2003 Holden Adventra

2003 Holden Adventra

And now for something really different for Holden lovers. Holden Adventra was an early entrant in what is now called the crossover SUV market. That is a vehicle based on a station wagon, but with jacked up suspension and protection added to the body and underbody.

Subaru has been in the jacked-up wagon arena for a long time, more recently, Volkswagen, Skoda and Audi, which are cousins, also sell wagons. Buyer preference in Australia leans very much to vehicles that look SUV-tough, though and these are now huge sellers.

Its added ride height gives the Adventra a tougher look than the standard Commodore wagon. A restyle of the body, particularly at the front where the squared-off bumper gives it plenty of street (and bush) cred. At the rear, the new tailgate design has features a back window that can be opened separately.

2003 Holden Adventra

2003 Holden Adventra

The Holden Crewman double-cab utility is a relation of the Adventra. It’s sold on 2WD and 4WD format, we will only look at the 4WDs Crewmans here. Neither was huge successful on the new-car market but the Adventra in particular is starting to show signs of becoming a latter day classic. Adventra prices are still relatively low so there may be a chance to grab a bargain now and make a killing later, no promises, though…

Both big Holdens were rushed into production before fine tuning was completed so had quality problems in their early days. Chances are any mechanical issues have been sorted out by now, but have a look carefully at the body and trim on any you’re considering in case big bits are about to fall off.

Initially only a V8 engine was fitted because the then current V6 was soon to be superseded and the budget wasn’t available to adapt the old engine to the new Adventra. At that time V8s were only sold in five to ten per cent of Commodore, so 90 to 95 per cent of potential buyers stayed away.

Holden Adventra was launched in October 2003, the V6s weren’t offered until March 2005. Crewman went on sale in January 2003 in RWD format.

The old Holden V8s engines guzzled petrol even by the standards of their time. The new design V6 had almost the same performance as the V8 and used significantly less fuel.

Then again there’s nothing quite like the feel and sound of a big old style V8 and these seem likely to be the models that may increase in value over the years.

2005 Holden Crewman

2005 Holden Crewman

Transmissions were all automatic, with the old four-speed unit being used behind all V8s and a then-new five-speed automatic transmission featured on the V6s.

Adventra’s full-time 4WD system works reasonably well and not only offers plenty of traction on sand and gravel roads, but also gives added safety in slippery on-road situations.

These big Holdens are easy to service and repair due to their big underbonnet area. Don’t tackle the safety items unless you know what you’re doing. Even then, they are best left to the professionals.

Spare parts aren’t (always!) available at milk bars, but there are plenty of Holden dealers Australian wide, even in remote areas. These vehicles are getting on in years, though, so check in your local area to see if you can get them before committing to purchase. Parts recyclers are an excellent source of spares for vehicles like Adventra and Crewman.

Insurance premiums are generally lower than average. Some companies charge more to cover Adventra than Commodore sedans and wagons. It pays to shop around for the best deal – but check the fine print before making a decision.

A full service record is handy in any vehicle, but we suspect many of these big Holdens will have been worked on by owners and/or their mates. Your call as to what is important to you.

There were build quality problems in the early days so look at the Adventra in a lot of detail, then call in an expert to do the final checks.

Look for signs of off-road use or even bush bashing. The sills and bumper corners are usually the first to suffer. Look for scratches on the paint. Crawl underneath for signs of damage, a real no-no if sumps have been hit.

Check the tyres for damage, particularly on the sidewalls, they aren’t up to the hard life of heavy-duty off-road running.

There were power steering troubles in some early models. Turn the steering wheel fast with the engine running and the vehicle stationary. Movement should be smooth and easy.

During your test drive feel for steering that’s too heavy and also for it suddenly loading up.

Make sure the engine starts easily and doesn’t blow smoke when driven hard. After your initial drive allow it to sit and idle for at least a minute then floor the throttle. A big puff of smoke from the exhaust could indicate valve seal problems.

The four-speed automatic transmission can be harsher than average even when OK, if you find one that seems too bad either give it a miss or ask for a serious price reduction.

The auto behind the V6 is a better unit. Again be aware of any problems during your test drive.

A couple we have driven had rattles in the rear tailgate on rough roads.

Ideally any road testing of a used car should be done first thing in the morning after it has cooled down overnight.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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