This is it. To the catchy tune of what later became a Danni Minogue cover single, those three words used in the advertising slogan of the original 1978 Holden Commodore could also be applied to this 2017 Holden Commodore SS V Redline.
In around six months – on October 20 – not only will Holden’s Adelaide manufacturing facility close, but it will take with it the rear-wheel drive configuration and V8 engine that have been central to the nameplate’s success over four decades.
While an updated version of the current 3.6-litre petrol V6 engine will live on under the bonnet of the all-wheel drive, German-import Opel Insignia that will wear the Commodore badge locally from next year, this 6.2-litre petrol V8 will be laid to rest.
Placing aside the strictly-limited edition Motorsport, Director and Magnum models, this SS V Redline is the pinnacle of super-sports all-Australian design and engineering. Can it send off the VF Series II generation on a high?
Vehicle Style: Large sedan
Price: $57,190 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 304kW/570Nm 6.2 V8 petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 12.9 l/100km | Tested: 13.0 l/100km
Final ‘MY17’ updates for the VF Series II are arriving in dealerships now and for the Commodore SS V Redline it means only minor changes are in store. The chrome exterior trim has been replaced by formerly optional (for $500) ‘jet’ gloss black, which also adorns the (previously body colour) mirror caps and (newly added) lip spoiler.
Inside, piano black replaces the faux-carbonfibre trim used between the climate controls and touchscreen, on the lower lip of the steering wheel and upper-door appliques, while there are new ‘V’ badged door sills. Pricing rises by $500 to $57,190 plus on-road costs for the six-speed auto tested here. The manual is $2200 cheaper.
With the SS V now discontinued, there’s a more sizeable gap down to the standard SS at $49,690 (plus orc) for the auto.
It now matches the SS V Redline with 19-inch alloys, head-up display and satellite navigation, but lacks its full leather trim, sunroof, Bose audio system, blind-spot and forward collision warnings, Brembo brakes, wider tyres and less restrictive Competitive electronic stability control (ESC) setting.
- Standard equipment: cruise control, power windows and mirrors, keyless auto-entry, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, leather seat trim with electrically adjustable driver’s seat, rain-sensing wipers, head-up display and sunroof.
- Infotainment: 8.0in touchscreen with USB/AUX inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Pandora and Stitcher apps connectivity and satellite navigation, and Bose audio system.
- Options fitted: None.
- Cargo volume: 495 litres.
Among the many Commodore press cars this tester has driven since the VE generation launched in 2006, this VF Series II SS V Redline seemed screwed together tightly enough that a ‘for an Australian made car’ qualifier need not be used.
The upper dashboard plastics continue to be of the hard variety, while the lack of Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology and autonomous emergency braking (AEB), are reminders that the VF came out in 2013.
The only other gripe is the lack of heated front seats and electrically adjustable passenger seat that are both standard in a $15K-cheaper Calais V6.
After spending a 1000km-long farewell drive with this SS V Redline, however, what became most important was the faultless ergonomics of this cabin; and arguably much more important than whether a fingertip falls into a softly padded dashboard.
Generally speaking, as new cars pile in greater levels of technology and equipment, ergonomic ease of use too often goes the other way and, ironically enough, that could lead to a distracted driver requiring the use of lane-keep assistance or AEB.
The Commodore offers a blind-spot alert and lane-departure warning, and the latter is subtle in operation and useful on the freeway, but not so much when attempting to clip an apex on a country road. Behold! A button on the steering wheel turns it off.
A standard head-up display requires no entering of sub menus to adjust – the display button and height toggle are to the right of the steering wheel – while accessing the Competitive ESC is a simple press of the button beside the transmission shifter.
The touchscreen can be slow to engage, but its combination of on-screen functions and physical buttons is flawless. Particularly with a firmly suspended car, flicking between audio and nav is easier with buttons, while changing destination, zooming in and out, or accessing a new Pandora app channel is a cinch. And the Bose audio system pumps up nicely in this full-sized large car.
And this 4.9-metre-long sedan really is a large car. Thankfully, however, the current Holden also doesn’t just offer an enormous amount of passenger space, but among the most comfortable and supportive seating around – especially at the rear.
Families may continue to flock to big-on-the-outside SUVs, but their typically crammed-in seating invariably fails to offer the extraordinarily deep and nicely tilted bench, and body-hugging backrest, of a Commodore’s rear. Shoulder space for three adults is – now that Falcon’s gone – simply the benchmark for the price.
With brilliant seats, a big boot, acres of space, great ergonomics, a solid audio system and some ‘al fresco’ sunroof driving, the SS V Redline still feels resolved and accomplished inside without ever promising to – or needing to – feel ‘premium’.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 304kW/570Nm 6.2 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: 1200kg (unbraked), 2100kg (braked)
When Holden ditched the 6.0-litre (as in the VE and VF Series I) for the 6.2-litre V8 in the Series II, the SS V Redline became a more ‘balanced’ offering as a result.
Previously the chassis felt tighter than the engine did punchy in this 1800kg sedan. But with power moving from 260kW to 304kW at 6000rpm, torque up from 517Nm to 570Nm at 4400rpm, and a bi-modal quad exhaust added along with a pipe – literally – that funnels engine noise into the cabin, all wrongs are righted.
Holden claims 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds, which bests a similarly priced Volkswagen Golf R hot hatchback by a tenth, and a similarly sized but more expensive Passat 206TSI by six tenths.
The throaty bark and angry snarl of the ‘LS3’ V8 is as charismatic as the VW duo’s four cylinders aren’t, although its fuel usage can be extreme. We saw 17.5L/100km in the city, but a decent 13L/100km after freeway, country and twisty-road driving.
Even the six-speed automatic is excellent, with an intelligent Sport adaptive mode and paddleshifters that work a treat. However, sometimes it can be caught slurring shifts – it’s never dual-clutch-quick – and that’s enough for us to pick the manual.
Holden’s FE3 sports suspension setup is so good that it arguably negates the need for the adaptive suspension reserved for the limited edition models and poached from HSV. These days that can’t be said about many cars wearing 19-inch tyres.
There is an inherent firmness to the tune and plenty of coarse-chip road rumble emanating up from the 245mm-front and 275mm-rear (versus 245mm all round in SS) Bridgestone Potenza RE050 rubber.
However, not once does the suspension feel harsh or crashy. Over undulations it ‘breathes’ with the road and through more major corrugations it displays a silkiness that transcends its Sports Sedan nameplate.
Similarly, the sharp steering tune belies the sheer size of this car, and yet there’s a wonderful mid-weighted consistency and accuracy through the helm that helps make threading the Redline through city streets and country corners equally enjoyable.
The sedan gently rolls onto its outside back tyre through sweeping corners in classic Commodore fashion – more so than with the more firmly suspended rear of the Sportwagon and ute – while begging the driver to apply throttle for an early exit.
In tight corners the front-end doesn’t exactly feel sharp, but thanks to the great steering and fine grip the driver can simply balance out any potential understeer by revelling in the sharp throttle response and progressive application of torque to the rear wheels. There’s no boosty turbo here.
The ESC tune is also, in a word, perfect. Over a drenched Oxley Highway, in northern NSW, it would remain silent if driving smoothly. Keep things close to neutral and it won’t step in; get greedy, and it will calmly tweak your line.
It really is quite difficult to imagine a more complete large sedan for the price.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 35.06 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Six airbags including dual-front, front-side and full-length curtain, ABS, ESC, auto park assist, front and rear parking sensors with automatic park assistance, reverse-view camera, forward collision alert, reverse traffic alert, blind-spot monitor and lane-departure warning.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Servicing: Lifetime capped-price servicing program includes annual/15,000km checks at an extremely affordable cost of $239 for each of the first four dealer visits until four years or 60,000km.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
A buyer would have to ascend to a BMW 330i at $70K to access a similarly quick, and dynamically engaging sedan. A Superb or Passat 206TSI offer broadly equal performance, with a greater ‘sports luxury’ vibe, but without the driver focus or space. It takes a Lexus of all things – the naturally aspirated V8, rear-drive, auto GS F – at three times the price to match the SS V Redline for dynamic panache.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Sheer thirst and a not-so-premium cabin are genuinely the only downsides with the Holden Commodore SS V Redline. If there’s a preference for a more soothing ride, then the Calais V is also near-identically priced without the sports suspension, but with heated front seats and an electrically adjustable passenger seat.
For driver connection, chassis resolve, steering and ESC fluency, engine character and crisp response, this Holden is a masterpiece. Sure, something like a Golf R is smaller and dartier, while a Passat is quieter, a 330i is more agile and alert, and a GS F offers greater quality – but none balance price, space and drivability as well.
Especially for a brand and model perhaps intrinsically linked to ‘Straya’ clichés, the SS V Redline transcends them all with globally competitive sophistication.
Finally, this Australian car is ‘world class’. Sadly, though, it’s not long for this world
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