Being squeezed tightly into a single-prop bean can to be flown to an island in the Hauraki Gulf by a, let’s say, “fresh-faced” pilot, in brisk and swirling winds is not the normal way to begin a road test, but Holden New Zealand is becoming synonymous with taking things to the Xtreme.
Taking off from NZ’s widest airport in Auckland, to (fingers crossed) land on its narrowest got the adrenaline juices flowing as advertised and the horizontal windsock at Great Barrier Island’s runway certainly added to the fun. There was something mischievous in the smile across the face of Holden’s GM of corporate affairs, Ed Finn, as he greeted us at the terminal. Let the games begin.
Aotea/Great Barrier Island is a mere 30-minute flight from Auckland but it really runs at its own pace. It’s 285 square kilometres in area and filled with an absolute raft of narrow meandering roads (some with asphalt and many without) and laden with ‘wave happy’ locals—we were to explore most of it in a bright orange crush and black decals, Holden Colorado Z71 Xtreme.
Designed and developed by Holden in Australia and first introduced as a concept at the Bangkok Auto Show in 2016, the Z71 Xtreme takes the extensively tested Colorado ute to, well, the extreme (or make that the Xtreme). Equipped with a big 2.8-litre Duramax Turbo Diesel engine, 500Nm of torque and a 3.5-tonne towing capacity, it boasts the same impressive credentials of the Colorado Z71, but with a new-look tough exterior and upgraded off-road capability.
This limited edition ute comes loaded with all genuine Holden accessories. It has upgraded front suspension, all-terrain tyres and a vehicle recovery kit. It’s got a best-in-class winch system equipped with a heavy-duty bash plate as well as 10,000lb load capacity and a 30m synthetic line. Flared fenders, a black grille and bonnet bulge, a roof tray kit and (on our model) a snorkel—although I hoped we weren’t going diving in it.
After kissing the ground in Pope-like fashion and a spot of nerve-settling morning tea, we set out on a tour of the island. Although in all fairness it’s not a big island, Ed had planned out the day’s route well. We would be driving from ferry-to-ferry, port-to-port and ducking down a seemingly endless string of side roads, virtually no road would go unturned.
The big thing he was quick to underline was the waving and I’m glad he did. Almost immediately upon hitting the streets came a wave from the local driver of an oncoming vehicle, a theme that continued throughout the day. From index finger lifting or royal wave to a palm raise or gentle nod, it’s relentless—I have to admit to changing my style with each and every one.
We stopped for lunch on the beach and fed some rather aggressive eels along the way, we climbed hills and negotiated descents, exploring every nook and cranny of the fine and friendly island. As expected, the Z71 Xtreme took each road and road surface well in its stride, for quite a large truck it felt nimble and comfortable, it really looks good too.
In all, we travelled a shade over 143km in the few hours we were there and regardless of the amount of corners we had turned I could have happily driven longer. The Z71 Xtreme is a great package, offering cosmetic and very real world mechanical upgrades to the firmly established Colorado frame and of course as it’s limited to 30, it’s even more desirable.
With just the Xtreme flight back to Auckland to conquer, we headed back to the airport. In so many ways, it was a shame we couldn’t have driven back!