Works best at play
- 2009 Holden Commodore SS Ute; 6.0-litre V8 AFM petrol; six-speed automatic; utility - $44,490*
Options (as fitted):
- Metallic Paint $500 (Voodoo); Hard Tonneau $3,030; 20-inch Alloy Wheels $2,369; Matching Spare Wheel $350
Torquey engine; assertive appearance; sporty handling; cabin space and comfort Dull transmission; poor visibility; dated interior; fuel consumption; weak FM reception
As a trade-tough work ute, the Holden Commodore SS is an awesome Commodore Coupe ... And the boot space is a real winner. With a load carrying capacity of just over half a tonne, it’s a perfect ‘boss’s’ ute, to complement the fleet of HiLuxes for the blokes who do the real work.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The VE Commodore SS ute has, since its 2007 release, carved itself a tidy little niche. The customer base seems happy enough to drop more than $40K on what’s essentially a sporty two-door Commodore with a really big boot.
You know the type, outdoorsy, yet well manicured, with a penchant for an adrenalin filled weekend aback a jet ski or dirt bike, perfect for unleashing some pent up testosterone, and for them at least, the Commodore SS ute is ideal.
Inside the spacious and surprisingly quiet cockpit the vivid blue cloth upholstery neatly compliments the Voodoo metallic paintwork of the exterior, and in doing so, provides a pleasant contrast to the otherwise drab and somewhat 'base-model' looking surrounds.
The symmetrical centre console, and its much-maligned flush-fit park brake, still allows enough room for two cup holders and a spacious console bin, while behind the seats there's more than enough room for the grocery shopping or a couple of backpacks - perfect if you don't so happen to want your groceries distributed like a dog's dinner all over the tray.
On the downside, however, the VE’s notoriously thick ‘A’ pillars and small mirrors team up with the ute’s natural ‘B’ pillar blind spot to increase the degree of difficulty of conventional lane changing and reverse parking. Weak FM reception from the six CD tuner is also a nuisance, though at least a 3.5mm auxiliary audio jack takes care of the tunes when you're not in the mood for static.
Switch gear too feels a little on the cheap side with most of the dials and switches lacking any real tactility - especially those of the heating and ventilation controls. What I do appreciate however is the clarity night illumination from the instrument panel and the option of Saab-esque night mode that allows all the cabin lighting to be blackened except for the speedo, a great eye-saver on long country trips.
Joining the steering-wheel-controlled Blaupunkt audio system, the Commodore SS ute also features power windows and mirrors, cruise control, remote central locking, leather wrapped tilt/reach adjustable steering wheel, air-conditioning, and dusk sensing headlamps as standard kit. It's not a bad level of equipment all things considered, but for my money, I'd want Bluetooth and climate control thrown in - especially when you consider this ute is near fifty-grand on road.
Powered by a Chevrolet-sourced 6.0-litre V8 engine, the Commodore SS ute develops an adequate 260kW of power and brawny 517Nm of torque (in automatic guise) and is fitted with Holden's AFM (Active Fuel Management) cylinder-shutdown technology in a redundant attempt to save fuel. The AFM system is seamless in operation, but even through a rather restrained city and highway driving cycle, the Commodore SS Ute still saw the a thirsty 16.2L/100km average.
Getting that power to the road is General Motor’s recalibrated 6L80-E six-speed automatic transmission. I’m not a fan. At best it’s dull; at worst it’s awful. The transmission simply takes too long to react the changes in throttle pressure, especially on kick down, and is indecisive when challenged with a change in incline or through spirited cornering. The option of manual override (+/- function) does exist, but sadly makes little difference — even in manual mode the transmission still calls the shots when challenged.
The sum of the transmission's woes is that the Commodore SS ute not nearly as capable as it could be if optioned with a manual gearbox, either in terms of acceleration or drivability, for under that heavy body is a well sprung car that responds with a tenacious, sedan-like grip... when the planets are all aligned. The ride isn't too choppy and there's no nasty jarring from the rear-end, a common complaint with utes, thanks to the coil spruing trailing arm arrangement (MacPherson struts are found up front). Perversely, for a ute, it’s actually a really comfortable ride.
Steering is sharp, slightly heavy (gotta love that) and reasonably accurate of feel, but as much as the mechanics of the situation are great, the ergonomics are well below par with the large steering wheel feeling plasticky and cumbersome when cracking through twisty country roads.
With a level of safety equal to, or better than, most family sedans, the Commodore SS ute includes such standard safety kit as front and side airbags, three-point inertia reel seatbelts with pyrotechnic pretensioners, ESC with Traction Control plus four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, EBA & EBD for a total ANCAP score of five-stars (2009 build onward), an impressive effort when stacked against other commercial offerings.
The Commodore SS ute is far from perfect, yet there's still a lot to love - especially if you love that V8 throb - and if head-turning attention gets priority on your shopping list, then you could certainly do a lot worse.
CarAdvice Overall Rating: How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go:
Road Test the Rivals:
*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer.
- Engine: 5,967cc OHV eight-cylinder (16 valve)
- Power: 260kW @ 5,700rpm
- Torque: 517Nm @ 4,400rpm
- Induction: Multi-point
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Driven Wheels: Rear (with LSD)
- Brakes: Discs with ABS, EBA & EBD
- Top Speed: 260km/h (Claimed)
- 0-100km/h: 6.5 seconds
- CO2 Emissions: 307g/km
- Fuel Consumption: 12.9L/100km (ADR)
- Fuel Consumption: 16.2L/100km (As Tested)
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 73L
- Fuel Type: 91-98 RON Unleaded (E10 suitable)
- ANCAP Rating: Five-star
- Airbags: Front & Side
- Safety: ESC with Traction Control
- Spare Wheel: Space Saver (Steel)
- Suspension: Strut (F) / Trailing Arm (R)
- Cargo Capacity: 594kg (Max. legal)
- Tow Capacity: 1,600kg (Braked)
- Turning Circle: 11.7m
- Warranty: Three Year / 100,000 kilometre
- Weight: 1,791kg (Tare)
- Wheels: Alloy 18 x 8.0-inch (Standard)