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Holden Commodore VE 2006 Review

But only in theory. Drive the bigger, badder, more-powerful-than-ever about $50,000 worth of V8-fuelled aggression and you find it's neither a dinosaur nor an anti-social beast. Instead, there is plenty to enjoy and admire.

Despite all the macho, old-school characteristics, an SS — the big-engined, sporty model in Holden's new VE-Series Commodore lineup — turns out to be an amiable companion, well behaved and practical.

Give a tough-guy bouncer a Dancing With The Stars-type makeover and you'd end up with something like this car. Still plenty of punch, but they've taught it how to walk demurely, act mild-mannered, and play quietly with others.

Not so long ago a high-powered Commodore could be something of a handful but now, though there is more oomph under your right foot — this year's update added another 10kW of power and 20Nm of torque — driving is a breeze.

The SS has so much grip and such balance it feels controllable and forgiving. It rides as comfortably as the dearer luxury Calais sedan.

In years gone by they were worlds apart: the SS was the rock-hard sportster while the Calais was plush and soft. Now they've come together with identically-tuned suspension.

This sort of comfort, with precise steering and roadholding, must have taken a lot of fine-tuning, but the engineers seem to have achieved an excellent combination.

Something else that has been fiddled with is the equipment list, Holden replacing the previous SS ($51,790) with two models in the new Commodore range, SS (from $44,990) and the better-equipped SS V (from $51,990).

Ford obviously took note because in the just-released Falcon BF Mk II series its XR8 equivalent has come down from $51,330 to $44,990.

The price is in the right direction. What about thirst?

The official rating for the Commodore SS is 14.4 litres/100km manual (marginally better than its predecessor), 14.3 automatic (marginally thirstier than before).

Maybe I wasn't driving hard enough, or maybe the laboratory testing doesn't reflect the real world, because two SS sedans I sampled fared much, much better — 10.9 litres/100km for the manual, 11.5 for the automatic.

These cars revealed something else. Though Holden is adamant few people will mind the new Commodore having a skinny "spacesaver" spare tyre, both the Holden-owned cars they handed me had an optional full-size alloy wheel in the boot.

And the airconditioning briefly failed in both cars, then righted itself. Holden admits there was a software glitch in early-build cars, and says it has been fixed. Just like it has fixed the potential fault in the fuel hose that prompted a recall.

Seems that spending a billion dollars creating a new car, as Holden did with the VE series, also creates more opportunities for things to go wrong.

It also makes a lot of things to like. While the SS is the extreme-looking end of the new VE series, the whole Commodore family has taken a major step ahead.

There is a European feel to the way these cars ride and steer, giving the impression they are smaller than they actually are, instantly making the driver feel confident.

One big advance is the stability control system, though you really need to make a mess of things, or strike a wet road or loose surface, to discover how adept it is at reining in a slide.

Having experienced all three of those situations, let me say it is the most wonderful technology.


DETAILS: Large, five-seat sedan with 6.0 litre V8 engine. Power 270kW. Torque 530Nm. Six-speed automatic or manual gearbox.

FEATURES: Driver and passenger airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability system, cruise control, power windows, power-adjustable driver's seat, remote central locking.

COST: SS $44,990 manual, SS V $51,990 manual. Automatic $2000.

RIVAL: Ford Falcon XR8 from $44,990.

FOR: Comfortable and poised.

AGAINST: Big cars are out of fashion.

SUMMING UP: Looks fierce, but is user-friendly.

Pricing Guides

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Range and Specs

Acclaim 3.6L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $2,980 – 5,999 2006 Holden Commodore 2006 Acclaim Pricing and Specs
Berlina 3.6L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $2,985 – 9,990 2006 Holden Commodore 2006 Berlina Pricing and Specs
Berlina Dual Fuel 3.6L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $5,830 – 8,250 2006 Holden Commodore 2006 Berlina Dual Fuel Pricing and Specs
Executive 3.6L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $999 – 6,999 2006 Holden Commodore 2006 Executive Pricing and Specs