2015 Holden Ute Review : SS V Redline

Freshly updated for 2015, the flagship SS V Redline Holden Ute is a genuine class above...

The updated 2015 Holden Commodore started arriving into showrooms in October last year. With that, it was time to bloke up, drop two doors, add a tray and jump behind the wheel of the newest Holden Ute.

Easy to spot in newly available 'Jungle Green' (a $550 paint option), our 2015 Holden Ute – dubbed ‘Hulk’ – is the top-spec V8-powered SS V Redline.

Priced from $48,990, the six-speed manual ute sneaks in at $2200 below its six-speed automatic equivalent.

Up a significant $11,380 on its most direct performance utility rival, the FG X Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo Ute, the Holden utility justifies its higher cost with better equipment, driving dynamics and refinement – as our recent comparison between the two showed.

Powered by an unchanged version of Holden’s 6.0-litre pushrod V8, the SS V Redline Ute outputs a 2014-spec SS-matching 270kW at 5600rpm and 530Nm at 4400rpm. That’s up 10kW and 13Nm on the auto, as self-shifters are exclusively fitted with Holden’s Active Fuel Management (AFM) system.

On top of the flagship model’s rain sensing wipers and high-performance four-piston Brembo front brakes – sadly the rears remain Brembo-less – the 2015 utility gains ‘ultra sports suspension’ springs and dampers and new 19-inch gloss black ‘split-rim-design’ alloy wheels.

The inside has been lightly refreshed, with new Jet Black faux-carbon inserts replacing the previous models’ grey items. ‘Titanium’ trim highlights (not fitted to our test car) are additionally available as a no-cost option, while automatic variants now benefit from steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Moving beyond aesthetics, the SS V Redline features a new ‘Competitive Mode’ stability control option and a tweaked ‘Sport and Competitive’ steering tune for its Electronic Power Steering (EPS) system. Other Commodore-based variants split steering tune recalibrations between ‘Touring’ and ‘Sport’ – Evoke, Calais, Calais V and Caprice V get the former, while SV6, SS and SS V receive the latter.

Previously praised for its exceptionally torquey and flexible V8 powerplant, impressive steering and balance, and clever in-car technology, little has changed for the Holden Ute come 2015.

The SS V Redline’s leather appointed bucket sports seats are comfortable and supportive and, while they are manually adjustable, lumbar support is taken care of electronically.

Harder interior plastics on the doors, door tops, indicator/wiper stalks, and centre console/transmission tunnel flanks remain, but are again joined by easy-to-use dual-zone climate control dials and steering wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls.

Partnered with a punchy six-speaker stereo and an eight-inch colour touchscreen, Holden’s MyLink infotainment system continues to be a solid performer, with its voice recognition functionality comfortably one of the premier versions of its kind in market today.

Cabin space and practicality are both well accounted for, with plenty of head and shoulder room being joined by ample behind-seat storage, a handy but open rubber-lined tub forward of the gear lever, and two cup holders and a small key fob-sized cut out aft of it. There’s also a decent-sized centre console bin (with a 12-volt power outlet and AUX/USB inputs), reasonable door pockets and closed off door pulls – the latter meaning you can avoid feeding coin-collecting under-seat trolls with your loose change.

Impressive not only for a utility but also compared to a number of passenger cars, overall NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) levels inside the Holden Ute easily better those of any other commercial vehicle currently on sale. That said, some tyre noise and two occasional rattles were picked up in our test car.

The SS V Redline’s exclusive colour head-up display is also a nice bonus, able to show drivers current speed, speed limit, engine rpm and g-force information, all without having to look away from the road ahead. You can also scroll the entire display off the windscreen to improve night or low-light vision.

Unable to match its turbocharged, Blue Oval-badged nemesis for sheer straight-line pace, the Holden Ute’s naturally aspirated V8 engine is still a stalwart of linear power and torque delivery.

Aurally subdued, the super smooth 6.0-litre will pick up solidly from 1000rpm in third gear, with near-identical grunt available from 1500rpm in sixth. All too happy spending the majority of its days within this 500rpm range, the SS V Redline ute is ridiculously comfortable with second-gear take offs and equally unfazed by skipping odd-numbered gears altogether.

Of course, drop the hammer in third gear at 3500rpm, and the 1739kg Holden nicks off after its 6000rpm rev limit with some serious hustle.

Mixing in both driving styles over a 300km-plus drive loop of urban and highway, our Hulk averaged 13.9 litres per 100km. Thirstier than its 11.8L/100km claim, we did see figures as low as 7.7L/100km on an extended freeway run.

Heard by just about any passers by not plugged into an Apple device, gear changes from the heavy-shifting six-speed gearbox are audibly clunky but inspire confidence with their decisive engagement of ratios.

Equally confidence inspiring is the top dog’s (read: lion’s) uprated brakes. Noticeably firmer through the pedal than the standard SS’s two-piston front/single-piston rear set-up, the SS V Redline’s semi-Brembo package brings more bite, though, remains just as progressive when it comes to feel.

Steering is another highlight. Combining nice and even weighting with genuine feel and accurate response, car parks or twisty roads are both handled with ease – though things can be a touch vague about centre.

Helping to give the two-door SS V Redline loads of grip up front and from its independently sprung rear end, are sticky Bridgestone Potenza tyres. Measuring 245mm wide at the pointy end and 275mm out back, profiles are split 40/35 respectively.

Given these relatively skinny-walled tyres are wrapped around 19-inch rims – and we are talking about a commercial vehicle here – ride in the premium ute is exceptional.

Firm no doubt, the SS V Redline Holden Ute still manages to rather impeccably balance ride comfort with body control and handling prowess.

Light years ahead of its busy-riding Falcon foe (with its leaf-spring rear), the Holden is planted and secure over all manner of road surfaces. It shrugs off speed humps and rail crossings with equal levels of poise and confidence, with only tram track corrugations upsetting the supremely well-sorted set-up.

To be honest, the only real giveaway you’re driving a ute rather than a four-door sedan, is the proximity of the rear window and the view of the standard soft tonneau cover flapping in the breeze in the rear-view mirror.

But the reality is the Holden Ute trades rear seats and a 496-litre boot for a 1.9m long, 1.2m wide, and 0.5m deep tray. That tray is also rated to carry up to 646kg of payload (632kg for auto models). That’s more than 190kg up on the XR6 Turbo Ute’s official 453kg figure, however, the Holden’s 1600kg maximum towing capacity can’t match the Falcon’s 2300kg limit.

At a little over 5.0m long, and with an 11.6m turning circle, the SS V Redline Ute can feel big, particularly when parking. But unlike the Ford, in the Holden you’re helped out by front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera (now with grid lines), rear cross traffic alert and even the ability to give up and let the car’s semi-automated parking function take control.

Vision in the Holden Ute – though notoriously bad in such vehicles – is managed with good wing mirrors, blind spot monitoring and a B-pillar that is set a fraction further back than in Ford’s two-door Falcon. A little less helpful is the slim and slightly letterbox rear-view mirror.

The 2015 Holden Ute is a genuine cracker of a thing. A proper favourite among the CarAdvice team, it’s not only one of the last but also the best utilities ever to be bolted together on local soil. You’re even covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty, 12 months roadside assist and capped-price servicing ($185 a service for the first three years or 60,000km).

Sadly though, sales in recent years have not been kind to the humble Holden utility, with numbers dropping 50 per cent from 2010 to 2014, marking a 30 per cent fall in market share. For context, things over at Ford have been even worse over the same period, with Falcon Ute sales plummeting 70 per cent (for a 56 per cent fall in market share).

The full-tilt SS V Redline Holden Ute may not be the most convincing value proposition in the range. It’s $9500 dearer than the entry-level SS and $6000 above the manual SS V. But you do get a decent whack of additional gear and there is no doubt that if you’re happy spending the extra coin, you’ll be getting yourself into an outstanding ute that’s just as comfortable to putt around as it is capable to punt around.

Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser.