While Aussie built Holden Commodore’s exit stage right forever in about 18 months it is departing with a bang and not a whimper.
Holden ceases production of all cars in Australia including the venerable Commodore from the end of next year. However, this model is mounting a powerful finish, with variants such as the V8 powered SSV Redline Wagon, offering a unique blend of practicality and breath taking performance.
Late last year Holden unleashed the VFII, the most powerful, most responsive and most advanced Commodore for its swan song. The launch of this farewell model late last year, also ushered in the thunderous 6.2-litre V8 in updated LS3 form, that recaptures the classic V8 sound that makes some grown men go weak at the knees. This great automotive soundtrack has been bought to life via a bi-modal exhaust and mechanical sound enhancer.
The application of a bi-modal exhaust, mechanical sound enhancer and the ‘Baillie Tip’ ensures you’ll hear this engine before you see it. Activating the bi-modal exhaust is done via a button on the vehicles 8” colour touch screen. To create a more involving exhaust note inside the car, Holden has introduced the newly invented ‘Baillie Tip**’. Developed by one of the engineers, Dr David Baillie, the tip consists of a unique opening in the exhaust. This reverberates sound back through the exhaust towards the cabin, increasing the overall sound level up to 10 percent.
The big effort that’s gone into cranking up the engine volume is in response to customer and motoring media criticism of the previous engine, that it had been over refined to the point where its charismatic V8 engine note had almost vanished. Now it’s back louder and prouder than ever. Holden reckon the 6.2-litre LS3 engine combined with the revised differential ratio and suspension changes make this Commodore the best they’ve ever made. Perhaps this goes to prove that there might be something in the old adage “Saving keeping the best to last”!
Some new technology was thrown into the VF2 mix including an all-new infotainment system delivering full Bluetooth®, USB, iPod® and MP3 player integration. All of this is easily managed, even by a technophobic like me, through a touch screen mounted in the centre console.
While the current Commodore dates back ten years it still remains one of the best looking big cars on our market. Almost equally attractive, is the pricing of the range topping SSV Redline. While the $78490 price tag for the SSV Redline wagon supplied for this road test puts it right near the top of the Commodore food chain, that price has to be viewed in the context of it being one very lavishly equipped wagon that’s packed to over flowing with luxury kit.
The l LS3 6.2-litre V8 engine delivers 304kW of power and a stunning 570Nm of peak torque. This is delivered earlier in the rev range compared to the outgoing model to provide sizzling throttle response. This substantial slab of heavy metal, is a genuinely potent performer given it still draws heavily on 20th century technology with its over head valve design, in a new car market where twin over head cams and turbo chargers dominate. VFII V8 sports models including SSV Redline receive a further engine-cooling aide in the form hood vents. These allow the release of hot air directly out of the engine bay while giving the car a more aggressive appearance. The hood vents have been designed to redirect water away from critical electrical components in the engine bay. This is one hot engine that’s now a very cool customer as well.
For smoothness, refinement, plus that wonderful 8-cylinder burble being restored to its former glory, this engine is now the total V8 package. An advanced six-speed automatic expertly manipulates the engine’s enormous reserves of power to perfection.
You would expect lots of passenger and load space in a big wagon like this and it doesn’t disappoint. It will appeal to traditionalists who still have a soft spot for large rear wheel drive wagons with the SSV Redline offering unsurpassed luxury and serious towing abilities.
In the past the build quality of the Commodore has been patchy, but a lot less so in the last five years as Holden ramped up efforts to raise its build quality bar to new and previously unexplored heights. From my experience with the test wagon, this major investment of time and money is paying off. The great pity is that this Commodore won’t be around long enough for Holden to realise the full pay back for all this effort.
Tuned at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground in Victoria, Australia and tested in several different driving environments, the revised FE3 rear sports suspension increases ride comfort while retaining the cars sharp handling. The SS-V Redline is now fitted with Brembo brakes on all four wheels, making it the ultimate showstopper. Powering through the first bend in the test wagon and you are instantly aware its handling game has gone up a good level or two, as it confidently carves through the corners. The tauter suspension that is at the very core of the car impeccable road holding does result in some trade-off in ride comfort, despite Holden’s claimed improvements in this area. This is most noticeable in town driving, where the stiffer and less malleable springs and dampers contribute to suspension bump thud over broken and undulating road surfaces. While it still ticks the ride comfort box, that tick is discernable smaller than it could have potentially been, had a slightly more pliable ride been engineered into the suspension.
What’s the verdict? A large luxury V8 wagon with plenty of the x-factor and power - easily the best Commodore wagon I’ve ever driven.