If you have been to a car show or motorsport event in the last few years, you may have seen this SSV ute doing the rounds. It was a promotional vehicle for one of those other car magazines, and also my daily drive.
I still remember the conversation. I had already accepted the job, when the boss lobbed this cherry on top. “Oh, and you'll also get a company car. And that car is a sweet SSV ute!!”.
No, it's not. Stop it…. It is?? Weeellll ok then, if you insist.
There was no need for the thinking music on that day!
Of course, we have all read a thousand reviews on the VE SS, but we'll recap the key numbers. In automatic guise the 6.0L V8 produces 260kw and 517nm. Zero – 100 is 5 or 6 seconds, depending on the review you are reading.
Fuel consumption is… actually, never mind. I'll just drive this beast, and let someone else worry about the fuel bill!
The ute handles much the same as the SSV sedan, given its similar independent rear suspension set up. This “car like” suspension and handling is a revelation for ute drivers, used to a bouncy leaf sprung rear end. This is more like it. There's no need to load up the tray with cement and kelpies to get decent grip from the rear wheels.
This 2009 model is pimped out. Featuring 20in charcoal alloys, a big weird bonnet thing, two tone custom paint, and a hard lid with some wicked sick flame decals, it certainly stands out from the crowd. It's in the eye of the beholder whether all this bling makes it look ace or pox, but either way it's an eyeful. I half expect it to transform and start battling decepticons!
There are not too many better ways to fat arm down your favourite strip than in a V8 ute, especially one with some presence like this. I feel at least 10% more Australian when driving this thing. Life is good behind the wheel.
The Chev V8 is plenty fast enough, although somewhat agricultural compared to European V8s. Which is not a criticism. A rough loud V8 suits the car perfectly.
And I don't even mind if that slick AMG beats me at the lights. Old mate probably works 100 hrs a week to afford that car, so I'm happy to give him back a second here and there.
As mentioned earlier, handling is brilliant for a ute. Although the ride can border on firm and skittish over mid corner bumps, which is not helped by the novelty oversized boots. It never feels too unsettled or loose though, and that wide rubber means that the ute grips and goes, even out of low speed corners, where you would expect a car with this grunt to break loose.
Of course in the wet you will need to tippy toe around the hairpins a little more. We all know from high school physics that Momentum + Energy - Friction = Sideways. Or something like that.
In slippery conditions the electronic traction and stability nannies will step in and bang your knuckles with a ruler, but in the dry you can pretty much throw it around as much as you like, without too much fear of consequence. It's extremely predictable and controllable.
It's not all hot laps and time trials though. The tub is also super handy, and makes this the most practical sports car you can buy. I'm not at all fussed that the payload is “only” 550kg, since I'm not a tradie, carrying around rocks and anvils and junk like that.
For my purposes of carting around tables, chairs and props for events, the capacity was more than adequate.
Another point to note is that while the hard lid looks great and is lockable, it can also be a giant pain in the butt! If anything in the tray is an inch over height, you'll need to strap the lid down, as it won't close. Give me a soft tonneau any day.
Also remember that anything you leave in the back will slide and crash around and make you crazy, if you forget to secure it properly.
The SSV ute is almost the perfect car. Fast, fun and a hoot to drive, while remaining immensely practical. It's a shame that these Aussie icons are now on death row. Hopefully the brains at GM don't relegate the sports use to history once the Commodore is gone. Something this good deserves to live on and fight another day.