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Holden Monaro Series III 2004 review

It's now more fun to drive, partly because of the boost to the engine's output but mainly because I'm getting used to its idiosyncrasies. Like wearing in a pair of Kmart slippers.

But though this third generation is better than its ancestors, not a lot has really changed.

The coupe's body looks more aggressive, finally getting the bared-fang look that its predecessors desperately needed, thanks to twin bonnet nostrils. They don't do anything, just look good.

The tail has two big-bore exhaust pipes that produce an engine burble so rich it can clog your arteries.

Idle this beast up King St in the city and hear, no, feel, the exhaust reverberate off the shopfronts.

The engine has more power and torque than before, though catch it below 2000rpm and it feels weak, especially for a 5.7-litre V8.

It is at its best from 2500rpm up to the 5600rpm red line.

It's not a particularly revvy mill, though you can spin it past 6000rpm before the engine management system abruptly stops the fun, but it has mountains of mid-range torque.

It is the torque of the V8 that creates the performance.

It wasn't immediately apparent until the Monaro was led on to the track at the AHG Driving Centre southeast of Perth.

Here, let loose with no traffic, the Monaro surprised, with neat tracking through the bends and controllable handling when things started to get messy.

The standard traction control is well designed so it doesn't smother the fun factor, coming into play when the car is starting to dance to the wrong tune.

Turning the traction control off, – there's a console switch -- unleashes the coupe's potential. It will hang on to the bitumen for a surprisingly long time before breaking away to oversteer.

It is predictable with the tail hanging out, though I went gardening once when it snapped back too quickly from my reflexes.

The steering, which I'm critical of for its heavy feel at low speeds, lightens up nicely at speed.

In fact the whole car washes off its cholesterol-induced lethargy – it weighs a portly 1692kg without fuel or humans – and comes alive in the right hands.

The six-speed manual gearshift is still too stiff and trucklike; the steering wheel feel too firm for a stress-free inner-city life.

But on the plus side the Monaro is practical enough to seat four adults and, though it may be a bit of a physical exertion to get in and out of the rear seats, once ensconced it's very comfortable.

The boot will hold a golf bag or two and while not huge, is a lot better than other coupes.

This coupe is stylish, well-equipped, comfortable – but expensive.

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Range and Specs

CV8 5.7L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $21,950 – 40,000 2004 Holden Monaro 2004 CV8 Pricing and Specs
CV8-R 5.7L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $14,190 – 18,700 2004 Holden Monaro 2004 CV8-R Pricing and Specs
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