WHEN EUTHANISING ANIMALS, VETS SOMETIMES RATHER SADLY CALL THE FLUID THEY INJECT THE "GREEN DREAM". I couldn’t help but reflect on that when behind the wheel of a brand new ‘jungle green’ SS sedan from the Commodore range.
It is - sadly for the country, sadly for those who appreciate a big, strong, thunderously quick performance car - the final rear-drive V8 sedan that Holden will build here.
All we'll see between now and the demise of local manufacturing later next year is a few special editions that might help the nameplate go out with a bang.
But euthanasia is generally employed on the terminally ill and this car is anything but crook - on the contrary, it feels more than fighting fit.
Vehicle Style: Large sedan
Price: $47,190 (automatic, plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 304kW/570Nm 6.2-litre V8 petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 12.9 l/100km | tested: 15.8 l/100km
Holden's SS Commodore is not just the LS3 V8 under the bonnet. But it sure is a large part of what defines the car.
This is a genuine performance drive - it points and steers as a performance car should, and has an agility that belies its dimensions and sheer heft. And, with that V8, at $47,190 - or $51,677 driveaway - nothing can touch it for value.
The VF II SS with six-speed manual is just $44,990 (plus on-road costs).
There is a subtle menace to the body-kitted exterior, bulging where appropriate but leaving the giant wings and splitters to the whoosh-whinny brigade; new bonnet vents and ducts are functional and far from overkill.
It is quite a bit cheaper than the SS V, which is $55,352 driveaway (for the automatic, the manual $2k cheaper), and not a princely sum more than the Commodore SV6 sedan, at $43,662 (driveaway) for the six-speed automatic.
- Standard equipment: cruise control, power windows and mirrors, keyless entry, trip computer, dual-zone climate control, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, auto headlights, cloth trim
- Infotainment: 8.0in touchscreen with USB & Aux inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio link, Pandora and Stitcher internet music apps.
- Storage: 495 litres, ski port for long items, no fold-down rear seat
Comfortable cloth-trimmed seating and ample cabin space front and rear, with the driver well-placed behind the wheel and not set too high - long a fault of its nemesis from Ford.
Broken bitumen doesn’t relay verbatim through to the cabin, certainly not to the extent that would become tiresome should you choose to drive it every day on domestic duties.
The A-pillars remain too wide and are capable of concealing obstacles at a T-junction - looking multiple times and from different positions would have to become a habit if owning a current Commodore.
The features list has a couple of omissions worthy of note - there’s no standard satellite navigation and the wipers (which no longer have the water jets on the wiper arm) are not rain-sensing.
But there is an electric park brake, keyless entry and ignition as well as smart remote engine start system (only for the auto, funnily enough), the app-equipped MyLink infotainment system controlled by an 8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth and USB inputs, upgraded voice control and Siri Eyes Free+.
The SS also has an extensive trip-computer, cruise control, power windows and exterior mirrors (which are still too small), dual-zone climate control (with a noisy fan with rear vents) and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Boot space of 495 litres is not cavernous but the shape and aperture allows a good load on board - four adults and gear could complete the great Australian road trip without any concern for space.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 304kW/570Nm 6.2-litre V8 petrol
- Transmission: Six speed automatic, RWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
- Brakes: ventilated front and rear discs
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering, 11.4m turning circle
- Towing capacity: 750kg (unbraked), 2100kg (braked)
Firing it up and the bi-modal exhaust and mechanical sound enhancer combine to deliver a raspy and well-rounded V8 burble, although not beyond any legal tolerances, says Holden.
The 6.2-litre LS3 V8 grumbles through city traffic, looking to unleash its 304kW and 570Nm but not straining at the leash. In D without 'sport modes' engaged, it is well-behaved and not at all belligerent.
The ride quality of the revised FE2 suspension - even with 18-inch alloys and 45-profile tyres - is remarkably good, which should be no surprise. The chassis crew at Holden are renowned for getting the right dollop of damping and properly sorted springs for the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear under the big family sedan.
It is a relaxed, quiet and comfortable commuter and will happily loll along on its considerable twist of torque without slurping outrageously at the 71-litre tank.
Being a little lighter (at 1758kg) than the more expensive performance variants helps with the thirst, which is a claimed 12.9 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, but our time yielded 15.8 l/100km - with plenty of suburban work and some press-ahead efforts through the hills.
That’s when Holden's suspension work becomes front of mind - a 1.7 tonne vehicle has no right to be able to corner with such an absence of effort.
Well-weighted but not difficult steering puts the SS into the bends with just a brush of push through the nose, which can be followed by a reduction in the right pedal, a swift cornering effort and an even-swifter - but fuss-free - departure.
Or the stability control can be dismissed and the V8’s rear-drive platform can be explored a little further with only the aid of a limited slip differential.
It can raise the hairs on your neck, but remains a controllable and highly amusing machine when the latter method is employed.
There are no paddles, but sport mode is well-sorted for enthusiastic driving or the gear selector can be pushed to manual mode, shifting up and down as per the weight transfer direction.
And it is obedient, adding to the enjoyment of the SS.
Bringing it all to a halt is the same brake package as the slightly heavier SS V. If it were mine however, I’d be tempted to option up to the performance brake package (something to consider if extended driving on demanding roads, or track days, figure in your plans).
ANCAP: The Holden Commodore range achieves a 5-Star ANCAP safety rating.
Safety features: Key among a suite of dynamic and passive safety features is blind spot and rear cross traffic alert, a full-size spare (which was an option) and six airbags - enough to earn it a five-star ANCAP rating - stability control (including traction and trailer sway control), automatic (but not xenon or LED) headlights, the auto-parking system, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors and LED daytime running lights.
It is with some sadness that I gave back the keys to the SS.
As a young bloke, back in the day, I saw the Commodore arrive to some scorn - it usurped the Kingswood, which wasn’t a popular move with some family and fleet buyers. It now departs, having placed itself in the hearts (but now not always the driveways) of many Australians.
An overseas fan base has been built as well, in New Zealand, the US and the UK. And were it not for politics and production capacity elsewhere, it might still be destined for continued production.
Cabin space, cruising ability, a delicious soundtrack, 'back-road blast' potential and muscular good looks add up to a Commodore that will indeed be sadly missed in this mire of SUVs.
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