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Holden Commodore 2014 review

The old football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars jingle is now more like Xbox, kim-chi, flat whites and imported cars. The world has changed and we're moving into an automotive future devoid of Australian-made Holdens.

As part of the Commodore's last ditch at relevance, the VF scored some great new tech to finally bring the big Aussie sedan into line with some more expensive metal of the same size. Under the bonnet of the Commodore SS-V though, it's still 1960. And thank goodness for that.

Styling

Yep, it's a VF, and it's a car we're seeing in surprising – and heart-warming – numbers. The SS body kit isn't as lairy as it has been in the past, but includes deeper front and rear bumpers, deep side skirts and blacked out grille.

The nineteen inch wheels are nice but not too big – that's left to HSV – and it looks more like a warmed-up Commodore than a hot one. Specify it in the dazzling orange we had it in, however (this is becoming a thing with press cars...), and there's no chance you'll miss it, especially with the big SS-V decals.

Added to that is a big pair of horizontal LEDs for daytime running lights, chrome brightwork, a subtle bootlid spoiler with integrated brake light and a tall, chromed vent behind the front wheels that integrates the indicator. The quad exhausts look (and sound) mean.

It's a handsome beast under the orange paintwork and will probably stand the test of time reasonably well. Not much has happened inside, with a few stickers and some stitching in the leather seats, but again, it's relatively low-key.

Value

The six-speed manual SS-V we drove kicks off at $45,990 with the six-speed automatic rising to $48,190. The SS-V Redline, which features a number of dynamic upgrades such as stiffer FE3 suspension, a choice of stability control modes and Brembo brakes and breaks well into the $50,000s. Being a Commodore, the SS-V has a big footprint with a massive cabin stuffed with goodies.

That cabin is trimmed with reasonably good quality leather and has big, comfortable sports seats up front and comfortable rears. You also get keyless entry and start (remote start with automatics), front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, sat-nav, colour information panel on the dash and the MyLink system.

You also get power windows all round, cupholders front and rear, steering wheel mounted controls for phone and stereo, voice recognition and auto park, which in the manual is steering only.

Safety

Six airbags, blind spot monitoring, traction and stability control, trailer sway control, brake force distribution, ABS and reversing camera all add up to five ANCAP stars.

Engine/Transmission

Holden's Chevy-derived V8 displaces a massive six litres. This is big, old-fashioned iron, persisting with the pushrod valve actuation that almost nobody else uses. Technologically, it harks back to cross-plies and four-on-the-floor shifters.

There's no direct injection or forced induction, but it still produces 270 kW and 530 Nm (10kW more than when paired with the auto). The power comes in at 5600 rpm, which isn't far from the redline, meaning the louder it gets, the more its making. The transmission is a six-speed manual and there is nothing fancy about it in the slightest.

Infotainment

The eight-inch MyLink screen dominates the top of the dash and in the Commodore it's by far the best installation of any Holden. It's easy to see and get to and has sensibly-placed shortcut buttons. 

You can pair your phone via Bluetooth and stream music or plug in via USB and not only stream music but also run apps like Pandora and Stitcher. Sat-nav is standard in the SS-V and is quite easy to use and seemed accurate if very chatty when we used it. The in-built voice recognition can be overridden with Apple's Siri if you've an iPhone.

Driving

This is what the SS is all about and it certainly serves up a great compromise between sporting sedan and family truckster. The voluminous boot will swallow luggage for five people and those people will fit comfortably inside unless they're all gigantic.

The manual SS-V is a rarity, but it's surprisingly easy to row along given the size of the car. SSes past have been rather more civilised when the auto transmission box is ticked, but this one is more than bearable.

Apart from a smelly clutch when cold (which speaks to the abuse our car had endured more than anything) and an occasionally obstructive first-to-second shift, the manual is a great choice if your left leg is up to the challenge of a long-ish, heavy-ish pedal.

In traffic it can get a little tiring, but such is the engine's torque, you can slip along in second in the really slow stuff, even pull away from the lights. The big brakes are strong and easy to modulate – it's all very dignified. 

The V8's low rumble is barely audible in this sort of running but you'll notice the fuel usage creeping up into the low- to mid-teens. The ride is exceptionally good, more so when you find the space to open it up and enjoy the power and handling.

The acceleration isn't explosive but the 6.0 litre loves to rev, the needle happily swinging to the redline with accelerator pinned to the carpet. Punch the clutch and give the shifter a hearty pull and you can effect quick, smooth shifts.

The front end does feel a little vague as you pile into the corners such is the V8 engine's weight, but you soon learn to trust it. The rear-end is very civilised with the traction control kept on but needs little provocation to wag on the way out of a corner with the safety net switched off. 

The limited-slip diff helps you feel like a hero as you wriggle the rear out of tight stuff, but there's plenty of grip available if you're the smooth-in, smooth-out type whether the nannybots are on or off. Steering is VF-excellent and is slightly firmer in the SS, along with the FE2 suspension. Rear passengers didn't have any complaints so it seems Holden's engineers got it all right.

Verdict

The VF is a terrific car and the SS-V is a great sporting sedan. It doesn't have the ultimate grip of similarly-priced hot hatches from Europe or the techno-dweebishness of those same cars, but it does a lot of things very, very, well.

Considering its very sharp price (almost ten grand cheaper than the VE equivalent), excellent tech and all-round capabilities, it's no surprise that there's a good few of them kicking around. Its enormous fun, carries everyone with you to share that fun and eats long distances without fuss.

It's also got this corner of the market to itself until the Falcon XR8 returns, so it's nice to see Holden is ready for the Ford's return. That will be a fun battle.

Pricing guides

$21,396
Based on 743 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$9,990
Highest Price
$45,965

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Evoke 3.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,999 – 19,990 2014 Holden Commodore 2014 Evoke Pricing and Specs
Evoke (LPG) 3.6L, LPG, 6 SP AUTO $9,990 – 21,800 2014 Holden Commodore 2014 Evoke (LPG) Pricing and Specs
International 3.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $11,660 – 15,620 2014 Holden Commodore 2014 International Pricing and Specs
International (LPG) 3.6L, LPG, 6 SP AUTO $12,430 – 16,610 2014 Holden Commodore 2014 International (LPG) Pricing and Specs
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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