2016 Holden Commodore SS-V Redline review: Driving the city at night

Rating: 8.5
$40,610 $48,290 Dealer
  • Fuel Economy
  • Engine Power
  • CO2 Emissions
  • ANCAP Rating
We've looked at the 2016 SS Commodore before, but we've never looked at it quite like this...
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When we chose to take another look at the 2016 Holden Commodore SS-V Redline, we thought it would be worth going about it a little differently.

Nearly all of our review assessment takes place during the day. Sure, there are headlight tests and occasional road loops done in the evening for the sake of light and time, but we haven’t ever purposely set out to review a car under the cover of darkness.

Until now.

Things can look a little different under the sodium glow. Colours change and lines hide, lighting becomes more like your environment than an accessory, and in the wee-small hours of a city, things sound and look almost alien to how they are during the day.

The 2016 VF II Holden Commodore SS impressed us when it was launched late last year. “The best Commodore ever” was the brave call made around the office, and with a 304kW/570Nm 6.2-litre LS3 V8 under the bonnet, it wasn’t hard to see why.

Nothing on the market returns the same dollar-per-go quotient as the big SS and in its top-line SS-V Redline trim, very little offers the same level of equipment and luxury.

Brembo four-piston brakes on all wheels, heads-up display, and a suite of driver assist functions are impressive features for a $56,690 (plus on-road costs) four-door sedan.

Our test car in Nitrate Silver ($550 option) even looks just that little bit more impressive than the average Commodore on the street. Do the street lights hide the imperfections or perhaps amplify the positives?

The darkness changes the way we see the car, but to get a real understanding of how the Redline deals with the sleeping city, and considering that it is getting pretty late, let's go for a drive

Inside, the Commodore doesn't have any of those nice LED lighting strips we see in other cars, but there are a number of blue LED puddles of light around the cabin.

The door handles, bins and phone tray in front of the gear shifter all light up. It’s not much, but they do a lot for lifting the overall ambience of the Commodore’s cabin.

The MyLink interface, with its bright red backgrounds and icon-driven interface seems to date a bit at night. Perhaps being the focal point of the dashboard isn’t perfectly suited to the infotainment software. An update in the menu design would do a lot for the Commodore (and the Holden range in general) but we found it worked well most of the time – we dropped Bluetooth phone connection more than once, but feel that could have been the fault of the phone.

The one thing you really do notice about the Commodore is the luxury of space, it really is quite a big car. The interior itself is nicely appointed and while there may be a few little hollow and hard scratchy plastics, generally it's very well put together and overall more premium than you would expect.

It’s not quite as flashy or modern as some of the Europeans, but it has a way of translating a sense of solidness to the occupants that makes it feel very comfortable all of the time.

The ride comfort has always been a standout of the Commodore and the 2016 SS-V Redline is no exception. Even on the substandard Sydney streets, and on 19-inch wheels, the car retained its sporty demeanour while providing plenty of compliance.

You don’t get a chance to judge pin-point turn in or overall weight distribution balance in an urban setting, but the Commodore is light and direct enough to easily manoeuvre through traffic and late-night club goers who spill out onto the streets.

Up front, the 2016 SS-V Redline misses out on newer LED or HID headlamp technology and makes do with standard projector units. They do provide a good pattern of light, but it would have been nice to see the LED daylight-running lamps operate as cornering lights as the big A-pillar still gives a pretty big blind spot.

It would have been nice to see some approach and departure puddle lamps on the car, but the Commodore does run the parkers as a courtesy for late-night walkups.

More noticeable at night is the four-mode colour head up display. It's much easier to see when it's dark and can easily be configured to the height and the brightness that you want.

Also more evident is the standard blind-spot monitoring system that lights up the mirrors when a car is off to the side. The Redline also features a forward-collision detection system (although there is no autonomous braking system), lane departure warning and even a rear cross-traffic alert which is pretty handy for backing out of laneways at night.

Fair to mention too, the reverse camera switches to a pretty cool ‘Paris Hilton’ night vision mode.

Our car has the optional sunroof which is pretty hard to beat on a clear, warm night. Open it up, see the stars and city lights, and I'll tell you even in this game you forget just how nice it is to go out for a night time drive to nowhere in particular.

While we were shooting the video for this review, we were surprised by the number of double-takes the Commodore received from people on the street. It might be the cameras, or it might be the good-looking staff… but they might just be genuinely impressed by the presence of the big sedan.

The V8 burble, even at low city-speeds, a hint to the power available and the muscular performance that lies beneath.

Find a gap in traffic too, and the tight streets are a perfect environment to hear the meaty bi-modal exhaust echo off the buildings, even when keeping to the low speed limits. Find a tunnel, tap it down a few gears, and you can really enjoy the raucous note that only a V8 can provide.

It comes at an obvious price in the fuel economy stakes though, a relatively easy trundle around a sleeping city still saw overall usage in the 14.2L/100km range. Without any longer stretches to even out the cycle, the figure crept into the low 20s – despite dropping under 10L/100km for sustained cruising.

No one buys a V8 expecting hybrid-like economy, but it is still good to go in with some real-world expectations.

We’re onto the final run for the Commodore now, and there is still an awful lot to like.

It may not be the most modern or the most efficient thing out there, but particularly in terms of the SS-V Redline, it's an awful lot of car for the money and it represents a high quality, well-equipped, enjoyable package that day or night is worth a closer look.

Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser.