I heard this car was being retired from the press fleet with almost 13,000 k’s on the clock. It would have been remiss of me not to take her around the block for one final victory lap. I should declare now that the SSV Redline is my personal favourite Australian car
With this many k’s and this much time under her belt, I wondered what had befallen her and what she would be like to drive now. Rather unfairly, I had been in a CRZ Honda the previous week with it’s sharp steering and sports-car like handling.
The SSV showed no signs of wear. The bodywork was pristine and the interior looked as it did 8 months ago. The engine was as silky and powerful and the auto as smooth as if they had just come off the showroom floor. Having been in Euro cars for much of the year, a few things seemed apparent in my favourite Holden. Not the least mong these is the redback-spider interior. The colours look great but the panel fit isn’t what you expect from a $62,000 car. It’s come time for Holden to up the quality of the inside to match the look of the outside. Look at the gaps where the interior panels meet each other such as the glove box and console as an example.
Also missing are fully electrically adjusted seats, auto rear-view mirror, folding side mirrors, radar cruise control, keyless entry/start and other little touches found in cheaper cars. And something I hadn’t noticed before was the red Brembo brakes are on the front wheels only. Of course the front wheels do all the steering and most of the braking, but I say again, it’s a car that costs $62,000. If you’ve never had these things then you won’t miss them but what is missing and can easily be fixed is the boot lining. There isn’t any, and when you shut the boot your either have to pull it down by gripping a filthy outside surface or by wrapping your fingers around a piece of bare metal inside the boot lid. It’s a $25 piece of trim and would finish the cargo space off with so little effort and expense. One touch that Commodore has had from day one is the boot release being a button inside the glove box. This means you can lock your good and chattels during a service. The service key doesn’t have the buttons to lock and unlock. Don’t fool yourself though as it only keeps honest folk out.
It all sounds a bit doom-and-gloom-esque but that’s the end of the bad, the rest is good which starts with the drive. Nothing, I repeat nothing, will excite you like a V8 with the possible exception of 75% off at DJ’s. While researching this story I came across a few interesting facts: the gen IV 6.0L V8 puts out 260 or 270 KW depending on the transmission whereas the HSV (Holden Special Vehicles) VS Clubsport had a 5.0L V8 with 185KW, 5KW less than the current 3.0L V6. It seems inconceivable that a small V6 has the same power as a 20 year old Holden Muscle car. How far we have come.
I remarked last time that the General has been a little too diligent under the bonnet because he has deadened almost all of the magnificent roar. The SSV ute we tested was manual and sounded like a norse god unleashing Armageddon even at idle, whereas the saloon is refined and well behaved and sounds far more demure. The canny executive who wants something a bit different will notice the Calais is almost the same car but with trim clearly aimed at someone with a softer bum. Although the SSV is not hardcore in the suspension department it still handles beautifully. My mountain pass test reveals an ability, indeed a willingness to be thrown into corners which most would only be game to take a small sporty job into at the same speed. Yes, the Commodore is also used by families to cart little dears to and from school, but since mothers found SUV’s, that job is on the decline. As Holden now longer has a muscle coupe since the cancellation of the Monaro, the four door saloon is left standing alone as the only way to have a guilty pleasure sitting in the garage which is designed and made right here in OZ.
You can console yourself with the fact that all Commodores including the massive 6.0L will run on almost pure sugar cane E85 fuel. Mind you I have never seen any for sale and wouldn’t have a clue where to get it but I’m sure I’d make the effort. Whether or not the expense in getting there could be justified is another thing altogether.
185KW HSV Clubsport 5.0L V8
The hydraulic steering gives decent road feel and the ride is soft for a hard edged muscle car. This means it’s pleasant to use in the city which is where most Australians will be using their cars. Because of the massive power and huge torque, the full size sedan feels light and nippy which is no mean feat. The highway is effortless but even then the SSV never realises its full potential because unleashing that gorgeous engine would see your license cancelled before you could say “I didn’t do it m’lud”. Indeed I lost points in this very car for doing 50 in a 40 zone. Yes, I was in a school zone in what I thought was school holidays. There were no children and it was nearly Christmas so any sane person would conclude it was not a school day but perhaps I was so smitten with my hot ride that I completely failed to notice. Like most of we gays in the village, I wouldn’t have a clue when and when isn’t school day and having to remember that then remember the times during the day when 40KPH applies, then do a quick time check all while driving in busy city traffic almost ensures a driver will split his attention. A particular part of my test drive sees 5 zones in a kilometre, 5! It is madness and surely an example of parents and teachers, and indeed the children themselves, making a driver on a main road responsible rather than the actual law breakers. In my view if the lights aren’t flashing the school zone is impossible detect.
In short, the SSV Redline is a mind bending now as the first drive last year and worth every penny. The question is where else will you get 260KW, a V8, seating for 5, comfy ride and stunning looks for under 70k? The Eurosnobs are all north of $100,000 with most being more than 150k so are no competition. In fact the only competition is Holden’s own Clubsport R8 but you’ll need to add to your budget if you want the Clubsport over the SSV Redline.
Considering the hiding the SSV would have copped at the hands of petrol-head motoring writers it has held up well. It speaks highly the build quality. Because GM is globalising its brand offerings we may not see an Aussie developed Commodore for much longer so enjoy it while you can. Its handsome, muscular, butch exterior has aged well considering its near the end of its life.
As I said at the top, the SSV remains my favourite muscle car with the Redline model being the one I’d choose every time.