No, it doesn’t have a 6.2 litre LS3. Nor does it have multiple suspension settings, or a bi-modal exhaust system. No, it hasn’t got quad exhausts either and only the V8 gets the FE3 suspension. So then, what makes the 2017 VFII SV6 the best seller in the range?
For one, the SV6 shares (from what I can detect) all but one body panel from its V8 brother, that being the lack of a ventilated bonnet. This sets the 3.6-litre V6's aside from the 3.0-litre Evoke Commodores down the bottom of the food chain. Not only this, but the enhanced front bumper and grille design truly make the VFII a handsome car from any angle in my book. While the Americans may not have appreciated the subtle, yet strong design, the VF can rest easy knowing its final form is one to be desired of at home, in Oz.
For those, much like myself, who take great pride in our now dead Australian manufacturing may rest easy, knowing that this model in particular represents the last car to be solely built in Australia. By this, I mean that the Series II retains the homegrown 3.6-litre V6. So, while the LS3 is unquestionably an awesome addition to the Commodore range, the plucky middle child still encapsulates that now-extinct all-Australian identity (apart from the mats which are Polish).
To drive, the car manages to feel slim and light. It certainly doesn’t reflect its 1700kg curb weight. Through complex and tight turns, the car feels truly taut and planted. This is a credit to the Holden engineers who really did design and tune this chassis for our, albeit crappy, roads. Too, it will gladly sit at 120km/h for hours on end, and you won’t necessarily feel all those passing kilometres, for the seats wouldn’t go amiss in Qantas’ first-class section and the tyre noise is certainly nothing to write home about.
That being said, this is not a BMW 5 Series in the same way the SS isn’t an M5. In the case of consumer technology, the SV6 features a somewhat dated in-car infotainment system that, to its credit, does all it says on the box. Just sometimes slowly. The head-up display is a very cool feature, as is its auto park feature, preventing wonky parallel parks throughout the country. But it doesn’t have adaptive cruise control like the BMW, nor does it have four-wheel steering or ride control settings.
In fact, the overall premise of the SV6 is fairly primitive. Right pedal makes it go faster, left one makes it slow down. And that’s absolutely fine. You drive the Commodore like an extension of yourself, you are in control all of the time. You don’t need the reassurance of four-wheel steering or adaptive cruise control because you frankly don’t need it. If you wanted to travel somewhere in comfort that involves very little involvement, you would have caught the bus. But instead you bought an SV6, a car that makes up for its lack of technology with passion and enthusiasm. Oh, and when it was new it cost $46,000 and not the $100,000 asking price of the Beemer. Shop around and you can find a low kilometre SV6 for half its purchase price in 2017.
So far, I’ve contrasted the SV6 to a BMW 5 series, a Qantas first-class terminal and a bus, but let that reflect what this car truly is; an absolute all-rounder. It comfortably sits five six-foot adults with 550 litres of luggage capacity and a full spare wheel under the boot. Kick your passengers out however, and you have a very competent and capable quick car. The power comes fairly late in the powerband, but the sound of a naturally aspirated 6-pot fills that gap with delightful whining anyway.
The six-speed auto I’ve got is a much smarter example than the one in the VE. Kickdown is timely and it knows when the fun is over and it’s time to shift up. Paddles on the wheel are missed but it’s always fun to pretend to be driving a V8 Supercar, moving through the gears sequentially with the shifter.
Speaking of the VE Commodore, the largest improvement, in my opinion, is the interior. Yes, in a car of this cost you'd expect your fair share of scratchy plastics and it does have some scattered around. Overall, though, leather accents and a dashing of (fake) carbon fibre set the Commodore above any mass marketed sedan.
Debuting in a Commodore is electronic steering – a point of heated discussion prior to the VF’s release with concerns over a potential lack of feel. Let me tell you, stepping from a VW Golf into a VF, there is no lack of responsiveness or driver involvement. The wheel feels perfectly heavy and while you won’t feel every nook and cranny through your fingertips, the fuel efficiency you gain more than makes up for it.
Speaking of fuel efficiency, it goes two ways; you drive like an idiot and you will absolutely pay for it. However, if you manage to channel your inner Christian motorist, you’ll find the Commodore averaging 6 litres per 100 kilometres on highways and 13L(maybe 12L)/100km in the city.
The SV6 fills a burning hole in the heart of Australian car enthusiasts. The V8 will eventuate into a wonderful future showpiece, encapsulating the traditional values we hold so dear – loud, big, fast. While it can be debated that the middle child of the range only fills one of those criteria, it really holds its own when you take it for a drive.
Avoid abused models (there are a few) and try to find one that is well maintained.