The surge and sound

The big, boom­ing V8 in the per­for­mance Com­modores sig­nalled an era of change

Herald Sun - Motoring - - USED CAR -


LAUNCH­ING the VE in 2006, Holden claimed the model would save its ba­con. It didn’t.

As Holden, like Ford and Toy­ota, plans to aban­don lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing in favour of mar­ket­ing im­ported cars, so buy­ers have aban­doned the likes of the Com­modore and Fal­con and voted with their feet for smaller cars and SUVs.

But then, as now, there was much to like about the large cars, par­tic­u­larly hero mod­els like Holden’s big boom­ing V8 SS and SS-V.

The lusty 6.0-litre pound­ing away un­der the hood blew away any idea of fuel fru­gal­ity but there re­mains some­thing ap­peal­ing about the surge and sound of the hot Com­modore.

If thirst was no con­cern and you wanted old-school grunt, the SS and (new for the VE se­ries) up-spec SS-V would be for you. A sleek Sportwagon launched in 2008 ex­panded the ap­peal.

The SS badge dates back to the early ’70s when it was at­tached to HQ per­for­mance model. In the VE, the V8 un­der­scored its cre­den­tials with out­puts of 270kW and 530Nm.

Trans­mis­sions were six-speed­ers, both man­ual and auto, the lat­ter the most likely choice for to­day’s buy­ers.

The VE was a roomy and com­fort­able car to drive, the big V8 com­fort­able for lazily cruis­ing along the high­way, with plenty of punch to over­take when needed.


The SS is pop­u­lar with, let’s say, en­thu­si­asts. It’s im­por­tant then that you check any car un­der con­sid­er­a­tion for signs of hav­ing been owned by a hoon — look for mod­i­fied en­gines, tricked-up trans­mis­sions, low­ered sus­pen­sion and af­ter­mar­ket wheels.

A mod­i­fied en­gine might give you stronger per­for­mance but it’s likely to be at the cost of fuel consumption and drive­abil­ity, and pos­si­bly dura­bil­ity.

Tweak­ing the trans­mis­sion can sharpen the shift­ing but make it harsher to drive.

Low­ered sus­pen­sion is likely to be un­com­fort­able and to bot­tom out over speed bumps and across gut­ters as you drive out of your drive­way.

Af­ter­mar­ket wheels can be in­fe­rior to the gen­uine fac­tory wheels. They are of­ten eas­ily chipped and cracked, and knocked out of round by the small­est of bumps against a kerb.

The best thing to do if you sus­pect a car has been mod­i­fied or had a hard life, walk away and keep shop­ping.

The al­loy V8 is much im­proved over the 5.7-litre en­gine that pre­ceded it and there isn’t much that goes wrong with it.

But it is im­por­tant to lis­ten for any tick­ing com­ing from the en­gine, and in­spect it closely for oil leaks. Par­tic­u­larly check for leaks around the seal be­tween the en­gine and trans­mis­sion.

The six-speed auto also seems to be largely trou­ble-free but make sure it se­lects gears with­out hes­i­ta­tion and it doesn’t clunk or bang when en­gag­ing Drive or Re­verse.

A knock in the driv­e­line could be from the lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial. It could also be a sign of be­ing driven hard. There have been re­ports of the diff fail­ing and it’s quite ex­pen­sive to re­place.

Reg­u­lar ser­vic­ing is im­por­tant to keep the SS run­ning smoothly, so check for a ser­vice record.


Glenys Rus­sell I owned an SS un­til April. I bought it with 17,000km on it. It was very re­spon­sive, very easy to drive. The pre­vi­ous owner had low­ered it, so I had dif­fi­culty with some drive­ways. It was au­to­matic, which was definitely not for me. I have traded up to a man­ual SS-V, which hope­fully will be my car for a very long time.

Gar y El­liott I have owned my SS-V for six months and I love it. It hasn’t given me any prob­lems so far and the fuel consumption has sur­prised me — it wasn’t what I ex­pected from a V8. The in­te­rior isn’t bad and the boot is huge.

Rob Grove I own a 2009 SSV Sportwagon. Af­ter 45,000km and 18 months of own­er­ship I still love it. It still looks fresh, the in­te­rior is roomy and com­fort­able and there’s plenty of room for lug­gage. The en­gine is strong and quiet and fuel consumption is great.

Chris Tyson My 2009 VE SS man­ual is a plea­sure to drive. The han­dling is spot-on and you don’t have to rev it to get any­where, you can just lug along. It’s spa­cious in­side and the boot is great.


For some it’s a di­nosaur, for oth­ers it’s V8 heaven.

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