Review: Holden Colorado Z71 v Toyota Hilux SR5 utes
The newly revamped Holden Colorado Z71 ute has landed, so MATT WOOD pits it against Toyota’s market-leading Hilux SR5.
I’ve been wondering lately if modern 4x4 utes are becoming more like lairy designer gumboots than a pair of steel-capped Blunnies. Less hi-vis and more RM Williams. It seems that the boundary between commercial and recreational is becoming increasingly blurred as manufacturers continue to pour more car-like kits into these trucks.
The sales scramble for a slice of the 4x4 dual cab ute pie is now indeed in full swing. The Toyota Hilux has been the traditional market leader and emotional favourite of many for years, but it is facing some serious challengers for sales supremacy in the dual cab pick-up market.
Ford Ranger has been hot on the tail of the Hilux for the last couple of years, and has even outsold it in some monthly tallies. Now a vastly improved Holden Colorado has hit the market. How does it stack up against the market leader?
Holden has high hopes for its new truck … pick up … ute … thingy. It’s a fair observation to say that past incarnations of the Colorado have been less than impressive from behind the wheel. The 2.8-litre Italian-made Duramax engine hasn’t always been the most refined of beasts, and had a tendency to yowl like a thousand angry lawnmowers when poked with a big stick.
It looked great on paper; 147kW of grunt and a whopping 500Nm of torqueing (auto trans) are benchmark figures in this part of the market. Past execution, however, has been more than a little unrefined.
But until last year, so was the then-ageing Hilux. The new current-generation Toyota ute has had to scramble to meet market expectations of cushier trucks that can still lug, wade, carry and haul. The result is a plusher truck designed to straddle the line between commercial and private use. And over multiple drives in varying spec, I reckon it’s done a good job of increasing the wider market appeal of the Toyota without alienating the traditional Hilux heartland.
Colorado moves on up
The Colorado, however, has just received arguably its most significant update yet. The Holden has performed reasonably well on the sales charts as the market has slowly turned its sights from rear-drive sedans and utes to SUVs and 4x4s. To be fair, Holden has done well to keep the Colorado sharply priced against the competition. Just 12 months ago, I wouldn’t have dreamt of lining these two up together, but now, finally, it seems that Holden may have something to bring to the table.
A new face is the first and most obvious change to the Holden. The new front end has more of a nod towards American styling cues than before. Inside, the old stacked console and hard plastics look of the dash has been transformed into a classier layout. While the plastics are still hard to touch, they look softer and take away some of the bare bones look of the old dash. A seven- or eight-inch touchscreen does away with the old MyLink entertainment system and now uses Apple CarPlay or Android-based phone connectivity.
The 2.8-litre Duramax engine maintains its power outputs but features a new acoustics package to distance the driver from the clatter and growl of the engine. The six-speed auto transmission now features a centrifugal pendulum absorber-equipped torque converter that enables the torque converter to lock up for longer periods and more often. Both the engine and tranny are now sitting on new mountings to reduce vibration.
Electric power steering is also a new feature on the Holden and reduces low-speed effort while progressively getting heavier for highway speeds. A feature virtually transplanted from the VF Commodore platform.
The rear leaf springs have lost a leaf, moving from a 3+2 arrangement to a 3+1 in the quest for a suppler ride. Payload and towing remains the same (1007kg and 3500kg).
Toyota approached the Hilux with the conservatism we’ve come expect from the brand. The new 1GD-FTV 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine replaced the venerable yet agricultural 3.0-litre found in the previous-gen Hilux and Prado. Power output trails the Holden, with 130kW available and 450Nm of torque on tap. While the Hilux may have less oomph, peak torque comes on tap at a lower 1600rpm compared to the Holden’s 2000-2200rpm peak and runs all the way up to 24000rpm.
The six-speed auto option in the Hilux gets a tow rating of 3200kg braked, while the six-speed manual gets the 3500kg tow rating. Both fifth and sixth gear in either ‘box are essentially overdrives, and it’s rare for the Toyota to slip into sixth on loaded trips. While the Hilux engine has a lower torque curve than the Holden’s Duramax when left to its own devices, the auto will try and keep the engine revs up.
The interior styling is a nod to plusher market requirements, which has polarized some observers. The tablet-style infotainment system looks like an afterthought to some, and a funky idea to others. The rear leaf springs of the Hilux have been mounted outboard for this gen, and the springs are longer than before in an effort to address empty ride criticism.
The pointed snout of the Hilux also draws criticism from some quarters. Whilst I personally don’t mind it, others have commented that it’s either bland or just plain ugly. When compared to its major competitors, however, it’s still rather conservative to look at, even in SR5 form.
Head to head
We took the new top-of-the-range Holden Colorado Z71 and the Toyota Hilux SR5 for a spin in the bush recently to see how the in-your-face Holden stacks up against one of the vehicles it was heavily benchmarked against.
If blacked-out bonnet stripes and body kits are your thing, the Holden will no doubt catch your eye. I, however, have reached an age where I prefer not to look like I’m trying to be 20 years younger. Inside the Colorado is now a much nicer place to be with the redesigned dash. And turning the key produces a far less intrusive engine note than before.
The Duramax powerplant isn’t short on poke and gets a boogie on pretty quickly, but the most noticeable improvement is the way the engine sounds, the auto behaves, and the way that it steers.
Gone is the raspy roar and engine flare between gear changes. The new torque converter smooths out changes and locks up as much as possible to improve mechanical efficiency and performance. The result is much smoother and responsive performance on and off road. The auto feels a lot more intuitive than before as well, and will down-change under load on descent, providing some engine braking effect without manual intervention.
The revised rear suspension has taken some bounce out of the ride, and there’s much less body roll than previous incarnations. This is topped off by the electric power steering system. While it may be fair to observe that this is something more likely to help out when parking a big ute in town, it does also help when turning around on a tight bush track. It’s very nicely weighted at highway speeds, whether on blacktop or on country dirt, and there’s enough feedback to know what’s going on under the front wheels. And, I’ll even go as far to say that it feels better than the Ford EPAS system on the Ranger.
The Toyota’s image of restraint carries over when behind the wheel. The 2.8-litre diesel is a very smooth and quiet operator; a characteristic that is increasingly becoming a feature of modern small bore diesels. Even with some SR5 bling, the Toyota still feels more commercial than the Holden, both on and off road.
It feels more worksite than ski boat if you will. The Hilux still feels a little jiggly in the rear end compared to the Colorado when empty, yet the old-school hydraulic power steering conveys plenty of feedback on country road surfaces. Interestingly, even though there’s not a lot in it in reality, the Toyota feels more nimble and smaller than the Holden both on the road and in the bush.
Both utes use an electric shift dial to select four-wheel drive high and low. This is pretty much the same with all competitors in this segment save the auto version of the VW Amarok.
The Colorado relies on a rear limited slip diff to help with traction on and off road, while the Toyota uses its A-TRC off-road traction control and rear diff-lock (standard of SR and SR5) to give it a boost in the bush. The Colorado scrabbles at off-road obstacles using grunt and determination to get to the top, while the Hilux has a much more sedate approach.
The A-TRC system on the Toyota disengages on the front axle when the rear diff-lock is engaged and can be switched off all-together when in terrain where wheel spin may be an advantage. But when climbing through rough country, the system does a mighty job of keeping the wheels turning and delivering traction to the ground without bogging down. The Hilux is flexible and almost effortless off-road within the bounds of a straight-from-the-showroom ute.
The Holden is reasonably capable off-road but lacks the intelligence of Toyota’s traction control system. It has a tendency to snarl and grab for a foothold rather than gently haul itself up a challenging climb. The rejuvenated auto in the Colorado has the street smarts, but can’t match the off-road intelligence of the Toyota in the dirt.
One feature of the Holden that performed very well was the hill descent control. Compared to others on the market – and even the Hilux – it proved smooth, quiet and easily controlled when clambering down off-road obstacles.
Both trucks are at very different stages in their platform life. This Colorado revamp is coming in late in the model’s life span, whereas the Hilux platform is all-new from the ground up as of last year. As a result, the Hilux feels as if there’s more potential to be tapped into as the model ages, while Holden has thrown a lot into a platform that was, up until now, generationally lagging.
During development, this Colorado was benchmarked against the two market leaders, Ranger and Hilux, and it shows. The Holden is now the truck it should’ve been from the start.
These trucks are becoming plusher and friendlier to the everyday private user, whether for work or for play. But you can see the different engineering intents between the two just by looking at the seats. The Z71 comes complete with leather and electric seats. The SR5 sticks with fabric and manual adjustment.
The bottom line
As a work truck in the bush and on a work site, it’s hard to look past the Hilux and its heritage of durable engineering. It’s undoubtedly the more commercial of the two no matter how many gizmos are loaded into it. But for a plusher ute with more of a road bias, Holden finally has a contender worthy of mention in a market that will continue to be spoilt for choice.
It’s clear that Holden is serious about the future of this truck, and it has maintained the same aggressive price point. It’s dropped the list price of the new LTZ Colorado by $500 and the pricing of the top of the tree Z71 remains unchanged at $54,990, where the Hilux SR5 you see here will set you back $56,390. And given the performance of both utes, they’re hard figures to ignore. Though one of them is just a little less inclined to get down and dirty.
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