The Holden Adventra is a fascinating car. As the first
locally-developed crossover all-wheel drive, it succeeds admirably in meeting
its design intentions. Yes, this is a car that can genuinely take (some) rough
with the smooth, cope with a rutted dirt trail or be equally at home taking the
kids to school or doing the shopping. Its on-road dynamics are excellent, its
four-wheel drive system seamless and effective, and with a huge interior, its
But it has one problem. A drawback that's so severe we think for many
potential buyers it will invalidate the Adventra. Something which no matter how
much we liked about other aspects of the car, we just had to keep coming back
The Adventra has a raging thirst for fuel.
In fact, with an average consumption of 20.0 litres/100 km over our test
period, it takes the dubious prize of having the worst fuel consumption of any
car we've ever tested. Our most recent four-wheel drive - the Honda MDX -
revealed a fuel consumption of 12.6 litres/100 km... and has similar performance
to the Adventra. However, the consumption of the Adventra is only a tad worse
than we expected: we typically get a pretty horrendous 16 litres/100 km from any
of the V8 Holdens, and with the extra drag of the four wheel drive system, 200kg
of extra mass, a large frontal area and the presence of the optional roof-rack,
the fuel consumption was always going to be b-a-d.
So was our week spent ploughing up and down sand dunes,
first gear selected in the auto four-speed? Or was it all pedal-to-the-metal in
the Northern Territory, that land of no open road speed limits? Not at all. The
Adventra did about a third of its total test distance on freeways, about a third
up and down a country road that climbs a steep hill, and the rest performing
urban duties. Experience tells us that this regime gives fuel consumption a bit
greater (about 10 - 15 per cent worse) than many people will experience in
Which still makes the expected consumption of the Adventra eye-wateringly
The Adventra is currently available only with the Gen III 5.7-litre V8; the
fuel consumption issue may well change when Holden's new - and very
sophisticated - V6 engine appears in the car next year.
So what exactly is the Adventra? Firstly, it's the beginning of a new breed
of Holden where all four wheels are driven all of the time. Using a system with
all open diffs (ie no limited slip diffs), the CrossTrac system uses the brakes
to determine the torque split. It does this by slowing any wheel that is
spinning, so transferring drive to any of the other wheels. It's not a 'serious'
four wheel drive system of the sort you might find in a dedicated off-roader,
but neither is it cheap and nasty. In fact, depending on the sophistication of
the software used to control it, this type of four-wheel drive system is almost
ideal in crossover vehicle applications.
And on the road the system works superbly. With a
starting front/rear torque split of 38:62, the Cross Trac approach avoids the
power-on understeer associated with many constant four-wheel drive cars. In fact
the Adventra has excellent dynamics - even with the raised ride height and
relatively soft, long-travel suspension, the car grips and grips with poise and
precision. Compared with a conventional V8 Commodore wagon, the Adventra is in
another - far better - league. This is one four-wheel drive car where the safety
advantages of having all wheels driving is clear and demonstrable.
Of course, with just under 2 tonnes being thrown around, it can't be expected
to corner like a sports car... and it doesn't. On very tight corners it will stay
neutral then progress into understeer - despite the Cross Trac, the inside rear
wheel spinning. On more open corners it's simply neutral and stable.
And on dirt? On loose surfaces the Adventra is simply brilliant, with an
ability to put power down which is amazingly good. Partly helped by the 235kW
V8's reluctance to develop a lot of torque at very low revs, it's impossible in
any normal driving situation to spin the wheels on a level dirt surface. Even
wind-on some lock and floor the throttle and the car just goes where it's
Off the road and onto the rubble, the soft suspension and low ground
clearance (compared with an off-road four-wheel drive) combine to allow the
engine and transmission guards to scrape rocks and mounds - but walk the car
slowly over an uneven surface, and it's fine. Rather like Subaru used to claim
decades ago, the Adventra is an 'all-road' vehicle rather than 'off-road'.
As the looks clearly show, the Adventra is based on the
Commodore wagon - although with $125 million spent over three years, the
transformation is major. In addition to the four-wheel drive hardware (including
a transfer case as well as the front diff and driveshafts) the Adventra boasts a
slightly longer wheelbase and much wider track, plastic guard extensions, a
lift-up rear door modified to include a separately-operable rear window, and
specific interior trim and specification differences.
In the LX8 luxury form shown here, the equipment list is long. In addition to
a sunroof and leather trim there's also dual-zone climate control, cruise,
three-window (and excellent) trip computer, reversing park assist beeper,
in-dash 6-CD stacker, electric front seats (the driver's has memories), and a
new centrally-mounted panel with lateral and longitudinal clinometers.
Refinement isn't quite up to normal Commodore standards: the steering wheel
transmits vibration back from the front wheels and can also show at times a
little torque steer. In addition, despite Holden claiming that the front
suspension is "redesigned for better isolation and absorption of impact
harshness", the front suspension feels (as of course it actually is) heavier in
unsprung weight, and on the test car had a clunk from the left-hand front
corner. The steering - by a hugely thick wheel which is uncomfortable for those
with small hands - is heavy at low speeds. The optional roof rack creates a good
deal of wind noise - in fact, the sunroof blind (let along the roof itself!) has
to be closed at highway speeds if wind whistles from the roof-rack aren't to
become intrusive. The test car also had a deep resonant boom through the cabin -
some people barely noticed it, but one person found it excruciating.
The body has been strengthened for its new role. In
addition the underfloor bash plates covering the engine and transmission sumps,
a heavy duty engine cradle and front upper strut brace are fitted. The modified
transmission is mounted in such a way that it acts as an extra body brace.
Brakes are up in size to cope with the extra mass.
The rear load area of the Adventra features lidded side compartments, and in
our optioned-up test car a cargo net and sophisticated tie-down system. A
retractable roller blind is standard fitment and the available volume remains
normal Commodore wagon huge: with the rear 60/40 seats folded, a massive 2683
litres of cargo space is to be had.
Both dynamic and passive safety are high - with this much grip and stability,
the ability to avoid accidents is heightened, and should the worst happen, the
standard four airbags, head restraints for all five passengers,
pyrotechnic seatbelt pre-tensioners and force limiters will help.
Minus the accessories like the aluminium roof rack, the
LX8 Adventra costs $60,990. Direct competition among car-based crossovers is
hard to find, although of course if you're also prepared to look at the more
boxy traditionally-shaped four-wheel drives, there are plenty of others in the
same price range (and don't forget that some of that breed now drive extremely
But as it stands, Holden has done a brilliant job of diversifying its range
into this booming market segment. The Cross Trac all-wheel drive system works
exceptionally well and the car is practical and effective.
But if you drive the Adventra hard or in stop/start urban conditions, expect
to pay and pay and pay at the bowser...
Why you would:
- Excellent handling
- Vast interior
- Competent performance
- Highly effective on all types of roads
Why you wouldn't:
- Enormous thirst for fuel
- Noise and vibration
The Adventra was provided for this test by Holden
According to Holden - Making the Adventra
- With the introduction of the Adventra and soon to be released AWD crew cab variants, Holden is now producing 35 models off 13 variants (body style, left- and right-hand drive, AWD and RWD) from the one V-car platform.
- Adventra has the highest work content in its build process of any Holden model currently produced at Holden Vehicle Manufacturing Operations. This is largely due to intricacies involved in fitment of the Cross Trac all wheel drive system and associated components. (Second highest work content - Holden
- Adventra is the widest and highest vehicle manufactured by Holden. It
incorporates more than 350 new components, ranging from body panels to badging.
- $25 million was invested to facilitate the integration of Adventra and other
future AWD models into current production line processes and systems.
- Adventra manufacture is scheduled in sequence with all
other models along the same line and through all three production shifts at
Holden Vehicle Manufacturing Operations, Elizabeth, South Australia.
- Current average daily production rate - 780 vehicles.
- Total number of Holden employees at Elizabeth - 5,200. Main facilities -
press plant and metal assembly operation, body hardware facility, plastics
operation, body assembly and vehicle assembly operations.
- Manufacturing integration involves a significant amount of capital
expenditure. Plant upgrades in 2002/2003 alone have accounted for $408 million
of the total $2 billion Holden is investing in capital programs to 2006.
- In the Body Shop, start of the Adventra manufacturing process, $4 million has
been invested in modifying underbody and bodyside assembly, framing and body in
white production lines and in error-proofing and scheduling systems.
- Another $4 million has been spent in Fabrication and
Fabrication Assembly on a new laser cutting cell, a new rear crossmember weld
cell and numerous sheetmetal tool changes. A vital part of the integration
process, laser cutting is used to modify existing pressed body panels. Adventra
production requires the laser cutting of ten separate panels.
- In the most labour intensive area, General Assembly, $16 million has been
spent on the development of new error proofing systems; modifications to current
conveyors and carriers; a new engine dress line for the AWD powertrain; an
interim engine assembly cell; vehicle programming and test system changes;
handling equipment aids and manipulators for such items as sunroof fitment, slat
assembly, rear retrieval beam and strut lifters.
- Logistics - investment in new packaging and racks to cover 350-plus new
supply parts for Adventra was $1million.