For a couple of months now, every time I step into the garage I am confronted by a snarling face. And no, I am not a zookeeper. The face has black highlights and a chrome ‘LS3’ badge that shows, to me, the innovation of a country, and to people who have a four-wheel people mover view of cars, absolutely nothing.
With a press of the key fob, I hear a reassuring ‘thump’ as all four doors unlock themselves, ready for a new adventure. As I sit, the partial-leather seat grabs me from either side and I look over the bonnet bulge, knowing that it is home to a dirty big V8, a fuel-lover of an engine. Australia’s last, my first.
The start button, once pressed, unleashes a holy roar (a burble perhaps?) and I feel like a rebellious teenager again. The beast has awaken.
This is what a great car should be like, shouldn’t it?
I chose white because I’m a practical person. A family man. I chose the 2017 SS-V Redline because I’m not.
“It’s bowser five, isn’t it?” Greg at the servo asks, aware that my new purchase brings with it a hefty petrol bill. I nod politely. The car, sorry, beast, seems to sound better every time it’s starts up – louder and angrier at the fact you stopped its heart.
Not to worry, the merging lane out of the petrol station gives me a speed and aural fix for the ages – the thing is not short on power. The unbridled roar, without whining turbos or superchargers, reminds me I am Australian.
I bought this new car because it’s the last. It sounds strange that spending $64,000 on a vehicle because of its historical value is justifiable, although, it just feels right. The wing spoiler too, couldn’t leave that behind.
You can tell the FE3 suspension is good just by looking at the Walkinshaw models which keep it, and I agree. The car tackles any bump, pothole or corrugation with ease, while the low revs remind you that you can race an airplane, should you accidentally detour onto a runway and the need arises. You can tell the time and effort Holden has put into tuning the suspension.
I was thinking of writing the suspension ‘floats’ over bumps although that would be a lie. This isn’t a machine for perky, half-plastic city Mums who enjoy the throne of their ridiculously large SUVs. There is no champagne that needs balancing on this dashboard. Just the passion of an Aussie car with Aussie ingenuity at play. That’s all.
It shows too. The infotainment system, while rated as outdated and under-sophisticated by brainiacs who feel the need for some advanced warning system reminding them they are about to ram a pole, satisfies all of my needs. Maybe it's because I’m upgrading from a 60th Anniversary VE Commodore where Bluetooth was an exciting feature. But, realistically, all the tech features in the world could not prove more useful than the right pedal. And the left one, of course (sorry about the automatic tranny we bought, everyone).
Cabin lighting is good without being flashy. The head-up display, even better. I was at first intimidated by eight cylinders but the truth is, they are not scary or police-magnets. Just addictive. For me, anyway, this car branches perfectly your sports car desire and family car needs. The person on the sat-nav has a lovely voice too, if that’s a selling point?
The cabin finds a nice balance between an Apollo cockpit and a low-slung sedan. The seats are supportive and practical, with room across the back to fit three burly men and then some. The boot, unlike the HSV GTS, is not a tyre storage area – instead providing a large cavity for you to transport just about everything.
The centre console is roomy without feeling like you have to use the voice recognition feature to make a phone call in order to speak to your passenger. The boot springs are also pretty great. They are handy without the obnoxious reputation gained through an electric tailgate. C’mon people, it’s not that hard to put the boot up. Or down.
This car isn’t a track day princess either. I see people drive around in their hotted up Audi RS3s, music blaring, thinking they are king of the world. Then there is me. Passenger to my Dad driving the Redline. My first thoughts are filled with glee as I imagine the lease repayments slowly sinking the Audi owners' financial ship.
And then I feel like this car, as a family purchase is justified. It may not be as fast as the hot hatches off the line but nor do you have the hefty price tag, the impracticality, the difficulty of parking nor do you attract the stigma of a city-slicker trying to have fun in bumper to bumper traffic.
The substantiality of the car charms me. Its weight glues it to the road in corners, the four doors continue the roofline without losing the coupe looks. I feel like I have got a better deal, and better car, than everyone on the road.
The understated appearance to the uneducated makes parking a breeze. To many, it’s another Commodore. One of those lame bogan-mobiles, probably with a six-pack in the back with modifications worth more than the car – a loudmouth, a vehicle that gives you the finger as it shakes the glass of houses doing the school run, not a dainty pommy wave.
Yes, there are subwoofers with the included BOSE sound system, but they don’t blow your head off with some hip-hop junk of the modern era. WSFM101.7 will suit me just fine. It’s the understated appearance of this car combined with its flamboyant history that makes this car great. It’s not a theft target, not in the way other eight cylinders are.
So, should you get one? Well, you have to be the right kind of person. A princess that likes to tell people how they have Italian leather in their car? No. A real estate agent who likes to flaunt his money at every turn? No. A socialite who will accept nothing less than a quilted seat and a glovebox to fit their phone charger and curling iron? No.
You have to be true blue to understand this car. A lover of the simple things. A smooth transmission, indispensable power, fiery red calipers, exceptional space for the family, an angry face, comfy interior, sufficient infotainment, and wide tyres.
Make sure you get it while you can; the price is fair for a big boy like the Commodore. Even if you are not a lover of the petrol-fuelled symphony of this car, please leave the bi-modal exhaust open. Trust me, the public next to you will appreciate the noise as you leave the traffic lights.
Before I leave you to purchase your new car, I just want to highlight what makes this car special. This is a great car and it is a shame society doesn’t appreciate that. It’s the Australian philosophy and approach that makes it great. If a car doesn’t go fast enough in Australia, just stick a bigger engine in it. This is what made Aussie cars great and continues to do so.
I’m only 15 years old at the moment (and yes, I didn’t buy the car or chose the colour – my parents did after an extended period of pestering) and I am sad to see Australian history crumble.
Holden is a company that doesn’t focus on numbers, it focuses on cars. If only there was more appreciation for this in the world, the company would be set for a strong future. The SS-V Redline is the future Holden wants to tempt us with. It’s the last hurrah.
If I was of age and with a good job, I’d be driving a Maloo now – proudly. I think I’ll give the Redline a rest when I’m on my Learners', I’ll keep well away from my Mum’s Torana too.
The baby’s a beaut. So, please. Don’t fall for the European gobbledygook in our world at the moment. That a four-cylinder ‘Beemer’ is better than anything. It ain’t. You will be happy with your car and your exclusive ticket to a bright future as a Holden driver.
Holden, you will be missed.