Beat the clock

The best way to un­der­stand and en­joy the clas­sic V8 is to drive it

Herald Sun - Motoring - - THE TICK - WITH PAUL GOVER

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 TICK

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.

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