Holden Commodore Adventra AWD

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Keywords: Holden Commodore Adventra AWD
Description: Just when you thought that Holden and Ford couldn't possibly have any more showroom wars - and let's face it, they've had some good stoushes recently - the All-Wheel Drive skirmish begins. While

Just when you thought that Holden and Ford couldn't possibly have any more showroom wars - and let's face it, they've had some good stoushes recently - the All-Wheel Drive skirmish begins.

While Ford is adamant that interested buyers will hold off until its highly-developed Territory AWD wagon arrives in early 2004, Holden is quietly confident that its 'Adventra' will spark plenty of interest.

The trick for the local boys however, is to make the imported stuff look like overpriced poseur-mobiles, and both the Lion and the Eagle look to be on the right track, both offering mechanically impressive product kitted out with plenty of luxury features.

To kick off proceedings, the Adventra has a very good business case: AWD transmission, beefed-up suspension, rugged good looks and that all-important small block 5.7-litre V8.

With that last V8 option alone, the Adventra represents impressive value for money: Consider BMW's entry-level V8 wagon - the X5 4.4i. It costs $111,800, for instance. Sure, it's in a slightly different bracket, but bear with us.

The 2004 model BMW makes 235kW of power and has leather all-round, as does the new Adventra, but the Aussie mudslinger costs $60,990, which is close enough to half the price. We'll take two thanks.

While the range-topping LX8 costs a shade over 60-large, the CX8 fetches just $52,990, and this 'entry-level' model gets quite a number of features.

Your 53 grand buys 17-inch alloy wheels, a six-stack CD player, rear parking assist sensors, climate and cruise control, driver, passenger and side airbags, a redesigned instrument cluster, leather-wrapped steering wheel and a big fat V8 donk.

Take the 60-thou LX8 and you get leather, factory-fit sunroof, leather trim and a killer premium audio system with subwoofer.

Both Adventra models get full-time 4WD transmissions, which came about thanks to a $125 million design and engineering program that took more than three years to complete, and is the first of a series of upcoming Holden vehicles to incorporate advanced "Cross Trac" AWD technology.

Coupled with Holden's massive V8 motor, the traction control-based permanent AWD Cross Trac system has been developed and "extensively tested and fine tuned by Holden to suit the unique Australian driving environment," according to the PR spielmeisters.

It has a rear wheel drive-biased torque split (38:62, F:R ratio), which should make it handle very keenly and, simply put, uses automatic brake differential (ABD) software and electronic brake force distribution (EBD) to achieve the desired levels of traction across all wheels.

At this stage in the game, Ford's AWD torque apportioning system appears to be the more advanced rig, but we'll let back-to-back testing be the real judge when we test both in 2004.

Still, Holden states that the Cross Trac is no weak link, and it's versatility lies in the way its software is specifically calibrated to cope with the deformable surfaces, such as sand, gravel and loose dirt, that make up almost two thirds of roadways in Australia.

So with 235kW of power and 460Nm of torque on tap, the Adventra will have the ability to tow boats up slippery banks, tour along bush tracks with a big load of gear on board and pull caravans and trailers without protest.

While the intriguing new Adventra is based on the humble Commodore wagon, a number of visual (and mechanical) differences set the siblings apart.

For one, the Adventra rides some 80mm higher than the Commodore, and has a 10mm longer wheelbase while flared wheel arches give that unmistakable rugged image.

The front and rear ends are also new, which include a totally new, strong front facia design, single sports bar grille with hexagonal mesh insert grille, large Holden emblem and anodised aluminium underbody protector plate, flanked by wide black lower mouldings.

These flow into the body side and over the wheel arches, the wide rocker mouldings highlighted by stylish aluminium inserts.

The Adventra's distinctive profile is further differentiated by the exclusive design of its rear pillar, new rear window shape and full length Euro-style roof rack.

The rear end treatment is also completely new and unique to the model, with a cleanly styled tailgate, with practical lift-open glass feature, a relocated wiper and body-coloured license plate surround with integrated reversing lamps.

Below this, a full-width black decor panel tops a smart anodised aluminium protector plate which houses twin rectangular exhaust outlets, a concealed towbar and hitch. Specific tail lamps continue Holden's jewel design with see-through circular elements.

Those who are still convinced that this new rough-and-ready wagon is merely a tarted-up Commodore should note that the Adventra makes use of a number of reinforcements, in areas such as chassis and underbody

The significantly strengthened underbody includes front and rear 'bash plate' undertrays and a heavy duty engine cradle.

Front strut bracing provides extra rigidity across the chassis, while the modified transmission is mounted on a two-piece system that doubles as an extra body brace and acts to enhance safety performance in side impact crashes.

Front and rear suspension systems are reinforced, the front redesigned for better isolation and absorption of impact harshness.

The brakes and cooling system have also been upgraded for heavy duty use (and the extra weight - 1940kg), plus the steering system has also been modified, while retaining what Holden calls a "sedan-like feel".

Holden has also seen fit to include a specially developed, puncture-resistant all-road tyre for Adventra that maintains signature Holden ride comfort and handling characteristics in everyday driving situations.

With all that blokey toughness in mind, Holden is also trying to appeal to those who are after a jack-of-all-trades, a practical wagon in the vein of Subaru's popular AWD vehicles, that can be hammered about on dirt tracks, but also used to collect the groceries.

As such, the Adventra makes use of a redesigned tailgate; the rear glass incorporated in Adventra's tailgate lifts separately and can be operated remotely, which makes for easy loading of small items. Furthermore, the tailgate lifts completely at the push of a button, opening up a rear compartment that is more readily accessible than most 4WDs due to its lower floor height.

All in all, the new Adventra makes quite an impact, and with more clever features than most Commodores offer, it may even entice an entirely new breed of buyer to the marque.

The new Commodore-based Adventra makes a lot of sense, what with its Cross Trac AWD capability, seven seat option and V8 power, and whether or not the Holden mudslinger is better than Ford's Territory is largely irrelevant at this stage, as Holden has the jump on the Blue Oval by a good six months.

It will interesting to see how this new "Aussie AWD" battle unfolds, and with Toyota also entering the fray with its seven seater Kluger, powered by a 172kW 3.3-litre quad-cam V6 in October this year, things are looking very rosey for those in the market for a mid-sized AWD.

The Adventra will be on sale in late October, and Holden's big chief, Peter Hanenberger, had this to say about it: "Adventra places Holden in a position to take advantage of a new automotive era, the multi-purpose crossover, that will develop over the next decade.

"Adventra is a logical successor to truck-based four wheel drives. It is far more user and family friendly and can handle a wide range of roads and tracks. Its Holden performance and drive character and ride and handling qualities are absolutely uncompromised," he said.

"Adventra is a smart innovation which showcases Holden's ability to develop a portfolio of niche vehicles quickly and efficiently. This benefits the car buying public, the Australian automotive industry and the health of our broader economy. We also believe it will ultimately reinforce our long-term viability on the world stage, " Mr Hanenberger concluded.

Finally, expect to see a high-po Holden Special Vehicles version of the Adventra at the Sydney International Motor Show in October, with insiders suggesting the name Avalanche. While nothing is concrete, the new 285kW, 510Nm LS1 engine will likely be on offer, which should work a treat with the AWD transmission.

Furthermore, expect to see the AWD Cross Trac feature popping up as options on more Holden models in 2004.

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