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GALLERY: Holden Commodore Ss

Holden's VF Commodore SS 6.0-litre V8/six-speed manual costs $41,990. The six-speed auto SS is priced at $44,190. Over and above base Evoke specification (see the VF Commodore test on p56), the SS, like the 3.6-litre SV6, gets 18-inch alloys, LED running lights, sports seats, a body kit and spoiler. SS-V specification, at $45,490 (man) and $47,690 (auto), is $9800- $9600 less than its VE II equivalent. It includes leather upholstery, 19- inch alloys and navigation. SS-V Redline, at $51,490/$53,690, adds Brembo brakes, forged 19-inch alloys, a head-up display, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, Bose sound and a sunroof. All automatic variants are also available as the Sportwagon, at a price premium of $2000. The SS and SSV interiors are the most attractive in the VF range. You get a big, supportive, luxurious driver's seat, pukka dark trim with red lighting, plus piano black dash and fake carbon-fibre trim. It's more understated (and tasteful) than the 'bling gone berserk' Calais, though there's a lot of fake alloy and chrome around this cabin too. The SS used to be a chrome-free zone. The SS, SV6 and SS-V get FE2 suspension, with firmer damping than FE1, plus a faster steering ratio just off centre for improved turn-in response and agility, speed-variable assistance, and greater feedback at the wheel. Redline adds performance suspension with larger-diameter dampers and rebound springs, larger stabiliser bars, 245/40- 19 (front) and 275/35-19 (rear) Bridgestone REO505A tyres, Sports steering with a driverselectable Track mode (which also winds back the stability control intervention threshold), and launch control. The V8 still goes hard, of course, but the major change from VE II to VF is in the superior shift quality and timing of the automatic. It still has the occasional erratic shift here and there, but is much smoother and less intrusive overall. The SS has become quite luxurious in VF guise. FE2 suspension, once Holden's firmest tune, now delivers a supple, quiet ride even on relatively low-profile tyres. The precise electric steering is heavier and more linear than VE's hydraulic system, particularly just off centre. VF SS also feels more agile and responsive, though slightly softer than VE II. Exaggerated rear-end squat driving out of a tight corner is nice in that you can really feel the rear wheels' state of grip, however it does make the steering go light, which also amplifies understeer. You've got to be hammering it for this to be a problem, though. You're also in the wrong model. The SS has become the Commodore you would pick for a 1000km day, doing it in effortless, luxurious style. You could do this easily in the SSV Redline, too, such is the improvement in refinement and comfort across the VF range. The Redline's firmer FE3 suspension, more direct steering, wider rear rubber, adjustable traction control and serious brakes make it a wonderful car to punt at speed or through a set of tight corners. It is one of the best balanced, most agile performance sedans you'll ever drive, and the highlight of the VF range. As Holden prepares to kill off the Commodore in 2017, it's at least offering a great musclecar as its last hurrah.

Introduced in October 1978, the VB Commodore development covered a period with the effects of the 1973 oil crisis still being felt. Hence, when Holden decided to replace the successful full-size HZ Kingswood with a new model line, they wanted the new car to be smaller and more fuel efficient. Originally, Holden looked at developing a new WA Kingswood, however, this project was later dismissed. With no replacement in development, Holden looked towards Opel for providing the foundations of the VB, basing it loosely on the four-cylinder Rekord E bodyshell with the front grafted on from the Opel Senator A, both constructed using GM's V-body platform. This change was necessitated to accommodate the larger Holden six- and eight-cylinder engines. Holden also adopted the name "Commodore" from Opel, which had been using the name since 1967. Opel went on to use Holden's Rekord-Senator hybrid as a foundation for its new generation Commodore C, slotting in between the two donor models.

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