BUYERS GUIDE - WAGONS MEDIUM
Holden’s successor to the Jackaroo wagon range was a Colorado ute derivative, the Colorado 7. It was replaced by the Trailblazer in late 2016, but departed with all other Holdens in 2020.
In 2016 Holden’s then Executive Director of Marketing, Geraldine Davys, said customer feedback and a change in vehicle design were important factors in the decision to adopt ‘Trailblazer’ as the replacement name for the Colorado 7.
“With the 2017 Trailblazer, we have dialled up the luxury and ride comfort to offer a premium SUV that’s comfortable in urban areas, but remains just as capable for weekend adventures,” said Ms Davys.
Trailblazer debuted with an all-new dash and instrument cluster, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone projection technology, and the use of premium materials and design.
The Holden Trailblazer had upgrades in technology, drivability, design and safety, and came with a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
The Colorado’s 2.8-litre VM-Motori Duramax engine continued in the Trailblazer, although its future was uncertain, thanks to VM Motori’s ownership by Fiat-Chrysler. The Trailblazer transmission was a GM-sourced six-speed automatic.
We’d love to know how much money Roger Penske made directly and indirectly out of General Motors since he bought the company’s large Detroit Diesel engine business for a song in the 1990s – subsequently selling it to Daimler in 2000 – but retaining control of its subsidiary, VM Motori that he’d bought in 1995.
GM bought a 50-percent equity in VM Motori from Penske Corporation, which sold its remaining equity in VM Motori to Fiat in 2011. In late 2012 Fiat acquired all of VM Motori, making the Duramax line uncertain for GM’s future.
In July 2016 Isuzu Ute and GM went their separate ways, ensuring that GM also had to find a new chassis for the Colorado/Trailblazer range. That didn’t ever happen.
In the meantime, some major Colorado Duramax engine components were produced in Italy and shipped to Thailand for assembly, although there was a later-abandoned schedule for total Thai production.
Trailblazer’s exterior styling enhancements included LED daytime running lamps and a new bonnet design.
Engineering improvements included electric power steering, new transmission and body mounts, and a new final drive ratio on manual-transmission Trailblazers.
Holden Trailblazer started at LT level: electric power steering (EPS); rear park assist with reverse camera; LED daytime running lamps (DRLs) ; seven SRS airbags; electronic stability control (ESC); Hill Start Assist (HSA); Trailer Sway Control (TSC) ; Hill Descent Control (HDC); remote window operation (via keyfob); 17-inch aluminium wheels with full-size spare, MyLink infotainment system with seven-inch colour touchscreen and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Phone Projection
LTZ level added: 18-inch wheels with full-size spare; MyLink infotainment system with eight-inch colour touchscreen, integrated satellite navigation and integrated voice recognition; remote vehicle start via keyfob; leather-appointed seat trim with heated front seats; front park assist; electronic climate control; forward collision alert (FCA); lane departure warning (LDW); side blind zone alert (SBZA); rear cross traffic alert (RCTA); tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS); LED tail lights; heated and power folding exterior mirrors; light sensitive rear view mirror and rain sensing windscreen wipers.
Holden claimed 147kW and 500Nm from the 2.8-litre diesel, but our tow testing of Jeeps powered by the same engine showed that that 500Nm is hard to find when hill cimbing. Some competitor vehicles with supposedly less torque sailed past!
We finally scored a Trailblazer LTZ road test vehicle and found it to be more civilised than the Colorado 7. The test was brief, because Holden had very few press-test vehicles.
The Trailblazer had improved NVH over the Colorado 7, but otherwise was similar in feel and performance to its predecessor. Check out the reports and video below for some on and off road action.
Previous model – Colorado 7
Developed alongside the Colorado LCV range, Colorado 7 retained the ute’s five-star safety rating, chassis, front panels, front suspension, Duramax 132kW/470Nm2.8-litre turbo diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission.
Unlike the ute range, there was no manual transmission offered. Also different were roof and rear panels, the interior, which had 2+3+2(kids) seating and a five-link, coil-sprung live rear axle, with disc brakes replacing the ute’s rear drums.
The Colorado 7 was available in two specifications: entry level LT and top-spec LTZ. Recommended retail pricing at launch ranged from $46,990 for the LT and $50,490 for the LTZ. Safety features on both models included Electronic Stability Control, Descent Control, dual front airbags and full-length curtain airbags that extend to the third row.
Claimed economy was average, at 9.4 litres per 100 kilometres (ADR 81/02), with an unimpressive 252 grams of CO2 per kilometre.
The driveline was ute-style and more basic than typical medium wagons, having only a part-time system, with low and high ratio gears, shift on the fly 4WD selection and only a rear axle limited slip differential, where the Mitsubishi Challenger offered selectable full-time-4WD and a rear axle diff lock. The Colorado 7’s towing capacity rating was three tonnes.
Standard LT features included: leather wrap steering wheel; Bluetooth® connectivity; USB and auxiliary; six-speaker audio system; cloth seat trim; multifunction
steering wheel controls; power windows; roof mounted rear air-conditioning controls with second and third row air vents; 60/40 tumble fold second row seats; 50/50 folding third row seats; rear and cargo area auxiliary power outlets; reversing camera; rear park assist; 16-inch aluminium wheels; side steps; front fog lamps and aluminium roof rails.
LTZ added: leather seat trim; six-way electric adjustable driver’s seat; eight-speaker audio system with amplifier; single zone climate control; 18-inch wheels; projector headlamps; LED tail lamps and power folding side mirrors with side turn signals.
Load space was compromised by retention of an under-floor spare wheel, as in the Colorado ute, so there was nowhere for the third row seats to fold away. As a result, these seats sat proud when folded flat, reducing cargo volume. However, the second row seats folded forward to match the slope of the third-row seat backs, creating a flat, if slightly sloping floor. The LTZ’s cargo blind slotted neatly behind the folded third-row seats
when not in use.
In late 2013 the Colorado 7 scored an upgraded engine, with an optimistically-claimed 500Nm of torque, enhanced airbag package and rear park assist on all models. Trailer sway control, hill start assist and descent control were added to all models.
A much-needed seven-inch information screen was added to the range, with access to a BringGo navigation system.
The Holden Colorado 7 was given a number of model year 2015 updates in November 2014.
There was a premium interior upgrade for the LTZ and a new acoustic package to improve powertrain noise across the entire range. All variants retained 2014 pricing.
Colorado 7 LTZ models scored heated leather-appointed seats, an upgraded instrument panel and centre console, and soft touch door trims and armrest.
The entire Colorado range also benefitted from wind-noise improvements after intensive testing and development, including work done at the Monash wind tunnel facility. There were also refinements to Hill Descent Control (HDC) and Hill Start Assist (HSA).
A new acoustic package was said to reduce powertrain airborne noise, making highway and urban driving quieter and a more comfortable and enjoyable experience.
For some reason the Colorado 7 didn’t sold well, averaging less than half the sales of its look-alike Isuzu MU-X rival, so in May 2016 Holden previewed the Colorado 7 replacement.
On and off road in the Colorado 7
Our test Colorado 7 was an LTZ model, with towbar and Hayman Reese Sentinel electric brake kit fitted. We drove it in town and country conditions, with varying loads on board, on differing road surfaces and we conducted a towing test with a new Cub Supavan Stockman attached.
The Colorado 7 LTZ interior was quite ‘plasticky’ and lacked a navigation system, even as an option. Bluetooth remote phone operation was incorporated in the sound system, but required a USB connection to play iPhone or iPod music. The sound system was ‘boomy’, even with the base wound back.
Some of the controls were quirky – rear vision mirror dipping was done by a twist-knob and trip-compter operation wasn’t intuitive – but all worked fine once the driver adjusted to the differences.
Vision was very good all around, enhanced by a rear vision camera whose image appread in the rear vision mirror – not as expansive as a dashboard monitor view, but much better than no rear vision camera. The camera angle included the towball, making coupling to a trailer very easy.
Noise and vibration were more ute-like than wagon-like, with an annoying vibration evident when under load in sixth ratio. The VM engine had plenty of grunt, but the driveline gearing meant that it was running at only 1700-1800rpm at legal highway speeds.
The engine’s peak torque point was 2000rpm, so there was very little gradeability in top gear: acceptable with a solo vehicle at light loads, but causing irritating up and down ratio shifting with a load on board and a trailer behind. It was a good thing the six-speed auto’s shift quality was first class.
GM fitted a tall 3.4:1 final drive ratio to the Colorado 7 and
we reckon it would be a more pleasant vehicle with 3.7:1 diffs.
On lumpy bitumen and corrugated gravel the springing was fine, but the shock absorbers were sadly wanting. The Colorado 7 suffered from bump-steer at both ends and shook around on rough road sections. A set of after-market shock absorbers would be essential for off-freeway driving.
Off road the Colorado 7’s wheel travel was generous and ground clearance was sufficient for most people’s needs. However, the lack of a rear axle diff lock showed on our long, rocky test climb, when the traction control system ran out of ‘puff’.
Hill descent control was standard, but we found it was set at too high a speed for a safe descent in very steep country.
Fuel consumption at light loads was excellent – between 8L/100km and 9.5L/100km – but a heavy load and/or trailer sent fuel consumption up – between 11.5L/100km and 14.4L/100km. The tall final drive ratio was a contributor, because the box hardly ever managed torque-converter lock-up when loaded, shuttling between the top three ratios.
A small 76-litre fuel tank limited touring range when loaded.
Value for money judgment depends on what you want to do with your Colorado 7. For mainly on-road duties, with occasional off-road forays it should be fine. It has ample grunt for towing at highway speeds.
However, the LTZ specification is probably not worth the extra cash: the leather seats were slippery and hot; projector headlights quite weak and 18-inch wheel size limited replacement tyre choice.
Apart from obvious accessories, such as bar work, the Colorado 7 needs high-performance shock absorbers and, for serious off-road work, improved traction aids.