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OZ-BOUND PICKUPS: American utes due in Australia this year

Is bigger better? This year there are even more American pickup trucks arriving into Australian showrooms.

WHAT’S WITH ALL the commotion about big utes? The top-selling cars in Australia last year were the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger. The Mitsubishi Triton, Holden Colorado and Isuzu D-Max also sat up in the top 20 cars purchased by Aussies in 2019. We love utes, it seems.

But what’s more is the growing trend to want a big pickup truck. While many SUV and passenger car models recorded lower sales numbers in 2019 year-on-year, the American Special Vehicles converted RAM pickup bucked the trend, selling almost three times as many vehicles in 2019 as in 2018.

Ford also tells us its biggest Ranger, the new Raptor, has been highly successful. We’ve seen plenty of those on the roads. And now other manufacturers are pining to have a Raptor-rivalling ute, like Nissan, with its special Aussie-engineered Navara Warrior.

This year, 2020 will deliver even more for punters looking at a big truck to plonk in the driveway. These are the US utes confirmed to launch in Australia, and some which remain American Pie in the sky.

Chevrolet Silverado 1500

Chevrolet already offers the larger Silverado 2500 and 3500 pickups here as converted right-hand drive models remanufactured by Walkinshaw Automotive Group in Clayton, Victoria. The vehicles are sold at HSV dealerships associated with the iconic Holden lion brand but are – for now – a size too big for most.

Chevrolet Silverado 1500

Enter the Silverado 1500, a truck that should compete closer to the RAM 1500 for price and size. HSV has already started teasing its new American pickup, sending out a special email to its subscriber base last month showing a picture of the 1500’s headlight and the words, “looking forward to launching BIG things in early 2020. Stay tuned!”

Chevrolet Silverado interior

There are no details or a launch date yet, but we’d expect, like the RAM 1500, the Chevrolet ute will offer a V8 engine. Options from the US are a 5.7-litre bent-eight producing 265kW and 519Nm, and a 6.2-litre producing 313kW and 623kW. Towing capacity runs 5500kg.

Jeep Gladiator

Jeep’s finally about to launch a new model in its Australian lineup, introducing the Wrangler-inspired Gladiator ute. But while it looks like a Wrangler with a tub on the back, the car has been re-engineered from the A-pillars back.

Jeep Gladiator Rubicon red

In Australia we only get the petrol V6 engine, producing 213kW at 6400rpm and 353Nm of torque at 4400rpm through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Towing capacity is 2700kg and the payload is 620kg – lower than most dual-cab utes on the market – but the Gladiator is positioned as a lifestyle ute with Rubicon-rated off-road performance.

Jeep Gladiator Rubicon rear red

We’ve just finished driving the Jeep Gladiator in New Zealand before it lands here this year, and you can read our full review on Practical Motoring Wednesday January 15.

Nissan Titan

Nissan’s big US pickup isn’t confirmed, but the local arm’s managing director Stephen Lester told Practical Motoring last year that it’s keen to bring it in. What we expect is that Nissan’s partnership with Melbourne-based engineering group Premcar will spark a local-conversion assembly like what HSV does with the Silverado.

Nissan Titan

Nissan’s Titan won’t be available with the Cummins diesel V8, so the only option on the table will be the same 5.6-litre petrol V8 found in the Nissan Patrol, which isn’t a bad thing unless you need an oiler.

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2

Holden will update its Colorado later this year with a facelifted version of the models already on sale. And sightings of the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 by Practical Motoring near HSV’s Clayton base indicate the car is under consideration.

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2

The Colorado ZR2 is a rival to the Ford Ranger Raptor, sporting a more powerful 3.6-litre naturally-aspirated V6 producing 230kW and 373Nm via an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 dampers suspension

Underneath the front, it has independent coil-over shock absorbers with Multimatic Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSVTM) dampers (found in cars like the Aston Martin One-77, Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 and Mercedes-AMG GT) and at the rear are two-stage multi-leaf springs also with DSSVTM dampers. The viability of the model in Australia will be the cost to convert to right-hand drive.

What do you think, are bigger US utes a good option in Australia?

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Alex Rae

Alex Rae