The more we drive the VZ Holden Crewman Cross 6, the harder it is to pigeonhole.
With seating for five people, a tray-top rear, all-wheel-drive and mammoth footprint, the Cross 6 seems like a highly flexible do-anything, tow-anything and go-anywhere machine.
But there are some major compromises - the engine in particular.
The Crewman Cross 6 is powered by the same 3.6 litre V6 found in the base Commodore. In previous tests we’ve criticised the Alloytec V6 for its gravelly high rpm roar and lack of effortlessness. Interestingly, that high rpm roar isn’t as noticeable in the Crewman as it is in a Commodore – the Crewman has higher NVH which helps mask engine noise.
But the performance situation is categorically poor.
With 175kW at 6000 rpm and 320Nm at 3600 rpm, the 3.6 litre V6 struggles to shift the 1904kg Cross 6. In normal driving it’s fine but as soon as you come to a hill or chuck a load in the back (or, heaven forbid, a combination of the two!) you feel yourself squeezing the throttle further and further and further to the floor. The engine just doesn’t have the goods.
Not surprisingly, the Cross 6 has reduced towing capacity compared to the torqueier 5.7 litre Cross 8 (see Holden Crewman Cross 8 Test). The maximum legal towing load is 2100kg but, realistically, we doubt the engine has the slog to comfortably shift that kind of load.
On the upside, the Crewman Cross 6 is fitted with a 4L60 4-speed automatic transmission that’s adaptive and smooth. However, the absence of a sequential shift mechanism is disappointing – given the limited engine output, the alibility to manually slide through the gears would be valuable.
As you’d expect, all-out acceleration of the Cross 6 is not up to the standard we’re accustomed to in big Australian vehicles. We recorded 0 – 100 km/h times typically in the 11 second bracket – and, in some conditions, this stretched to more than 12 seconds... What does this mean in normal driving situations? Well, even without a load, you won’t be able to zip through traffic or make short-planned overtaking manoeuvres.
To some extent, the Cross 6 regains points when it comes to fuel economy. During our test, the Cross 6 drank around 17 litres of unleaded per 100km in city/urban conditions and high 15s with urban/highway driving. This is considerably better than the 19/17 litre figure we achieved in the Cross 8 but, still, there’s no avoiding the fact this a big, heavy vehicle.
If there’s one area of the Cross 6 that’s undisputedly impressive, it is the Cross Trac AWD system.
Cross Trac is a rear-bias AWD system that provides crisp turn-in and amazing stability on the bitumen. It’s this level of stability that makes the Cross 6 confidence-inspiring and very quick through corners (despite a considerable amount of body roll).
The Cross Trac driveline isn’t a ‘proper’ 4WD system - it can’t compete with vehicles having a lockable centre diff and high/low range gearbox - but it is well suited for a mixture of bitumen, dirt tracks and sand.
The Cross 6’s rack and pinion steering is fine overall but, despite recent power assistance alterations, steering weight can load up during slow manoeuvres. We also noticed some steering kickback when driven hard. The brakes offer excellent stopping power and stability. The Cross 6 employs the latest Bosch 8.0 ABS, EBD and brake assist systems to good effect.
At around 5.3 metres in length, the Cross 6 is a giant - but that doesn’t mean it’s generous in terms of rear cargo space and rear seat accommodation...
Rear passengers are sure to complain about the Cross 6's awkwardly upright backrest and limited foot access. On the upside, there is a useable amount of rear space (though not as generous as a conventional Commodore) and there’s ample space up front. Like all Crewmans, there’s also a storage facility under the rear seat which is perfect for hiding valuables.
The interior equipment level is relatively low. Standard features include a leather steering wheel, cruise control and trip computer but you receive only a single disc CD player, two airbags (side airbags are optional) and no climate control. You also miss out on smaller things like flip-out front cup holders and illumination for the steering wheel switches. Still, it’s a comfortable cabin with logical instrument and switchgear layout.
Our test vehicle was equipped with a steel/timber tray-back option which, compared to the conventional ute body, has the advantage of fold-down rear and side panels for easier access. Unfortunately, due to its shallowness, the tray-back has poor carrying capacity.
Beneath the tray you’ll find a live axle, leaf sprung rear-end that’s unique to Holden’s range of Commodore-based commercial vehicles. The advantage of this set-up is increased load carrying capacity - the downside is a commercial vehicle ride with awkward hops and jolts over bumps. These characteristics are tamed when a heavy load is thrown in the back.
Visually, the tray-back Cross 6 is less attractive than ute-body versions - it lacks rear styling and the front wheel arch flares look strange without matching flares at the rear. The Cross 6 rides on standard 16 inch alloys with 215/65 tyres but our test vehicle was equipped with 17 inch wheels wearing wider Bridgestone Turanza ER30s. These presumably improved steering feel and grip compared to the standard wheel/tyre combination.
So what about price, you ask?
Well, the Crewman Cross 6 shapes up quite well when you look at the big picture of purchase and running costs. At AUD$44,490, the Cross 6 undercuts the better-equipped V8 version by almost $8,000 and you’ll typically save up to 20 percent in fuel consumption. The Alloytec V6 also has service intervals set at twice the distance/duration of the V8.
Outside of the Holden stable there is nothing directly comparable. Toyota’s new Hilux dual-cab 4x4 range (selling for between $40,000 and $50,000) is the closest, but it’s nowhere near the size of the Cross 6 and uses different 4WD technology.
If an AWD Crewman suits your needs, the financial savings associated with the Cross 6 are a major advantage over the Cross 8. But if you plan to really use the vehicle in a variety of applications, we suggest spending the extra money for the Cross 8...
The VZ Crewman Cross 6 was provided for this test by Holden Australia . www.holden.com.au