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Holden Rodeo


By and large, diesel engines are getting quieter; some of them are even hard to recognise as a diesel from within the car or truck cab. You have to have the window down or be standing alongside to get the full aural diesel flavour.

Fans of traditional-sounding diesel motors need have no such fears about the Isuzu engine in Holden's new Rodeo 4WD double cab. It's a rattler of the old school, noticeable at idle, joyously raucous with the throttle open.

The 4JH1-TC 3.0 litre intercooled turbo diesel engine is much the same as it was in the previous Rodeo, although many components have been modified and some are new to meet emissions requirements.

It's a powerful motor - maximum power is a healthy 96kW an peak torque is 280Nm at 2000rpm in the manual gearbox model (which we tested) and 291Nm in the auto.

It gives the Rodeo brisk if a little noisy performance and plenty of down-low lugging power.
The five-speed manual gearbox's selector mechanism has been modified to reduce shift effort. Operated by a longish lever, the gearshift is smooth enough and precise and shifts easily. The whole feel is lighter, less notchy and less truck-like than the usual gearshift found in Japanese utes.

The hydraulically-actuated clutch has revisions aimed at minimising shudder. We found it user-friendly and not grindingly-heavy even in stop/start commuter traffic.
One of the new Rodeo 4WD's most interesting features is the electronic control transfer case. The electronic control system provides push-button selection of 2WD, 4WD High, 4WD Low and Neutral. The neutral provision is designed for times when it may be necessary to tow the vehicle with all four wheels in contact with the road.

The ECU controls both the transfer case and the shift-on-the-fly system. The latter connects and disconnects high-ratio four-wheel drive at speeds up to 100km/h.
All you have to do is ensure the front wheels are pointing forward and press the appropriate button.
The truck shifts into or out of four-wheel drive with a complete lack of fuss. In fact we were unsure 4WD had been selected until we spotted the icon lit up on the dashboard.

It was a very good feature and one we appreciated all the more as we got out of the Holden and into a new Ford Courier which retains manual lever-controlled four-wheel drive engagement.

On the Holden you must stop to engage low-ratio 4WD.
Recent Rodeos have had good road manners and the 4WD diesel proved no exception.
The truck's greater height means its cornering is clumsier and less car-like than the lower-slung two-wheel drive variants.
But the nicely-weighted steering is accurate enough and allows precise positioning of the truck in corners. The only time the 4WD becomes all-at-sea is when you try to tackle at a good clip a winding road with constant direction changes. The momentum builds and results in understeer several corners into the sequence, requiring a backing off of your pace to settle things down.

Dry weather grip is very good, and in rear-wheel drive the back is well-behaved on wet tarmac. If you want to, though, you can induce tailslides easily on wet surfaces.

Gravel road handling in high-ratio four-wheel drive is good and the truck remains stable at high speed on loose surfaces.
Ride quality is above average for this type of workhorse and the Rodeo will clamber over gravel road ruts and potholes without jarring the cabin occupants.
The cabin is well-furnished and the test LT had a good quality six-stacker Compact Disc sound system, electrically-wound windows, air-conditioning and central door-locking. The seats were well-shaped and comfortable and upholstered in durable-looking materials.

We've held recent model Rodeos in high regard, preferring their road manners and ride quality to most competitors' utes. The new bigger and more handsome version provides more of the same. Our only major carp is the pathetic horn. You're riding in a big, macho, bloke-ish truck and when you hit the horn out comes a ridiculously feeble parp that wouldn't even have done Noddy's car proud. Holden's only consolation is that the one fitted to the Ford Courier is even more pathetic. Why do they do it?

- story and photographs by Mike Stock.

Auto Trader New Zealand