It’s the fastest, most capable and most advanced car to ever wear a Commodore badge. The new SSV Redline is the highlight of the new Holden range -- this side of the epic supercharged HSV GTS. So imagine how frustrating it was to get tantalisingly close to driving it, only to have Ford drop its bombshell.
On the media launch for the new Commodore I had my hand on the driver’s door-handle to the SSV Redline when Ford Australia announced it would shut its manufacturing facilities in 2016.
At that moment I literally became a passenger -- along with every other journalist at the event, I worked my laptop sitting in the front passenger’s seat -- so I could cover the biggest automotive story of the decade.
With the grim news behind us the media has been given another crack at Holden’s hero car, with some track driving added for good measure. Furthermore, this will give the clearest indication yet of what North Americans can expect when their export models arrive at the end of the year.
At $51,490 plus on-road costs the SSV Redline sits at the top of the Commodore pecking order and is the most expensive of the line-up, even if the price has been slashed by $6300. The SSV Redline has everything the Calais comes with, and more.
In addition to techno gadgets such as a forward crash alert and a heads-up display which reflects the car’s speed into the windscreen, the Redline gets massive race-bred Brembo front brakes and wider rear tyres (just like HSV has done since 2006). It also gets sports seats and Holden’s lauded faux-suede material on the dash and doors.
The only options: automatic transmission adds $2200, metallic paint adds $550 and a look-at-me boot spoiler adds $500. Fifty-plus grand is a lot of money for a Commodore but it’s still $10,000 cheaper than a new HSV Clubsport -- and, as we were to discover, every bit as good.
In addition to the aforementioned technology, the big news on the Redline is the introduction of a launch control setting (for manual models only), two modes of stability control and two modes of steering feel (for track or street).
The Redline is, in effect, exactly what North Americans will get except export models come with the 6.2-litre V8 reserved for HSV while Australian Redline editions make do with the still highly capable 6.0-litre V8.
Power output from the 6.0-litre V8 is unchanged form before (and the auto still has less grunt than the manual). But the 43kg weight saving due to the lightweight aluminium boot and bonnet and other parts means the new model feels a little lighter on its feet.
The only external visual clues to the Redline edition are the staggered 19-inch wheels (they’re wider at the rear than at the front, for better rear-end grip) which are available in chrome or gloss black.
Inside there is a gaudy SSV logo embroidered on the the light-coloured dash and a matching thin strip in the centre of the seats. Black material without a logo would look better on all counts.
Six airbags and a five star crash safety rating if things go awry -- and the best handling Holden V8 sedan ever built to avoid an incident in the first place. A rear camera and front and rear sensors are also standard, so it even gets a tick for driving safety.
One blot: the driver’s side mirror is still too small. Luckily the car comes with blind spot alert. But I’d still prefer to see what’s over my shoulder than rely on a beep that might not work.
Holden has for 25 years been trying to compete against its enemy from within -- the separately-owned HSV performance car division. But the VF Redline is the first time Holden has truly created a car that could give HSV a black eye.
Holden has been successful in giving the Commodore SS plenty of styling sizzle but this is the first time it has had the performance and driving credentials to back up the tough talk.
Sure, the Redline has a 6.0-litre V8 compared to the HSV’s 6.2-litre. And the power output of the Redline is lower (in part due to a slightly lower engine redline, ironically). But the actual performance is line-ball.
Independent testing has shown there is just 0.1 of a second difference in the 0 to 100km/h dash (4.9 v 5.0 seconds). If you can pick that by the seat of your pants, you’re better than me.The suspension is well sorted, too. It’s incredibly supple over bumps despite the massive 19-inch wheels and tyres.
The biggest improvements, though, are to the front brakes and rear-end grip. The brakes have much more bite than before (no doubt due to changes to the VF’s brake booster and bracket) and the overall grip is superb thanks to the same width rear tyres that HSVs have.
All these changes make the VF Redline as much at home on a race track as it does in the daily grind.
The best car to ever wear a Commodore badge, it is so capable it could easily wear HSV’s badge with honour. To seal the deal it is better equipped and yet $10,000 cheaper than HSV’s new Clubsport.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling
Holden Commodore SSV Redline
Price: from $51,490 plus on-road costs
Engine: 6.0-litre V8
Power: 270kW and 530Nm (manual), 260kW and 517Nm (auto)
Transmission: six-speed manual or six-speed auto
Safety: six airbags, five-star safety, rear view camera, front and rear sensors, two-stage stability control
Service intervals: 15,000km or nine months
Spare wheel: $350 option
Price: from $60,990
Engine: 6.2L eight-cylinder petrol, 317kW/550Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, RWD
Thirst: 12.6L/100km, 300g/km CO2
Price: from $57,870
Engine: 5.0L eight-cylinder petrol, 315kW/545Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, RWD
Thirst: 13.6L/100km, 325g/km CO2
Price: from $56,000 (SRT-8 Core)
Engine: 6.4L eight-cylinder petrol, 347kW/631Nm
Transmission: 5-speed auto, RWD
Thirst: 13.0L/100km, 303g/km CO2