Can the HSV SportsCat+ survive 1200km through the Vic High Country?
Words and Images by Harry Temple
We reviewed the SportsCat in Issue 053 and were pleased to find that it wasn’t another sticker-pack 4WD; that it had some actual substance behind it. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before we got to put the SportsCat+ through its paces. Smack bang in the middle of summer we thought we would test it in Australia’s highest 4WD playground – the Victorian High Country. What could go wrong?
WHAT DO YOU GET?
Considering the price is getting up around the $70k mark ($68,990), what do you get for your hard-earned? The SportsCat+ is running the same 147kW 2.8-litre DOHC Duramax featured in the lower models and this one was equipped with the six-speed auto, which upped the torque from 440Nm to 500Nm. Aggressive front styling comprises of pumped out guards and flares, which add about 30mm and cover the factory fitted 285/60R18 Copper Zeon LTZ Sports A/T tyres on the wide 18 x 10 inch forged alloy rims. AP Racing 4 pot calipers clamp down on significantly larger performance rotors in the front end, while the rear is still making do with the traditional drum set-up.
You get a raised front end (25mm) that corrects some of the forward rake and provides a marked improvement in frontal approach angle thanks to the stiffened spring rate (110Nm) on the optional SupaShock suspension. An automatic de-coupling anti-roll bar disconnects when you shift into low range and garners a touch more articulation. Two rated front recovery points that seem to have been designed with soft shackles in mind should make their way onto all 4WDs from the factory. The 3D front grille, bumper inserts and bonnet plastics work in with the aggressive styling, but in my opinion leaves the front end looking a little too plastic-like, but personal tastes are subjective and I can respect that.
The interior of the SportsCat+ is essentially the same as the base SportsCat, with all the regular tech gadgets we’ve come to expect in 2019. The adjustable heated seats work almost too well and the swathes of leather and suede accented with red stitching really hammer home the sports styling. It’s refreshing to see a conservative amount of plastic in a new non-luxury vehicle. Depending on your phone preferences, both Apple Car Play and Android Auto worked seamlessly, as did sat nav and the Bluetooth systems. In fact, phone call clarity was some of the best I have ever experienced in a hands-free system. There is a bit of head room once you drop the seat, and two decently sized adults can share the front without feeling cramped.
This is where things get interesting. I expected to roll back into Mansfield with a dented sill, a warning light and a handful of untraceable rattles, but it was a day full of surprises. While I did get thrown around a bit in the off-camber rocky tracks, it would’ve been much worse had the seats not had ample side bolstering to negate a lot of the suspension bounce back. Hill descent control and hill start assist came in handy for the numerous stops in steep terrain to snag the passing photo opportunities. I deliberately remained in high range for one long, winding descent in an attempt to try and cook the upgraded brake package, but to their credit I rode them unrelentingly for several kays and they came back for more.
However, if you won the genetic height lottery, you may run into a trade-off between dropping the seat to increase headroom and inadvertently reducing frontal approach visibility thanks to the additional bonnet plastics. Even though it would have been nice to see a little more articulation from the decoupling rear sway bar, the fact remains that it’s a work utility aimed at the weekend off-roader. The traction control drastically limited diagonal spin when things got hairy and while it was a tad jerky, it got the job done. It handled some serious High Country punishment straight out of the box, remained under 18L/100 while doing so and made it back in one piece – that in itself deserves praise.
I covered over 1200km in the three days I had the SportsCat+ and around 1000 of those were on the tar. Carrying one person and a mere 150kg out of its 900kg payload and next to no weight over the rear axle, the dynamic on-road handling was nimble like its feline namesake. In addition to their off-road performance, these Cooper tyres were deliberately chosen by HSV engineers for their on-road responsiveness.
I concur with their decision after the back end slid out when I encountered an oil slick on the road to Healsville and they seemed to work well with the onboard electronic systems (TRC and ABS) to correct the slide and bring the vehicle back under control. The overall driving experience both on the open road and deep in inner-city Melbourne traffic was a positive one thanks to the ample power on demand and refined in-car Bluetooth and entertainment systems. Fuel economy was respectable considering I don’t have a light foot, yet I still averaged around 8.5-9 litres per 100km while zipping around on the main roads.
There is no denying that there is value for money in the Colorado SportsCat range. At the top of the range, the Sportscat+ has some handy off-road-oriented features that make it an attractive out-of-the-box package, especially if you are working in a trade during the week and require an all-rounder vehicle that needs minimal modification. It handled everything I pointed it at on the Bluff/Lovicks Hut loop, traversing King Billy loop and Brocks Road on the way out – in 40°C+ degree heat with the AC cranked up. The bigger A/T tyres, upgraded suspension and larger brakes made a huge difference off-road and are perfect for the 4WDer who doesn’t want to complicate things by bolting a plethora of aftermarket parts onto a brand-new vehicle.