Holden Commodore SS-V Review
Tony Bosworth’s Holden Commodore SS-V review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.
In a Nutshell: Holden’s Commodore SSV is a brilliant performer, offering power and practicality and at under $50,000 it’s very competitively-priced too.
Practical Motoring Says: Latest Commodore SS-V may be the last to roll off an Australian production line but don’t let that put you off buying it – this car delivers power and practicality in a keenly-priced package and we think it’s a classic.
I HAVE MY DOUBTS ABOUT BIG V8-ENGINED CARS. I think about the cost of fuel, the effect on the environment, the fact that it is very hard to find anywhere to unleash the beast – either yourself or the car – but once behind the wheel of the Holden Commodore SS-V I promise you, most of that gets sucked straight out the window.
The fact is, this car provides pleasure in spades and a lot of that is down to the train-like performance of GM’s latest version of the stonking 6.0-litre V8.
For $49,866 driveway (at the time of writing) you really get a fistful of car for the dollars and I’d be very surprised if after driving the SS-V you didn’t want to own one.
The SS-V is a totally practical five-seater with beefy six-speed manual gearbox, excellent leather seats, spacious boot, and an aggressive, wide-stance on the road. At the rear, two sets of chromed twin exhaust pipes look good and help produce a trademark V8 rumble. If you choose Fantail Orange I reckon you’ve got the complete package.
There’s no doubt the SS-V is solid and well made and the materials used are clearly of good quality. The exterior design of this latest Commodore is still very conservative but in my opinion it’s none the worse for that.
Some cars fit their drivers like a glove and you feel instantly at home. I can’t put manually-geared Commodores in that class, unfortunately, not unless you’re above average height, anyway. It demands a fair bit of wrangling with the seat position and steering wheel to get a decent position and still the fact is when you’re changing into second, and fourth, the gear lever is simply not in the best position, it’s just too far back which means your elbow bumps against the seat sides. You end up jagging your elbow, which means slower gear changes and a degree of awkwardness. This isn’t likely to be a problem for taller drivers, but hello, we’re not all six foot four.
The SS-V’s standard leather seats are amongst the very finest from any car maker, no matter what price you pay; they’re well made and tough, look like leather, (so many look like fake leather these days, which seems rather pointless…) they’re supportive and superbly comfy on a long journey. Thing is though, while the driver’s seat is electrically adjustable, the poor passenger gets to push and pull themselves manually into position.
The quality of switchgear is good and the dials are clear and easy to understand and the large central eight-inch touchscreen screen is fully featured – including a good navigation system – and it’s all easy enough to use.
One other plus for me are the normal sized door mirrors. Car door mirrors are a bit like men’s watches – they’re getting bigger and bigger, have more features embedded in them, cost more and more, and when they break you’re looking at a bill and a half. But the Commodore retains some sanity, with mirrors that are just the right size and refreshingly free of gimmicks.
The VF Commodore range features electric handbrakes coupled with hill assist to help you start off without using the handbrake on hills. I’ve never been a fan of these types of handbrakes ever since I got stranded in a Citroen one Christmas Eve at a motorway service station – the brake had locked on and the button failed – but in the Commodore you can simply accelerate to release the park brake on a hill, so that works well.
Storage is decent – there’s space for your phone, cups, keys – but it’s nothing special and certainly not class leading.
Head and legroom are all good and rear seat passengers get room to stretch their legs. Three adults will not find it wonderfully comfy on a long journey – you need the space of the Caprice for that – but it’s far from the worst out there.
Under the bonnet you’ll find Holden’s US-built 6.0-litre V8 driving to the rear wheels through the standard six-speed manual gearbox. Despite producing a whopping 270kW of power at 5600rpm and 530Nm of torque at 4400rpm, the traction/stability control works a treat. Take a corner fast and you can feel it working away, tugging gently, keeping the driving wheels from losing grip. Steering is quick, well weighted, and allows very quick turn-in.
There’s no doubt this V8 is one of the world’s best performance engines there is. You can pull strongly even in high gears and from lowish revs. Third in particular has a wide and useful spread. Frankly, the biggest problem is keeping your acceleration in check – the fact is, the SS-V is all too quickly up to and then beyond any legal speed limit. And what a noise!
Though this latest V8 sounds a little less burbly than some of its predecessors, and the sound proofing is perhaps a tad more than I’d like, it still barks when you push it, and it never, ever feels strained.
Brakes work extremely well. You don’t get the Brembos found in the slightly hotter Redline version, but any small difference over the standard SS-V is honestly not going to bother anyone except a highly attuned race driver.
Safety gets an ANCAP five-star rating, thanks to features like ABS brakes, lane change alert, collision alert and Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Electronic Brake Assist (EBA), Traction Control System (TCS), Brake pedal release system, and Automatic Locking Retractor (ALR) for the rear seatbelts.
The SS-V also has a standard reversing camera viewed through the big screen which doubles as the Holden MyLink portal. Standard equipment includes dual zone climate control, Bluetooth audio streaming with enhanced voice control, tilt and slide sunroof, a nine-speaker Bose sound system, and keyless entry with push-button start.
Fuel consumption is never going to be the Holden Commodore SS-V’s friend, though to be fair I wouldn’t call it poor considering the performance on tap. I achieved 14.1L/100km and that reflects a mix of all sorts of driving with periods of flat-out performance, and some trundling around too. Realistically it’s what most drivers are likely to see.