One of the most recognisable faces – and dare we say set of eyebrows – in Australian motorsport, Craig Lowndes, recently achieved a feat that no other V8 Supercars driver has ever accomplished: 100 career race wins. So what better time to take a final look at the latest production model to wear the great man’s name, the Craig Lowndes SS V Special Edition Holden Commodore.
Base a project on a car as well respected and highly praised as the VF Holden Commodore and the result should be a gooden. And, in most areas at least, the Craig Lowndes SS V Special Edition is just that.
Released late last year as part of the updated 2015 Commodore range, the limited-edition model was designed to celebrate Lowndes’ 20-year career in top-tier Australian motorsport – a career that started in 1994.
Somewhat freakishly, three months after securing his 99th V8 Supercars/Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC) race win, the car #888 driver finally brought up his ton of victories at, believe it or not, the championship series' 888th race.
Capped at 233 cars, the ‘Lowndesy’ SS V Holden Commodore launched at $57,990 for the six-speed manual and $60,190 for the six-speed automatic with paddle shifters – commanding $5500 premiums over their respective flagship SS V Redline starting points.
Exclusively available in either Red Hot or our manual test car’s Heron White, the sedan-only Lowndes Edition was put together with input and approval by Lowndes himself and can be spotted easily enough.
From the outside, a black ‘6.0 Litre V8’ bonnet decal, black side decals, and a black grille, roof, and rear spoiler all give the game away, along with unique badging, black fender vents and black window surrounds.
Look a little longer and you’ll pick up the tasty looking four-piston front and rear Brembo brake package, larger 20-inch black alloy wheels and black surrounds for the standard daytime running lights.
Inside, an embroidered ‘Craig Lowndes’ signature sits proudly on the passenger-side dash pad, while ‘Enhanced’-stamped sill plates join the same eight-inch colour touchscreen seen range wide with Holden's top-notch MyLink infotainment system.
As is standard on the regular SS V Redline, you also get a colour head-up display, rear-view camera, automatic park assist, rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and forward collision alert.
Pop the big guy’s bonnet and, apart from Holden’s stupendously torquey 270kW/530Nm 6.0-litre V8 (260kW/517Nm in auto trim), you’ll also find a Red Hot engine cover and a special build plate fixed to the left-hand strut tower.
Now, Holden might claim the big eight-cylinder unit reaches peak torque at 4400rpm but, like all models gifted with this powerplant, you can drive the Lowndes Edition as lazily as you wish.
Pickup is ample from anywhere north of 2000rpm but you can comfortably crush the daily commute, inner-city crawl and shops runs hovering between 1000-1500rpm.
And with the weighty but reassuringly solid feeling manual transmission, there’s enough low-end shove at your disposal to simply skip all even numbered gears until sixth if you so wish. Or you can just enjoy second-gear starts without ever troubling engine or transmission.
Sink the boot though and two things happen. One, you'll crave a more audibly stimulating response from the engine and its accompanying quad exhaust pipes. And, two, while there’s legitimate and linear hustle from 4000rpm and above, you’ll blow Holden’s 11.8 litres per 100km fuel consumption claim clean out of the water. Over our 400km-plus time with the car we averaged 16.6L/100km.
Sitting in the relatively wide and largely comfortable driver’s seat things feel pretty standard VF Commodore, which is no bad thing, though, we’d feel a small sting if we’d just payed extra for a ‘special’ edition.
Interior fit and finish is largely positive, however, our test car (with a little over 12,500km on the clock) is the first VF Commodore product we’ve experienced that has exhibited creaking and flexing sounds coming from behind the driver, particularly when negotiating steeper driveways and the like (seeming most likely to be trim related).
And while steering – both in weighting and response – and the uprated brakes are strong pluses, the biggest sticking point of the Craig Lowndes SS V Special Edition Holden Commodore is its ride.
Featuring “upgraded suspension bushes” aimed at "enhancing at-the-limit handling", the car takes the firm but impressively compliant and comfortable ride previously lauded on both the SS V Redline sedan and SS V Redline Ute, and frankly, spoils it.
Though we didn't get the opportunity to drive the car at the limit, at less than the limit, where the majority of driving is done, the car is fidgety and less adept at dealing with a variety of road blemishes – particularly sharper imperfections such as driveways – compared with the standard car.
The uprated suspension might perhaps improve the car’s overall dynamic sharpness when pushing on but it sours the regular VF’s sweet ride and handling combination, making things unnecessarily harsh and significantly less comfortable and forgiving.
No doubt playing its part here is the Lowndes Edition's unique wheel and tyre package.
One inch larger than the standard Redline's 19-inch items, the special edition’s 20-inch wheels roll on a staggered set of Bridgestone Potenza tyres that match those fitted to the base Redline in terms of width – 245mm front/275mm rear – but are five per cent lower in aspect ratio front and rear – 35 front/30 rear instead of 40 front/35 rear. This means, front and rear, there is respectively 12.25mm and 13.75mm less tyre wall to act as a cushion between the road and the wheel.
Craig 'The Kid' Lowndes made his V8 Supercars debut in a Holden at age 20, was taken under the wing of Australian racing royalty Peter Brock, had a stint driving rival Ford Falcons, has won three V8 Supercars championships (1996, 1998 and 1999) and five Bathurst 1000s (1996, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010). Wanting to own a car that gives a nod to such an icon with such a record is entirely understandable.
Sadly though, if you’re not one of the few that pre-ordered their Craig Lowndes SS V Special Edition Holden Commodore and already have your framed certificate of authenticity to accompany it, then you’re out of luck. Holden says all examples have been snapped up and, technically, the car is no longer on sale.
Craig Lowndes has done a lot in his motorsport career and, impressively, continues to battle at or near the very top of the category. But while much of what has his name on it has been tied to great levels of success, unfortunately, in the case of his 2015 special edition Commodore, the result has fallen somewhat short of the mark. For fans and enthusiasts alike, however, sold out or not, the Craig Lowndes SS V Special Edition Holden Commodore will long remain one to want…
Click on the Photos tab for more 2015 Craig Lowndes SS V Special Edition Holden Commodore images by Tom Fraser.