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Holden VFII SS V Ute 2016 review


Daily driver score

4.5/5

Mark Oastler road tests and reviews the 2016 VFII Holden SS V Ute with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

The release of the AU Falcon ute in 1999 heralded a fundamental shift in a long standing rivalry between Ford and Holden, as it broke nearly four decades of Aussie ute tradition by separating the cargo bed from the cab to provide cab-chassis versatility.

Holden's response the following year with its VU range was to keep the cargo bed integrated in the body, but it also broke with tradition in being the first Holden commercial vehicle to be fitted with IRS. This signalled a shift in its primary role from workhorse to more that of a lifestyle machine, as imported one tonne utes had clearly become the tradie's choice.

In that context, the latest VF II SS V muscle ute is a unique two-seater sports car with the practicality of a huge boot, tremendous V8 performance and an intoxicating soundtrack to go with it.

Price and features

The MY16 VFII Commodore range was released in October 2015 and according to Holden will be the last major change before it ceases production in 2017. The closely aligned Ute line-up starts with six cylinder Evoke and SV6 before stepping up to V8 power with SS, SS V and top-shelf SS V Redline grades.

Holden has saved the best until last with the VFII styling by adding a more aggressive yet refined exterior for the sports models.

Our test vehicle was the SS V with six-speed auto. For $46,690 this is seriously good bang for your buck thanks largely to its tremendous LS3 6.2 litre V8. The extra $3500 you pay to add a 'V' to the already well-equipped SS brings larger 19-inch alloy wheels, leather-appointed seats, front fog lamps, colour digital instrument display including HUD (heads-up display), sat-nav, footwell courtesy lamps and eight-speaker audio with rear subwoofers.

Design

Holden has saved the best until last with the VFII styling by adding a more aggressive yet refined exterior for the sports models. Fine detailing is evident from the functional bonnet vents to the wider grille opening and fascia ducts refined in a wind tunnel. It has the tough broad-shouldered stance, rake and ride height of an Aussie muscle car and looks great from every angle.

The interior adds luxury without losing its hard-edged muscle car persona.

The SS V (and all VFII utes) shares the same 3009mm lengthened wheelbase as the luxury Caprice sedan. The MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link IRS are tuned to Holden's mid-range FE2 sports setting, with variable-ratio electric power steering calibrated to match. 19 x 8.5-inch alloy wheels with grippy 245/40 R19 performance tyres house powerful disc brakes.

The interior adds luxury without losing its hard-edged muscle car persona. There's thoughtful placement of all controls and quality detailing with a tasteful mix of seam stitching, satin chrome, suede, carbon fibre and piano black highlights. There's also smart use of space, particularly the handbrake which has been reduced to a small electronic switch on the console. The seats are very comfortable with adjustable lumbar support and the right amount of supportive padding on the side and base cushions for comfortable cruising or 'spirited' driving.

Engine and transmission

The VFII's superb all-aluminium 6.2 litre LS3 V8 is the heart and soul of the final Commodore SS range, with 304kW at 6000rpm and a bulldozer-grade 570Nm of torque at 4400rpm. Holden's excellent Bi-Modal exhaust system and Mechanical Sound Enhancer (MSE) create a symphony of aural delights with every drive.

Holden ads used to say 'there's nothing quite like a V8' and that still rings true.

GM Powertrain's tough yet refined 6L80E six-speed automatic transmission with self-shifting Sport mode (which was hardly used during our test) is well calibrated to suit the responsive high torque characteristics of the LS3 engine. The six ratios are well spaced with overdriven fifth and sixth gears providing effortless and economical highway cruising at low rpm.

Practicality

With a kerb weight of 1753kg and a GVM of 2385kg, that leaves a handy 632kg payload. In other words, with two adults on board there's still roughly 500kg or half a tonne of load capacity to play with.

 The excellent Bi-modal exhaust system produces a hot-sounding 'crackle and pop' on over-run and intoxicating thunder at mid-to-wide throttle openings.

And given the GCM is 3825kg, the ute's peak payload must be decreased by a reasonable 160kg to tow its maximum rating of 1600kg braked. That's plenty of load-lugging capability for an active lifestyle, particularly if you need to tow things like motorcycle/boat/jet-ski trailers, camper trailers, small caravans etc.

There's a bottle holder and deep storage pocket in the base of each door and two small bottle/cupholders in the centre console. The cabin's rear bulkhead also has four elastic-mesh pockets for odds and ends and the carpeted floor space behind the seats can be accessed by tilting them forward.

Fuel consumption

Holden claims an official combined figure of 12.9L/100km. Our figures based on actual fuel bowser readings came in at 14.6L/100km, from a mix of suburban driving, cruise-controlled highway and backroad cruising and a challenging mountain pass or two. Or three.

Driving

Holden ads used to say 'there's nothing quite like a V8' and that still rings true. Although the LS3's massive 570Nm peaks at 4400rpm, this engine is so flexible it's just ridiculously good fun to drive.  Holden knows that and has upped the feel good factor to the max.

When you open the stables there's a stampede of more than 400 horses in one seamless neck-straining power surge from under 1000rpm all the way to its 6000rpm redline. The excellent Bi-modal exhaust system produces a hot-sounding 'crackle and pop' on over-run and intoxicating thunder at mid-to-wide throttle openings, enhanced by the MSE which transmits a guttural V8 induction roar right into the cabin where it belongs.

The other roar you notice is from the wide tyres and their aggressive tread blocks slapping the road. It varies according to different surfaces, with coarse bitumen the most intrusive. The sporty FE2 suspension tuning is a good compromise, with sharp handling response and rough road composure that proves it's not just a city slicker. Even on bumpy bitumen and gravel roads it proved to have sufficient wheel travel and spring compliance to avoid belting you in the spine and kidneys.

It was really in its element on a long and winding mountain pass with lots of lefts and rights in quick succession.

Although its pin-sharp handling response can feel a bit 'darty' on some surfaces, the variable-ratio power steering is nicely weighted and direct with just the right amount of electric power assistance to encourage hooking into any corner with confidence.

It was really in its element on a long and winding mountain pass with lots of lefts and rights in quick succession. With heaps of grip from the big tyres and fade-free bite from the big brakes, its impressively neutral handling balance and bump compliance combined with plenty of V8 grunt made for a safe yet exhilarating drive.

Our only major gripe, which has been a problem since the VE days, is the overly thick windscreen pillar which on winding roads obscures the driver's natural line of sight to corner apexes and in some cases oncoming traffic. The rear roof pillar with its bulbous trim also largely obscures the driver's over-shoulder view when needing to rubber-neck at acute intersections.

Safety

Five star ANCAP rating. Put simply, the VF's comprehensive menu of passive and active safety features carry over to the VFII range, with a raft of electronic stability control systems including Trailer Sway Control.

Ownership

Three year/100,000km warranty with extended warranty options and Roadside Assistance from first date of vehicle registration. Capped price of $239 for each of the first four scheduled services every nine months or 15,000km whichever comes first.

There aren't many cars that make you hoot and holler out loud from the sheer delight of driving them – but this one does. There's more than six decades of hard Aussie work ethic in its DNA which can be traced back to Holden's first ute in 1951. It still has the ability to carry a useful half tonne-plus payload but these days that's more likely to be a dirt bike than a load of dirt, or surfboards rather than floor boards.

It has evolved into what is primarily a stylish and practical lifestyle machine with a level of performance and safety that represents the pinnacle of Australian muscle car development.

If you want one, just buy it and enjoy it. And look after it for future generations to appreciate.

They will wonder how a tiny car industry like Australia's could design and manufacture such world-class cars. And how we let it all disappear.

Will you be lining up for a V8 Holden Ute while you still can? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 VFII Holden SS V Ute pricing and spec info.

$16,950 - $61,990

Based on 140 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4.5/5
Price Guide

$16,950 - $61,990

Based on 140 car listings in the last 6 months