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New Car Test - Holden Adventra CX8

A vehicle to satisfy V8 lovers with soft-roading tendencies.

By Michael Knowling

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A thundering 235kW 5.7-litre V8, wheel arch flares, a jacked-up ride height and a kerb weight of nearly 2 tonnes. That might not sound like your average 'soft roader' but that's exactly what the new Holden Adventra represents - it's an all-road vehicle with a big dose of testosterone.

The CX8 version (on test here) is the entry-level Adventra that checks in with a retail price of $52,990 plus ORCs. That's not particularly cheap compared to various other soft-roaders, but rest assured the Adventra is a whole lotta car - and not just in terms of its engine capacity and exterior dimensions...

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As mentioned in our previous test of the top-line Adventra LX8, the big Holden employs an intriguing but highly effective CrossTrac constant all-wheel-drive system. The Adventra ignores a traditional viscous centre coupling and employs three open-centre diffs - one across the front axle, another across the rear axle and a third placed between the front and rear axles. In static conditions, torque is apportioned 38:62 front-to-rear, which maintains the rear-drive bias that the Commodore platform was intended for. Torque split varies whenever wheelspin is detected; the spinning wheel is slowed using the brakes, which redirects torque to the wheels with greater traction.

It's a system that delivers astounding stability and handling on the bitumen and on dirt tracks.

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Unlike a constant AWD system using a viscous coupling, the Adventra turns in responsively and shrugs off any tendency to power understeer on bitumen. Chassis balance also shines through on dirt tracks where the Adventra is virtually unflappable. Irregular corrugations that would send many other vehicles understeering into the shrubbery are no concern whatsoever.

The rigours of heavy duty use are accommodated by a tower brace for the front MacPherson struts while the Control Link IRS has been beefed up and features extra bump travel. Ride height has been increased to provide 200mm of ground clearance (which is more than most other soft-roaders) and the ability to handle 20 and 20.5-degree approach and departure angles, respectively. Galvanised underbody protection is another plus.

But don't get too carried away with the Adventra's off-road potential - it does have limits.

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During a trip along the South Australian coastline we tackled a lot of sand of various depths. The Adventra copes very well with firm and wet sand, but get into the deep stuff and the lack of a centre diff lock is obvious. The Adventra's torque split system starts working overtime in the search for traction and the road-car style 225/55 Bridgestone Turanza ER30s don't help matters.

In urban duties the Adventra comes together better than you might imagine. The ride is always comfortable - if a bit 'floaty' over undulating country roads - and overall noise levels are acceptable. The steering is firm, although it can become downright heavy during low speed manoeuvres. There is also steering kickback when the loaded outside front wheel hits a chopped surface while cornering.

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That all-alloy LS1 5.7-litre V8 gives a curious mix of both a lot and a little performance. You must have the standard 4-speed automatic transmission in Power mode to give a performance feel; economy mode resists down-changes under acceleration and the LS1 doesn't have the low-down torque to shift the Adventra's mass with urgency. However, with more than about 3500 rpm onboard, it's a different matter - the Adventra mauls the rest of the crossover competition in highway overtaking and full-bore acceleration. No surprise given a substantial 460Nm of torque at 4000 rpm and a 235kW maximum output accessible at 5200 rpm. Despite its near 2-tonne mass, the Adventra manages to sprint from standstill to 100 km/h in the high 7-second range.

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A 5.7-litre V8, auto transmission, all-wheel-drive, extra weight and reduced aero efficiency (compared to a Commodore wagon) are the ingredients of horrendous average fuel consumption. In urban conditions we saw up to 24 litres per 100km consumption on the trip computer, but with cruise control set on the open road the average fell to around 14.0 litres of ULP per 100km. Even at its most frugal, however, the Adventra's 75-litre fuel tank gives a poor touring range; a fuel stop strategy is essential for long journeys.

Hook a boat or caravan onto the back and, of course, the range between fuel stops will fall even further. The Adventra comes standard with a 1600kg tow mount but there's the option for a 2100kg rated tow package - enough to haul a large trailer boat. Braking performance is up to the job with large ventilated front discs, heavy-duty brake pads and ABS and EBD control.

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The Adventra interior is a familiar sight for VY Holden Commodore wagon owners. There's ample cabin width and plenty of space for up to five occupants. Cargo space is also generous enough to accommodate weekends away, while the remote pop-up tailgate glass proves quite handy for access to bags, towels, etc. Seating front and rear is comfortable and the driving position is decent. On the downside, the steering wheel is extremely thick-rimmed and the hard plastic spokes are horrible to touch. There's also considerable vibration through the floor and pedals - this was very apparent after stepping out of the new Toyota Kluger, which has a more sophisticated overall feel.

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The base-grade Adventra CX8 is equipped with standard power windows and mirrors, 4-way electric driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support, trip computer, climate control, cruise control, reversing proximity beeper and a 6-disc in-dash CD with steering wheel controls. There's also a leather steering wheel, handbrake and gear knob, map lights, remote locking, immobiliser and four airbags. The huge rear cargo area features adjustable load tie-down rails, a 12-volt power outlet, several storage compartments and a cargo blind, which has an unfortunate tendency of jumping out of its mounting sockets. A full size alloy spare wheel can be found by lifting up the cargo area floor.

In short, the interior features list is generous for an entry-level model.

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Visually, the Adventra CX8 is a very tough looking beast. Six-spoke 17-inch alloys, projector headlights, aero roof rails, standard metallic paint, aluminium skid plate cladding, a full-width high-level LED brake light, twin chrome exhaust extensions and wheel arch flares give the CX8 a complete look. The only obvious omission is front fog lights, which come as standard (along with other relatively minor cosmetic changes) on the top-line LX8 model.

The build quality of our test vehicle left something to be desired. There were clunks and rattles from the front suspension, a clunk from the rear diff during deceleration, the carpet inside the rear storage compartments weren't properly finished and a small rubber stopper was missing near the base of the tailgate window - this caused a non-stop window rattle over corrugated surfaces. The long shadows cast by a setting sun also revealed some poor panel fitment.

So what do we make of the Adventra CX8?

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Well, we imagine plenty of people will be prepared pay the $52,990 (plus ORC) price of admission. If something like a Nissan Patrol or Toyota Landcruiser is overkill, we suggest the Adventra is one of the most all-round capable soft-roaders on the market. Use it as a family truckster Monday to Friday, tow a boat, take the family beach fishing over Christmas - there's not a lot that the Adventra can't do.

Just make sure you've always got cash in your wallet to purchase fuel for that thirsty V8...

Why You Would...

  • Generous interior space and good 'entry level' equipment
  • Strong overtaking performance
  • Comfortable ride
  • Very secure handling on bitumen, dirt and sand tracks

Why You Wouldn't...

  • Thirsty engine gives a short touring range
  • Poor build quality in our test car
  • More NVH than other vehicles in its class
  • Not intended for serious off-roading where a centre diff lock is essential

The Adventra CX8 was provided for this test by Holden Australia. www.holden.com.au

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