Land­mark on the wagon ter­rain

Holden’s sporty load-lug­ger cov­ers ground rapidly

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test - STU­ART MARTIN stu­art.martin@cars­guide.com.au

SOME­ONE at the mo­tor reg­istry must have had a sense of hu­mour when dol­ing out the plates for this car— YOB.

A big V8 Com­modore Sport­wagon, an SS-V no less, wears such a plate and it can live up to that name if you want. It’s painted in a green that doesn’t scream for at­ten­tion but the big Ade­laide-built wagon can arrive or de­part as nois­ily as you dare.

VALUE

The Sport­wagon is a lot of metal for the money, start­ing at $55,290 (add $2000 for the sixspeed auto as tested), the SS-V is a fam­ily wagon that the driver in that fam­ily will want to drive solo.

There is the touch­screen sat­nav and en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem, with hard drive and USB in­put for an iPod. There is also Blue­tooth phone and au­dio link.

Fur­ther kit in­cludes leather trim, lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial, 19-inch al­loy wheels, sports front seats, power-ad­justable driver’s seat, cruise con­trol, rear park­ing sen­sors and cam­era, reach-and-rake ad­justable steer­ing, au­to­matic head­lights, dual-zone cli­mate con­trol (with rear vents), power win­dows, leather-wrapped steer­ing wheel with phone, au­dio, trip com­puter but­tons.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The 6.0-litre V8 is not ex­actly cut­ting edge but when teamed to the six-speed au­to­matic gets the Ac­tive Fuel Man­age­ment (AFM) cylin­der drop-out sys­tem, which aims to save fuel by cut­ting sup­ply to four cylin­ders when not re­quired.

The only draw­back is power (mea­sured on 98RON PULP) drops 10kW to 260kW and peak torque is 517Nm, down from the man­ual’s 530Nm.

And it claims 12.3L/100km, though the more pow­er­ful sixspeed man­ual (which doesn’t drop cylin­ders) boasts 12.2L.

The test car fin­ished with us with 17.7L on the trip com­puter. Gen­tler driv­ing would re­duce that but the V8 needs some throt­tle to make the right noises and progress.

DE­SIGN

Flared wheel arches, ag­gres­sive road stance, quad ex­hausts and svelte rump (for a wagon) show the fam­ily load lug­ger doesn’t need to look dowdy or plain.

The driver can get a good driv­ing po­si­tion in the Com­modore, the seat and steer­ing wheel have de­cent ad­just­ment range and the dash­board doesn’t feel as if it’s go­ing to squash your knees.

For­ward vi­sion is only marred by the thick wind­screen-pil­lars, which is not lim­ited to Holden. Greater crash per­for­mance strength comes at the cost of a blind spot for the driver that needs care­ful at­ten­tion, par­tic­u­larly at T-junc­tions.

The in­te­rior is start­ing to age but is well-laid out and use­ful, apart from the an­noy­ing power win­dow and mir­ror switchgear in the cen­tre. The cargo area might not be as vo­lu­mi­nous as the old rep­mo­bile Com­modore wagon but still has 895 litres of cargo space, or 2000L if you drop the rear seats.

SAFETY

Five stars from ANCAP, thanks to sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol, anti-lock brakes with elec­tronic brake­force dis­tri­bu­tion, front seat belts with load lim­iters and pre-ten­sion­ers, dual front, front-side and full-length cur­tain airbags.

Much was made about the VE’s body strength when it was launched, in­clud­ing the use of ul­tra-high strength steel par­tic­u­larly in the door pil­lars.

The test car also had the op­tional full-size spare.

DRIV­ING

You might not look at a wagon as a fun ve­hi­cle to drive, but you’d be wide of the mark. Even the au­to­matic SS-V can cover ground at a con­sid­er­able rate, with­out feel­ing like the ad­di­tions to the rear de­tract from the ex­pe­ri­ence. If any­thing, ex­tra weight there makes things more amus­ing.

The steer­ing is light but ac­cu­rate and the wagon is a dod­dle to pi­lot around town, with am­ple low-end grunt from the engine. The trans­mis­sion is not as smart as some of the op­po­si­tion’s but it re­mains an im­prove­ment over some of the ear­lier Holden au­tos.

Ride qual­ity is tes­ti­mony to the good work of Holden’s en­gi­neers, deal­ing with bumps with­out rat­tling teeth to main­tain cor­ner­ing abil­ity.

On a fa­mil­iar back road, the Com­modore wagon turns in with en­thu­si­asm and hangs on with gusto. The overly ag­gres­sive Sport mode is a neg­a­tive, prompt­ing the driver to opt for man­ual changes.

Mak­ing the V8 sing and mak­ing more use of the up­per rev range have draw­backs, mainly at the petrol pump. If you want to get the most out of the engine then PULP is a must-have, so when the trip com­puter is reg­u­larly in the mid-teens the V8 or­ches­tra’s nov­elty might wear off.

With the elec­tron­ics off there’s scope for anti-so­cial be­hav­iour, or a lit­tle wag of the tail, de­pend­ing on your right foot.

Cabin ac­com­mo­da­tion is good, with rear pas­sen­gers get­ting de­cent space on comfy pews, and easy in­stal­la­tion of child seats thanks to an an­chor point on the back­rest, which doesn’t re­strict the load space.

Rear pas­sen­gers also get air­con vents and there’s over­head glare com­ing through the sedan’s rear win­dow, which can get rough on rear oc­cu­pants in sum­mer.

VER­DICT

If you can’t re­sist the hotrod Holden V8 but fam­ily du­ties have a strong influence, the SS-V Sport­wagon will sat­isfy the horse­power crav­ing in­stead of opt­ing for the grow­ing band of rear-drive SUVs. I’d be tempted to go against mar­ket trends and buy a man­ual.

Freighter with flair: The 6.0-litre V8 pro­pels a wagon with up to 2000L of cargo space

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