WE’VE been big fans of the Commodore SS V Redline since it broke cover in VE form back in 2010, but for various reasons it’s never made it to Performance Car of the Year.
In the final selection process it’s usually been pipped by an equivalent HSV product, but thanks to fortuitous timing and a big effort from Holden’s PR team, we managed to score a VF II Redline for PCOTY weeks ahead of the local launch.
On the face of it, sixth mightn’t seem anything to sing and dance about, but look what this boofy $53K V8 sedan is wedged between: a $130K V8 sports coupe from one of the world’s biggest manufacturers and the fastest front-drive car around the ’Ring. Make no mistake, Holden’s new performance hero is a brilliant achievement.
Okay, so there are no prizes for guessing that, even in isolation, it still feels like a big, heavy car. Drive it with the same aggression as you would a GT3 or AMG GT S and it’s going to get a bit sulky, but dial it back a little and it offers everything you could want from a rear-drive sports sedan. The front end is excellent, with well-weighted and accurate steering that’s even relatively talkative now Holden’s dialled out the on-centre vagueness that initially afflicted the VF.
The brakes are strong, the chassis is balanced and there’s plenty of grip front and rear; you can push in the Commodore without having to make allowances like in the XR8. Then again, the chassis has always been a Redline strong point. What the installation of the 304kW/570Nm 6.2-litre LS3 V8 has done is even up the grip-to-grunt equation.
With all that extra torque and a shorter final drive the Commodore now rips through the first three gears with far greater ferocity, all the while making a noise that’s downright rude. The shift is better, too; it’s still no Honda S2000, but you can change quickly reasonably safe in the knowledge that you’ll end up in the next gear rather than floating somewhere in between.
The gripes are few. The blingy chrome on the dash and centre console is blinding on sunny days, and the seats have too little lateral support when driving hard. On track in particular you’re too often left clinging on to the steering wheel, which is a shame when the rest of the car handles continued circuit work without a sweat.
‘Bittersweet’ was an oft-heard word when discussing the VF II Redline. It seems such a shame that having finally got the product bang-on, we have less than 24 months to enjoy it before stumps are pulled. Whatever Holden pulls out of the bag for the next Commodore, it’s unlikely to be this entertaining, this shouty or this smoky. Buy one while you can.
Engine: 6162cc V8, OHV, 16v
Power: 304kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 570Nm @ 4400rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Brakes: 355mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers (f); 360mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers
Suspension: struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar (r)
Wheels: 19 x 8.5-inch (f); 19 x 9.0-inch (r)
Tyres: 245/40 R19 (f) 275/35 R19 (r) Bridgestone Potenza RE050A
0-100km/h: 5.00sec (8th)
0-400m: 13.10sec @ 179.40km/h (8th)
Lap Time: 1:39.5sec (8th)
Dylan Campbell: 7th
“LS3 is like a dash of tabasco to the whole SS shebang. Now one tasty proposition indeed”
David Morley: 5th
“What a shame this can’t go on forever. This is the best SS Commodore. Ever”
Scott Newman: 6th
“For what it is and what it’s meant to be, very close to perfect. LS3 engine the icing on the cake”
Tim Robson: 6th
“Gearbox is the best it’s ever been, the front end is immense, brakes are spot on – still a very handy device”
Warren Luff: 7th
“Doesn’t feel like a 1700kg four-door sedan. Clearly not just a few badges with this update”