The long-running fight between Holden and Ford is about to spill from the streets into the rough with the launch of new Adventra and Territory crossover machines.
The pair - Adventra from Holden and Territory from Ford - are based respectively on the Commodore and Falcon platforms around which Australia's great automotive rivalry has revolved for decades.
Despite this, and the common crossover theme, the new rivals will be quite different.
Holden has stayed closest to its big car roots by giving the Commodore wagon a $140 million makeover that includes the mandatory visual steroid treatment, raised ride-height, new metal around the rear pillar, and a strengthened chassis and suspension.
The Adventra, which is 11mm longer and 87mm wider than the Commodore wagon, features a permanent four-wheel-drive system operating in conjunction with automatic transmission. Power comes initially from the 235kW 5.7-litre V8 Gen III engine, with a six-cylinder model likely to follow in 2005, after the introduction of Holden's new V6 motor to the Commodore range.
Ford has chosen an even more expensive development path, giving the Territory new sheet metal all over and an all-new interior as well as four-wheeldrive capability and suspension enhancements.
Power will come from the 182kW six-cylinder engine used in the BA Falcon (again with an auto gearbox), and there will a two-wheel-drive as well as four-wheel-drive model on offer.
Holden is first out of the blocks by a couple of months, beating Ford to market by putting the Adventra in showrooms this month, and commencing customer deliveries in mid-April.
The Australian arm of General Motors is keeping things simple for the buyer by offering just two variants, the CX8 and LX8.
Listing at $63,200, which is only $4000 more than a V8 Commodore Berlina wagon, the CX8 is well appointed. Dual front and side air bags, a sixdisc CD player, climate control air conditioning, 17-inch alloys, cruise control, a leather steering wheel and rear park assist are all standard.
The $9200 step up to the LX8 brings extras including a sunroof, leather trim and premium audio system.
The four-wheel-drive package on both models is a Cross Trac adaptive system. It splits power 38:62 in favour of the rear under normal conditions, but automatically adjusts power delivery between the wheels in response to changing surface conditions. It operates in conjunction with antilock brakes, automatic brake differential software, electronic brake force distribution, and cornering brake control.
Ride height increases by 80mm to 200mm compared to a road-going Commodore, there is extra underbody protection and chassis bracing, reinforced suspension mounts, upgraded brakes, and specially developed allroad tyres. The standard towing capacity is 1600kg, but this can be upgraded to 2100kg with a heavy-duty kit.
Inside, a third row of seats, designed for two children, is an optional accessory. The rear glass of the tailgate can be opened separately. There is a range of storage and load-securing features. Carrying capacity with both rear seats folded down is 2683 litres.
Former Holden chairman and managing director Peter Hanenberger described the launch of the Adventra as one of the most important events in recent Holden history.
Adventra places Holden in a position to take advantage of a new automotive era, the multipurpose crossover, that will develop over the next decade.
Ford has much the same to say about Territory and its role in the company's future fortunes, so an epic battle lies ahead.
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