2016 Holden Commodore review: VFII SS V Redline

Is the final fast Holden Commodore - the SS V Redline - the best yet? Matt Campbell finds out...
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Save the best for last. That’s obviously the thought process behind the 2016 Holden Commodore VFII SS V Redline.

Why? It is arguably the best in-house performance Holden Commodore ever, and sadly it will be the last.

Now, it was already coming off a high baseline – the VF Commodore SS V Redline was praised for its excellent balance, handling, steering and its 6.0-litre V8 engine – though with the automatic gearbox buyers were penalised some power.

That’s been fixed with the VF II Commodore SS V, which has a new 6.2-litre LS3 V8 engine producing a huge 304kW of power and mammoth 570Nm of torque no matter whether you choose the more affordable six-speed manual model, or the six-speed automatic version.

For context, that’s 44kW and 53Nm more than the old automatic, and the VF II version is priced at $56,190 plus on-road costs – just $1500 more than it used to be in this specification.

That’s $34 per extra kilo-Watt, or $28 per additional Newton-metre over the old SS V Redline sedan.

Read the full Holden Commodore VFII pricing and specifications story here.

And given there’s so much performance on offer in this Aussie-made model, it could well be the performance car bargain of the year.

The new 6.2-litre V8 – which is built from the same basis of the engine used in the Chevrolet Corvette – is made for muscle car monstering. And there's a pressure-sensitive bi-modal exhaust system that offers a Jekyll and Hyde-like split personality - quiet and refined when the going is easy, but brutal and raucous when it gets tough.

The engine has a proper lumpy V8 burble at idle, and the car even wobbles around a bit on the spot when you're stopped – it gives the impression that something is trying to escape from under the bonnet.

Then you tramp the throttle, and the engine roars to life with a terrific noise under hard throttle, with the quad-exhaust system letting out an even more addictive and burbling noise in manual mode.

It’s a proper manual mode, meaning that it won’t override you if you’re accelerating and hit redline (which suits its name, really), while the throttle blips on downshifts are tantalising, and there’s a fantastic pop and crackle on the overrun.

The SS V Redline – unlike any other Commodore model – gets paddleshifters, and they make for easier hands-on-the-wheel shifts at speed.

It needs to be said, however, that the claimed fuel use of the VFII SS V Redline is a full 1.1 litres per 100km higher than the existing version, at 12.9L/100km. Commendably, though, we saw 13.1L/100km over a range of highway, B-road and spirited cornering.

The SS V Redline gets uprated FE3 suspension over the SS V and SS models, which includes stiffer anti-roll bars, lighter suspension components and unique dampers that are designed to improve hard-driving performance, and the body control is superb.

Indeed, it manages itself very convincingly though corners, with brilliant chassis balance and – even with a big power bump – good levels of rear-end grip.

The rear, of course, wants to step out if you’re on the throttle through corners, but the stability control system keeps things in line. That stability control system has a ‘Competitive’ mode for track driving which firms up the steering weight and response, while also turning off the traction control.

That said, the steering offers great feel to the driver’s hands, though in tighter turns you can feel the weight of the big eight over the front axle.

Going is one thing; stopping is another. While the SS V Redline has Brembo four-piston brakes front and rear (no other SS model has these), and while they pull up strongly under hard pedal application, after a few hot-weather, heavy-pressure applications the pedal started to lose some feel.

In more sedate driving the SS V Redline is like a completely different character.

Indeed, in full automatic mode it remains completely likeable yet somehow very subtle and subdued.

The exhaust in auto mode is quieter, and it rides beautifully for a full-fat sports sedan, particularly on the highway, while around town it also deals with sharp bumps, potholes and speedhumps admirably for a sports sedan on 19-inch wheels (which are 8.5-inch wide at the front with 245/40 tyres, while the rears are 9.0-inch wide with 275/35 rubber).

As for the interior, nothing noticeable has changed between this VFII model and the version that preceded it.

That is to say that it remains a roomy, comfortable and reasonably contemporary cabin, with enough room for five adults, a boot that can swallow 495 litres of cargo (or, in normal person speak, three large suitcases). If you buy the wagon – yes, there’s a mental SS V Redline Sportwagon for an extra $2000 over the auto sedan – you get 895L of space.

And in the SS V Redline specification there are nicely bolstered sports bucket seats up front with SS V embossing and SS V stitching on the fabric strip that runs the width of the dashboard. This model also gets a sunroof as standard.

However, because this is a cabin design that has been around for three years now, there are bits that are ageing, including the MyLink media system, which we already thought was a bit cumbersome, and it isn’t getting any better with age.

The menus take a bit of learning, and it’s easy to accidentally bump the buttons below the screen. The Bluetooth phone connectivity played up on test, too, with at least three occasions of the call not transferring to the media system. The radio reception was also pretty sketchy in some areas where other vehicles have no issues.

There are a few other ergonomic issues that remain frustrating, such as the bulky A-pillars and small side mirrors, but thankfully the VFII SS V’s safety feature list is long – and unchanged over the series I variant.

Standard is a head-up display, forward collision warning (not autonomous emergency braking, as an earlier version of this story read - instead this system can prime the brakes and warn the driver, but it will not brake for them) and blind-spot monitoring, as well as lane departure warning and rain-sensing wipers. That’s not to mention the standard reverse-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, and semi-automated parking system for every Commodore grade.

It also has the maximum five-star crash rating (VF I) and includes six airbags standard (dual front, front side, full-length curtain).

Holden has a lifetime capped-price servicing program that requires maintenance every nine months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first. Services for the first five years/75,000km average out at $251 per visit. Holden offers a standard three-year/100,000km warranty, and 12 months of roadside assistance.

So, the Holden Commodore VFII SS V Redline brings with it some serious muscle, at a time when the brand’s most loyal fans will be readying themselves for the demise of the locally-made large car.

Forget that it’s a four-door sedan. This is a seriously good sports car, and it’s a bang-for-your-buck bargain, too. Buy one and put it in storage and you could well make some money, as well... just make sure you don't put Chevrolet badges on it.

Click the Photos tab above for more images by Glen Sullivan.