So many performance Commodores over the last 20 years haven’t cut it as track cars. Brakes that wilted under pressure, boiling power-steering fluid, oil temps off the scale, and alarming axle tramp under hard braking were all serious enough to make even the most mechanically unsympathetic driver wince. But those days are over.
Considering its family-sedan DNA, 2010’s VE Series II ‘Redline’ was a highly capable track car, but the 2013 VF version has seriously polished that car’s dynamic focus and track ability.
“We wanted to give Redline an identity ... to make it stand for something,” said Andrew Holmes, Holden’s Program Engineering Manager, at the VF Redline’s Phillip Island launch. Yep, that’s right – so confident is Holden of its new VF SS-V Redline that it launched the ultimate (sub-HSV) Commodore at Australia’s ultimate racetrack.
This time, the changes go far beyond just brakes, suspension geometry and dampers. The brakes themselves are carry-over – big 355mm front discs (up from SS’s 324mm) with four-piston Brembo calipers, and 324mm ventilated rears – but VF Redline gets a new brake pedal, booster and master cylinder, increasing braking stiffness by 50 percent.
Tyres remain Bridgestone Potenza RE050As, but the rears now measure 275/35R19, mounted on forged-alloy rims that are sexy gloss-black in some colours (white, red, orange, silver) and daggy polished silver with the rest. Holden claims the brake and tyre upgrades reduce the VF Redline’s stopping distance from 100km/h by 2.3 metres.
Chassis-wise, Redline gets a retuned FE3 set-up, which, over the FE2-suspended SS and SS-V, gains larger-bore front struts with rebound springs, firmer dampers, bigger anti-roll bars, and an additional ‘Competitive’ tune for the electric power steering.
The stability control also scores a Competitive mode (activated by pressing the ESC button twice) that retains the electronic safety net if things get ugly, but allows enough slip that you can actually power-oversteer the Redline out of Phillip Island’s Honda hairpin and, as long as you’re smooth, do so with almost no ESC intrusion. It imperceptibly nibbles at the edges.
As a track car, the Redline’s a cracker. Lap after lap, its gutsy V8 and positive-shifting Tremec six-speed manual copped continual abuse, while Phillip Island’s punishing speeds failed to overwhelm its brakes.
The electric steering’s Competitive mode is impressive, too, with weighting that treads a fine line between crisp and meaty.
And then there’s the chassis balance, squatting on the outside rear through corner exits, using the reduced roll angles and enhanced footprint to thrust this hot Commodore to credibility.
Apparently, more than 50 percent of VF SS-V orders have been for the Redline, and there’s already a waiting list. After our Phillip Island thrash, you can see why. The Redline turns what is already a great car (the standard SS-V) into a seriously desirable, multi-talented one.