Beat the clock
The best way to understand and enjoy the classic V8 is to drive it
SIT in a Commodore and you can hear the clock ticking — not the digital one but the clock running down on the homegrown Holden. Every minute brings the end closer.
Not that you would know it, driving the latest Commodore. Fast, refined and fitted with smart technology, this car is still the size that works for lots of regular Australians.
It’s also a relative bargain, starting from $35,490 and just under $45,000 for the V8.
Dealers reckon the very last of the big bangers, next year’s rampaging GTS-R from Holden Special Vehicles, is a waiting-list special despite predictions of a price between $180,000 and $200,000.
And that makes the SS-V look like even better value, especially with its classic V8 (304kW/570Nm) that comes from the iconic Chevrolet Corvette in the US. It might miss the Brembo brakes and some other tasty upgrades that come on the Redline V8 (pictured) but the SS-V is more than enough for most people.
There are numerous admiring looks (it now trails the Ford Mustang on that score) as people ask about the car, what it means and the general future of Holden in Australia.
The final update for the VFII Commodore only serves to reinforce that, thanks to safety and refinement and the latest infotainment package, it’s the best Australian car of all time. There is even a head-up display in the top-spec examples, something that until recently was confined to the European luxury brands.
The best way to understand and enjoy the SS-V is to drive it.
We had a Redline in our Car of the Year judging last year but it was clearly troubled, and underperforming badly. My SSV is firing on all cylinders and generating lots of smiles.
It’s the classic combination of LS3 V8 and a six-speed manual gearbox, perhaps not as smooth in its shifts as the paddle-change auto but just what I want and need.
It takes a bit of heft on the clutch and gear lever but the reward is something you can only get when you’re doing the heavy lifting yourself. The outputs apart, what’s really impressive about the engine is the way it pulls so strongly from just above idle.
Then there are the aural treats — the fantastic exhaust note with the latest bi-modal pipes and the tech that pipes engine noise into the cabin.
It really rockets at the redline but you don’t have to push all the way to go quickly. Holden claims a tick under 5.0 seconds from rest to 100km/h — we haven’t matched this but it’s still a quick car that pushes you back in the seat and is never troubled for overtaking.
My biggest smiles come on a twisty give-and-take road where the tachometer spends most of its time between 4000rpm and 6000rpm, with real bite on tap at any time.
Fuel economy is not great, and can become quite awful, but it’s the price you pay (and this week I’ve seen pump prices below $1.00 a litre for the first time in a very, very long time).
The chassis is a sweetie, despite the Commodore’s size, thanks to suspension refinements and the latest 19-inch alloys with 45-aspect tyres. Yes, there is inevitable grumble and growl on some surfaces but that’s the price of great grip.
The seats are supportive and also have great comfort for a long drive. There is plenty of space for three adults in the rear and the boot is more than big enough for a family. The tow rating is not great but there is a full-sized spare.
When I park the SS-V I have time to look at all the goodies, from the leather seats and pushbutton start to satnav with traffic updates, MyLink infotainment with larger eightinch display, eight-speaker audio and the head-up display.
It’s also got a reversing camera with predictive lines to make parking easier, as well as auto parking assistance.
The safety suite easily earns five stars from ANCAP, thanks to standard blind-spot warning, forward collision alert and Isofix child seat mountings.
The clock has counted down a little further as you have been reading yet there is no cause for alarm.
There is still time to drive and enjoy the Commodore and revel in what the SS-V adds to the mix. Of course it gets The Tick.