Towns don’t come much more remote than Coober Pedy. Officially home to around 1,700 souls and a few more that don’t want to be counted, this isolated settlement situated in Australia’s vast outback is best known for its opal mines and role as a spectacular backdrop in a number of blockbuster movies, but that’s not why we’re here. Parked in the scorching heat outside what must be the world’s tiniest airport terminal are a number of Holden Colorados ready to be put to the test by a select number of motoring journalists from across Southeast Asia. Welcome to our road trip through Mad Max country.
Holden is as Australian as kangaroos and Vegemite, but the brand with the lion-and-stone logo only really focuses on sales in its homeland. Outside of the land down under, the Colorados we’re driving carry a Chevrolet badge as both brands sit under the General Motors umbrella. They are, however, by and large the same vehicles, with much of the global design and development work for these cars actually taking place at the Holden headquarters in Melbourne. This brings an added benefit: The people joining us on this road trip aren’t just marketing executives or sales personnel from General Motors, but also some of the senior engineers who actually worked on the very models we’re about to stress-test under the Australian sun. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is.
Our itinerary technically started a couple of days earlier, at the GM Lang Lang proving ground outside of Melbourne. It’s usually off limits to nosy media types, but Holden decided to grant us access so we could get a better idea of the work that goes into developing new models—but not before taping up any camera lenses carried by snap-happy journalists. Only an official photographer was allowed to depict how the 2.5L LT (163hp and 380Nm) and 2.8L LTZ (200hp and 500Nm) diesel-powered Colorados made very easy work of the off-road course used to test vehicles at the site. With this taster under our belts, it was time to take another two flights and “go bush,” as the locals say.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more remote and inhospitable place to test a car in than the Australian outback. Dirt roads sporting bone-shaking corrugation and sharp-edged gravel lead through a Mars-like scenery that is constantly baking under the relentless assault of the ever-present sun. If Chevy peeps wanted to make it easy for themselves, then they came to the wrong place. But this trip isn’t about tootling around some city streets and parking with two wheels on the sidewalk just so we could claim to have gone off the road. This is about really putting these vehicles to the test under real-world conditions that appear harsher than most scenarios we’re ever likely to come across back home.
Our multiday adventure includes everything from driving along hundreds of kilometers of unpaved roads, to going off the beaten track and even exploring abandoned opal mines on four wheels. All throughout, the Colorado proves to be a worthy travel companion. A lot of the work done by Holden and Chevrolet revolves around making the truck more suitable for the kind of driving conditions it is likely to come across in Asia, with systems like the traction control having been recalibrated for better off-road performance, and the result is a workhorse that really deserves your consideration if you’re in the market for something a little more heavy-duty.
Able to carry a one-ton payload or pull a 3.5-ton trailer and with space for five adults, the Colorado really shines when the going gets rough. The electric power steering does a good job of shielding the driver from washboard-like road conditions, and the work done to reduce noise, vibration and harshness means you can still have a normal conversation even while blasting along a dirt track doing a hundred kilometers an hour. Going on a drive with the very guys who worked on developing these vehicles also gives us a much-better understanding of Holden and Chevy in general. You can read about the suspension setup in the brochure, but having the person who signed off on it ride in your back seat and seeing him smile in the rearview mirror every time you almost go airborne over a cattle grid or sideways around a corner, tells you more than any fact sheet ever can. These folks stand by their products and are genuinely keen to hear what journalists and customers think about their cars.
The Chevrolet (or Holden) Colorado is a proper all-rounder that looks good and performs well wherever you go. Whether you’re going to Tagaytay or pulling up outside the Thunderdome, you always have a capable and comfortable truck at your disposal. With a pretty attractive price point and the global resources of General Motors behind it, we somehow wonder why there aren’t more of them on our roads yet. A test drive is definitely recommended, and you don’t even have to go to Australia for it. Some parts of EDSA are almost as bad as driving through the outback. Trust us, we know.