Landmark on the wagon terrain
Holden’s sporty load-lugger covers ground rapidly
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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