Firestarter!

Walkinshaw set to light the Colorado’s touch paper

TOBY HAGON

WALKINSHAW Performance is readying a 300kW-plus twin-turbo V6 version of the Holden Colorado as a spiritual successor to the V8s that have dominated the local muscle car scene for decades.

The top-secret project – known as Wildfire, a name recently registered by the Walkinshaw Group – involves shoehorning the LF3 3.6-litre twin-turbo V6 used in the Cadillac CTS V-Sport under the bonnet of the Colorado dual-cab 4x4.

It arrives as brands such as Ford, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz look to expand the reach – and performance – of their top-end utes.

For the Walkinshaw Group – which also produces HSVs for Holden – the Wildfire is the first step towards a new breed of highperformance road cars.

However, the company is tight-lipped about the Wildfire project: “We make a point of not discussing future models or business strategy,” said Walkinshaw Performance general manager Gary Beer. “There are many projects we are exploring, but until we have a specific vehicle solution in place we won’t be adding to the speculation.”

The high-tech blown V6 in the Wildfire belts out up to 313kW and 583Nm in the Cadillac CTS V-Sport, which should be enough to propel the workhorse ute to 100km/h in about 5.5 seconds – assuming it can get the grunt to the bitumen.

The Wildfire will be based on a Colorado 4x4, which uses a parttime four-wheel-drive system without a centre differential, limiting its all-paw use to loose surfaces such as sand or gravel.

While the Wildfire project is

yet to get the green light – as the HSV W1 did through its early development phases – engineers have already trialled the engine locally and are working through numerous challenges, many of which involve developing software to get the Cadillac engine ‘talking’ to the rest of the Colorado’s electrical architecture.

The design element is more straightforward and, despite the project being in its infancy, has already been envisioned.

Expect a blacked-out bonnet bulge with additional venting to cool the engine.

The matte black theme will continue throughout, while designers are also expected to utilise HSV’s skills in altering body panels. Like the HSV W1, the Wildfire could get flared front wheelarches to house larger, more aggressive rubber.

An early development mule has th t ar cha Cad

Walk this way

Walkinshaw Performance is in the throes of a resurgence that will spawn new models and a renewed focus on the brand.

Key to the push is a move to ensure all future cars – starting with the Wildfire – meet ADR approval, something that means they can be sold as a new car rather than a modified Holden.

It also allows more freedom for the Walkinshaw Group – these days headed by the late Tom Walkinshaw’s son, Ryan – to modify cars.

Expect speed-to-market and big performance to be a focus in the post-V8 Commodore era.

Rapid coding

Software is shaping up to be the new battleground in the world of performance cars.

As manufacturers race to ward off threats of cyber attacks on increasingly connected cars it’s the electronic control unit (ECU) that is being prepared for battle, in turn making it more difficult to re-sequence the 1s and 0s to control new hardware.

Physically adapting the 3.6- litre V6 TT into the Colorado’s engine bay is the easy bit.

But convincing the highoutput petrol engine to talk to a computer designed for a 2.8-litre diesel is more of a challenge and something that is keeping the Clayton engineers busy.

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been spotted with a disguised tailgate, suggesting the Wildfire could get a similar treatment to HSV’s soon-to-die Maloo ute.

As with rival dual-cabs, the Colorado’s relatively high centre of gravity, ladder-frame chassis and leaf-spring rear-end are creating headaches for chassis engineers used to tuning the superb Zeta architecture from the VE/VF Commodore.

Dampers are a key focus for the Wildfire, with the aim of better tying it down and utilising more aggressive rubber. Also expect engineers to play with reduced spring rates with the view to lowering the load capacity – forget the classic one-tonner – and instead adding more control and suppleness; working over a narrower load band allows finer tuning for the performance focus.

Also expect sizeable AP Racing brakes, something that would leverage the Walkinshaw Racing relationship.

However, despite the substantial suspension development, engineers are committed to ensuring the Wildfire maintains the Colorado’s off-road nous. If it’s given the green light – engineers are quietly optimistic – the Wildfire would have a seriously broad remit and be one of the few cars to undergo extensive development work on race tracks and dirt trails.

But it’s what’s beneath the skin that promises to separate the Wildfire from the emerging breed of go-fast utes.

Until now most top-end dual-cabs have centred on styling and off-road enhancements. But the fast-maturing ute market – which next year sees the arrival of the first luxury entrant, the Mercedes-Benz X-Class – is shifting its focus to taking up some of the slack

Haven’t we been here before?

Toyota has already been down the high performance dual-cab TRD from 2008.

The 4.0-litre supercharged V6 mustered ab ute route with its charged plenty of grunt, but it wasn’t backed up plenty of grunt, but with cornering talent.

And without electronics the TRD was a wheelspinning, tail wagging monster in the wet.

Oh, and it was a sales flop, limping out of dealerships in an era where buyers were increasingly warming to diesel donks for their off-roaders.

In many ways, though, the TRD was too much too soon. it wasn’t backed up nt. onics il ales a ng

Super Uter

Australia has had ute racing for years, but it’s set to change radically Following the demise of the locallyproduced, V8-powered Falcon and Commodore utes, a new series called SuperUtes will hit Australian race tracks in 2018.

Holden has homologated its Colorado and there are plans to have a field consisting of the Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton and Mazda BT-50, among others.

Engines will be modified turbo diesels producing up to 250kW and driving the rear wheels.

All cars will use a control gearbox, SupaShock suspension, 20-inch tyres and Brembo brakes.

left by the demise of V8-powered Falcons and Commodores.

Crucial to the Walkinshaw Colorado is its move to use a petrol powertrain. Whereas the ute market is almost exclusively diesel, the twin- turbo V6 ups the performance ante big time, all but guaranteeing a monstrous leap over rivals, the most serious of which is shaping up to be the Ford Ranger Raptor.

While Ford announced it is deep in development of the fettled Ranger, it has not confirmed what engine will be used.

Like the rest of the Ranger line-up in Australia, the Raptor will utilise a diesel powerplant.

Engineers are currently working on a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, which would outpunch the 147kW/470Nm he al o owertrain. rket 3.2-litre five-cylinder in the current Ranger.

However, the bulk of the focus will be on major suspension modifications aimed at giving it some Trophy Truck off-road ability and toughness.

It’s that dual personality that is shaping the new breed of hot utes.

HSV is also working on a version of the Colorado, although that car will use a diesel engine.

Toyota, too, is looking to capitalise on interest in its TRD Hilux with a fully fledged model rather than the dealer pack that was a toe in the water.

Engineers are currently working on a more serious iteration of the TRD. However, don’t expect any changes to the modest 2.8-litre fourcylinder diesel, with 130kW set to be the limit for the medium term.

Instead the efforts will be on styling and off-road capability; think big wheels and suspension, along with additional underbody protection.

Then, of course, there’s the Merc X-Class, which will come with the option of a V6 twin-turbo diesel. The 190kW engine promises to raise the diesel performance benchmark, currently held by the Volkswagen Amarok.

While executives have long ruled out the X-Class picking up the 4.0-litre V8 AMG engine – Aussies would love it but the rest of the world may not be as enamoured – AMG design tweaks are on the way.

That would likely flow through to suspension and wheel/tyre setups designed more with corners in mind that worksites.

The Ranger Raptor will utilise a diesel powerplant. Ford engineers are working on a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit