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Holden Commodore SS V SE review

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    Holden don't make official performance claims but independent testing says mid-5s for the sprint to 100km/h, which puts it in pretty strong performance sedan company Photo Gallery

Stuart Martin road tests and reviews the Holden Commodore VE SS V-Series Special Edition

The cynical might call it the Pontiac nose run-out edition, a side-effect of the unfortunate end of an export program.  Hopefully some with Chevrolet badges and the steering wheel on the wrong side can start going back over the Pacific soon, but in the meantime, there are some meaner-looking SS V-Series sedans on sale in Australia.

The twin-nostril snout bridges the gap between Holden and HSV, giving the SS a road presence without the extrovert HSV appearance screaming ‘look at me’.  The more subtle rear lip spoiler keeps the look as almost subtle, as well as making rear vision less obstructed than the rear wing on an SS or SV6.

Engine and gearbox

The six-speed manual's clutch pedal has to meet the firewall before it will fire - turn the key and the six-litre V8 offers a muted rumble at idle and it has an immediate aural effect.  The six-speeder is still a gearbox that requires strong direction but the gates and the shift-feel are cleaner than its predecessors.

Driving

Slinking through the traffic, the V8 is more than happy to move along with not too many engine revolutions above idle showing on the tachometer.  Despite tipping the scales at just over 1700kg it can roll along in a high gear without complaint, which does help with the fuel use.  It doesn't mind swinging the needle around to the top end either.

The manual model doesn't have the active fuel management system, so it delivers the full whack with a bellow of menace.  The noise falls just short of the 290kW/520Nm Ford V8 but it delivers 270kW at 5700rpm; 530Nm is on offer from 4400rpm but the low-end pull is stronger than the Ford powerplant.

Holden don't make official performance claims but independent testing says mid-5s for the sprint to 100km/h, which puts it in pretty strong performance sedan company - for example, an M5 claims 4.7 seconds, an E63 AMG boasts 4.5 seconds, but at around four times the price.  While we're not suggesting the special edition is quite up there with the two Germans, the Commodore has its charms.

Firstly, the ride is well-sorted despite low-profile rubber wrapped around 19in wheels.  It's still going to be too tough on the bumps for some, but given its balance and cornering capabilities it's excellent.

The SS doesn't turn-in like a big lump o' lard, feeling light on its feet - up to a point, when the nose will push or the tail can be provoked with the right foot, but brisk country-road work is handled with nice cornering ability.  The strong low-end means high gears are easily managed by the engine, which means frugal figures can be achieved, particularly on the open road.

Price and equipment

If there was an option to upgrade the brakes then that might be the only box I'd tick - although a rear DVD player is a great rugrat tamer.  The stoppers are fine up to a point, but there once was a performance brake option ex-factory that would be worthwhile given the performance potential and the ever-increasing popularity of track days.

Points to ponder for future designs would be the big A-pillar blind spot, which can easily hide a car when turning from T-junctions.  For a car beyond $50,000 the satnav - which is bordering on theft at $3250 and more expensive than a set of 20in alloys - should be standard, particularly if sub-$40,000 Japanese small cars can have it as part of the standard features.

The SS V-Series Special Edition is priced from $55,290 - unchanged from the standard SS V-Series model aside from the bonnet scoops, and the rear spoiler, which means the features list is not completely bare.

Dual zone climate control, power windows and mirrors (centre-mounted and still annoying), a six-CD MP3-compatible sound system with auxiliary input jack, alloy pedals, automatic headlights (but no rain-sensing wipers), a sports leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio, trip computer and Bluetooth controls, 19in wheels and leather trimmed sports seats.The safety features list has stability control, anti-lock brakes, dual front, side and curtain airbags.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  As many new car buyers of this world apparently aim for better fuel economy, there are still people who want and/or think they need a V8 - it's not hard to see why.

Holden Commodore VE SS V-Series Special Edition

Price: from $55,290.
Engine: six-litre V8.
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive with limited slip differential.
Power: 270kW @ 5700rpm.
Torque: 530Nm @ 4400rpm.
Performance: 0-100km/h 5.6 seconds.
Fuel consumption: 13.9L/100km, on test 17L/100km

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 25 comments

  • Why worry about ford pos, my ss with just exhuast smokes the turbos, Cya little ford in my rear view sucker!!

    The Shield of Grug Posted on 12 January 2013 10:21pm
  • Eat my dust my ss would smoke ya see ya little xr6 raspberry

    The Shield of Grug Posted on 12 January 2013 10:20pm
  • If Ford’s and FPV are so good how come Ford is producing front wheel drive variants of it’s Falcon series. I know of a Ford employee and he’s told me how many of the employee’s have been told that in 6 months over 800 will be stood down because of low sales of the Ford Falcon. I’d rather own a vehicle like the SSV I’ve bought than have a model that is no longer produced or wanted. So much for the xr6 turbo competing with the Holden v8’s. It’s quite obvious who won that. Just look on the roads, all I see is Holden v8’s not many Fpv’s or Ford Falcon Performance vehicles. Oh I forgot to mention how bad the performance was on Ford Falcon v8’s. Even the v6 turbo’s are faster than them lols.

    Dennis Stampshire of Melbourne Posted on 22 October 2012 4:54am
  • I just purchased a ve ssv 2007 for $25,200 Good buy.I’ve had it for 8 months under hard driving conditions. Nothings gone wrong other than the occasional esc turning off and then comes on again after 60 sec’s.It happens once every month as far as I can remember. I have no error codes either. I think it just resets itself. I’ve spend $780 installed on a Xforce “2.5” catback exhaust and Cold air intake OTR because I wanted a decent growl and more performance. I spent $550 on the harmonic balancer as it looked wobbly so I replaced all the pulley’s and harmonic balancer plus 2 drive belts. It was the 25% Powerdine Underpulley kit. Pretty cheap so far. I’ve not spent a cent since. Fuel is at 15/100km so thats normal. Engine oil is Mobil one as I like to give her a bit here and there. Other than that I love the performance and the ride. I think it’s the best commodore to date and have owned it for 1 year now. If all I need is some new tyres now I’d be wrapped and would bye another v8. Services are cheap. $240 for average service is quite cheap at UltraTune.
    10/10 on performance and 7/10 on ride. 8.5/10 for steering.
    Thank god I did’nt buy a Ford Xr6Turbo. Love the v8 sound!

    David Stanic of Melbourne Posted on 22 October 2012 4:48am
  • Why buy this crap….give me an FG XR6 turbo anyday and then for $650, a 9psi flash tuner….goodbye GMH! The amount of crap holden have added to the front makes it look like a try too hard attempt to match the simple good looks of the Falcon and as for performance, I’m still trying to find a Commodore that keeps up with my 2003 BA XR6 turbo…with a mild modification of Flash Tuned to produce 297 rwkw. Ford are way ahead.

    Neil Brooks of Murray Bridge Posted on 07 May 2012 11:54pm
  • I love the VB SS Commodores but this looks like it has a nice American front on it.

    Scott of melbourne Posted on 10 December 2010 12:44pm
  • Anyone else had rear main seal problems?

    john gordon Posted on 24 August 2010 7:39pm
  • What will the VE SSV series II have in regards to KW. Will it still have 270 kw, or will it have 290 kw as per sites from car advice and other sources

    Joe Montana of Melbourne Posted on 12 August 2010 5:42pm
  • Agree with Wayne of Adelaide Hills. Also have an 07 SSV with a bonnet scoop, 20’s, lowered etc and looks far better than the Pontiac inspired model. Mate who was driving ahead of me in city traffic rang to say how awesome it looked in his mirror and that was from a Porsche 911 owner. Also for the stats,without too much work done, has done 11s for the 1/4 mile and mid 4s for 0-100km. The 6 litre Chevy is a great motor to begin with and responds well to smart mods. Compliments to the previous owner who did all the work

    Andrew of Adelaide Posted on 11 July 2010 12:35am
  • I have an 07 SSV and would want money back if traded on G8 variant, just ugly and as four comparing a turbo car I don’t care how quick they are, they’ve got a big problem… 2 spark plugs are missing.

    wayne of adelaide hills Posted on 03 July 2010 8:20am
  • The US also tax cars, it’s just that their laws don’t require them to advertise prices with taxes already added. You even get it in McDonalds - the menu say s a meal is $5.95 but when you go to pay for it they charge you nearly $7 once the taxes are included. In the US, you could be paying local, state and federal taxes on top of the list price, which means a Pontiac G8 is going to be roughly the same as an SS here by the time you get it onto public roads, it just looks a lot cheaper in ads.

    MotorMouth of Sydney Posted on 07 June 2010 11:16am
  • How does this work? In the states, the G8 (GT) provided us with the best dollar for dolar performance in it?s price range (about $34k US list price). In Australia we pay $55k plus extras for our own local car. Exchange rate aside, the government is taxing us on our own cars. Australia needs to stop paying through the nose for everything. It’s more than ridiculous.

    tom of brisbane Posted on 29 May 2010 12:48pm
  • XSSV1 That’s slow, get on to some of the forums over hear, guys are running mid 11’s from what I remember, uncracked.  though I suspect the 19’s are your limiting factor ATM wink

    Claydos of Caboolture, Qld Posted on 13 April 2010 9:26am
  • “...an M5 claims 4.7 seconds, an E63 AMG boasts 4.5 seconds, but at around four times the price.”

    If the SS is doing it in the mid 5’s, how does 4.7 and 4.5 even compare? That’s a full second faster, big difference. There is a Ferrari that does it in 3.5, and that’s four times the price again.

    James of Melbourne Posted on 11 April 2010 11:40am
  • In the states, the G8 (GT) provided us with the best dollar for dolar performance in it’s price range (About $34k US list price). The nose was designed to keep with the current Pontiac styling theme with the twin-nostril grille. As for performance, with an OTR intake, Cat-Back exhaust & Dyno Tune my 09 GT has turned in a 12.96 @ 106.74 1/4 mile on the 19” OE Bridgestones. Try to match that performance with any other sedan in that price range!

    XSSV1 of Florida, US Posted on 10 April 2010 3:21pm
  • My only concern is that all SS model may look ‘bare’ now if they dont have the G8 bonnet. Some colours look better than others, but they all look good. When will Ford put the Territory turbo bonnet on the Falcon.- that would look good.

    Finally, even if the turbo 6 is faster, nothing beats the sounds of a V8.

    Dave Posted on 08 April 2010 10:42am
  • This is just the GTO bonnet and grill from the now failed Pontiac Brand in the US.

    Stinrah of San francisco, US Posted on 07 April 2010 1:29am
  • Sean of Sydney - have you ever driven an XR6 Turbo. Exact oppositde to what you claim. Heaps of torque at any rpm, much more at lower rpm than any V8 that I have driven. And by the way, the XR6T does not like high revs. Performance - XR6T, which has lower price, performs better with lower fuel consumption.

    DougM of Sydney Posted on 06 April 2010 8:23pm
  • Good value compared to high end imports (same for Falcon). That nose - only from USA. Just look at the ugly (very) cars that you see on their TV shows. Holden - why did you let them dictate that nose? Surely you could have thrown those parts out?

    DougM of Sydney Posted on 06 April 2010 8:23pm
  • Sean….. He was talking about the XR8 delivering power at higher revs, an XR6T has heaps better torque range at much lower revs, no comparison!

    Clarko of Gold Coast Posted on 06 April 2010 8:01pm
  • To Matt of Newcastle
    The auto wipers on our Golf GTI (I know that only milk and orange juice come in two litres but I guess I could be excused as we also have an SS) work really well for >95% of the time that they are required in changeable wet conditions but the other deal maker for me is the auto dipping rear view mirror.

    The Molk of Wollongong Posted on 06 April 2010 3:24pm
  • ugly as….....
    the yanks really screwed up a good (Aussie) design
    and
    why Holden let them, I have no idea…....

    Ian of Dandenong Posted on 06 April 2010 3:06pm
  • Bonnet looks good, the grill looks silly, cheap compare to imported ripoffs.
    Unlike the XR6T this is a good allrounder and safe without all the power available only on boost and max RPM,
    Agree with Ivan does look a bit tired… but poor photo and angle hopefully.

    Sean of Sydney Posted on 06 April 2010 3:04pm
  • “mid-5s for the sprint to 100km/h, which puts it in pretty strong performance sedan company - for example, an M5 claims 4.7 seconds, an E63 AMG boasts 4.5 seconds, but at around four times the price”. Don’t forget the Falcon XR6T @ 5.1 and for less.

    Auto headlights are something I never thought I wanted until I had them and now like them, but rain sensing wipers are bit of a hoax. They never go at the times when you want them

    Matt of Newcastle Posted on 06 April 2010 1:21pm
  • Beginning to look tired

    Ivan of Adelaide Posted on 04 April 2010 9:36am
Read all 25 comments

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