end of an era: we drive the 2017 holden vf2 commodore ss

the last of the aussie v8 performance sedans

4y ago
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In a few short months we will see the end of production for the Australian-made Holden Commodore. A giant of local manufacturing since the late 1970s, the Commodore is one of our proudest exports and one of this country’s most prominent icons. On top of that, the SS badge has been one of the most consistent performance monikers since it first emerged, representing Aussie muscle car know-how. As production draws to a close, we take the SS out for one last spin to say goodbye.

At the heart of any SS Commodore is a thumping great V8, and the VF2 has certainly continued that tradition. Its 6.2 litre engine produces 304kw, up significantly over the 6.0 litre Series 1 VF with a mere 270kw. Torque brings a monstrous 570nm to the mechanical limited slip differential at the rear, which is helpful if you have any tree stumps to get rid of around the family home. The noise is rumbling, thunderous, and alluring, with a bi-modal exhaust ensuring both occupants and passers-by equally enjoy that trademark V8 sound.

The Commodore has a svelte look, though it looks as if it's tying-in with the design language of Chevrolet these days, presumably to try to help sales in the US where the car is marketed as a Chevrolet SS. The car is beefier than its V6 counterparts with a bodykit, larger wheels, and tasteful badging. Inside the cabin and Holden has upped the ante over previous generations, softening the surfaces and generally just making the Commodore a nicer place to be. The instruments look great and helps to convey the car’s overall theme of a modern, technically proficient performance sedan. The seats are comfortable enough for long trips, and hugging enough to provide support through the corners.

And going through corners is something that this car does very well too, breaking with the tradition of previous SSs that tended to wallow and fall over through the bends. But straight-line performance is the reason the Commodore SS has such a reputation. Mash the loud pedal in any gear and you’re met with a wash of thunder and g-forces. It’s still got a lumbering big chunk of motor up front, it’s still driving the rear wheels, and just like every model for the past 35 years, it’s still an absolutely winning combination. The car will do zero to 100 in just under five seconds which is getting very close to exotic supercar numbers, and for most people the pace is plenty brisk enough. The brakes are a big improvement over the previous models and add to the overall confidence of the car on the road. The electric steering is also not as bad as it could be, although the older hydraulic system was never particularly cutting-edge. Road noise is minimal, improving the comfort of those on board and helping reducing fatigue on roadtrips.

If you’re looking to buy a performance sedan that has lots of space and will bring a smile to your face every time you pull out of your street, the VF2 Commodore SS is hard to look past. You will, of course, pay for your enjoyment at the petrol station, but it’s ultimately a small price for the buckets of value and performance that the car delivers. Provided the car is held onto and looked after properly, the last of the Australian-built SS Commodores could also prove a worthy investment. Naturally-aspirated V8s are becoming rarer, as are manual transmissions and rear-drive sedans. There are certainly worse ways to park AUD$50k for a few decades...

For 35 years, the SS Commodore has been taking the fight to performance sedans from the US, UK, and Germany, and throughout that time it’s been able to hold its head high. The car has endured harsh criticisms in the past due to its often questionable interior finishes and road-holding capabilities, being unfairly compared to competitors worth two and three times as much. With the exception of its peer, the Ford Falcon XR8, the SS Commodore has been unmatched in providing space, comfort, and V8 performance for so little money. The VF2 Commodore is a worthy end to the SS moniker, and it will be a car that is mourned by Aussies everywhere when it goes.

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