Small external mirrors
There's nothing quite like a V8 - I'm not sure who said it but they were on to something. There are sensational V8s in many of the European, Japanese and US product on the market here but when it comes to bent-eights, the Blue Oval or the Red Lion attract the most attention.
In fact, the phrase was probably used a Ford or Holden ad campaign. Both sides of that fence maintain there's still demand for the V8-powered models and after spending some time in the latest from Elizabeth it's easy to see why. Ford is no longer making the XR8, leaving the fight to the XR6 Turbo or FPV's new $56,990 GS sedan - with the 315kW/545Nm supercharged five-litre 8.
As upgrades go, the VEII program was hardly earth-shattering. The bulk of the changes were minor in terms of aesthetics, but in the engine bay and the dashboard there's been enough done - particularly given the pricetag is unchanged. The highlight for the model change was within - the new iQ infotainment system is standard on the SS V, a set-up for which many brands would justify plenty extra pesos on the pricetag.
The six-litre GenIV V8 (which retains the cylinder de-activation system) has been given the once-over to allow it to run on E85, there's some underbody aero-panels to smooth the airflow and some other tuning tweaks to the suspension. The standard iQ infotainment system offers colour satellite navigation, a hard drive, USB input and Bluetooth link for the phone and the 11-speaker sound system are among the features controlled by the touch screen.
The satnav has several useful features but the best few are the speed camera and school zone warnings to remind drivers of what's around them, as well as displaying the speed limit of the current road being travelled. The luxo-hotrod also has dual zone climate control, a rear camera, parking sensors at the rear, alloy-faced pedals, 19in alloys (although there's only a goo kit and no spare, that's optional), a sports leather-wrapped steering wheel - one of the few feature upgrades above the SS, along with projector headlights.
The new VEII SS V struts through traffic, with muscular bulges and stance largely inherited from the VE. The SS V has a rear diffuser set up with quad exhausts and, sitting on 19in wheels, doesn't need the retina-searing yellow paintwork to stand out.
The cabin has leather sports seats (that could do with more support around the ribcage), the sports steering wheel and a leather-wrapped gearshifter. It's a comfortable cabin and forward vision is reasonable, sullied only by the thick A-pillar; rear vision isn't great before the put the big rear spoiler on, so the camera and sensors are must-have.
The VEII SS V has a decent safety features list, with stability and traction control, a limited slip diff, anti-lock brakes, dual front, side and curtain airbags, front seatbelts with load-limiters and pretensioners. Anyone looking for serious braking power will want to consider the new Redline option pack, which would worthwhile - the pack ups the stopping power with four-piston Brembo front brakes as well as the handling to the new FE3 level for an extra $2500.
Brakes have not often been the strong point of a Commodore and while the latest example of the breed has certainly improved, the extra braking power would be welcome.
The hero colour of the new range is called Hazard, the biggest one being the attention such a hue can attract, even when you're being good. The auto SS V is 19kg heavier and down 10kW and 13Nm over the manual version, but you don't notice the loss of grunt, as 260kW and 517Nm is ample for most amusements.
The cylinder dropout system is still short on smarts, taking an awfully long time to drop to four cylinders on a long downhill stretch and it still idles on all eight. Holden is claiming a 2.5 per cent drop in fuel use to 12.3 litres per 100km, but that's on PULP - we had plenty of E85 in the tank and the number on the trip computer was around 18, a legacy of the faster-burning ethanol fuel.
The VEII SS V is an impressive machine through a twisty hills back road, although the steering could do with a bit more meat. It doesn't drive like a 1700kg sedan - except in tight corners at optimistic entry speeds - and feels as though it's not punishing its tyres as much, with minimal complaints from the rubber during moderately brisk cornering.
The new centre display works well enough, although it sometimes has a bit too much thinking time when switching between functions, but the connectivity side - using Bluetooth - is easy to use. Certain angles of sunlight will bring on a reflection from silver strip below the instrumentation, which makes the instruments almost impossible to see.
The rear spoiler ruins what is already average rear vision, making the camera and rear sensors compulsory if you've got kids that might be near the rear. The V8 is a smooth and purposeful powerplant, although it will be too quiet for some petrolhead owners - plenty of scope for aftermarket exhausts - but the six-speed auto is still not the smartest transmission around.
You can't argue with the value-for-money equation given the features and the performance - the already-capable package has been refined and upgraded, without any extra on the asking price.
HOLDEN VEII COMMODORE SS V-SERIES
Price: from $55,290.
Engine: six-litre 90-degree OHV V8 with active fuel management.
Transmission: six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive with limited slip differential.
Power: 260kW @ 5700rpm.
Torque: 517Nm @ 4400rpm.
Fuel consumption: 12.3litres/100km, on test 18.2, tank 71litres.
Suspension: Coil springs, stabiliser bar (front); multi-link independent rear, sports-tuned with firmer spring rate and reduced ride height
Brakes: Four-wheel ventilated discs, twin piston alloy front caliper, single piston alloy rear caliper.
Dimensions: length 4894mm, width 1899mm, height 1476mm, wheelbase 2915mm, track fr/rr 1592/1608mm, cargo volume 496 litres, weight 1796kg.
Wheels: 19in alloys.
Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo, from $48,990
Skoda Superb 3.6, $55,990
Nissan Maxima ST-S, from $37,990
Toyota Aurion, Sportivo ZR6, from $43,490.