, the still over-square design (3.5-inch bore x 2.94-inch stroke) featured the same 8.7:1 high compression for a much healthier 101 bhp (75.8 kW) at 4400 rpm. The longer stroke also helped boost torque to 156 ft/lbs at 2400 rpm.

Although the XK ute and van were launched in May 1961 with the 144 six, the more powerful 170 Pursuit was made available as an option for the commercial range when it came on line in November that year.

The 170 Pursuit resulted in a noticeable boost in load-lugging performance that was superior to the 144 cid six it replaced and way ahead of its FB Holden-based ute and van competitors which were still using GM’s venerable 138 cid six. It could also return 30 mpg (or less than 10 litres/100 kms).

A three-speed manual gearbox (synchromesh on second and third gears only) with column shift was the only transmission specified for the XK ute and van. When the Pursuit 170 became available in late 1961, a slightly lower second gear was introduced resulting in more spirited acceleration.

To better cope with load hauling, the rear axle ratio was also lowered from the sedan’s 3.56:1 to 3.89:1.

With its 2604 lb (1181 kg) kerb weight, the Falcon ute was 76 kgs heavier than the sedan with most of that being the heavier duty framing and seven-leaf springs under the load area to handle its half-tonne payload rating. And as we know, plenty of owners often exceeded that figure!

Interior

Motoring life was pretty simple back in the early 1960s. The XK Falcon ute or van driver sat on a bench seat facing a very basic metal dashboard featuring a glove box, basic ventilation controls and a single instrument panel.

This included a speedometer, odometer, fuel gauge, engine temperature gauge, oil and generator warning lights, high beam and turn signal indicator lights. The high beam dimmer switch was floor-mounted of course, as was the norm back then.

Interior options available included a padded dash panel and sun-visors, push-button transistor radio, a heater (such decadence) and even seat belts!

The XK Falcon range was sold from September 1960 to August 1962, when it was replaced by the face-lifted XL model. During that time Ford sold a total 68,465 XKs including sedans, wagons, utes and vans. TJ

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