Road Test: Chevrolet Lumina SS Ute Auto | SACarFan

7 Dec 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Road Test: Chevrolet Lumina SS Ute Auto | SACarFan
Chevrolet Lumina

Road Test: Chevrolet Lumina SS Ute Auto

The story of the utility truck or coupé utility #8211; the ute #8211; began in 1932, when a letter was received by Ford Australia’s plant at Geelong, Victoria. It was written by a farmer’s wife who’d had enough of riding to church in the farm truck and arriving in a less than comfortable state. ‘Why don’t you build people like us a vehicle to go to church in on a Sunday, and which can carry our pigs to market on Mondays?’ her letter asked. The rest, as they say, is history and today the Ute is revered by Australians as the ideal farmer’s or tradesman’s vehicle.

Designed and built in Australia, the Chevrolet Lumina SS Ute is currently the only Ute available in South Africa, making it stand out for its combination of performance and practicality.

With a carrying capacity of just over 600 kilograms, the SS Ute will haul slightly more than a typical half-tonne bakkie, but that#8217;s a rather slim view of the Ute#8217;s talents considering everything about this vehicle is big. The Chev SS Ute measures 4 896 mm in length and at 1 898 mm, is 46 mm wider than a Porsche GT3 RS. The wheels are 18-inch and wrapped in 245/45 profile rubber, while the only thing lacking is ride height, at a lowly 110 mm.

The SS Ute is built upon GM Australia#8217;s Global Rear Wheel Drive Architecture, a platform that is able to accommodate a number of varying body styles, including the Chevrolet Lumina SS sedan, with which the SS Ute shares many of its components. The challenge for engineers was achieving the well mannered handling and steering characteristics of the Lumina SS sedan with the laod-carrying capacity of the Ute.

To this end, both the front and rear suspensions are a product of an eight year development programme to refine the suspension characteristics of the Lumina sedan and transfer their use across to the Ute. The result is a Ute that corners incredibly well for a bakkie and exhibits little body roll. Steering is linear its response and has a good turn-in characteristic, although we#8217;d have liked less assistance from the power steering at higher speeds.

GM engineers needed to package the mechanicals in a body that resembles the Lumina sedan, but incorporates the utilitarian in nature of a bakkie. In bridging this styling gap the Ute gained its coupé-like roof line that flows into the load box area, resulting in a clean silhouette. The basis for the Ute#8217;s homogeneous styling is the single sheet of pressed metal that runs from the ‘A’ pillar through to the tailgate.

The tailgate too has been styled for a smoothed and integrated look, with the handle located on the inside and concealed hinges. The rest of the styling is borrowed from the Lumina SS sedan and endows the SS Ute with the macho looks it deserves.

True to the more than 70 year old Ute philosophy is the car-like interior. With just two seats, but plenty of space, the Lumina SS Ute has the cabin of a luxury sports coupe. Leather trim covers the two very comfortable and supportive seats, as well as the gear knob and steering wheel, that fits snugly in ones hands.

Luxury and convenience equipment includes an on-board computer with the usual trip display and fuel consumption, but there#8217;s also other useful information such as battery voltage, oil temperature and oil pressure. Standard equipment is comprehensive and includes cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, 7-speaker 6-disc radio/CD/MP3-player with bluetooth connectivity, 4-way electronically adjustable driver#8217;s seat, satellite controls on the steering wheel and more.

Far from cramped, the SS Ute has 220-litres of storage space behind the seats alone. With a generously sized glove box, as well as deep door pockets, trays and cup holders, the Lumina Ute accommodates even the most elaborately accessorised tannie enroute to a Sunday service. In true Aussie fashion, the ergonomics of the interior are straight forward and controls well labelled.

Our only reservation is the handbrake lever, which while neatly designed, doesn#8217;t match the premium feel of the rest of the cabin.

Between the bulging front wheel arches is an all-aluminium 6.0-litre V8. It#8217;s not a particularly advanced engine, using just 16-valves and #8216;old school#8217; push-rod technology, but it does deliver 270 kW and 530 Nm of torque with little effort. Put your foot down in any gear and there is no shortage of acceleration.

0 #8211; 100 km/h takes a claimed 6.2 seconds and top speed is 250 km/h.

A big engine means a big thirst and the Lumina is capable of quaffing fuel at an impressive rate. Used as an urban run about the SS Ute gulped down a manly 17 l/100km, despite the relaxed pace at which the big vehicle can lull you into. Out on the open road, economy improved by almost 25% to 13 l/100km. Admittedly you can achieve better economy than these figures.

Why? Because Chevrolet has equipped Lumina SS automatic transmission models with #8216;Displacement on Demand#8217; technology.

Displacement on Demand saves fuel by using only half of the engine’s cylinders during most normal driving conditions. The system automatically reactivates the other cylinders when the driver requires the engine’s full capabilities for brisk acceleration or load carrying. In practice it#8217;s not an entirely seamless affair.

Flattening the accelerator while the system is in effect, results in two delays, one is the four sleeping cylinders that need to wake up and the second is the gearbox that needs to kick down to a lower gear for maximum acceleration. However, although apparent, the mechanical stirrings of the engine and gearbox are subtle, without ever warranting more attention than a traditional auto #8216;box would.

The Displacement on Demand active fuel management system, is only available with the 6-speed automatic transmission. Chevrolet claim the system offers improved economy of around 0.9 l/100km in an urban cycle and results will be noticeable on open road travel, particularly while using the cruise control, where the feature will shut down four cylinders up to speeds of 110 km/h.

Typically though, anything with a V8 under the bonnet isn#8217;t partial to idling around most of its life. Although the SS Ute is happy to play the role of a gentle giant, it#8217;s equally happy to smoke the rear tyres and blurt out one of any petrol heads most loved symphonies. It#8217;s utter childs play to break traction with the rear wheels and even the traction control system can#8217;t entirely halt the #8216;hoonage#8217; (Aussie-speak for hooliganism).

Despite its capabilities the Lumina SS Ute never comes across as intimidating and commands a respect common to all performance cars. Even in mountain passes, the SS Ute is surprisingly competent and capable of carrying far more corner speed than one might anticipate. Drive out of the turns is a thrill thanks to the 530 Nm of torque, with the Ute seemingly able to transfer all its power to the road when a progressive throttle action is employed.

The brakes are equally as impressive in the manner in which they counter the bulk of the vehicle and the speeds it easily achieves.

The Lumina SS Ute occupies a niche in our local vehicle market, one that combines quality, comfort, performance and practicality in a way no other segment can. It#8217;s great fun and easy to live with on all occasions, whether dropping your mother in-law at church or strapping a couple of dirt bikes on the back and heading out of town for a weekend in the hills. If author Roald Dahl had to personify his fictional character the Big Friendly Giant (BFG) as a vehicle, the Chevrolet Lumina SS Ute would surely be it.

Chevrolet Lumina

What we like#8230;

Fun to drive.

Sounds great.

Well insulated interior and solid build quality.

Tonneau cover looks smart, fits snugly and is easy to use.

What we would like#8230;

Park distance control in the back.

Slightly less power assistance for the steering at high speed.

A rubberised boot liner, as opposed to the plastic shell/insert, which appears a little #8216;soft#8217;.

Chevrolet Lumina
Chevrolet Lumina
Chevrolet Lumina
Chevrolet Lumina
Chevrolet Lumina
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