2007 Holden VE SS-V Ute Review
Options Fitted: Automatic transmission - $2000
- by Karl Peskett
Rule number one when testing a Holden SS-V Ute: Because I’m driving a ute, I’m automatically a nice guy. Phew! I was starting to worry there. But seriously, why else would complete strangers walk up, run their hands over your car, and suddenly start talking to you?
“Hey mate, is that the new yoot? Coooool!” was a common reaction. As are the light-‘em-up gestures that you get from truck drivers and their passengers. Seriously, there aren’t many cars I’ve tested which have had the same amount of interest. From accountants to tradies, the stares and pointed fingers unify.
As much as I hate to generalise, Australians seem to be magnetically drawn to utes. There’s a certain appeal which transcends class and culture. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s a national icon, proudly touted as being invented here. Or perhaps it’s just the fact that you can get a log-lugger with sports suspension, big brakes, spoilers, and, oh yes, six swept litres of bent eight.
The L98 fuel injected V8 powerplant is no different from the standard SS-V sedan in application. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sound different. The exhaust note comes through the tray, setting up a drone at 110km/h which can get on your nerves, especially on unmodulated throttle.
But on acceleration, the induction sounds magnificent, exactly like a V8 should. The exhaust pipes too, are a decent size, so spending money on a full stainless steel setup would probably be a waste of time.
Still, the slight rocking motion is there, almost like the engine is misfiring. This seems to be a common fault with all the 6 litre motors, but it sure as hell doesn’t stop them from singing once they’re in their stride. (0-100km/h is dispensed with in under 6 secs and the quarter mile in the high 13s.) It also doesn’t stop the performance potential.
The amount of bolt-on, remap, and extractor systems available is just amazing, so if the outputs of 270kW and 530Nm don’t do it for you, someone else will. The throttle positioning is also amazingly intuitive, too.
What has changed, though, is the automatic. Sure, it’s still the 6L80E that we know quite well, but it’s had shiftpoint changes and other modifications to ensure it’s smoother. It’s still no ZF, but it’s so much better than previous iterations, even allowing a third to second downshift at over 110km/h.
And it blips the throttle nicely, too. There’s a newfound slickness to the gearchanges that is quite simply lacking in other models in the Holden range (including the top-of-the-line Caprice).
Steering is essentially a carryover from the sedan (like the rest of the car, from the A-pillar forward), which is a good thing. Every millimetre of travel from the wheel translates to movement on the road, and feel is quite good. The steering wheel itself divides opinion, with its ergonomic (or not) shaping.
Personally, I’m a fan of it, especially the perforated leather, and the buttons take care of audio, and trip functions. In addition, the mute button doesn’t completely silence the stereo, it just puts it at a level where conversation can still take place – brilliant.
Likewise the seating. The perforated leather seats are both comfortable and supportive, with plenty of room to stretch out where required. Of course, the driving position is good, with plenty of adjustment. I would have liked to have seen full electric seats though, as well as seat heaters, especially when you’re paying $45K upwards for only 2 seats.
The cabin storage options have been carefully thought out too, with a surprising amount of room behind the seats. Plus there are a couple of storage bins which start in the cabin and extend to just underneath the tray. A motorbike helmet will fit behind your behind with no hassles. Which is just as well, because that’s pretty much who this vehicle is aimed at.
You only have to look at the replaceable tie-down points, the recess in the front edge of the tray (for a motorbike wheel), the tray liner ribbed for lateral grip, and the can-holders pressed into the tailgate. Yep, once you’ve finished riding, you’re ready to knock back a coldie. According to Holden, the tray is easily removed, too, if it gets scuffed or scratched. Undo a few screws at the back, remove the front edge mouldings and you’re done.
However payloads are reduced from the outgoing model. The SS-V auto’s official carrying capacity is only 508kg. And with a length of 1910mm x 1210mm (between the wheel arches) it will accommodate most of your gear, but the traditional 8ft x 4ft sheets won’t fit, even with the extra size of the new ute. Pity. We’ll just have to wait for the one-tonner to arrive then.
What we won’t have to wait for is its ride refinement. Like the rest of the VE range, the ute is sprung to perfection. Sure the SS-V is firm, but it doesn’t lose any of its compliance in harsh ridges. This despite the fact that it’s shod with 245/40-19s. Body control is superb, but then it would need to be, being a load carrier. You can hardly imagine a bouncing ute being something you’d carry your dog in the back of. But this damping brilliance doesn’t mean its handling has been affected.
Unlike previous utes, the VE doesn’t feel like the pivot point is the engine. There’s a certain neutrality to the way it handles, that tricks you into believing it’s a coupe, and not a commercial vehicle. Gone is the twitchiness and nervousness of the previous ute. Sure, provoke it, and the rear will step out, but the steering follows, and opposite lock is second nature. Nice to know the ESP is there to save you if you need it.
And the money and time spent calibrating it especially for the VE Ute, has been well spent. Gravel, wet roads, dry roads, broken tarmac – the VE traverses it all with aplomb. The helping hand the ESP lends you isn’t intrusive, and still lets you have a play. But just don’t have too much stuff in the back when you do….
What does intrude is the ABS, but only on very warm brakes. This has long been an SS sore point, however it is improving, and a simple pad compound change would probably solve it. In daily driving, the brakes work fine, with good pedal pressure, and the alloy faced pedals certainly look the part.
As does the interior. The inside is all SS-V sedan, including the test car’s option of a red dash (but only with certain colour combinations). This gives you a red glare on the windscreen in bright sunlight, and looks worse in the photos than in real life. However, for my money, I’d be going with the black (and just using the dual-zone climate control more), for fear of possible resale repercussions.
Fit and finish, though, is excellent, with only a couple of gaps which would be easily fixed under warranty. The instrumentation is also clearly laid out - the speedo and tacho’s font is a bit small, but still readable. Unlike the slightly muffled stereo, the overall presentation is very good.
And so is the exterior. The muscular, flared wheel-arches don’t detract from the look of the ute, and the 19-inch 5-spoke alloys fill the guards nicely. The jury’s still out on the wraparound tail-lights however.
There’s little to stop the VE Ute from being a sales stormer. The versatility of the SS-V means you can spend your week swapping between sports and commercial roles. It will carry 85 per cent of what you want it to, but you can still spend the weekend taking your bike out, or sliding around a motorkhana.
The VE SS-V Ute’s price ($44,990) means that there will be a few tax write-offs happening around Australia soon.
So, if you’ve got the loot, it’s a beaut ute, with all the fruit to boot.