Are you ready for a car-based pickup truck? There's nothing new in that concept, although it's been 16 years since Chevrolet sold the El Camino. After being on the market for almost three decades, the El Camino disappeared in 1987 because people apparently no longer wanted a truck based on a car. The upcoming Chevrolet SSR revives the idea, albeit in an expensive, limited-production variation. Could there be a market for a genuine new El Camino? We might soon find out.
Down Under GM sells the Holden Ute, a pickup based on the Holden Commodore sedan. It sells well and is highly regarded by Aussies and New Zealanders alike. Rumor has it that GM is looking at importing the Ute for sale in the U.S. Pontiac is importing the Holden Monaro, a hot-rod version of the more mundane Commodore sedan, and selling it as the Pontiac GTO, so the precedence has been set.
On a recent trip to New Zealand, I got the chance to try out a couple of versions of the truck.
The most exciting model is the SS. Under the hood, you'll find essentially the same engine that powers the Camaro (or used to): a 5.7-liter LS1 V-8 producing 320 horsepower. The Ute tips the scales at around 3400 pounds, slightly less than Camaro.
On the highway, its performance is certainly exhilarating. Floor the gas pedal, and the truck instantly accelerates. Watch your step on wet or slightly damp roads, as the back end is prone to leap out of line without much provocation. It's a problem with a vehicle that doesn't have much weight over the rear wheels.