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Holden Monaro VZ 2005 review

The BMW Z3 roadster may have looked too busy, too contrived on Australian roads. Set one down on the streets of Los Angeles and it made perfect sense; there it was an edgy, in-the-face machine that stood out in the crowd and looked right.

These days the current crop of Nissans and Infinitis look clever in Los Angeles, the Murano, Infiniti FX45, the Maxima and 350Z have today's edge.

Ford's jellybean Taurus looked very strange in this part of the world yet right at home on a Detroit freeway.

But the Pontiac GTO – nee Monaro – was initially lost in the herd.

A striking and handsome coupe on Australian roads, the Pontiac needed more for the North American freeways and Santa Monica Boulevard where restored American muscle cars, black Porsches and Hummers sitting on 24-inch wheels catch the eye.

The original of these Australian-made GTOs faded a bit into the streetscape.

For the VZ Monaro there are style and content tweaks.

Holden reckon style changes to the VZ over the VU were as much driven by local customers.

But the extras – such as bigger air intake and those snout scoops – also give the Pontiac GTO a little more agro for North Americans who, while loving the drive of the car, thought that first reincarnation a little bland on the outside.

Even General Motors guru Bob Lutz, responsible for having the Monaro transplanted stateside, now thinks the first one needed a little more attitude.

Along with style variations and the brightness of the new hero blue Turismo colour (a leftover Nissan Pulsar shade from the 80s?), there's the extra power and extra exhaust bass, thanks to a split-dual system.

It is all that little sharper than before and the Monaro continues to turn heads.

Holden boss Denny Mooney says: "You won't buy one of these if you're shy."

With practice, the back-beat burble on the exhaust arrives with the right amount of throttle lift-off. Holding second gear longer than necessary also is allowed.

And the VZ Monaro does stop people in their tracks, people stop and grin and that's nice.

For 2005, Series III of the reborn Monaro boasts 260kW and develops 500Nm of torque if the 70 litre tank, now sitting between rear axle and rear seat, is filled with premium fuel. It is the most powerful factory Holden ever.

A revised camshaft helps keep 93 per cent of torque on tap from 2300rpm to 5300rpm.

This is important for both leaving the lights and low-speed cruising. The revised six-speed manual has shorter gear ratios, apart from fourth, to better find torque at any time.

While all this posing and cruising on those deeper, sharper 18-inch alloy wheels is quite self-satisfying, the Monaro has more and more to offer on an open road.

The cabin is Commodore plus; there are the high centre dash gauges for voltmeter and oil pressure, the fancy race-style pedals, touches of extra chrome and a glossy piano black surround around the centre console. There's the dual zone airconditioning, four leather seats and a decent amount of comfort. This is handy for this is a car to be driven a long way.

It squats low, holds well and covers distances with an easy lope, highlighted by the occasional exhaust bark and maybe a little bit of rubber protest leaving a slowish corner. This Monaro, as with the one before, deserves a long and flowing back country road to be best appreciated.

It is a great Australian tourer and deserves to be let run. While there is a deal of street cred in trundling through the suburbs and shopping centre car parks, the crux of the Monaro's appeal is a hard run at highway speeds.

Out here it is a well-balanced, quick-acting sports machine. The ride comfort is good although sharp-edged bumps can jolt, the performance is there with a howl and the grip is prodigious. Heroes can turn off the traction control for more attitude.

This is not a traditional sports car. There is too much bulk to shift quickly on a tight mountain road although there is that low down V8 punch to shift out of corners hard. But give the Monaro a more flowing road and this is a very fast and very handsome Australian coupe at a great price, a 21st century muscle car.

December figures in the US were a record for Pontiac GTO with 2952 sales, topping the previous record of September by 274 and bringing the full year tally to 13,569.

Pricing Guides

Based on 14 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

CV8 5.7L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $42,998 – 55,880 2005 Holden Monaro 2005 CV8 Pricing and Specs
CV8-Z 5.7L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $34,500 – 52,999 2005 Holden Monaro 2005 CV8-Z Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on 14 car listings in the last 6 months

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