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by Daniel DeGasperi

Wearing Victorian number plates on its tailgate, the Holden VF Commodore SS V ute has been caught testing at the famous Nurburgring circuit, in Germany.

Only a month out from its official Australian launch, the Holden VF Commodore – which won’t be exported to Germany, but may be sold in limited numbers to Vauxhall in the UK – is seen here completely undisguised in its final round of dynamic tweaking.

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Holden communication director Craig Cheetham confirmed that an Australian Holden engineer – with official Nurburgring driving certification – was behind the wheel of the SS V ute, but cautioned not to read into the prospect of the ute being exported to Europe.

“Holden tests its new vehicles all over the world, often in conjunction with the global GM engineering community. This week, there are a number of industry pool days where various manufacturers do track-based testing, and our engineers are involved in some final dynamic testing of VF,” said Cheetham.

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Confirmed to utilise the same 6.0-litre V8 engine used in the VE – not the 6.2-litre that will go into the otherwise identical Chevrolet SS sedan exported to the US – the SS V will continue to be available in sedan, Sportwagon and the ute shown here.

While neither the Holden VF Commodore ute or Sportwagon will benefit from the lighter aluminium bootlid of the sedan, all VF models will score an aluminium bonnet to save weight, and help improve economy. All models will also switch from using hydraulic mechanical power steering to an electro-mechanical set-up for the first time, which is claimed by some to same around 0.1L/100km.

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The 3.0-litre V6 engine will continue lightly tweaked in the entry-level Omega-replacement, rumoured to be called ‘Evoke’, while the middle grade Berlina will, after 29 years of continuous service, be dropped from the Commodore line-up. The 3.6-litre will also stay in the SV6 and Calais models, and all six-speed automatic transmissions will come in for an overhaul, with a redesigned Sport mode and new Performance Mode Lift Foot (PMLF) function that holds lower gears when a hill is detected, or when the throttle is lifted during spirited driving.

Holden engineers admit that they have learnt from the mistakes of calibrating the VE Commodore automatic for ‘ideal’ economy, because it sorely affected real-world driveability by regularly dropping into tall gears then hunting for a lower gear on hills.

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No doubt the performance of the automatic, and the new electric steering, are the focal points in the Holden VF Commodore at the Nurburgring program, as the basic chassis components are mostly unchanged compared with the seven-year-old VE generation.

The Holden VF Commodore will be officially on sale in June – coincidentally the same month the hugely successful VT Commodore went on-sale in 1997 – with the first-drive embargo lifting for the motoring media on May 30.