General Motors South Africa introduces the latest iteration of its sports pick-up to South Africa in the form of the new Chevrolet Lumina SS Ute. Designed and built in Australia, this latest Ute is evolved from the original Chevrolet FX pickup first seen in 1951.
That vehicle was designed and built for one purpose – to offer a utility vehicle that delivered loads of practicality and versatility with stunning styling and performance. Through the years that formula has been closely followed through a process of evolution that has seen the latest automotive technologies introduced with each successive update of this iconic vehicle.
To remain true to its original purpose this latest version of the Chevrolet Ute had to build on its established credentials as a recreational sports car without compromising its function as a practical workhorse. To this end the configuration, styling and quality reflect the Ute’s sports car alter ego.
The new Chevrolet Lumina SS Ute is built on the GM Holden (GM Australia) Global Rear Wheel Drive Architecture that has been designed to provide a platform that is able to accommodate a number of varying body styles. The SS Ute shares many of its components with the Lumina SS but without compromise to its unique proportion, surface language, graphic elements and overall quality. While having its roots in Australia, the GM Holden Global Rear Wheel Drive architecture has been developed to cater for requirements in global markets.
A prime design consideration with this latest version of the Chevrolet Lumina SS Ute was to continue to provide a true dual-purpose utility vehicle but one that offered more useable cabin space. Early in the design process the decision was made to provide more volume behind the seats and this has resulted in the most noticeable functional improvement in the vehicle.
Key to this was a redesign and repositioning of the rear cab panel. A challenge facing the design team was to achieve this without any compromise to the load box and this ideal has been achieved with the volume and area of the load box unchanged from the previous model.
Derived from the Chevrolet Lumina SS, the SS Ute’s family ties are unmistakeable, but then this was the stated objective when the new flexible vehicle architecture of the Chevrolet Lumina SS was developed. The Chevrolet Ute has a coupé-like integrated roof line that flows into the load box area for a stylish and well proportioned view from the side.
A feature of the body is a very clean outline. This is achieved by using a single piece pressing for the outer side panel. This single sheet metal element runs from the ‘A’ pillar through to the tailgate. This results in a construction that has eliminated three panel joins in the body side to significantly improve the appearance of the vehicle and provides a quality benefit as well.
The rear view breaks with tradition to feature a unique tail lamp layout with the lamp clusters mounted horizontally rather than vertically, an arrangement that has allowed the indicators and reversing lamps to be packaged side-by-side rather than on top of each other in a vertical format. This provides distinctive graphic proportions for the rear styling.
The styling of the tailgate gives it an appearance of being a continuance of the body side. Tailgate hinges are concealed and a centre mounted licence plate holder provides for a symmetrical appearance. The overall appearance from the rear is one of integrated elements and symmetry.
Distinguishing features of the Chevrolet Lumina SS Ute are its quad exhaust layout, 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels and a roof spoiler.
When considering the interior design, the styling team drew on three major styling influences. The first of these was the consideration of the dual role requirement of the SS Ute as a sports pickup. To satisfy this requirement there had to be a continuation of the interior styling package of the Lumina SS sedan through to the pickup. The basic interior treatment of the Ute is shared with the sedan but it had to be adapted to continue the interior theme into the rear of the cab.
The second styling influence came from an advanced concept vehicle, the Utester. The all-new design of this latest version of the Chevrolet Ute provided an opportunity to realise a number of the concept features in a production vehicle and tailor the interior to make it distinctly Ute in its application.
The third influence came from the fact that the Lumina SS Ute has moved beyond being a workhorse and is now defined by its muscle car heritage. This inspired the interior design team to incorporate a number of unique sporty features. One of these is the rear centre ‘T’ panel that shares the same styling and surface treatments as the instrument panel and upper door trims.
Full advantage has been taken of the model change to improve the useable interior space on the Chevrolet Lumina SS Ute. Considerations were the need for increased cab volume, improved storage, and above all improved functionality of the interior package.
The interior storage volume of the previous model behind the seats was 90 litres. By revising the rear cab panel position to near vertical previously unuseable space underneath the load floor has been opened up for access in the cab. This small change has created 220 litres of useable space behind the seats with an additional 25 litres available from two small storage compartments.
A functional change is the incorporation of a seat latch designed for single-handed operation that activates the quick release ‘dump’ mechanism to fold the seats forward and provide easy access to the area behind the seats from either side.
Seat travel has been increased to allow for an extra 12mm of forward travel. Two integrated cargo nets are provided on the rear panel to secure items, and interior lamps are provided on both sides. A special compartment is provided for the storage of the jack and tools.
Another smart storage solution is the addition of an integrated cradle specifically for the tonneau cover. This allows the cover to be rolled up, placed in its bag, and then stored in the cradle where it does not take up valuable load space.
Quality was a driving force in the realisation of the new Lumina SS Ute. The development of the Ute followed closely on the release of the new Chevrolet Lumina SS sedan and the same exacting quality parameters were adhered to in the execution of the pickup design.
A particular challenge was the seamless integration of the load box into the design in a manner that would match the high quality execution of the sedan body, with the sedan front end shared by the Ute. The same quality standards were applied to the sedan and the new components required for the Ute transformation, including gap and panel flushness, which were all benchmarked against global best practice.
The result is a unique sports pickup that boasts all the comfort and convenience of the sedan, together with a functional load carrying capability.