While it isn’t quite a sports sedan, the Holden VF Commodore SV6 blends brilliant dynamics with impressive ride quality and refinement.
Now priced from $35,990, the most popular grade of the Holden VF Commodore range (at least with private buyers) is now $6800 cheaper than before.
The VF Commodore SV6 also commands a $1000 premium over the base model Evoke, although it gets a standard-fit manual ‘box. The Evoke’s standard six-speed automatic costs a further $2200 on the ‘sporting’ SV6.
Styling changes predominantly offset the VF Commodore SV6’s extra sticker price, with 18-inch alloy wheels, lED daytime running lights, front and rear lip spoilers and a chrome exhaust tip rounding out the changes.
A traditionally-standard ‘pronounced’ rear spoiler adds $500 to the sports grades. Holden says it was deleted because it adds weight. The SV6 does, however, miss out on satellite navigation (optional for $750) and rain sensing wipers.
As with the Evoke, the SV6 is equipped with a raft of standard active and passive safety gear including reverse camera with front and rear parking sensors, Auto Park Assist, Blind Spot Alert, Reverse Traffic Alert, Hill Hold Control and Hill Start Assist.
Other features include Trailer Sway Control, six airbags and three ISOFIX child seats anchorage points in the second row seating.
There’s also an appreciable upgrade in the quality and ‘feel’ of the materials used in the SV6 compared with the Evoke. Special mention goes to the Alcantara-like inserts on the sports seats, which are especially comfortable on long drives, and the carbonfibre-look cloth trim on the dash and door panels, which could look tacky, yet it doesn’t.
The driving position is multi adjustable, although the backrest moves to a fixed-stage lever recline system, replacing the infinitely adjustable wheel that has been a feature of every Commodore with manual seats since the 1978 original. Also for the first time ever, the power window switches have moved from the centre console to the doors, and the boot release button on the sedans from inside the glovebox to the driver’s door.
The sports leather steering wheel is 7mm smaller in diameter than before, proving nice and tactile – perhaps more so than the flat-bottom version on the VF Commodore SS.
The ‘sporty’ continues with red-lit accents on the switchgear, the eight-inch touch-screen and main instrument dials.
Perhaps more significantly though, given it’s positioning in the VF line-up, the SV6 employs the larger, more powerful 3.6-litre V6 (over Evoke’s 185kW/290Nm 3.0-litre powerplant) producing 210kW of power and 350Nm of torque.
While powertrains across the entire Commodore VF range are carried over from the previous VE line-up, all have been optimised for quieter running and greater fuel efficiency.
There are fuel efficiency gains across the board, with the SV6 making the most of the VF’s mass reduction program, claiming 9.0L/100km (combined manual transmission) for a 7.2 per cent improvement.
However, over our 250km test route, during which, the car was continuously pushed, we achieved an average consumption of 12.1L/km.
At idle, the SV6 is almost silent and there’s no discernable vibration, either. Even when punching the throttle, engine noise is noticeably muted inside and outside the cabin.
There’s plenty of old-fashioned grunt on tap though, with strong acceleration and pace for high-speed overtaking or leisurely freeway cruising, but it’s the refinement that’s most impressive.
The manual transmission in the sedan we tested remains notchy, requiring a heavy-handed approach to shifting, and the gap between second and third gears is too large – wider than with the torquier V8! Problematic, too, is the late clutch take-up at the top of the pedal travel, making smooth getaways off the line difficult.
On the other hand, the smooth-shifting six-speed automatic employed across the VF range benefits from improved kickdown response and shift quality – it’s well worth the extra investment.
The entire Commodore VF line-up benefits from a lighter, more agile chassis, with the SV6 receiving the sports-tuned FE2 suspension (shared with SS and SS-V).
It’s stiffer than the Evoke’s generously-damped ride, but still offers sufficient levels of compliance as to be labelled comfortable, remaining so even over jagged edges.
Commodore’s all-new electric power steering is excellent; it’s superbly calibrated to provide a faster and more direct response, while providing solid feedback through the steering wheel.
It’s also evenly weighted from lock-to-lock, with the sporty SV6 decidedly heavier than the softer Evoke.
Turn-in is now sharper than before, partly down to the VF’s extensive re-engineering program that includes the weight-saving aluminium bonnet, bootlid and suspension components.
There’s less body roll through the twisties, but more than that, the new VF SV6 feels as beautifully balanced as the best European large cars, and more controlled on Aussie roads than many.
Like the other Holden VF Commodore variants we have tested, the SV6 is another strong addition to a range that so far includes no duds.
With top-notch engineering, excellent ride and handling gains, innovative technology and features and superb value for money, the SV6 represents a compelling proposition for those shopping for something sporty (okay, sporting) in the large car segment.
Holden Commodore SV6
Price: from $35,990 to $38,190 (sedan); $40,190 (wagon)
Engine: 3.6-litre V6
Power: 210kW at 6700rpm
Torque: 350Nm at 2800rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual (sedan), 6-speed auto (wagon)
0-100km/h: not specified
Fuel consumption: 9L/100km to 12.1L/100km
Safety rating: 5-star ANCAP
Weight: 1688kg – 1685kg (1766kg – 1828kg wagon)