SSV Redline: Best V8 Commdore yet?

By Matt Greenop

The SSV Redline Edition is a prime example of what can be achieved given time, talent and budget. Photo / Supplied
The SSV Redline Edition is a prime example of what can be achieved given time, talent and budget. Photo / Supplied

With fiscal wolves circling Australia's car industry, you'd be forgiven for thinking the future of the great Aussie eight looks shaky.

This week shift-workers were laid off at Holden's Elizabeth plant in South Australia, and on top of that there's talk that the Blue Oval's eight-pot offering could be replaced with a global platform favoured by the bean-counters and, shock horror, front-wheel drive.

That's just not right.

This comes as Holden has arguably built its best V8 outside the fire-breathing HSV catalogue.

The Redline Edition ventures into an area previously reserved for the General's Aussie showpiece, with chromed-up 19-inch rims, uprated suspension and, more importantly, massive brakes, to make the SSV feel more racy and far less taxi.

The Series II VE SSV is an able performer, although hard stops on the stock brakes provided a reminder that there's over 1700kg to haul up.

The two-pots never inspired much confidence, and while they weren't exactly lacking, the brilliant Brembo four-pot calipers are absolutely fantastic, with the mere thought of slapping a size 10 on the brake pedal bringing the big Aussie to an easy stop.

When you've got 260kW of six-litre V8 under the bonnet, it's nice to have the extra assurance that comes with the Brembo name. Suspension changes have tightened the car's stance, particularly with the right foot planted, with larger stabiliser bars and upgraded shock absorbers letting the SSV chew up open road quickly and cleanly.

Despite the Redline moniker, the six-litre does feel like it's choking once the needle hits its 5700rpm ceiling, with a noticeable flat spot before it picks another ratio from the six-speed auto transmission.

Using the sequential style shifter definitely helps keep things in check, with 517Nm of torque for the taking, or flicking off the electronic stability control and applying fistsful of opposite lock also works, bravery notwithstanding, although it's frowned upon outside a racetrack.

This sort of power and performance comes at a cost - while Holden quotes combined fuel consumption at 12.3l/100km, a fairly even split of motorway, Auckland urban nightmare and open road returned 15.3l/100km during my week with the car. That's with the clever Active Fuel Management which seamlessly switches off four cylinders when they're not needed.

The Redline Editioncomes at a cost. While the SSV is $71,590, the Redline is a mere fiver off the magic $75,000 mark. Is it worth it? Yes.

Creature comforts are more in line with the Commodore's foreign competition, with a stand-out being the excellent Holden iQ mission control centre. It's very easily paired with a capable cellphone to allow hands-free Bluetooth calls via the stereo system, iPod integration, and a reasonably simple navigation system - you can even rip CDs to an internal flash drive.

The touch-screen display is also quite cool, rendered as an old analogue tuner when in radio mode, and shows useful information like how much signal and battery your connected mobile phone has.

The Commodore has certainly matured over time, and while V8s disappear like the dinosaurs their critics accuse them of being, the SSV Redline Edition is a prime example of what can be achieved given time, talent and budget.

Who knows? if the miserly accountants of Motor City get their way, the future of one of Australia's best-known exports might be more Volt than V8.

- NZ Herald

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