This test has been a long time coming and we were worried the car wouldn't live up to the hype, with all the banter around that the SSV is basically a budget HSV R8. We were relieved to say that the big Holden totally lived up to the hype.
First I want to get off my chest the sense of loss I feel now that we've spent some time with one of the last Australian V8 Commodores - It's a true blue Aussie through and through.
Parent company GM decided to pull the plug on local manufacturing, with Commodore production ceasing at the end of 2017. Now with the end in sight, Holden is building a brilliant car which should have been available five years ago. Why step up now to show us how good Aussie ingenuity can be when it's too late?
I am proud of the latest Commodore and glad that Holden decided to cease manufacture on a high note, though. I'm just wondering if the standard of current Commodore were available years ago, might we be painting a different picture today?
The 2017 Commodore SSV Redline edition is a world class car and at its price point , nothing touches it - period! You can keep your BMW's, Audi's and Merc's - I'll sit happily in my SSV, knowing it's balls-out, more awesome.
Now, before you all get your noses out of joint, it's all relative. What other car possess such refinement and performance for the dollar? With some haggling, for around $58,500 you could see yourself behind the wheel of an SSV, including insurance* and five-year factory warranty. By comparison, for around $90,000 you could get a new BMW 520d turbo diesel... yawn! So, let's be clear, to get anywhere near what the SSV Redline offers, you're looking at tossing out $130,000 for a much higher end BMW 5 series. See what I mean?
*Included insurance is a time limited special promotion offered by the Holden dealer network.
Rant over: let's talk about the SSV.
The Pick Up:
To be honest, we weren't sure what to expect with the SSV Redline? We'd all heard they were good... but how good really? When we arrived at City Holden Adelaide, Rob and Louis gave us the nod and had car and keys waiting for us. Seriously, these guys are champs and we can only say good things about them. Definitely on the Christmas card list.
The first thing that struck us about the Redline was its presence. It's not just a tarted up Commodore. Colour can make or break visual appeal, and Holdens current colour range is all winners. Especially classy was our ride, all in Heron White. For my money, I'd also seriously consider the Nitrate Silver and the self-appealing Jungle Green, which screams, "look at me". Sitting on 19" black alloy wheels which starkly contrast our white exterior and those beautiful red Brembo brake callipers standing out like a pair of proverbials, the SSV immediately looked raring to go. It was all staunch and snort. You can elect to have the lairy-boy wing spoiler which wouldn't look out of place on a V8 Supercar but the subtle rear lip spoiler is suitably restrained - it just looks good.
The SSV Redline body kit adds edge to its posture; the chunky rear diffuser, striking in semi-matt black and its quad-cannon exhaust totally look the business and it's complimented with the Redline Edition blacked-out, panoramic sunroof. The rear brake lights and indicators provide a menacing stare for cars following. The gaping blacked out front grills and fully functional bonnet vents suggest this car requires deep lungfuls of air for the lusty V8 to do its best work. There is no questioning its intent - this is a balls-out, kick you in the crotch, badass muscle car.
From the outside, it's a winner then; fit and finish are remarkably high quality, panel gaps and shut lines are very consistent and the paintwork, faultless. The car looks built to last, giving you that reassuringly solid feeling when you open and close the doors.
The interior also won't be embarrassed by its Euro rivals. As you'd expect from its size, there is bucket loads of room for both front and rear passengers. The all leather seating fits the character of the SSV and the front pews are particularly comfortable. For the driver; an 8-way power adjustable seat so it's not hard to find a seating position that makes you feel connected. Surfaces, for the most part, are high quality although there are a few odd hard and scratchy bits but they are forgivable. As well as the leather strewn about, there's a suede-like material used on the dash and some of the door trim, it looks good and feels so nice – if you've got kids, make sure they haven't got sticky chocolate fingers, cos they'll be all over it. There are hints of carbon fibre in the dash inserts, on the steering wheel bezel and on the centre console. Definitely in keeping with the SS nature... and it looks cool.
The steering wheel looks similar to that used throughout the Holden range and that's not to say it's unattractive. With its flat bottom and chunky feel, it certainly looks the part. On the steering arms are ancillary controls such as Bluetooth, cruise control, audio, lane departure warning and front collision alert. It's all intuitive and straight forward to use.
The cabin ergonomics, on the whole, are up there with the competition and the instrument binnacle manages to look both retro and contemporary at the same time. The analogue dials are large and very clear and the included central information display screen serve the driver well. The central information display can cycle through various status screens such as; real-time fuel consumption, current trip distance, average speed and so on. For most of our driving, I left it set as the digital speed display.
There is an extensive list of other nifty features too:
An adjustable colour heads up display showing engine and road speed
Rear cross traffic alert
Remote vehicle start (available w. automatic transmission only)
Push button ignition
Forward collision alert
Lane departure warning
Automatic park assist
Powered side mirrors
Dual-zone fully-automatic air conditioning
Led daytime running lights
As you can see it's a comprehensive list but that's not all – it's more testament to why the SSV Redline is such good value. Infotainment is governed again by the Holden MyLink system which has reached a level of maturity, sophistication and simplicity which the Europeans could learn a thing or two about. It's a joy to use and I wish we saw more cars fitted with this straightforward technology which should ideally be considered standard.
Minor niggles? The audio system sound quality isn't great. It's serviceable but an audiophile will not write home about it. I also found the engine stop/start button position naff. It would have been better positioned on the right side of the steering wheel, and lower down. Where it is now, is awkward to use.
Minor niggles aside, you'll forget them all once the big V8 fires up... Good god, how can that delicious exhaust note be legal?
The SSV Redline comes standard with sports bi-modal exhaust, a carryover from the HSV parts bin. It barks, pops and farts like some wild thing. You can have it in quiet mode, but really... why would you? It's utterly addictive and you'll find yourself continually looking for excuses to give the throttle a prod just to unleash the roar.
Day 1: First Drive
As we steadily gave it the beans through the Heysen tunnels with the windows down, we experienced what can only be described as aural bliss. The soundtrack which the SSV belts out isn't manufactured and the first time it barks on overrun will have you jumping out of your seat... sweet jeezuz. For any car nut, it's more than just an eargasm. But I digress.
The SSV Redline's most lasting impression is its dual nature of combining both dynamic sports performance with comfort. A claim made by many manufacturers, but one which so few deliver. The SSV Redline, however, does it with ease.
This thing will lope along plushly, leaving you without a care in the world if that's the way you want to travel. The ride is so compliant and the suspension setup in regular stop-start traffic or highway cruising will simply have you scratching your head. How'd they manage to get the ride so good? I mean, really good.
As with our test vehicle, the six-speed automatic transmission can be left in 'set and forget' mode, sure it may not be the technical wizardry as we see fitted to the Euro crowd, but it's gear changes under normal traffic conditions are so buttery smooth, and all but imperceptible.
It's a beautiful sunny day so we pause at the Blumberg Birdwood Pub for a cool drink and a chat about the car. After some banter and nitpicking about our first impressions, we idle down the road again and make some changes.
Sports Mode selected - click goes the seatbelt...
Then the words were spoken, "Hold on to something"...
... Hammer down – and all hell breaks loose.
The ferocity and complete change in nature make you realise this thing is Jekyll and Hyde – it's an animal and it wants to tear your head off. Give the Redline the full beans and you'll be gobsmacked at just how fast this 304kW naturally aspirated V8 is. You can dust off 0-100km/h in under five seconds - again at its price point, that's amazing.
Let's clarify Sports Mode/Active Select: Set the transmission to Active Select and you're in Sports mode – simple. This completely changes the ride and substantially firms up the suspension and allows you to use the paddle shifters mounted either side of the steering wheel. While no one is going to claim that the 6-speed auto is as quick as the 8-speed ZF transmission fitted to that which is popular with the Europeans, it's bloody great fun. It will hold gears longer, change with more authority and pretty much do as commanded – ferocious, and yet still compliant, like a well-mannered fire-breathing dragon – hell, they seem to be all the rage these days.
If you don't want to have permanent sports shifting but need to give it a shove, just leave the shifter in regular mode and engage temporary sports mode at any time by tapping one of the paddle shifters; doing so will indicate sports mode on the centre screen, giving you instant access to temporary carnage for as long as you're doing your finest PlayStation moves. Leave the paddle shifters unattended for 7 seconds and the car will return to nanna-mode.
So, in a straight line the SSV is a real tour-de-force... but what about the twisty bits? For a car its size and weight (1758kg), its agility belies its dimensions. While not a scalpel like a Subaru WRX for instance, it gets the job done remarkably. It's fair to say that you'll immediately notice she's a little soft in the corners, so don't get overconfident unless you want to get her sideways.
Making up for what it lacks in finesse with sheer brute horsepower, it's more then, like a meat cleaver... ohh happy carnage. The result may not be as pretty but as any muscle car owner will tell you, you'll never have more fun. Just remember when you're hard at it, torturing your tyres, you'd best factor in the cost of replacing them.
Brakes - they are phenomenal. Fitted with Brembos front and rear, the stopping power will take your breath away, which pretty much sums up the SSV Redline.
So we have the bi-modal exhaust from the HSV parts bin, the LS3 V8 engine, Brembo brakes and sports tuned suspension. Is it a cut-price R8? Hell yes!
Day 2: The Wife Test
To prove just how good the Commodore SSV Redline is, I gave it to my wife to drive. My better half, bless her heart, couldn't give a rat's fat clacker about cars. She just wants them to be practical and comfortable and she wouldn't know a Ferrari Enzo from a Fiat 500. And that's fine, so I handed her the SSV keys as we toddled off for a drive. I knew then what was coming and it didn't take long before I heard the rant. You see, my regular weapon of choice is Japanese in origin, very quick and is sports tuned to the n'th degree. Whilst it's every bit as quick as the Commodore, let's just say refinement isn't a top priority.
"Ooh, I like this car, this is nice... it's very smooth... aaand it's comfortable. Why didn't you buy this instead of that horrible bobble-head car of yours and... blah blaaah blahh". I was left cringing and nodding my head, praying for a quick death... please, let it end.
We hit open road. Said correct wife puts her foot down - after a few colourful expletives she re-iterated, and I quote. "This is so much better than your car"... Ouch, can we just go home now?
So, it's a real example of where the SSV Redline sits amongst its peers; it is just so much better than so much of what's out there and for considerably less than I spent on my Japanese wunderkind. If I were to buy today, the SSV would have to be top of my list.
Let's put it simply: It's the last pureblood muscle which Holden will make and finally the Holden we wanted to have. But moreover... this is the best SSV you will ever buy.
2016 Holden Commodore SS V Redline VF Series II
ENGINE: 6.2litre Naturally aspirated Pushrod 90dg V8 2 valves per cylinder
MAX POWER: 304kW (408bhp) @ 6000rpm
MAX TORQUE: 570Nm (420lb ft) @ 4400rpm
TRANSMISSION: rear wheel drive with 6 speed sports automatic with active select or 6 speed manual
FUEL: Premium Unleaded 98RON
COMBINED FUEL CYCLE AVERAGE: 12.9 (L/100km)
WHEELS: 19" Alloys, Rear 275/35 R19, Front 245/40 R19
KERB WEIGHT: 1758kg
0 to 100km/h : 4.9 seconds
TOP SPEED: 240km/h (speed limited)