OK, we’ll admit it – here at Car Showroom, we do love our high-performance V8s. There isn’t one person in the automotive industry who deep down doesn’t enjoy the neck-stretching exhilaration of a V8 revving hard.
So if you take the Commodore SS and add some muscly Pontiac looks … well, you’ve got our attention.
What You Get
Here’s the deal: Holden has been supplying modified SS Commodores to General Motors in America badged as Pontiacs. Commodore fans have stared lovingly at the hot Pontiac looks – in particular the twin nostril front end – so ‘hey presto’ here’s the Commodore SS V-Series Special Edition.
In GM-Holden ‘corporate speak’ it’s probably not as simple as that, but after a week behind the wheel of a ‘Red Hot’ (that’s the actual name of the paint colour!) SS V-Series Special Edition, we can see why those American dudes have welcomed this car ‘Stateside’.
The high-tech V8, six-speed manual transmission, bold 19-inch alloy wheels, leather trim – and those Pontiac-inspired looks – add up to performance car muscle in anyone’s language.
Under The Hood
While automatic versions of the SS score the 6.0-litre V8 with Holden’s Active Fuel Management (AFM), the manual version as tested by Car Showroom gets the standard 6.0-litre Gen. 4 alloy V8 with 270Kw at 5700rpm and peak torque of 530Nm at 4400rpm.
With combined cycle fuel consumption of 13.9l/100km and CO2 emissions of 327g/km, the SS rates 2.5 stars on the Federal Government’s Green Vehicle Guide.
Drive is to the rear wheels via Holden’s six-speed manual transmission.
While the limited slip differential is optional (packaged with the firmer sports suspension), the driver aids list is still impressive: Electronic Stability Control (ESC), ABS anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), and Electronic Brake Assist (EBA) and Traction Control (TCS).
Call us ‘patriots’ but we maintain this is one of the world’s high performance V8 drive trains.
Every time we climb into a high performance Commodore (or Falcon equivalent) we’re reminded how talented our local automotive stylists are. The SS successfully combines large sedan space with a sporty feel and nice luxury.
The leather seats are supportive and the four-way electronic adjustment of the driver’s seat plus rake/reach adjustment for the thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel ensures a great driving position.
The alloy-faced pedals and orange SS instrumentation provide extra sporty touches. Dials are the conventional twin arrangement with trip computer information displayed on a rectangular screen mounted between the speedometer and rev counter.
SS models also gain an extra display in the centre of the dashboard with oil pressure and oil temperature gauges.
Center console sees the 6.5-inch multi-function screen for the climate control air-conditioning and audio system (six-disc CD with Bluetooth/MP3 compatibility and auxiliary input jack). You operate all of that via steering wheel buttons and dials.
The rear seat is massive (that’s what separates the local large sedans from imported rivals).
Exterior & Styling
It’s really the twin-nostril front-end and ‘letter-box’ bonnet scoops that visually distinguish the V-Series Special Edition from other SS models.
And what a difference that front end makes!
Sure its muscly and delivers significant on-road presence, but we reckon it gives the VE Commodore a totally new look that actually makes it more balanced (not that there’s anything wrong with the standard VE).
There are also unique front fog lights, a rear decklid spoiler and some extra chrome around the boot and window surrounds.
The SS V-Series Special Edition runs Holden’s nicely styled five-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels.
And the clear glass headlights and taillights look superb.
On The Road
As with other high performance Commodores and Falcons, the SS V-Series Special Edition evenly divided the Car Showroom team.
On one side, the female members complained about the heavy clutch pedal and gear lever and worked hard to park the red rocket (with its 11.4-metre turning circle) in our city car park.
The blokes countered with: “Well it’s a 270kW/530Nm V8 with a six-speed manual, so it needs that hefty clutch and gearbox to handle all that performance.”
One thing is certain – get out onto our twisty mountain road test route and the SS V-Series Special Edition delivers exhilaration with a capital ‘E’.
The 6.0-litre V8 revs strongly all the way to its 5700rpm redline – with a superb audio track from the quad exhausts. And that six-speeder does need patience and a firm hand to select the right cog, but once you’re dialed in, this is as good as it gets for high performance V8 sedans.
Holden’s highly developed independent front/multi-link rear suspension keeps everything tied-down, even over mid-corner bumps and the assorted undulations Aussie secondary roads throw at you. That’s especially impressive given the SS V-Series Special Edition’s 1778kg kerb weight.
Sharp turn-in, nice mid-corner balance and strong acceleration delivers an all-round outstanding drive.
Equally impressive is the low NVH and comfortable ride – even over rough surfaces the SS kept driver and passengers nicely isolated.
This is a large sedan with a high boot line and decklid spoiler -- a standard reversing camera would be a real plus for safety and convenience.
And we like Ford’s steering wheel button cruise control operation better than Holden’s stalk.
Good as the standard SS is, the V-Series Special Edition just looks so good with that wicked front-end. It’s not cheap, but this is a world class, value-for-money high performance V8 sedan.
The trouble for the SS V-Series Special Edition is its price tag, which is well and truly into HSV-FPV territory.
Overlooking that complication, you should check-out Ford’s XR8 as the Blue Oval’s FG model Falcon is brilliant.
It’s all about the looks baby!
Small price differential to HSV, needs a reversing camera (and sat nav) at this price