When I told my wife I was going to get a Commodore, she didn't think much of it - actually, she thought I wasn't serious. I had a barely two year old Mazda 3 SP25 GT which was fine, but uninspiring. It didn't do anything wrong - but as someone once said, "If you can park your car, and walk away without looking back, you've got the wrong car."
The cessation of Holden production in Australia had been long announced, daughter number three had arrived, and the 2017 models had finally started making it into showrooms with very little change over the 2016's as I started shopping in March 2017. I'm a family man and a realist, so I started looking at the range with a goal of $30k changeover from my SP25.
The SS in a 2016 or 2017 got me the LS3 with 304kW - which, just a model earlier, your SS had to have a date with Walkinshaw to get those numbers, and the only way to get an LS3 was to go knocking on HSV's door. The basic dash was a bit ho-hum, and the audio system not so hot. The Black Edition had good looks, but basic 18-inch wheels and dealers though they were worth more than I did, so they were off the list. Moving up the the SS-V in a 2016 got me a few extra goodies, but still not the good brakes. It became clearer that what I wanted was an SS-V Redline.
Shopping proved to be a bit more of a chore than I hoped. Deals available earlier were not around and I was finding some dealers were unrealistically price gouging when it came to Redlines. I finally found a dealer with five. All black, all manual, and ready to do a deal. Not my ideal colour as a practical guy in his 40’s, but for my inner eight year old kid who learnt how to draw the HDT logo before the Stussy 'S' in his schoolbooks, it was perfect. A deal was struck, and I took my family up to have them help whip the cover off my subtly menacing-looking Phantom Black SSV Redline - which upon first hit of the start button my five year old instantly nicknamed Rumbles.
From day one I have found this car a pleasure to own and drive, and two years later my assessment still holds true. I have had no warranty issues - not one - and had one minor recall taken care of at a standard service.
I still like the look of it. In black with chrome accents, it is subtle yet strong in its appearance. The usual complaint about owning a black car holds true - but I have to tell you, for those first ten minutes after it's wash it is a sensation! Externally, I did get a set of 20-inch HSV Clubsport LSA wheels and Continental ContiSport5 at the 30000km mark, just as the original Bridgestone Potenzas were starting to look as smooth as my scalp. The slightly wider 255 section front tyre has yielded a marginal increase in grip, and a surprising improvement in front end bump resistance. The car’s handling is a delight, the FE3 suspension ideally suited to the regular commute, combining a mix of freeway, spirited B-roads and suburban stop-start.
I wanted a Commodore V8 because of the sound and decent level of performance in a comfortable, "can take the whole family" package. The performance of the car was more than adequate for my needs, but knowing there was extra potential with only minor modifications, I had to explore it. At 25000kms, I did arrange a couple of upgrades including a DiFillipo Exhaust, extractor and hi-flow cat combination along with a VCM OTR and infill panels. In English, and for non-Commodore performance aficionados, these components are the same as the Walkinshaw Performance W375 pack, but without the badge. A visit to my local tuner saw 298RWkW spin-up on a questionable batch of 98 Octane - I was more than happy! A smooth graph with improvements across the board in power and torque of 20% - statistics on paper are one thing, the drive is another.
We now have more exhaust noise and a little less intake noise. Not drony or annoying, but certainly purposeful. The performance above 4000rpm is now transformed, and you don't go there unless you mean to. Bottom end torque is still strong and plenty of fun. The TR6060 transmission action is smooth and solid, with a clutch which isn't hard work. The front and rear Brembo brakes are more than up to the task of keeping my car's precious contents safe.
Inside, the fit and finish is acceptable at it's price point and has held up well. I regularly travel with three colleagues in the car and the leather seats with suede inserts have stood up well to daily use and look as new.
The Bose audio system was a consideration in my choice of the Redline over some of the lower grades and performs to my expectations. The MyLink system is showing its age, and Holden need to take a long hard look at themselves if they expect an adult of full cognitive function to pay over $200 for a map upgrade while Ford offer free upgrades with each service. This will be fixed with an Alpine upgrade at tax time with CarPlay and Android Auto banishing the one letdown in this car. Servicing-wise, Holden have had no surprises, but their extra charge for premium fully synthetic oil is a gouge.
I have yet to mention fuel economy because quite frankly I have had no surprises here - but we can't drive a thundering six point two litre and not talk about its consumption of decomposed dinosaurs. My average across the last 20000kms has been 13.8L/100kms with a best of 8.2L/100kms. I've never had worse than 15L/100ks across a tank. Have I enjoyed each litre? You betchya!
Overall, as I reflect on two years and almost 45000kms with this car, it was the right choice for me to make. Financially I could have done better, and what I have is by no means a collectible, but each afternoon as I leave the office and I see it sitting in the carpark I smile. The drive - whatever the destination - is always a pleasure and even if I were to sell it tomorrow it would doubtless be in my top five cars ever owned. Should I have given more thought to a Kia Stinger? Yep, absolutely. Would I have still made the same decision? More than likely. I admit openly that this purchase was as much about the past as the future and the eight year old version of me would be extremely happy with my decision. I can say I would strongly recommend these last Commodores to anyone.
And yes, I can confirm, I do look back at it every time I park it.