Going to extremes in the Holden Colorado Z71 Xtreme

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Remember 1992? To be more accurate, do you remember a certain special edition Holden released in 1992? See if this rings a bell.

The Holden Barina Sportsgirl.

That’s right, this was Holden’s attempt at taking its player in the popular small hatch back segment and trying to convince consumers that this particular Barina was more special than a standard Barina. In reality, it was a bog-standard Barina with Sportsgirl branded floor mats and a smattering of large Sportsgirl logo stickers plastered all over it.

And now we have another special edition from the General. This time Holden has taken the Colorado Z71, (its top-spec player in the now hugely popular dual-cab ute segment), and is hoping to convince us that this ‘Xtreme’ version of the Z71 is more special than the standard Z71.

So is it?

Let’s get something straight. The Colorado Z71 Xtreme is far more than just a sticker pack and some fancy carpets but at the same time, don’t think the rugged dual-cab has been subjected to complete re-engineering to the levels that say, Ford’s Ranger Raptor has undergone.

Under the Colorado’s accessory-laden skin, the Xtreme has the same 147kW, 500Nm 2.8-litre Duramax turbo diesel engine as the standard Z71, matched to the same the six-speed automatic transmission. A manual Xtreme isn’t available. It has the same interior fit and finish and the same levels of safety and infotainment technology.

The only real mechanical difference between the standard Z71 Colorado and this Xtreme version is upgraded front springs to compensate for the extra weight a range of accessories add towards the front of the vehicle. We’ll get to how these new springs affect the driving characteristics shortly, but let’s get into the accessories, as this is, at its core, what the Xtreme is all about.

Simply, the primary reason the Xtreme exists in the first place is to showcase Holden’s catalogue of accessories for the Colorado range.

As the popularity of dual-cab utes, and the desire to take them seriously off-road increases, so too does the desire to modify and personalise them. But as we’ve seen recently, the boys in blue tend to not look too kindly on many off-road specific modifications. Thus, the demand for dealer-fitted, manufacturer-supported and warranty-covered accessories is on the rise.

Holden has listened to its customers, invested the time and money on research and engineering and is confident it has answered the demand with over $19,000 worth of Genuine Holden Accessories fitted to the Colorado Z71 Xtreme.

The Xtreme comes with a new winch bar with an integrated best-in-class Warn Magnum winch system, capable of a load capacity of 4535kg through its 30-metre synthetic line.

Operating the winch will not only drag you (or some other poor stranded off-roader) out of trouble but you’ll be able to fulfil any James Bond fantasies you might have. The winch hook itself is ingeniously hidden behind a flip-up number plate bracket, a la any number of famous Bond cars. Simply flip up the plate, plug the hand controller in, pull the hook and line out and attach it, take the necessary safety precautions, tow yourself out of trouble, make some witty double entendre while disposing of an Eastern European spy, and get back on your off-roading adventure.

The bar itself is far more slimline than other optional bull and safari bars. It works in total harmony with all the Colorado’s airbag and safety systems and results in a slight gain in approach angles of 5-degrees inside the tread, and 8-degrees outside.

The bar also incorporates a heavy duty Stage 1 level bash plate which, I now know from experience, is very handy when arriving abruptly at a near invisible steep dip in the road while traveling at freeway speeds on a deserted gravel track in the middle of South Australia’s outback. How the Xtreme’s entire drive train is still in one piece and not protruding through the bonnet is still beyond me.

Besides the engine saving bash plate, the Xtreme comes with Holden’s roof tray kit, rear steel step, fender flares, a black tubular side-step package, black grille and black extended sports bar. There is also a complete towing package to make the most of the Colorado’s 3.5-tonne towing capacity, and a vehicle recovery kit.

However, some of the other accessories do start to delve into the sticker syndrome the Barina Sportsgirl fell victim to. I know it’s subjective, but personally, I’d be peeling of the Xtreme decals, black bonnet sticker and Colorado branding on the tailgate. The bonnet bulge does look a bit tough, but I have issues with such bulges that are purely cosmetic. There’s a potential comparison here that includes a man, a sock and a tight pair of trousers, but we’ll keep this story PG.

While the practical accessories will serve their purpose in specific scenarios, the two that will impact the Xtreme’s day-to-day driving characteristics are the upgraded front springs and 18-inch Goodyear All-Terrain Wrangler tyres.

On road, the Xtreme feels almost identical to a standard Z71. Even when driving both a standard Z71 back-to-back with the Xtreme, on road, it’s near impossible to tell them apart when it comes to suspension behaviour and driving characteristics.

The extra wind noise the roof tray and slight hum the All-Terrain tyres create is a giveaway, but the way the Xtreme hides its extra 150kg accessory heft is excellent. Dual-cabs with this amount of extra kit bolted onto them can often suffer from a boat-like bobbing up and down when driving on uneven surfaces, but the Xtreme feels tied down and confident.

But it’s off-road where the suspension and tyre package, and therefore the Xtreme, really shines.

As mentioned previously, we managed to encounter a serious dip on our route’s topography while carrying some generous pace (imagine someone had installed a skateboard half-pipe on the freeway) and while my entire being braced for impact, the Xtreme landed firmly, but with total control and confidence. There was no bounce out the other side or violent impact of the suspension smashing into its bump stops, just a controlled exit with a relieved me behind the wheel.

On long, winding and rough dirt roads, compared to the standard Colorado Z71, the Xtreme feels more confident and planted. Both in 2WD and 4WD, turn-in is sharper, the front feels more responsive to direction changes, and the rear end feels far more confident both on corner entry and exit. Where the Z71 can feel a little loose and vague from the rear, even in 4WD mode, the Xtreme gives you a stronger sensation of grip and bite when cornering and accelerating. This extra confidence result in more fun behind the wheel.

On everything from heavily rutted tracks, to steep inclines, to trails that required some serious wheel articulation, the combination of the new springs with the Goodyear All-Terrains do a superb job.

The goal for Holden’s engineering team was for the heavily accessorised Xtreme to feel and drive like it wasn’t. And it has succeeded. The Xtreme doesn’t feel heavy or cumbersome to drive in the way some after market accessorised 4WDs can, and as previously mentioned, besides the extra wind noise above 60km/h, on road, there is very little difference between the standard Z71 and the Xtreme.

The Colorado Z71 Xtreme is available in limited supply from 1 October and comes with Holden’s five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

And how much, you ask? Try $69,990 driveaway.

That price is starting to get up there considering the more powerful (yet far less accessorised) Volkswagen Amarok TDI550 Dark Label asks $69,240 driveaway and the (nearly as) off-road focussed Toyota HiLux Rugged X comes in at $68,910 driveaway.

Even the Xtreme’s sibling HSV SportCat+ and the hero 4WD dual-cab of the moment, the Ford Ranger Raptor aren’t all that much of a financial stretch.

The real question is how the Xtreme will fare against it’s competition. So let us know in the comments below which dual-cab utes you’d like to see the Colorado Z71 Xtreme go head-to-head against.

Click on the Photos tab for more images of the Holden Colorado Z71 Xtreme.

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