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2013 Holden Commodore SSV Review

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Car makers these days pay a great deal of attention on lower emissions, better fuel efficiency, reduced weight and smaller displacement engines. Of course at the top of the crop there are still big powered V8 saloons but they don’t change hands for anything under six figures. Fortunately, that’s not completely true because for less than $50k, you can have the 2013 Holden Commodore SSV.

Along with its V6-powered sibling, the SV6, the SSV is the performance line of the new Holden VF Commodore range. It benefits from a bolder styling including sports front bumper with integrated LED daytime running lights, side skirts, new headlights, beefier rear bumper, a subtle boot lid spoiler and 19-inch wheels. Under the new aluminium bonnet sits a monstrous 6.0-litre V8 engine channeling 260 kW of power and 517 Nm of torque (270 kW/530Nm for the manual) to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic or manual transmission. It packs enough grunt to finish the century spin in just 5.9 seconds (tested).

All those, plus the space for five adults and a sizable boot, for the price of a hot hatch.

In a world plague with ever rising fuel prices and increasingly strict emission standards, the SSV’s biggest worry, is not any rival but its own imminent extinction, which comes as an even bigger worry for us petrol heads because, truth to be told, the new SSV is one damn good sports sedan.

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The V8 in the SSV is carried over from the previous model but has undergone intensive tuning to improve its refinement and efficiency. The result is a V8 as smooth as those found in BMW, Mercedes or Infiniti, even though it still uses push-rod and with less power. It is also better on fuel with 0.7L reduction in average fuel consumption compared to the old unit, bringing the figure down to 11.5L/100km. Despite this, it is still not fuel efficient by all means as in the real world, the figure is closer to 14.8L/100km with about 65% urban driving. However, cruising at a constant speed on the freeway, the SSV’s fuel consumption hovers around 7.0L/100km, which is pretty respectable for a big V8. Not surprising, as the mill ticks just over 1,500 rpm at 100 km/h.

The SSV’s thirst for fuel is really the only major problem with it because, plant your foot into the carpet and drive it like it’s meant to be driven, the SSV just comes alive.

Its steering is quick and responsive with excellent feedback. It has just the right amount of weight, too, without being artificially heavy. The FE2 sport tuned suspension has a good balance between comfort and sportiness. If you task the SSV to haul the family around, it will happily accommodate your request and assume the role of a quiet and comfortable cruiser. But head into the twisting, climbing, plunging roads around north east Victoria and focus on the driving, the SSV completely changes its character. It corners with great composure and the grip from 245mm wide Bridgestone tyres is phenomenal. Even in the wet.

If you carry too much speed into a corner, the SSV does feel a little nose heavy and exhibit slight understeer, but dial in more turning angle, tap deeper on the throttle and the rear end will loosen to point the nose back into line. So for those who stick to the SSV’s preferred plan of attack, which is to brake going into a corner and power on exit, the SSV, despite weighing a hefty 1,740 kg, feels surprisingly controllable and communicative. Mid corner bumps that send other large sports sedan off course and scrambling for traction are absorbed and dispatched, but not kept completely obscured from the driver.

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Just like the harmonic integration of all the other aforementioned components, the SSV’s brakes blend in well with the package, delivering strong and persistent braking performance with good pedal feel. The other important piece of the drivetrain, the six-speed automatic transmission, is smooth but can be a quicker. In Sport mode, sporty shifting which shifts at higher revs and hold a gear longer, only activates when spirited driving is detected. A smart feature as it saves you from having to go back and forth in Sport and Normal mode if you encounter on and off traffic while hammering in the twisties.

The SSV’s auto box is also one of very few which has the correct gear lever movement for manual shifting: pull to up shift and push to down shift. But it’s still a shame there are no pedal shifters.

Perhaps the main thing lacking from the otherwise rewarding driving experience is the lack of character in the SSV’s exhaust note. It certainly deserves more noise especially in the top end of the rev range, after all it’s bolted to a V8.

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The SSV’s cabin, dashboard’s design and finishes, complete with a crisp 8-inch touchscreen, wouldn’t look out of place in cars costing a lot more. The leather clad sport seats not only look good but are also very comfortable and the thick-rimmed leather wrap flat-bottom steering wheel is one of the best I have ever come across. It feels soft and great to hold. The Alcantara-styled fabric upholstery on the dash and upper door trim also give the cabin a premium feel.

Sadly, like the rest of the VF range the massive A-pillars in SSV seem to have been carried over from the VE, creating annoying blind spots that could hide a bus. Not surprisingly however, the SSV has acres of head and leg room, both in the front and at the back. Lots of thoughtfully laid out storage are dotted around the cabin. Should that be insufficient, there’s a large 496-litre of cargo capacity at the back.

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The SSV’s generous list of standard features include Auto Park Assist that automatically steers the car into a parking spot using a series of cameras and sensors. It is a welcome addition to a large car like the SSV. Additionally, it is fitted with dual-zone climate control, rear view camera, reverse traffic alert, automatic release electric park brake, Hill Hold Control and Hill Start Assist, electrically adjusted front seats and Remote vehicle start (auto only).

Verdict

Our Score: 4.5/5

A few months back when Holden unveiled the new VF Commodore range, the company claimed the new model is “the most technologically advanced Commodore ever built in Australia.” After a week behind the wheel of the new 2013 VF Commodore SSV, I don’t doubt that statement, which I think is even more relevant to the SSV. It’s not only the best value rear-wheel-drive V8-powered saloon, but is now also a true sports sedan.

 

Price (Excl. on-roads): From: $47,690 Automatic (as tested ), Manual: $45,490
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Engine: 6.0-litre 8-cylinder V8 petrol
Automatic: 260kW @ 5,600rpm, 517Nm @ 4,400rpm; rear-wheel drive (tested)
Manual: 270kW @ 5,600rpm, 530Nm @ 4,400rpm; rear-wheel drive
Transmission: 6-speed automatic (tested) / 6-speed manual
Combined Fuel Consumption: Automatic: 12.3L/100km (Tested: 14.8L/100km), Manual: 11.5L/100km
0-100km/h (seconds): 5.9 (tested)
Body: 4-door sedan
Safety: 5-star ANCAP
Dimensions (mm): Length: 4,966, Width: 1,898, Height: 1,471, Wheelbase: 2,915
Kerb Weight (kg): 1,754
Towing Capacity (kg): 2,100 (Braked)

Competitors: Ford XR6 Turbo, Chrysler 300 SRT8 Core

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