The marketing men are at it again. They’ve turned moisturiser into something for men and made pink the new black. And now they’ve done strange things to Aussie icons like the ute, so you just don’t know where you are any more.
The ute. Utility vehicle. Carriage of the people. For generations used as a tool, like a hammer or a wrench. The dog went in the back and looked after 200kg of roofing tiles with his tongue out and rarely was any dog so happy. And now what.
Now, you can drive through a nice neighbourhood and see a “sports ute”, which has a ute’s shape, but is all covered with a nice tarp over the tray and has a metallic finish and clearly never done a proper day’s work in its life. It’s driven by someone who may still go to building sites, but wears a suit and doesn’t like all that dust mussing the metallic finish. Later, he’ll drive it to the deli and load it up with a range of cheeses. Ads for these utes tell you that as well as doing all the things old utes could do, it’s now a pleasure to drive, a real joy of power and acceleration.
Then I get behind the wheel and find it’s all bloody true.
I’m troubled to admit that Holden’s SS V Ute is one of the best things I’ve clunked the door on in a year. It’s not as refined as some cars or as balanced as others, but boy has it got a personality. This ute has got a big 6.0-litre V8 engine and wants to use it, all the time. It’s like reining in a snorting stallion. If I do any more than breathe on the throttle I’m heading for the moon like an atomic green rocket.
It’s a great ride, too. Driving position is spot-on and Holden have loaded up on extras like dual-zone climate control, leather seats and that tradie essential, er, Bluetooth. Even without those deli cheeses in the back, the back doesn’t bounce too much or skip out, and cornering under barely controlled pace is a blissful experience.
Holden would very much, if I would be so kind, like me to talk about their new fancy fuel-saving thingy, Active Fuel Management. On the display, I can see the technology working, cutting back to four cylinders from time to time and no doubt saving me valuable fuel and money. It’s A Good Thing; I like it. But is this the car to talk about fuel conservation? The image isn’t quite right. It’s like putting a wicker basket on the front of Armstrong’s bike: very handy and everything, but it’s not why he wins the Tour.
Frankly, I’m still confused. The ute is quality transport: a workhorse with a thrilling surge of power, that still acts like the show-pony you can drive to church or use for a long comfortable cruise. But where am I going to put the dog? Answer me that.
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