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Holden Commodore SS V Redline sedan 2013 review

EXPERT RATING
8

In the midst of all the current gloom about the car industry – Ford shuttering the factory in 2016, the spectre of changes to FBT, Holden speculating it might have to close its operations if it doesn’t get more help -- it's difficult to believe the new VF Commodore has been in showrooms only a month.

Before the FBT announcement Holden was convinced it had got off to a good start. It deserves to. From top to bottom the VF is a better car than VE, the previous Commodore.

It has also been pitched aggressively to private buyers and none more so than the top trim level, Redline. This adds sports tuning to an SS V sedan, wagon or ute and is now a separate designation rather than an option. Among early orders for SS Vs, half are going for Redline.

Value

It’s priced from $48,990 for the manual ute to $55,690 for the automatic wagon, and the additional $6000 over a standard SS V buys a few extra features, such as heated front seats, premium Bose stereo, colour head-up display and two more driver assistance systems: collision alert and lane departure warning. But performance upgrades across the car are where most of the value lies.

For the first time, Holden has gone with wider, lower-profile rubber at the rear with 275/35 tyres against 245/40 at the front. To any potential buyer, that says: "We're taking this seriously.''

Engine and Transmission

The engine is the same 6.0-litre V8 offered elsewhere on VF, either with a six-speed manual or an automatic transmission that handles slightly lower power and torque outputs. Usually Holden keeps 0-100km/h times to itself, but it broke with tradition to say "mid-5 seconds'' -- another strong claim.

The Ute offers the best power-to-weight ratio and Holden dynamics specialist and part-time Nurburgring ace Rob Trubiani set a time of 8min 19.47sec in one during a lap of the famed 21km track. The video is well worth a look.

Underpinnings

Brembo performance brakes are fitted with stiffer calipers within the 19-inch alloys. The result is lower unsprung weight and a stopping distance from 100km/h reduced by more than 2m, to 38.6m, compared with the equivalent VE. A good sports car would do it in about 35m, so that's respectable for 1.8 tonne sedan.

Redlines also get Holden's most aggressive suspension tune, coded FE3, revised with larger stabiliser bars and dampers. Holden says body roll has been reduced and the car can pull an impressive 0.93g in corners.

There's also a unique Redline steering tune known as Competitive mode and a setting for the electronic stability control with a higher threshold for intervention.

Driving

The test drive event also had a track focus. There was no road component at all, so it's impossible to say whether the Redline has a ride you could live with on the daily commute. Unless your route involves a lap of Phillip Island, that is.

The first exercise, using the straight, aimed to demonstrate the launch control feature. Two cars line up side by side, in proper top fuel style. Put it in gear, press the right button and keep the clutch depressed while stabbing the throttle and holding it down.

After a second or so the system drops from maximum revs to about 4000rpm, which is ideal for an efficient getaway. Wait for green, and drop the clutch. Actually, don't wait for green. As I quickly learned, as soon as the last of three yellows comes up, go. Or you'll record the reaction time of a sloth.

The car's computer gets it off the line with minimum drama and maximum attack. Repeatedly. And there's still a satisfying reminder of its efforts on the tarmac. Next was a wet skid pan motorkhana course and a chance to explore the three-level stability control to see how it affects handling.

Redlines resist the overwhelming understeer typical of large heavy sedans during tight exercises such as this and feels if not exactly nimble, at least quickly manoeuvrable. On the track, the VF is more at home than many other large sedans I've sampled here.

The steering rewards with precision and a sense of how much grip the front wheels have got, while the body stays composed and remarkably flat for confidence through Phillip Island's fast turns. Compared with some of the performance imports, top speeds were lower but satisfaction greater.

The VF just seems light on its feet and well rounded in its attributes: neither the chassis nor brakes are strained by the power. The front and rear of the car work together, so that neither wants to spoil the party and stray off line. I've enjoyed faster and much more expensive four-doors here less than this.

Another plus are lighter and easier actions for the clutch and gearshift in the manual models, a welcome improvement despite their minority appeal. One surprise was how refined the car stays. Making the cabin quieter was a goal of the VF program and in the V8s, it's succeeded almost too well.

From the outside, this V8 sounds delightfully fruity but from the driver's perspective the hardcore Redline could do with a bit more volume. Also from the driver's seat the problem of wide A-pillars obscuring vision through bends carries over from VE. That sort of fundamental structural issue is too expensive to fix.

Verdict

It could almost be a metaphor for Holden itself: expensive to fix, and we cannot see what's around the corner. The changes to the FBT certainly took the industry by surprise and it could take some of the heat out of demand for cars such as the VF Redline. The last thing Holden needs is another obstacle as it's negotiating a tricky set of turns.

Pricing guides

$22,490
Based on 497 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$5,990
Highest Price
$62,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Omega 3.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $7,400 – 11,440 2013 Holden Commodore 2013 Omega Pricing and Specs
Omega (LPG) 3.6L, LPG, 6 SP AUTO $8,000 – 12,320 2013 Holden Commodore 2013 Omega (LPG) Pricing and Specs
Omega (LPG) 3.6L, LPG, 6 SP AUTO $7,500 – 11,550 2013 Holden Commodore 2013 Omega (LPG) Pricing and Specs
Omega 3.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $7,000 – 10,890 2013 Holden Commodore 2013 Omega Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.