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Used car review Holden VT Commodore V6 1997-1999

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Graham 'Smithy' Smith reviews the used VT Commodore V6 Executive And Acclaim 1997-1999, its fine points, its flaws and what to watch for when you are buying it.

Holden execs were given the best Christmas present possible in 2002 with news that sales of the Commodore had reached record levels, surpassing even the benchmark set by the HQ back in 1973. Indirectly the record new car sales is also good news for buyers of second hand cars with a glut of used Commodores threatening to flood the market giving buyers the perfect environment in which to haggle with dealers.

Many dealers don’t want to take on any more VR and VS Commodores, most of them have one or two gathering dust in their yards because they’re getting hard to shift at a price that delivers them a profit. The good news is that the VT Commodore is also becoming hard to shift, not because it’s a bad car, but simply because there are so many on offer that buyers can afford to be choosy, and can afford to negotiate hard.

MODEL WATCH

The VT was an all-new Commodore launched in August 1997, the result of a $600 million spend by Holden as the company moved to reinforce its position as number one carmaker in the country.

The VR and VS Commodores before it had been well accepted by buyers and the VT built on the success of those two models.

Holden’s styling boss, Mike Simcoe, hit the jackpot with the VT, designing a elegant shape that had a hint of sportiness. With a longer wheelbase and wider track it had well balanced proportions and an aggressive stance on the road. The smooth dynamic front end flowed through to a substantial rump, and for once the body was allowed to hug the wheels in a way that’s normally only associated with BMW.

With the current VY Commodore another facelift of the shape originally introduced with the VT, the VT has not yet dated and still looks good. Some even rate its smoother lines and elegant shape more appealing than the new car.

The all-new VT body was stronger and more rigid that any Holden before it, and that translated into improved crash protection, more responsive handling and greater overall refinement.

Safety of the VT was also boosted by the fitment of a driver’s airbag as standard across all models – a passenger airbag was optional – pyrotechnic seat belt pretensioners that worked in tandem with the airbag, and a lap/sash belt for the centre passenger in the rear seat.

Security upgrades including remote deadlock release, free-turning door lock cylinders, a steering column lock that was designed to slip when forced, and an immobiliser made the VT harder to steal.

Engine choices included Holden’s 5.0-litre V8 and a supercharged V6, but the 3.8-litre ECOTEC V6, which gave it plenty of punch, delivered the primary source of power in the VT. Boasting a power peak of 147 kW at 5200 revs, and maximum torque of 304 Nm at 3600 revs, the fuel-injected overhead valve 90-degree V6 would power the VT from standstill to 100 km/h in 8.5 seconds.

There was a choice of a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed electronic auto transmission, with drive through the rear wheels.

Suspension was by MacPherson Strut at the front and semi-trailing arm independent at the rear, and there was a sports suspension option available at extra cost.

Brakes were discs all round, with ABS available as an extra cost option, and steering was power assisted.

Velour trim was a feature of the comfortable interior, which featured new ergonomically designed seating and improved instrument panel.

All models had power height adjustment for the driver’s seat, cushion tilt adjustment, trip computer, power mirrors and remote boot release.

Air-conditioning, anti-lock brakes, traction control, passenger airbag, power windows, CD player were all available at extra cost.

The Acclaim was equipped to appeal to private buyers, and boasted dual airbags, anti-lock brakes and auto trans as standard, but air-conditioning remained an extra cost option.

ON THE LOT

The good news for used buyers is that there are plenty of VTs sitting around in dealer yards, and that means there’s not only plenty of choice when it comes to colour, trim and options, but there’s also the chance to beat the prices down with dealers wanting to move cars on.

Base Executive V6 manual sedans from 1997 will have done between 100,000 and 140,000 km and are valued between $12,500 and $15,000. The same car with auto will be worth about $500 more, with wagons carrying a premium of around $1000.

The well-equipped Acclaim is the best choice and early examples will be priced between $15,000 and $18,000.

Later cars built in 1999 before the June introduction of the VT Series II should normally have between 75,000 and 95,000 km on the odometer. Executive V6 manual sedans are valued at between $13,500 and $16,500, with autos $500 more expensive. Wagons will be priced about $1000 higher while Acclaims will carry a sticker between $16,000 and $19,000.

IN THE SHOP

Better design integrity and improved build quality mean that VTs generally stand up well in service and most with be tight with few squeaks and rattles.

Look for oil leaks from the engine, which is prone to leakage from the rear main oil seal, oil pan and front timing cover seal.

Oil leaks are also a problem from the power steering pump and rack so have a good look under the car.

Rear tyre wear can be high with the independent rear suspension of the VT. This is more of a problem with cars powered by the V8 engine, particularly if they’re driven hard as they tend to be. It’s not such a problem with the V6 because the cars generally aren’t driven as hard, but the tyre wear problem was a major incentive for Holden to introduce the much needed extra toe-link, or Control Link, on the rear suspension of the VX Series II.

The attractive interior trim stands up well to the ravages of the harsh Aussie sun and there’s little problem there.

LOOK FOR

• strong new car sales means plenty of choice for used car buyers.

• contemporary look without the new car price tag.

• well equipped Acclaim the best choice with standard auto, airbags and anti-lock brakes.

• strong rigid body means few squeaks and rattles in older cars.

• punchy performance from 3.8-litre V6.

RIVALS:

• EL Ford Falcon – 1996-98 – $8000-$12,500

• TF Mitsubishi Magna V6 – 1997-98 – $10,000-$14,500

• Toyota Camry V6 – 1997-98 – $11,500-$16,000

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 12 comments

  • My mate who's on his P's has a VT which is his 1st car and ever since he got the thing, its let him down big time! its needed a new gear box, new radiator, it currently needs a new fan belt and it blew up twice. i was in it today with him and witnessed today an Automatic stall 3 times! i suppose what do you expect for a car thats done over 330,000 kms but still. my other mates often refer to to the VT as a ' very terrible commodore' haha

    Nate of Nowra Posted on 27 July 2013 8:11pm
  • Vt's are pretty robost, mine has done over 300'ks & still going strong

    Jimbo Posted on 30 June 2013 11:21pm
  • I,m the third owner of my VT..almost didnt buy 'cos of high mileage (237000 kliks)..absolutely no regrets..top car although I must admit I spoil her a bit (regular maintenance & a bit of spit,n,polish)....now reluctant to trade her in ...an oldie but a goodie

    Noel Daniels of Woolgoolga NSW Posted on 25 April 2013 11:45am
  • had my commodore vt 2000 for 3years love it no problems still the best

    john deans of frankston vic Posted on 07 September 2012 4:12pm
  • Had our VT 50th Anniversary wagon for 13 years and we've had very few problems. The VT was a good car for it's day and still is now.

    Ed Templeman of Perth, WA Posted on 30 November 2011 11:43pm
  • Also the model difference in 2 years omg, that should have already made you stop typing

    Robert Nguyen of St.Albans, Victoria Posted on 16 November 2011 9:51am
  • @ Michael - have a look at the date Bob made his comment - You're about a year apart so indeed pricing will be different.

    Robert Nguyen of St.Albans, Victoria Posted on 16 November 2011 9:49am
  • @Bob I really hope you didn't buy it for $4,500 as I think you could do better as I myself recently bought a 97 vt executive ex unmarked police car for a tidy $2,000

    michael harvie of sydney nsw Posted on 24 October 2011 10:27am
  • I reckon the VT was one of the best cars ever produced, economic, safe, plenty of power with cheap maintenance and good looking. I have owned my VT since 2005 and have no problems, converted it to run on LPG a few years ago - can't detect any compromise with performance. The fact it has a timing chain rather than a belt is great news. Good buy.

    Iain Glen of Duncraig, Perth WA Posted on 12 June 2011 1:12am
  • I just bought my 2nd VT Exec. The first one I owned for about 5 years and I drove it hard. Towing capacity for a V6 Ecotec is excellent - I towed a loaded car trailer (carrying a FORD) 200 kms without any issue. Comfort level in these old cars are above par, and they are very reliable.

    Randal Cox of Hervey Bay QLD Posted on 20 April 2011 4:26am
  • Thanks im thinking of buying a 99 v6 for towing the small van it done 20030 ks but sounds alright for 4.500 what do you think.

    bob dickinson of mandurah 6210 Posted on 12 December 2010 5:06pm
  • is it true that the vt is capable of having the third link from a vx as there are holes on the suspension i understand that the overseas variant had the third link

    kevin wilton of Melbourme Posted on 19 January 2010 6:34pm
Read all 12 comments

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