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Double cab utes to get a hotter image

Both, if confirmed for the 10-day show at Brisbane's Convention Centre, are expected to be dual cabs and neither are far from the production lines.

For the motoring world has discovered, rediscovered in some cases, the versatility of the four-door ute with either two- or four-wheel-drive. The big differences in the 21st century interpretations of the dual cab (aka crew cab or double cab) are the attention to a family's comforts plus a little more performance for the weekend jollies.

The first dual cabs, back into the days of Nissan's Bluebird utes, were basic affairs and more for the local mob of railway fettlers than mum and the kids. These were hose-out machines, plenty of vinyl and painted steel panels inside.

They were neither fast nor furious machines, but pluggers with some torque for lugging loads. Engine noise and differential howls determined top speeds.

Today there is a growing band of stylish, more comfortable dual cabs which manage to retain a work ethic. These are two- and four-wheel-drive utes, Japanese-designed and often Thai-built.

There's the ageing Ford Courier, Mazda Bravo and Mitsubishi Triton. There is the middle-aged Holden Rodeo plus the newer Toyota HiLux and Nissan Navara.

All now arrive with a petrol V6 engine option.

In the case of the Holden, around since 2003, there is now a new V6 — the 3.6 litre Alloytec engine as found in the Commodore. The move adds some fresh appeal to the Rodeo mob.

Here it is tailored for commercial applications, delivering 157kW at 5300rpm (10kW more than the old 3.5 litre V6) and 313Nm at 2800rpm. There is flatter torque curve than in the passenger cars, plus the option of an upgraded four-speed automatic or new five-speed manual transmission..

Top of the heap is the LT crew cab machine, driven here with new V6 and four-speed automatic. In black, the Holden Rodeo is certainly a handsome machine, even if it is not quite as radical in styling as some rivals which have arrived since 2003; setting off the paintwork here is a new alloy wheel design.

It is a nice, flexible ute with good road manners and a modern, comfortable interior with six-stack CD player bonus.

There remains some rear end bounce without a load and sometimes the Holden feels a little narrow-tracked but it holds itself well among the current crop.

There are indications fuel consumption should be better than the outgoing engine, and the Alloytec V6 is never found wanting in day-to-day conditions.

The automatic transmission is smooth but there are some questions about the indistinct gate on the shift lever; reverse was sometimes hard to place and, moving off, this driver often grabbed third rather than drive.

But for $36,490 this is a stylish and useful machine, even while there remains that workhorse rear end.