More than meets the eye

IN CREATING THE SPORTSCAT, HSV’ S ENGINEERS HAVE DONE MUCH MORE THAN JUST ADD NEW WHEELS, BIGGER TYRES AND A SUSPENSION LIFT.

HSV COLORADO SPORTSCATHSV COLORADO SPORTSCAT

WHAT you see here is the HSV Colorado SportsCat, which in some ways is unfortunate. What we would have liked for this comparison is the more expensive and more enhanced SportsCat+, but that wasn’t to be; through no fault of HSV, mind you. Still, the SportsCat has the core engineering of the SportsCat+, which adds more kit, the best being race-spec front brakes. Plus, we have previously tested a SportsCat+, so we have that experience to call on.

POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE

BOTH SportsCat models feature a standard Colorado powertrain, namely a VM-Motori 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel backed by a GM six-speed automatic. Buyers also have the option of a six-speed manual in both models. If the standard powertrain sounds underwhelming then you’re probably mistaken, as the 500Nm-strong engine gets on with the job nicely and is helped in its cause by a very proactive and sporty automatic gearbox.

The taller overall gearing, brought about by the SportsCat’s bigger tyres and the marginal increase in aero drag from what is a wider and taller vehicle, knocks a little off the performance compared to a stock Colorado. Even so, the SportsCat is an even match for the Raptor in straight-line speed, despite the latter’s 10-speed automatic and marginally more powerful engine.

For its mid-life 2017 revamp, the Colorado’s powertrain gained newfound refinement: the engine is smoother and quieter, and the gearbox is slicker shifting than in its original iteration. While this refinement upgrade is also evident with the SportsCat, the powertrain of the Raptor takes refinement to another level.

Drive the SportsCat in isolation and it feels fine, but drive it after getting out of the Raptor and it sounds and feels somewhat gruff.

ON-ROAD RIDE AND HANDLING

IN CREATING the SportsCat, HSV’s engineers carried out significant modifications to the chassis of a standard Colorado, the most obvious of which – the taller and wider tyres and front ride-height increase – were aimed at improving the SportsCat off-road. Less obvious are the changes that make the SportsCat better on-road, which start with a 30mm wider track (via wheel offset), firmer front springs and MTV dampers all ’round. HSV engineers also braced the top mounts for the front springs and dampers.

The standard pressed-steel top mounts for the front ‘struts’ are welded to the chassis rails behind the struts, but they’re effectively open at the front. This can introduce some flex, especially given the increased loads induced by the wider track and firmer springs and dampers. What HSV has done is brace the front of the strut top-mount back to the chassis via a steel tube looped up and around the strut, which helps eliminate flex in this critical area and thus achieve better suspension control.

Given the changes to the ride height, the track, and the wheel and tyre package, HSV engineers have also retuned the Electronic Stability Control. The end result of all this is that, despite the extra ride height, the SportsCat is more dynamically engaging on-road – the faster you drive it the better it feels. Point the SportsCat down a winding road and it certainly provides sharper and more secure handling than the comparatively soft and less precise Raptor. Excellent feel, too, from the SportsCat’s electric power steering, which makes low-speed manoeuvring effortless, but firms up the weighting nicely at highway speeds.

WHAT YOU GET

THE SPORTSCAT and SportsCat+ come with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. Standard equipment on both includes leather/ suede trim, heated front sports seats (with electric adjust for the driver), satnav, auto headlights and wipers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a rearview camera. Safety kit runs to seven airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, lane-departure warning and forwardcollision alert. Other equipment includes LED DRLs and tail-lights, two heavy-duty front recovery hooks, soft-open tailgate, and a lockable hard tonneau. The SportsCat is listed at $62,990 (automatic) while an additional $6K will get you into the SportsCat+, which adds bigger front brake rotors, four-piston AP Racing calipers, and a rear swaybar that automatically decouples when you engage low range. The SportsCat+ also comes with the optional SupaShock remotereservoir dampers for a further $3600.

OFF-ROAD

MOST of the SportsCat’s superior off-road prowess compared to a standard Colorado comes from its bigger tyres (285/60R18s versus 265/60R18s), which give a nominal 12mm increase in ride height – but more like 20mm due to the fact that actual tyre sizes don’t necessarily correlate exactly to theoretic tyre size. In addition, the new springs provide an additional 25mm of lift at the front end for even more much needed ground clearance.

Unfortunately the SportsCat’s wheel travel (like the Colorado) isn’t anything special, and the stiffer front springs reduce travel further. Like the standard Colorado there’s no rear locker, but electronic traction control is very effective; something we have noted previously with the Colorado’s MY17 upgrade. As a result of this the HSV SportsCat will comfortably go places off-road that a stock Colorado won’t, but in overall off-road ability the Raptor takes things to a new level.

THE S POR NAMICALLY ENGAGING ON- TS CAT IS DY R OAD – THE FAS TER Y OU DR IV IT, THE BETTER FEELS IT

CABIN AND ACCOMMODATION

CLIMB aboard the SportsCat and you’re greeted by a flash interior that includes leather- and suede-trimmed seats complete with distinctive red stitching. The sports-style front seats are heated, comfortable and supportive, but there’s no steering wheel reach adjustment for the driver. Rear-seat passengers do well in the SportsCat, but, like the standard models they’re derived from, there isn’t quite as much legroom as there is in the back of the Raptor.

PRACTICALITIES

DUE TO the high proportion of off-road driving in this test the SportsCat returned a reasonably thirsty 14.5L/100km, which was a little better than the Raptor. When we tested a SportsCat+ it managed 12.2L/100 (with lower proportion of off-road driving).

The SportsCat comes with a hard tonneau complete with a quick-release system for easy removal; although, this requires at least two people. The softopen tailgate is also a nice touch, while a load-restraint system and tub liner are both handy options. Finally, the SportsCat is rated at 3500kg (braked trailer), a full 1000kg more than the Raptor. It has a higher payload, too, than the Raptor.

HSV BACKGROUND

HOLDEN Special Vehicles (HSV) was founded in 1987 as a joint venture between Holden and Scottish racing driver, team owner and entrepreneur, the late Tom Walkinshaw, and remains today a partnership between Holden and Walkinshaw Performance. HSV is best known for its expertise in tweaking Commodore V8s, but over the years has produced a wide range of models sold here under both HSV and Holden. Export models have also been sold as a Vauxhall in the UK and elsewhere. HSV even produced its version of the Jackaroo 4x4. HSV also imports and sells the Chevrolet Silverado, with the right-hand conversion done at its Melbourne factory.