2014 Holden Commodore Review : SS Storm

$45,190 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
    11.5L
  • Engine Power
    270kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    288g
  • ANCAP Rating
    5Stars

Calm after the local manufacturing closure Storm brings a new Holden Commodore limited edition.

Limited edition variations of the Holden Commodore come around so often that any claims of ‘limited’ supply are a bit of a stretch. No matter, though, because this latest Commodore Storm continues the trend of offering private buyers usually optional equipment as standard.

Available in sedan, ute and Sportwagon variants, the Holden Commodore Storm costs $500 more than the SV6 and SS versions of each body style. For the SS Storm sedan tested here, that results in a recommended retail price of $45,190 plus on-road costs.

The big-ticket addition is satellite navigation, though fog lights also join the standard LED daytime running lights, the 18-inch alloy wheels score a machined finish, and there are Storm badges on each rear door and one on the dashboard trim that also features unique red stitching.

That’s in addition to the kit already standard on SS, including dual-zone climate control, 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with embedded apps connectivity and reverse-view camera, front and rear parking sensors with semi-automatic reverse-park technology, and blind-spot monitor.

For a mid-forties pricetag, in either six-speed manual or the automatic with the same number of gears as tested here, the Commodore SS is a great value sedan for its equipment alone.

The 6.0-litre V8 engine produces the same 260kW of power and 517Nm of torque (or 270kW and 530Nm for the manual) as it did in the preceding VE generation, though the VF Commodore is lighter, thanks primarily to an aluminium bonnet, boot and suspension components.

With a kerb weight of 1744kg, the Commodore SS isn’t exactly what you’d call lightweight, though, still 60kg heavier than the Commodore SV6 with which it shares all but its engine – and that extra pork is placed entirely over the front wheels thanks to an extra two cylinders and 2.4-litres of capacity.

Increased noise supression measures introduced on the VF Commodore may have helped the V6 engine become less raucous, but they’ve also left the V8 engine here sounding anonymous at low revs. There’s so much effortless torque on light throttle around town that the auto slurs between gears to keep the mighty V8 muted. Throttle response is superb, and the performance from the engine strong enough to close any traffic gap quickly.

The V8 starts to sound meaty as the revs out, and the automatic is as superbly intuitive in Sport mode as it is efficient in normal mode. Still, we wish for the nicer sounding 6.2-litre that Americans get in their Chevrolet SS (and HSV buyers score in their ClubSport).

Fuel consumption remains a sore point. We recently tested a V6-engined Holden Calais and then a Commodore SV6 Sportwagon, and even in heavy traffic around town each averaged no more than 12 litres per 100 kilometres. In similar conditions, the Commodore SS Storm returned beyond 20L/100km, though a freeway run saw a best of 9.0L/100km. The single upside is that the V8 can drink cheaper 91RON regular unleaded, or E85 (denoting 85 per cent ethanol-based) fuel, where most sports car require 95 or 98RON premium unleaded.

Consumption issues may be an, erm, Storm in a tea-cup for SS buyers entranced by a sub-6-second 0-100km/h time, however.

Swapping from the Calais (recently tested here) to the Holden Commodore SS Storm also highlights the subtle differences in electro-mechanical steering response between the luxury and sports models of the VF range. In the SS, there’s slightly heavier weighting, yet it remains smooth and tactile.

The Bridgestone Potenza RE050 tyres are grippier than the comfort-oriented Turanzas used on the Calais (and Commodore Evoke) and the SS also gains a firmer sports suspension tune.

The sports suspension remains firmly focused on delivering a comfortable ride as much as reducing bodyroll in bends, and the Commodore SS Storm feels genuinely sophisticated the way it irons out bumps big and small.

In outright handling terms, the Commodore SS Storm could perhaps benefit from being stiffer at the front, as it can feel nose-heavy and understeers earlier than the lighter V6 versions. The rear-wheel-drive chassis is well-balanced, though the VF isn’t what you’d call agile.

Its stability control also lacks a less restrictive sports mode that comes standard only on the range-topping SS V Redline that sells for $53,690 (and also gets a firmer suspension tune). Holden engineers quietly admit that the VF stability control is more restrictive than the VE that came before it, particularly in the dry where it can sometimes be overly intrusive. While that’s fine in a Calais V6, it can be frustrating in a Commodore SS V8. Wet conditions do, however, prove how brilliantly sure the system remains.

Many buyers can access similar performance to what the Commodore SS Storm offers in a variety of different cars these days – from a Renault Sport Megane and Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance, to a Subaru WRX – and most will be more efficient and nimble. None, however, will offer the generous interior space or towing capacity of this full-sized Holden.

The VF overhaul of the interior does wonders for the perception of quality inside. While there are some hard and scratchy plastics, and the odd ill-fitting trim piece, the screen is of high resolution, there’s plenty of nice trim textures and soft mood lighting.

Unlike many cars that require brand-specific cables to connect with their infotainment systems, the USB input in the Holden can be used with any regular cable. Once plugged in, if your smartphone has apps for Pandora music streaming or Stitcher internet radio you can select music from the Commodore’s touchscreen rather than illegally using your phone on the run.

It’s a cinch to connect to Bluetooth, too, and the system delivers clear and crisp audio quality. The navigation system is easy to use, though the graphics can sometimes stagger when zooming in and out of the 2D map as though the processor can’t quite keep up.

The Commodore’s seats are as broad and generously proportioned as the car itself, and comfortable for hours on end, and the rear seat can accommodate three across without rubbing shoulders. No car in its class has as much rear legroom either, and few have such a deep, supportive cushion.

Many, however, have boots larger than 495 litres and almost every sedan in the class has a 60:40 split-fold rear-seat, where the Holden only gets a centre ski port.

It’s the ability of the Holden Commodore SS Storm to play multiple roles – family truckster, tow car, sports sedan, technology leader – that earns it high praise. Ultimately, the SS-V Redline has slightly better stability control calibration and suspension, an SV6 is sharper and more economical, and the HSV 6.2-litre sounds better, so the SS isn’t quite the sweet spot of the VF range.

For the price, though, the Storm pushes an even stronger value equation that’s difficult to argue with for $45K. And, following Holden’s announcement its local manufacturing facilities would close within three years, perhaps this Holden Commodore Storm will in fact be more special and limited than ever.