Car reviews - Holden - Commodore ute - 2-dr utility range
21 Sep 2007
By CHRIS HARRIS
HOLDEN has released an all-new Ute that gains all the advantages of the VE sedan update.
Vastly improved performance and comfort, class-leading safety levels and stylish new sheetmetal will give the Holden hauler the best chance of beating its Ford Falcon rival until that model is updated next April.
The VE Ute was developed for $105.1 million, which comes on top of the $1.03 billion spent on the Commodore program.
A key part of the VE Ute project is the inclusion of electronic stability control (ESC) as standard equipment across the range. This follows Holden’s decision to fit ESC to the VE Commodore range introduced last August.
It is a big plus for ESC to be fitted to all Ute models, but the safety story is not all good as Holden is not offering side airbags on any of its Ute variants.
While the front-end and cabin is shared with its Commodore sedan sibling, the Ute actually rides on the long-wheelbase Statesman platform, as is tradition.
While the suspension rates have all been dramatically altered, the suspension architecture is identical to the Statesman. That means it uses an independent multi-link coil-sprung set-up as opposed to the leaf-sprung rear of its Ford rival.
The advantage this brings is better ride comfort and body control over bumps, but the coil springs mean the VE is not as good at carrying heavy loads as the Ford.
It makes sense for Holden to continue down this route because, the coil-spring suspension set-up simplifies assembly at the factory and better suits its target audience. Holden says it expects 75 per cent of Ute buyers will choose the sporty SV6 or SS models.
Responding to this trend, the Lion brand has introduced a new SS V model which sits at the top of the Ute range, comprising all the goodies that come with the sedan model.
Holden took the opportunity to improve the Ute when it came for the introduction of the VE and the most noticeable is increased cabin space. The lack of any useable space behind the Ute seats, compared to lots of room in the same area of its main rival, was a big issue for previous models.
That has been fixed and there is now 245 litres of space behind the seats, which can cater for several bags of shopping, or overnight bags.
The interior of the VE Ute essentially matches the sedan, with all the same improvements to the dashboard, instrument display, seats, sound system and heater controls.
A plastic tub-liner has also been made standard across the range to protect the surface from scratching, while six tie-down points are also conveniently positioned in the tray.
All models except for the base Omega come with a soft tonneau cover, which again features a superior ‘snap lock’ sealing system rather than the elastic loop and stud system of the Falcon.
While the Ute is clearly closely related to the VE sedan, it has 60 unique exterior panels. Holden has also introduced a single-piece bodyside for the Ute, which not only makes the car easier to produce, but improves the look of the car as well as body rigidity.
The company says the use of “advanced strength steels” for 70 per cent of the Ute’s body structure further aids body stiffness and crash protection.
The new VE ute is approximately 150kg heavier than the model it replaces. The weight range runs from the base Omega at 1697kg through to the SS V automatic at 1806kg.
For those who actually want to use their Ute to carry things, the load capacity figures are important. Thanks to its super-low-profile tyres, the SS V automatic can only carry 508kg of gear.
The SS can haul 617kg, the SV6 can carry 634kg and the Omega automatic manages the most, with a load capacity of 775kg.
VE utes can tow a maximum of 1600kg as long as whatever is being towed has brakes. Unlike the VE sedan, all VE ute models are fitted with a full-size spare wheel as standard.
The base Omega runs two different versions of the Melbourne-made 3.6-litre quad-cam Alloytec V6. The Omega automatic is teamed with the entry-level V6 engine, which has variable timing for the inlet camshaft, but not the exhaust camshaft.
It generates 180kW and 330Nm, which represents an 8kW and 10Nm improvement over the VZ.
The automatic transmission is the same four-speed that serves the base Commodore (sedan) models, which was improved over the previous model.
The manual Omega and both automatic and manual SV6 Utes are fitted with the High Output Alloytec V6, which features variable timing for both inlet and exhaust camshafts. Power is up to 195kW and torque stands at 340Nm.
The manual transmission used for the Omega and the SV6 is a six-speed Aisin gearbox. Engineers spent a lot of time and effort to give the clutch a lighter feel than the traditionally heavy clutches of the utility class.
The SV6 is also available with an optional five-speed automatic, which offers a manual-shift mode.
The SS and SS V models get the 6.0-litre Gen IV V8 with 270kW and 530Nm of torque, which is up 10kW and 20Nm over the VZ model. It comes standard with a six-speed Tremec manual which has been extensively revised to improved shifting speed and effort, while also making the clutch feel lighter.
An optional six-speed automatic transmission, which also has a manual-shift mode, is available for the V8. Just like Ford’s automatic transmissions, this gearbox takes on a more aggressive character when you flick the shifter across into manual mode, changing up later and letting the engine rev harder. Previously, this was achieved by pressing the ‘power’ button which has now been deleted.
Fuel consumption for the Ute range follows the pattern of the VE Commodore over the VZ: some examples use more fuel, others use less or exactly the same amount.
The base Omega automatic now uses 11.3L/100km, while the manual Omega uses 11.4L/100km, which matches the SV6 manual. The automatic SV6 uses 11.6L/100km, the SS and SS V auto use 14L/100km, and the SS and SS V manual use 14.5L/100km.
The Omega manual and automatic are both priced from $30,990. Standard equipment includes stability control, twin airbags, cruise control, a trip computer, 16-inch steel wheels, electric windows and a single-CD stereo.
The SV6 manual costs $35,990, while the automatic is $36,990. Both gain 18-inch alloy wheels, a bodykit, sports suspension, a tonneau cover, leather-wrapped steering wheel and front foglights.
Stepping up to the SS manual costs $39,990 and $41,990 for the auto. It adds a six-CD stereo, sports seats, an LED high-mounted stoplight and Bluetooth phone compatibility.
Topping the range is the SS V manual at $44,990 (auto: $46,990). These add 19-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate-control, projector headlights, alloy-faced pedals, colour-coded instruments, a 6.5-inch colour information screen, sports steering wheel and leather seats.
The Ute shares the front-end with the Commodore and carries on the VE theme with pumped-out rear wheelarches and a clean shoulder line that runs all the way back to the tail-lights. The B-pillar slopes back to give the Ute an even sportier appearance.
The rear bumper sits low and incorporates the exhaust pipes, while the number plate has been moved from the rear bumper up onto the tailgate.
Holden also fitted the new Ute with new tailgate hinges which no longer protrude, giving the back of the ute a much cleaner look.
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