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Practicality Plus: Holden's new King-cab ute

Holden Crewman
2003 VY II Crewman Ute

Holden Crewman
Crewman SS gets 225kW Gen III V8 engine block

Holden Crewman
Crewman SS with new Cosmo paint job

Holden Crewman
Entry-level Crewman is a bargain @ $32,490

While Ford has taken wind out of Holden's sales in the past six months thanks to booming sales and a razor sharp new BA Falcon, the General is fighting back with all manner of guns blazing.

Firstly, the Lion-crested marque has unveiled its new large car update in the form of the impressive VY Series II, which goes on sale in late August.

We'll provide you with in-depth road tests of the new Commodore SS Series II and Calais Series II before years end, but for now you can click here for all the Series II details.

Secondly, the revered Monaro is now in its third iteration [Series III] and Holden's AWD wagon, the Adventra, will be arriving later this year, ahead of Ford's equivalent AWD wagon, the Territory.

As Ford and Holden go head-to-head, trying to outdo each other with better, shinier product and war-like talk, the best thing about this increasingly heated battle is that the customer benefits the most.

Prices come down, models variants, refinement, power and features go up and, at the end of the day, we're left with local product that's increasingly impressing overseas markets, not to mention the domestic arena.

But the big news is that Holden's utility onslaught (that began with the VU ute in early 2001) isn't showing any signs of slowing down.

The return of the One Tonner in June of 2003 was sweet news to all who had fond memories of the last one tonne ute (the WB), which ceased production in 1985, and now we bear witness to what could well be a very special moment for the Holden lads, and indeed the locally-built utility segment.

The official PR spiel is as follows: "Australia's First Four Door Ute Delivers Passenger and Payload Flexibility, Car-like Derivability and V8 Muscle."

And, in a pinch, that's Holden's new king-cab ute, officially called the 'Crewman'.

It's a very long vehicle, looking almost like a stretched limousine with a tray instead of a boot, but the first thing that caught our collective eyes was the entry-level price point: How does $32,490 sound for five seats, cargo-hauling ability, and sedan-like handling?

Granted, the entry-level Crewman comes with the 3.8-litre V6 motor [152kW, 305Nm], which is well and truly in need of updating, but items such as the CD player, dual airbags and steering-wheel mounted ancillary controls sweeten the deal considerably.

Ford had toyed with the idea of a king cab ute, when it showed off its R5 concept car a few years ago, but it's Holden who's come to the party first, much to the delight of B&S ball regulars all over the nation.

And while the new Crewman is sure to appeal to customers in regional Australia, the new Holden king-cab is expected to be popular with families too, affording them the flexibility of hauling cargo with three extra rear seats, which can be folded away to offer a large amount of secure cabin storage space that's easily accessible via its rear doors.

The rear bench, while no means as spacious as the rear seats of the Commodore sedan, comes standard with child restraint anchorages at three points, head restraints in every seating position and driver and passenger airbags standard across the range.

The four-door Crewman is Holden's longest vehicle yet, measuring slightly more than 5.3 metres, which won't do it any favours in terms of reverse parking. Still, the new utility variant (like its One Tonner stable mate) gains its strength from a unique torque arm system that links the chassis to the cabin.

The exceptional torsional rigidity this system provides translates into increased durability, excellent ride quality and reduced vibration levels which contribute to sedan-standard cabin comfort.

With robust variable four-leaf spring rear suspension, high load-rated wheels and tyres, heavy duty brake systems, transmissions and rear axle loadings, the Crewman also shares most of its load-carrying credentials, as well as the class leading wheelbase and track dimensions, with the Holden One Tonner.

Holden's soon-to-be-replaced big chief, Peter Hanenberger, had this to say about the Crewman: "Holden is delivering a level of manufacturing flexibility, achieved by very few automotive facilities in the world. This enables us to deliver a range of niche vehicles aimed at specific markets here and overseas.

Crewman SS interior with drilled alloy pedals"We know from the positive reaction to our all-wheel-drive Cross 8 prototype that the Crewman will succeed. It is a clever crossover which shows that vehicles like this do not need to be truck-based and weigh more than two tonnes."

While the new Crewman is adept at carrying plenty of weighty cargo, it's also got impressive towing credentials, with V6 Crewman models rated to 2100kg and the V8 Crewman auto rated to 2500kg.

With the base-model king-cab Holden ute retailing for just over 32-large, two other models - S and SS - are also offered at $38,740 and $46,140 respectively.

The S model gets body kit extras and a limited slip diff, and like the base Crewman is fitted with the V6 mill. The SS becomes Australia's only V8 crew cab, and though its comes with the low-tune 225kW 5.7-litre, fuel injected Gen III powerplant (no doubt to keep prices down), 460Nm of torque is not to be baulked at.

Like its performance-oriented Holden namesakes, the Crewman SS has an overtly sporty character, advertised by 17-inch five spoke alloys (which reduce cargo loading when compared to 15 & 16-inch rims), sharp front facia accents, twin front foglamps, sports bar grille, black bezel headlamps and deep rocker mouldings.

The new four-door, rear-wheel drive Crewman is a quite a sight: It's an imposing vehicle with unparalleled levels of practicality and is sure to strike a chord with tradies, families and even some wagon buyers. Holden hopes to sell about 8000 of the stretched utes per calendar year, but we reckon they'll do more than that.

The Crewman really is a great idea and will be a big step up from the unrefined levels of ride and handling of the current five-seater utes, such as Hilux, Bravo and Triton. And before you can say "But they've got 4WD," don't discount this option in the near future folks. The Crewman will be in Holden dealerships by September 22nd.

Colour Selection
There are five exterior finishes to choose from: Heron White, Redhot, Phantom (black metallic), Turbine (gunmetal metallic) and Cosmo (deep purple metallic - available only on Crewman SS).

Crewman $32,490 (automatic only)
Crewman S $38,740 (automatic only)
Crewman SS $46,140 (manual and automatic)

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