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HSV Senator 2006 review

So it is comfy and cushy, but still very quick. And it has a 6.0-litre V8, which means instant respect at the lights.

Our test car came in black, with a digital dashboard readout that told us it was Skaife 001, and all the luxury and go-fast gear you would want in an ultimate Holden Calais with tweaking by Skaife. But our fun run in the car, officially a Senator Signature, shows Holden needs the VE Commodore and Statesman as soon as possible.

The Skaife car is good and the drive enjoyable, but the update work has stretched the rubber band all the way to breaking point on the last of the current-series Commodores.

You can see it in the dash and feel it in the driveline shunt, and are reminded of the old-style basics when you plant your foot.

The car is still swift but the auto is ancient and there are a few niggling noises from the suspension that won't be there when there is a VE Skaife car.

The Skaife car comes in a year when HSV is doing everything it can to make mileage and sales, before the arrival of the VE Commodore family. It has big plans for everything from the ClubSport to the GTO coupe.

The Senator Signature is a 50-car run and all of them are high-gloss black with a $75,590 bottom line, compared with a regular HSV Senator at $72,390, the current GTO at $78,990 and a long-wheelbase Grange at $89,990.

This is a contradictory car. It is old and showing that age, but it is still a car that's enjoyable to drive. The question is will people want to pay $75,590 when the VE is coming up fast? But is also understandable why the 50 people who do buy it, will enjoy this car.

The black Senator can be rewarding as well as challenging to drive.

You can dribble around town enjoying the leather seats, punchy sound system and the throb of the LS2 V8 engine.

But when you want to go, and there are times when nothing else is good enough, the Skaife car really honks.

It's not a full-on Bathurst bruiser, but it is impossible to argue with 297kW.

It is one of the world's great engines and, even with everyone worrying about petrol prices, we are lucky to have it. But it shows the ancient history of the four-speed auto.

There is no manual driving mode, no touch-change paddles, the ratios are too far apart and it struggles to cope with the car's massive torque. If you really put your foot down the Skaife car slams through the gears, hitting hard enough to spin the rear wheels briefly before the traction control goes to work, and it really thumps the driveline. It is not very nice, even if it is effective.

The brakes are effective thanks to the huge grip from the 19-inch rubbers. The Senator gets the premium brake pack and its great.

The Xenon headlamps are also terrific, even better than the benchmark system in the basic Commodore, and overcome the lack of light that has been criticised in other upmarket Holdens with the slimline lamp package. There is terrific turn-in for any corner and great feel through the steering.

The cornering attitude is up to the driver and use of the engine, though it is comforting to know the car has traction control, particularly on a damp road.

The suspension picks up any pockmarks and there is tramlining at cruising speed, which is partly down to the 19-inch wheels and partly down to the age of the basic suspension design. The upshot is that it is good, but not Euro refined.

The car's seats look good and have great support, but they are set too high. Even Skaife admits it, but he is a bloke who would prefer to be sitting on the floor in every car.

It comes down to the space needed for the motors that provide electric assistance.

The Senator is heavy on fuel but is easy to park, has all the luxury gear you really need, including cruise control and a trip computer. It also features a giant digital speedometer, now fitted to every Commodore.

The car is great value against its European rivals and more enjoyable and gutsy than the GT models from Ford Performance Vehicles.

Pricing guides

Based on 3 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

(base) 6.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $10,800 – 15,840 2006 HSV Senator 2006 (base) Pricing and Specs
Mark Skaife Signature Edition 6.0L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $11,300 – 16,610 2006 HSV Senator 2006 Mark Skaife Signature Edition Pricing and Specs
Signature 6.0L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ $15,200 – 21,450 2006 HSV Senator 2006 Signature Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on 3 car listings in the last 6 months

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