2013 Holden Commodore SS V Redline Review

Rating: 9.0
$48,990 $55,690 Mrlp
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The first Commodore in decades to be tuned for the racetrack is also a high watermark for Holden.
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A Holden Commodore tuned for the racetrack, but with a circular centre badge missing a racing helmet beside the lion, is whole a new thing.

Indeed the Holden Commodore SS V Redline is not only the first Holden engineered for track work in decades, but it's also the first Commodore to shuffle towards Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) territory in terms of both performance and price.

Priced at $48,990 for the ute, $51,490 for the sedan and $55,690 for the Sportwagon, the Holden Commodore SS V Redline costs $9500 less than the equivalent HSV Clubsport.

We’re talking a performance boost of the stopping and cornering variety here, because the Commodore SS V Redline continues to employ the same 6.0-litre V8 engine used in all Holden-badged VF models – the HSV versions get a 6.2-litre.

That means, as with SS and Calais V8 and the previous VE generation, 260kW of power produced at 5600rpm and 517Nm of torque at 4400rpm in six-speed automatic-equipped versions (standard on Sportwagon, $2200 extra on ute and sedan). Manuals score 270kW and 530Nm delivered at the same revs.

Although there is no grunt increase, the Commodore SS V Redline gets launch control as standard to help improve standing-start performance times compared with the regular SS and SS V.

A special Commodore SS V Redline track day held at Phillip Island raceway, in southern Victoria, meant performance times could be acquired.

Turns out that with launch control activated the 1739kg manual-equipped ute – sedan: 1766kg; Sportwagon: 1849kg – recorded 0-100km/h in 5.4 seconds.

Launch control is activated by double-pressing the stability control off button on the transmission tunnel. More specifically, it activates Competition mode, which in addition to the software aimed to provide a maximum-traction take-off also delivers a weightier steering setting and more relaxed stability control mode specifically for the Redline models.

As with most launch systems, simply hold the throttle to the firewall, watch the revs spike to around 5000rpm, then dump the clutch.

Computers take care of the rest. Trying the system without launch control, this tester could only once get under a tenth within the drag time netted with the system active; as ever, it’s a tricky case of balancing throttle exuberance with what the rear tyres can handle without turning them (and times) to smoke.

Wider tyres no doubt help. Compared with the 245mm-wide 18-inch tyres fitted front and rear to the SS and SS V, the Redline gets 19-inch units all round, of identical width up front but 20mm wider where the power goes.

There are other core engineering changes that supports the claim that this is the first properly track-developed car to wear a Holden badge. The company argues that the previous VE Series II was offered with a Redline ‘pack’ where with VF it is good enough to be a model in its own right.

Compared with the VF SS and SS V, the Redline gets bigger brakes – Brembos, 355mm front/324mm rears, up 34mm front, but unchanged at the rear – a larger rear stabiliser bar, and uniquely fettled FE3 ultra-sport suspension.

Compared with the previous VE Redline, Holden claims a roll gradient of 3-3.5 degrees per G versus five degrees before; and sustained lateral G of 0.93 versus 0.88 before. All of which are fairly meaningless numbers to non propeller heads – so, this tester, then – but are kept in mind during our laps of Phillip Island…

Coincidentally HSV staged its Gen-F range launch here last month; and curiously, Holden did not borrow any of HSV’s track ESC, steering or suspension settings, but instead developed its own.

An answer to whether the Commodore SS V Redline muscles in on HSV Clubsport turf comes easy on the first lap (with a manual ute) but muddies on the second, third and fourth.

On corner six, an uphill left switchback called Siberia, the power deficit compared with the 317kW HSV 6.2-litre is noticeable. Plenty of speed needs to be washed off in this bend, and the 6.0-litre Holden simply doesn’t pull as well out of it. Nor does it blast through the seven and eight corner ‘kinks’ as quickly, then steam up and over Lukey Heights as briskly.

With the pace increased for lap two, the Redline reveals plenty of tuning finesse.

That’s particularly evident with the Competitive mode stability control in turn four, the Honda hairpin, where plenty of early throttle kicks the rear out playfully.

The Comp mode allows around half a turn of opposite lock – that’s oversteer plenty – before calmly, subtly nipping a corner or four.

When we drove (on the road, not track) the SS model at the VF Commodore launch in May, we noticed that the Bosch 9.0 stability control was more intrusive than the Bosch 8.0 system on VE, which even on the Omega and Berlina models allowed a touch of welcome throttle-steer during spirited driving.

Engineers agreed with our assessment, confirming at the break – while the brakes cooled – that they wanted to achieve quicker stability control response in the wet, which meant a corresponding increase in intrusion in the dry.

It was, they say, the reason Competition mode was designed for the Redline, but the mode could easily be renamed Sport and should be included on all VF models…

Turn in, grip levels and braking performance feels, at least in isolation, to near HSV levels, but the speed isn’t quite there.

It isn’t quite right simply saying the SS V Redline costs $9500 less than an HSV Clubsport, though, because the Holden is also substantially better equipped, adding leather trim, rain-sensing wipers, colour head-up display, Bose audio, forward collision alert and lane departure warning (although the Clubby gets 20s).

Whatever the case, the Holden Commodore SS V Redline is a superb, and superb value, top-tree VF model. Thanks to the beefy brakes and better stability control calibration, it may even be the best one…