2013 Holden VF Commodore SS Review

$41,990 $51,490 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
    11.5L
  • Engine Power
    270kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    288g
  • ANCAP Rating
    5Stars

Commodore SS is a supreme, super sports sedan in VF guise.

Sports sedan for hot-hatch money – the Holden VF Commodore SS now sells for $41,990, a reduction of $5800 compared with the outgoing model.

Based on SV6 specification, the Holden Commodore SS gets front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera, auto-park capability, blind spot and reverse traffic alert technology, a sports-profile leather-wrapped steering wheel, 18-inch alloys, bodykit, quad exhaust and chrome exhaust tip.

Priced at $45,490 – down $9800 – the Commodore SS V adds leather seats, 19-inch wheels, sensor key with push-button start, foglights, satellite navigation, footwell lamps and eight speakers with DVD playback.

Dynamics-enhancing equipment comes with the SS V Redline which for $51,490 – down $6300 – scores Brembo brakes, FE3 sports suspension, a ‘Competition’ mode for the stability control including launch control, and a ‘Track’ steering setting. Also included are 19s, colour head-up display, sunroof, lane departure warning and nine-speaker Bose audio.

All SS models get the same 6.0-litre V8 engine as before, with 270kW for the manual or 260kW for the auto, both delivered 100rpm lower than previously at 5600rpm, and 530Nm manual or 517Nm auto produced at the same 4400rpm. Holden now claims combined fuel consumption of 11.5L/100km for both transmissions (down from 12.3L auto, 12.2L manual) which is now just 0.6L/100km higher than the original figure for the VE Commodore Omega V6 with four-speed auto...

While it’s a shame the car touted as the “no excuses Commodore” lacks the 6.2-litre V8 installed in the otherwise-identical Chevrolet-badged SS for export, in isolation it continues to be a storming engine, particularly for the price.

Holden’s VE Commodore SS clocked 5.5 seconds to 100km/h, which is faster than price-point hot-hatches like the Megane RS265 and Ford Focus ST, and about as quick as a Subaru WRX.

The new VF Commodore SS, however, weighs 1729kg in manual specification and 1729kg in auto form, or about 40kg less than before, and therefore should be faster. It stretches out to 1780kg in SS V Redline auto spec.

We tested the SS V manual and SS auto; the SS V Redline was not supplied.

Immediately noticeable is the slightly firmer weighting of the electro-mechanical power steering in the SS V manual. The ‘sports’ steering tune, as opposed to the ‘touring’ setting in the Evoke and Calais grades, makes the steering essentially heavier, but not needlessly or aggressively so.

There’s still the wonderful consistency, fluency and feedback shared between all VF models.

Most noticeably with VF compared with the VE is the more immediate turn in, which combined with the 40kg weight saving from the chassis alone and 60 per cent of chassis components being new or revised, makes for a thoroughly frisky and hugely capable breed of SS sports models.

On one hillclimb just outside of Talbingo, in the NSW Snowy Mountains, the VF SS automatic felt barely heavier or larger than many hot hatchbacks.

Having a big, heavy V8 up front requires patience with the throttle and an understanding that the wide Bridgestone Potenza tyres need to properly chew tarmac before attempting to adjusting its line.

Get that, and the VF Commodore SS is hugely rewarding. Although it lacks the agility of a hot-hatch, the VF Commodore SS is a supremely talented sports sedan, and being rear-wheel drive, it is happily and playfully throttle adjustable without biting.

The firmer FE2 suspension works to the SS personality, barely reducing comfort levels compared with the FE1-suspended Calais luxury models, which are affected by low-profile tyres.

Although there’s plenty of road rumble from the wide tyres, and small divots and potholes are transmitted to the cabin, the level of overall isolation is admirable for a sports-focused model.

The flagship SS V Redline is the only grade to get FE3 suspension, dubbed Ultra Sport. Holden claims it is “extensively revised” compared with FE2, with increased roll stiffness the main difference. It complements the standard Brembo brakes with 355mm front rotors up 34mm compared with the regular SS models.

While the six-speed manual transmission is less rubbery to shift between gears, and the clutch is lighter, it’s the recalibrated six-speed automatic that proves the star.

As with all VF Commodore models, the Sport mode auto works a treat, holding gears when the throttle is lifted and downshifting when hard on the brakes entering a corner. Considering the high dynamic capability of the SS, however, an even more aggressive Race mode should have been considered, at least for the SS V Redline.

The SS V does have a less restrictive stability control setting, dubbed 'Competitive' mode. After sampling the SS and SS V, it seems much needed. The electronic stability control system, which moves from Bosch 8.0 to Bosch 9.0, is claimed to be faster-acting than before, but it is also more intrusive in its regular setting than with VE. The ESC in VF is also now a two-stage system, with traction control able to be disabled independently of the full stability control off setting. Launch control is also standard in SS V Redline models.

Inside, it’s the standard SS that proves most impressive. The carbonfibre-look trim on the door panels and dash looks genuinely cool, not tacky, but it’s replaced in the SS V grades.

As with all VF Commodore grades, the SS gets an eight-inch touchscreen with app functionality. Apps such as Pandora permit music streaming via an internet-connected smartphone. Voice control also works with smartphones and for Apple iPhone products is Siri-enabled. In a rare example of voice control being genuinely useful, commands for adding an address to the satellite navigation, finding an artist, song or playlist on a phone, and calling a person in your address book are all time savers.

Voice control also allows the user to say ‘display off’ to turn off the central screen – neat.

Although the Holden VF Commodore SS and SS V aren’t the most sophisticated cars available for $40-53K, they are hugely capable sports sedans that have been refined compared with their VE predecessors.

Hot-hatch or this sports sedan? For $42K, the SS has it won.

Holden Commodore SS
Price: from $41,990 to $53,690 (sedan); $46,190 to $56,690 (wagon)
Engine: 6.0-litre V8
Power: 270kW at 5600rpm (auto 260kW at 5600rpm)
Torque: 530Nm at 4400rpm (auto 517Nm at 4400rpm)
Transmission: 6-speed manual (sedan only) or 6-speed auto
0-100km/h: not available
Fuel consumption: 11.5 to 11.8L/100km
Weight: 1729-1780kg (1836-1851kg wagon)

Other Holden VF Commodore Reviews
Click for review of Holden Commodore Evoke
Click for review of Holden Calais