Holden has moved further towards the image-conscious customer with the latest version of its iconic Ute.
The VE Ute, due here in October, is bigger but has a smaller load space and smaller payload than the truck it replaces, and there are three sports-oriented models in the five-model line-up, including a new super-hot V8 model, the SS-V.
Holden says the new Ute is “a practical workhorse with recreational sports car credentials.”
The Holden Ute story started almost 60 years ago when the Red Lion brand – already a specialist at converting Chevrolet cars into pick-ups – introduced a utility version of its first car, the 48-215.
The Holden light truck, with car-like cab and features, evolved through the FJ and peaked with the Kingswood Ute and one-tonner of the early 1980s.
There was a hiatus until the the Commodre Ute surfaced in the 1990s – in the intervening years, the Holden Ute has become more car-like, though belatedly, Holden answered the Ford Falcon Ute challenge by introducing a one-tonner.
The new VE is Holden’s first completely new Ute design since the VU series of 2000, and picks up the sporty, aggressive styling introduced last year on the VE Commodore sedan.
Holden says it “offers more features, more useable interior space, greater storage flexibility and more performance than any of its predecessors”.
And, along the way it has moved closer to the sports car with a load tray, and away from the tradesman’s workhorse.
Holden invested an extra $105 million on top of its $1 billion VE Commodore sedan program and carried out more than 650,000kms of reliability testing on the new VE Ute.
Holden managing director, Chris Gubbey, says the new Ute “sets new standards in safety, comfort, flexibility and performance”.
He says it’s the first Australian-developed Ute to offer Electronic Stability Program (ESP) crash avoidance safety technology as standard across the range.
There’s increased cabin comfort and significantly increased storage space. The tray has a cargo liner as standard.
Performance is stepped up and there are wider wheel and tyre combinations across all models.
The new addition, the SS-V, has a 270kW V8, 19-inch wheels, dual zone electronic climate control, Bluetooth phone connectivity, alloy pedals and a premium audio system.
The rear bodywork is a single piece which runs from the A pillar to the tailgate.
The Ute has unique wrap-around taillights and the tailgate hinges are now fully concealed.
Access to the storage space behind the seats has been improved with a quick-release seat latch. Storage volume behind the seats is now 245 litres, a significant increase over the VZ Ute’s 90 litres.
There are two storage compartments beneath the load floor, and all models except the Omega and SV6 have dual cargo nets in the rear panel.
The heavy duty moulded cargo liner helps protect the tray space and load materials from damage. Floor corrugations allow water run-off and easy cleaning.
The flush-fitting soft tonneau cover (all models except Omega) features Holden’s snap lock clipping system. The six cargo tie-down hooks have been redesigned for improved functionality.
The standard ESP integrates traction control, anti-lock braking, electronic brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution to help prevent skidding by applying corrective braking to different wheels, and by reducing engine torque.
The Ute has dual-stage driver and passenger front airbags.
The Omega Ute runs a four-speed automatic transmission and 3.6 litre V6 Alloytec engine, delivering 180kW of power and 330Nm of peak torque.
The six-speed manual Omega has the more powerful High Output V6 Alloytec, delivering 195kW and 340Nm, with dual exhausts added.
The SV6 uses the same combination of High Output V6 engine, six-speed manual transmission and dual exhausts but adds sports suspension. A five-speed automatic transmission with Active Select is optional.
The SS and new high-end SS V Ute models are powered by the 6.0-litre Gen IV V8, developing 270kW and 530Nm. It is matched to a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with Active Select.
The entry level Omega Ute moves from 15-inch to 16-inch steel wheels. At the performance end, SV6 and SS Ute move from 17-inch to 18-inch alloys as standard and the new SS V runs 19-inch alloy wheels.
Quad exhausts add to the performance package on SS and SS V models.
Holden’s chassis engineers put heavy emphasis on rear suspension design, and the new Ute delivers greater lateral grip and linear response in cornering.
The VE Ute gets larger, fade-resistant brakes.
Holden NZ plans to target the car at people who like the sports car with a load tray concept, people who have worked hard, achieved success and want to show others that they have done so.
Though Holden has shown the VE Ute to motoring journalists, so far it hasn’t let any of them drive it.