2013 HOLDEN VF COMMODORE SV6 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Large sedan
Price: $35,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 210kW/350Nm V6 petrol | 6spd manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.0 l/100km | tested: 9.2 l/100km
You have to look hard to find a manual gearbox in a modern family car. As rare as hen's teeth and getting rarer every day.
Seems nearly everyone wants autos, and the manual transmission would appear to be headed the way of vinyl records, fondue sets and board games.
Well, not if keen drivers have any say in the matter.
We've been driving the VF Commodore SV6 with a manual attached, and, if you enjoy driving and the superior control of a 'stick-shift', this is one to take a look at.
It's not perfect, but with a big torquey ‘six’ under the bonnet, surprisingly good handling and loads of comfort on road, the VF SV6 with six-speed manual might just bring you back to the fold.
Here's our report.
Quality: The interior is an extremely pleasant place to be. Holden’s efforts with the VF interior puts it squarely as a rival for large cars in higher price brackets.
It’s quiet, comfortable, and neatly laid out, particularly the new centre-console design.
The large seats are very comfortable and offer plenty of adjustment. The back seat also offers plenty of support and buckets of room.
Comfort: The SV6 gains leather seats and steering wheel over the entry-level Evoke, along with a flip down arm-rest for back seat passengers.
The updated dual-zone climate control system is a highlight, with the soft-touch dials and constantly displayed temperature settings making it easy to use.
Beyond the controls, it’s a large car with a large car feel - a winning combination when it comes to interior comfort and the SV6 is no exception. Inside, there's plenty of head, shoulder and leg room.
Equipment: The VF Commodore is well equipped in any trim, but the SV6 gains blind-spot assist, alloy sports pedals plus a red-look gauge package.
The My Link touch screen is also red, and is a welcome addition to the VF range, offering USB and auxiliary inputs, Bluetooth and much more.
Then there’s the stuff we’ve come to expect from the new Commodore, such as park assist (it parks itself), cruise control, power seats, multi-function trip computer, and automatic headlights (and many will be relieved that a CD player is still fitted).
Storage: Most of the storage compartments, including door pockets, glove box, centre console bin and the boot itself are large, deep and very usable. The only extra boot space however, comes via the central ski port into the back seat.
There’s also a sunglasses compartment in the front, and the two cup holders in the centre console are well designed.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: You’ve no doubt read about the VF Commodore on TMR by now, and this one, the more-sporting SV6, is incredibly well-priced at $35,990 for what it offers 'on the road'.
As a driver’s car, the SV6 manual is just superb. With 210kW and 350Nm to call on, there is plenty of power on tap, and it spins so much more freely than GM V6s of old.
Let it loose on a country run and it simply swallows long highway miles. It is completely untroubled by hills or when overtaking, and can be punted with surprising agility around a winding road.
Importantly, it's wrapped in a chassis that's right-at-home on Australian roads.
Better yet, even after hundreds of kilometres of spirited driving, we still managed 9.2 l/100km.
Refinement: The SV6 is brilliantly smooth. Forget any thoughts of a heavy clutch pedal feel or industrial gear change and start thinking small four-cylinder hatch, which more accurately describes the experience.
It really shouldn’t be this easy to drive such a large car, particularly one with a manual gearbox. In the VF SV6, the feel at the wheel, and of the clutch pedal and shift, is not only easy, but a whole lot of fun.
The only black mark against the gearbox is Reverse, which is located to the top left of the shift pattern. Finding that reverse gate when looking to downshift is easy to do; and annoying.
Ride and Handling: The overall feel of balance and the alert handling of the SV6 is perhaps this big car's forte. The ride is firm-ish, as you would expect from the FE2 suspension, but not so firm as to detract from comfort.
It not only soaks up bumpy Australian roads with ease, but has a precise feel when cornering and an alive front end. 'Turn-in', for a big car, is surprisingly sharp.
A special mention here should go to the standard Bridgestone rubber. Despite the low profile tyres, tyre-noise is very low.
Braking: Although there are 1688kg to haul to a stop, the twin-piston callipers up front and single piston at the rear are up to the task.
An advantage in choosing the manual gearbox is weight: this is the second-lightest sedan in the VF range.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 stars – this model scored 35.06 points out of 37
Safety features: Driver & passenger airbags (dual), head airbags for second row seats, side airbags for first row occupants (front), head airbags for first row seats (front).
Active safety systems include electronic stability control (ESC), traction control, electronic brake distribution, and brake assist.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km.
Service Costs: Capped-price servicing is included, which covers up to four services in the first three years or 60,000km of ownership. The maximum price per service for the petrol engine is $185.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Ford Falcon FG MkII XR6 Manual ($39,990) - A credit to Ford that it also offers a manual six-cylinder option in its large Falcon sedan.
The XR6 offers many of the advantages of the SV6, but has now been trumped by the Commodore on price and interior. The Ford still has more torque. (see XR6 reviews)
Holden VF Commodore SS Manual ($41,990) – It’s a long step up price-wise if V6 power just isn’t enough for you, but, even at this price, the SS manual is another performance bargain.
Plus, you’ll have an additional 60kW to play with - that's just $100 per additional kW. (see SS reviews)
Holden VF Ute SV6 Manual ($32,990) – If your back seat rarely sees more than fresh air and sunshine, you could potentially save yourself $3000 and opt for the Ute instead.
You’ll still get the same engine with the same manual gearbox but room only for one passenger. (see VF reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The VF Commodore SV6 is a performance bargain, especially when you consider what’s included for the price.
In a buyers'-world where manual transmissions are disappearing, the SV6 is a genuine driver's car.
But it not only offers a proper stick-shift - which in this case significantly enhances the driving experience - it’s also the second-cheapest variant in the line-up.
Add large-car effortlessness, eager reserves of power and crisp handling, and Holden's VF Commodore SV6 adds up to a very good buy.
We think this is one you should experience (while you still can).