Holden launches a warrior

By Grant Edwards

The new Commodore is proving to be an Aussie battler, says Grant Edwards

The Holden VF Commodore SS V Redline. Photo / Supplied
The Holden VF Commodore SS V Redline. Photo / Supplied

The new Holden VF Commodore has whetted the appetite of buyers and demand for some models is outstripping supply in Australia.

Among the hottest properties are the range-topping Calais V and SS-V Redline.

"This has overachieved our forecast," said Holden Australia's large cars marketing manager, Kristian Aquilina.

The demand for the Redline variant flies in the face of doomsayers.

This V8 powerhouse is tuned for performance, honed and tweaked at the racetrack. With firmer suspension, better brakes and a split size wheel package, it's designed to exploit the Commodore's dynamics.

It's available in sedan, ute and sportwagon body styles and my stint at Phillip Island this week proved the range is more than capable on the track, as well as the road.

Interior improvements deliver European-esque finishes and features. Redlines and the SS-V derivatives receive some pretty nice kit. Two-tone leather and suede on the seats and dash set the tone, with the MyLink colour touch-screen system a new highlight.

But this model also has the head-up display, which projects information like speed and sat nav directions onto the windscreen just below the driver's eyeline. It is brilliant technology and a great way to keep a close eye on your speed - especially with that hulking bent eight beneath the skin.

Sports seats with wonderful bolstering befit its athletic abilities, as does the thick sports steering wheel, which makes you want to hunt for some bends soon after slotting into the pilot's seat. Head, leg and knee room is like any Commodore - excellent, with ample space for five adults.

Walking the tightrope of performance and daily driver is the task before the SS-V Redline. It has been polished and tested on drag strips and racetracks by Holden's best and most passionate engineers, including at the famed Nurburgring in Germany.

This thing is a true weapon.

While it has the same six-litre powerplant as the SS variant, the Redline gains improvements in ride and handling.

For the first time from Holden there are split tyre sizes (245/40 R19 front tyres and 275/35 R19 tyres at the rear), while it is also armed with firmer FE3 chassis, with the biggest stabiliser bar ever used on a Commodore, launch control in manual models to get off the line faster and a Competitive Mode for racing conditions.

The engineers focused on three components with the Redline - stop, go and turn. The anchors have been improved with larger Brembo brakes, there has never been much doubting the shove from the bent eight, while new electrical power steering is spot-on.

Our brief stint around Phillip Island proved this is the best mainstream Commodore ever produced. Flat and brimming with confidence, the burly Redline has some savage straight-line speed, yet also manages to dance with finesse around challenging fast bends.

Competitive Mode is perfect for those who like to get the most from their car via track days. Public roads don't enable drivers to explore the Redline's true abilities and those who flex its muscles in a controlled environment will be rewarded with a car that is brilliant fun to drive.

By pushing the traction control buttons twice, the competitive blood is pumped into the Redline veins and provides greater steering weight, while also relaxing the stability control restrictions to enable some rear-end slide.

We also gave launch control a workout with some drags down the Phillip Island straight. With launch control, you engage the clutch, stamp on the throttle flat-out and it automatically holds revs at about 4000rpm. Dump the clutch and it takes off in a linear manner with limited wheel spin and style reminiscent of the best drivers in the business.

Like the Calais-V, the Redline goes without little. Standard equipment includes the latest safety gizmos like forward collision alert, lane departure warning and head-up display. Other key features are a premium Bose audio system, Brembo brakes, forged 19-inch alloys, FE3 sports suspension package, leather trim and a colour touch-screen.

Plus it has the ability to stream music and podcasts via in-built applications using smartphone internet connectivity.

The V8 can still be a thirsty beast, and given its burble and the lure of its roar under acceleration, achieving the official average fuel consumption of 11.8 litres/100km would be fanciful. These are also the widest wheels and tyres ever fitted to a mainstream Holden, so be prepared to pay more when it is time for replacement rubber.

The beauty of the Redline is that it can lap the track with prowess, then pick up the kids and the groceries on the way home.

Like all Commodores, the rear seats do not fold, which is annoying if you want to transport bulky items. But the raw V8 performance, outstanding cornering ability and a brilliant features list combine to deliver a package that is well under $60,000 on the road and it's difficult to fault.

Get your hands on it

Holden NZ has the 6-litre, V8 SS-V Redline for sale from $74,490 with the sportswagon model priced at $77,190. The sedan gets the 9-speaker Bose premium audio with an optional sunroof.

- NZ Herald

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