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As double-cab utes continue to make their way from the worksite to the high street, the arrival of more dedicated lifestyle models was somewhat inevitable.
Trade the high-vis vest and Blundstones for a clean polo and pair of Tigers, and you have the 2015 Holden Colorado Z71.
Before we go too much further, some background…
Back in 1988, GM in North America released the Z71 package on the Silverado pickup, to designate a ‘proper’ off-road option for the popular utility. Buyers received underbody protection, better shock absorbers and some cool stickers.
Even today, a 2015 Z71 Silverado packs a bunch of kit that makes it more formidable and capable off-road, including a lockable rear differential, recovery hooks and, of course, stickers.
That said, the Z71 badge has found its way onto other models in the GM range, including 2WD Silverado variants and in some cases became little more than a lifestyle appearance package.
In the case of the $57,190 Colorado Z71, it is very much a case of the latter.
Mechanically identical to the LTZ Colorado on which it is based, the Z71 gets spruced up with some extra equipment, unique body styling accessories and naturally, stickers – for a $4000 premium.
There are heated and leather-appointed front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, revised headlamps with black surrounds, an integrated nudge bar and black-painted door handles and mirrors.
The main ‘upgrade’ over the standard Colorado is the ‘sailplane’ rear trim that incorporates an aerodynamic sports canopy and side bolsters that in turn support an integrated tonneau cover over the tray.
Inside, in addition to the seating upgrades, the interior of the Z71 is the same as most other Colorados – a bit basic and dated, with that glowing-blue climate control ‘circle’ taking pride of place under the seven-inch MyLink Touchscreen.
We’ve mentioned MyLink quite a bit at CarAdvice and we've always come to the same conclusion – it’s not bad, but the absence of navigation, particularly at this price point, is really not good enough. The BringGo app is not an adequate solution, but we note that Holden is including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration on the 2016 Captiva, so we expect that Colorado buyers won't have to wait too long to see these features filter across.
There is good storage in the cab, with the twin glovebox and dash-top storage, as well as cup-holders that pull out in front of the air vents, central armrest cubby and deep door pockets.
It’s big inside and you sit up high, offering great visibility out the front, but the sailplane hinders any rear-quarter vision, so you are best to use the reverse camera as a backup when backing up.
Rear row access is also easy with plenty of space for adult passengers, even three-across. For comfort, there are map-pockets and a single 12-volt power outlet and bins in the doors. No directional air vents or cup-holders, though.
All this, combined with matte-black decals on the bonnet and Z71 badging throughout, give the big Colorado a striking and pretty impressive look, particularly in the ‘Sizzle’ red paintwork on our test car.
In fact, we had a number of passers-by come along and comment on how good the Z71 looks on the street. It is lifestyle before loads, though, as the cool street presence doesn’t translate into practicality.
The clip to retract the tonneau is clumsy, and flimsy – ours broke. The cover needs to be manually rolled up like it’s the 1970s all over again, and sits messily against the cab bulkhead, secured by some basic straps.
The raised sills on the side of the tub have some covers that promise extra tie-down hooks, but when (forcibly) removed, are only there to cover the bolts that secure the sailplane assembly to the rear of the Colorado.
The tub itself looks big, but is 1mm shorter than the Ford Ranger dual-cab and a whole 71mm shorter than the class-leading Volkswagen Amarok.
Forget throwing the CRF back there, the Z71 may have a footprint of over ten square metres, but a trail bike wont even fit diagonally in the 1484 x 1534mm tub. In fact, the entire sailplane and tonneau blind assembly is largely unfavourable to any kind of load. Less life, more style.
This is further apparent when noting the Colorado Z71 (as well as its donor LTZ sibling) received a ‘comfort’ suspension package as part of their 2015 upgrade that lowers the vehicle’s load rating by over 250kg, to 803kg.
Is that enough? Do the maths here. Load up four burly lads (90kg each) for a weekend camping (and talking crap about cars) and that leaves you a shade over 400kg for your gear. That is still quite a lot, but something worth considering if your weekend pursuits involve hefty toys.
There is a 3500kg tow rating though, so worst case, chuck all your gear in the camper trailer and move on.
Towing, on paper at least, is one of the Colorado’s strong points. The 147kW / 500Nm 2.8-litre Duramax engine offers peak torque from 2000rpm. We’ve pulled some pretty epic loads with Colorados in the past 12 months, and the ute has no issue getting things moving and cruising at highway speeds.
The towing test on our ute mega-test put the Z71 through a country road loop with a 750kg un-braked trailer. And although pulling the weight didn’t upset the big Holden, stopping didn’t feel as sure as it should (better trailer, better braking performance it seems). The ‘comfort’ suspension is likewise not as suited to the ballast out the back as it really should be.
The car’s ride around town, too, isn’t exactly soft-fluffy-cloud compliant, and can be upset over corrugations, particularly with an empty tray. Strangely, though, it's remarkably easy to park – when using the guidance from the camera. The steering is somewhat heavy and slow, but it is very manageable and snug urban parallel spots don’t upset the big ute as much as you’d expect.
Performance also looks good on paper, with the output of the Duramax motor in-line with key segment competitors Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux and Mazda BT-50, and ahead of double-cab stalwarts Nissan Navara and Volkswagen Amarok.
This doesn’t translate into mind-melting acceleration or rapid response, but, rather, more effortless cruising both at urban and highway speeds. The six-speed automatic transmission too is more relaxed than radical. There's a sports-shifting mode, but you'll not use it for sporty driving. Forced changes are a bit slow and unrewarding, things are best left in 'drive'. It’s not bad on the juice either, considering its size, returning 10.4L per 100km on a combined cycle during our test (9.7L/100km claimed).
The Colorado’s diesel clatters a bit and doesn’t feel particularly ‘modern’ underfoot, but it does what it needs to, albeit without the refinement of some of its newer competitors.
So, here we are. For close to $60-grand on the road, the Colorado Z71 doesn’t really hit too many home-runs.
The extra kit might look cool, but it tips the scales away from where the Colorado does best: as a good-value workhorse. A base level truck comes with a more load-oriented suspension setup and the same 2.8-litre diesel – all of the best bits, for under $40,000. You still get capped-price servicing for life and access to all the 238 Holden Dealers around the country, just the thing for big-country touring.
It’s a pity, as the Colorado Z71 does look the business. But, for you buyers wanting work as well as play, move back down the range and perhaps look at the new LS-X version that comes with all the accessories you need - for $20-grand less.
Click on the Photos tab for more 2015 Holden Colorado Z71 images by Tom Fraser and James Ward.