Is this is the best Australian made performance car to date?
The 2015 Holden Commodore signals that the war between Holden and Ford is still very much alive. With the Blue Oval set to launch major updates to its Falcon later this year in the form of the FG X, Holden stole the limelight early with its MY15 Commodore.
Although the latest model year changes are mostly minor and incremental, getting behind the wheel of the latest edition of Australia’s most iconic car is always a treat.
Holden brought us to Mount Panorama on Bathurst weekend, closed the track and let us have four laps in charge of numerous SS V Redline models and the Holden Commodore Craig Lowndes SS V Special Edition. But before we get to that, it’s important to note where the range-topping performance car now sits.
From the outside the main changes to the Holden Commodore SS V Redline models are a set of new 19-inch wheels and cosmetic changes to the rear, which gain a new black valance.
The interior is updated with paddle-shifters on the steering wheel, a more advanced reversing camera (with grid lines) and a new standard jet-black finish with optional titanium highlights.
We first jumped inside a manual Craig Lowndes edition sedan, which costs $57,990 ($5500 more than regular SS V sedan). And apart from the paint job and Craig Lowndes insignia, also gains Brembo rear brakes, bigger wheels and more.
Craig Lowndes edition or not, the SS V Redline is a fantastic value for money performance car. The range of features, highlighted by its 6.0-litre V8 engine with 260kW and 517Nm (270kW and 530Nm in manuals), are basically unmatched in any segment.
From a technology point of view, you get a colour head-up display (which can now shows g-forces as well), a very high-resolution eight-inch colour touchscreen, automatic parking capability, rear-view camera and sensors, lane change assistance as well as blind spot monitoring and the all important forward collision alert, which will go a long way to preventing rear-endings due to driver distraction.
Step inside and the Commodore SS V Redline’s interior holds its own against plenty of significantly more expensive European competitors with a solid fit and finish with little compromise in terms of quality.
But it’s when you take it for a drive through a windy country road that Holden’s engineering work becomes truly evident. There’s no doubt the Commodore has been built for Australian conditions, it soaks up poor quality roads and uneven surfaces without hassle.
The ride and dynamic handling of the Commodore is closer now than ever to its similarly sized German rivals, which would need the help of optional suspension settings to match it for comfort.
Holden engineers have also updated the Commodore’s electro-mechanical power steering system, allowing for better on-centre feel and additional weight where and when it’s needed.
The SS V Redline exclusively gains a 'Competitive' steering mode that can be engaged when the electronic stability control button is double tapped. This turns off traction control and engages a heavier steering setting for track or high-performance driving needs.
Though for the most part we left the nanny controls on, we pushed it as hard as Bathurst’s road limits would allow and always found its road-going characteristic to be predictable and a near-perfect compromise between ride comfort and cornering ability. Something its German rivals tend to struggle with.
It is after all, an Australian-built car for Australian conditions and while we may have taken that for granted in the past, it’s something we will soon no longer have.
The clutch in the manual is a little too light at first but you quickly get used to it. The pedal positions are ideal for heal-and-toe and the six-speed manual gearbox is a delight, with smooth shifts up and down and a sense of enjoyment attached to each change.
The main update to the SS V Redline is the paddle-shifters for the automatic models. Though down on power and torque (compared to manual models), the sensation of speed is not compromised behind the wheel and – thankfully – the paddles are no gimmick.
In nearly all cars that don’t have a dual-clutch transmission the paddle shifters are purely there as a marketing exercise with no real purpose. The 2015 Holden Commodore SS V Redline is not one of those cars.
The paddles respond almost instantaneously and will not overrule you when it comes to sitting on the rev limiter or downshifting before a tight corner. Holden engineers told us that while they don’t expect everyone to use them all the time, they are there and not just for show.
In fact, through twisty roads they are a delight to use and add an extra level of excitement as the car approaches a tight corner, allowing for the driver to always be in the right gear for maximum power extraction.
Although no official figures exist, the 0-100km/h time is said to be around the mid fives, but we felt the mid-gear acceleration to be the real joy, with the V8 roaring to life without any chassis compromise.
During the day we drove the Craig Lowndes edition, SS V sedan and ute, as well as a Sportwagon, in manual and automatic guises. All in all what is evident is that Holden offers arguably the best car ever to be built in Australia.
These MY15 updates represent perhaps one of the last incremental improvements you are likely to see in the Commodore and while there’s every chance Holden will give it one last hurrah before the end in 2017, as it stands today, there’s never been a better time to own a performance Commodore.
Now, for the laps around Bathurst.
I must first confess that I am not a V8 Supercars fanatic. I follow Formula One religiously but have never really found myself drawn to the local V8 championship.
Nonetheless, the experience of driving around one of the world’s most iconic road tracks, and being watched by tens of thousands of people already lining the circuit, was surreal to say the least.
The pace car set the limit and we followed without hesitation.
For such a long time I’ve always thought of the Commodore SS as a relatively large and cumbersome beast, unfit for a racetrack. But the latest model is so far removed from that, that it felt incredible to drive both at speed and hard into corners.
Down Conrod Straight and into The Chase, the SS V Redline felt right at home, delivering effortless grunt while turning in and gripping without the slightest objection.
Nothing in the world would have stopped that idiot-like grin on my face as the laps stacked up and the cars felt better and better.
There’s really no doubt in my mind that outside of the more expensive HSV and FPV stable, the 2015 Holden Commodore SS V Redline is the best performance car ever produced in Australia.
It will be interesting to see how the updated FG X Ford Falcon XR8 (which was curiously following us around Bathurst streets during our drive) will go against its rival from the local Lion. No doubt we will be putting the two quintessential adversaries against each for one final time. Stay tuned...
- 2015 Holden Commodore SS V Redline manual sedan – 52,490
- 2015 Holden Commodore SS V Redline automatic sedan - $54,690
- 2015 Holden Commodore SS V Redline automatic Sportwagon - $56,690