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Car reviews - Holden - Commodore ute - SS 2-dr utility

Our Opinion

We like
Great performance with fantastic extra-urban economy, impressive dynamics, great looks
Room for improvement
Fat pillars and high rear window hamper vision, fussy ergonomics

1 Apr 2011

THE Holden Ute SS is a remarkably economical vehicle on the highway in six-speed automatic guise.

Its AFM system shuts down four cylinders when they are not required and, critically, this process is unobtrusive. A glance at the dashboard readout is required to see if the engine has switched from the full octet to the quartet.

The magnificent 6.0-litre engine with its 260kW of power and 517Nm of torque is perfectly matched to the transmission. Buyers who do plenty of highway kilometres will find an auto SS Ute ideal.

GoAuto used just nine litres per 100 km on highway driving. The capacity to run on E85 makes this a highly versatile high-performance vehicle.

While the engine happily accepts a diet of 91-RON, a slight increase in performance results in the use of 98-RON.

Like all VEs, the SS Ute displays considerable poise through twisty roads. Steering feel is good, a little better than lesser models thanks to its wider footprint. The ride is firmer but never to the point of being harsh, even when the tray is empty.

With its standard electronic stability program, traction control and limited slip differential, the SS Ute offers a level of reassurance in wet and slippery conditions undreamed of in 20th century Aussie utes.

Ground clearance of just 100mm and a limited payload of 595kg might compromise its workhorse abilities, but the SS Ute is more sports car than load-carrier.

The standard cloth seats are well shaped and comfortable. You can pay extra for leather, but at this point perhaps you should think about choosing an SS-V instead.

Like all VE Utes (and their predecessors), there is not much space behind the front seats. But the biggest fault is the poor vision in all directions. The fat A- and B-pillars combine with a high rear window to make this one of the most difficult vehicles to see out of. You do get used to it you shouldn’t have to.

The Series II dashboard is neat, with soft-feel fabric covering the upper surface exuding quality, but overall interior planning is not a VE strength.

In contrast with the dash, the gearknob of hard plastic looks and feels cheap. Of course, you can resort to the options list and substitute a leather alternative for $115.

As with the vision, owners will (but shouldn’t have to) grow accustomed to the somewhat confusing ergonomics. But Holden’s approach to cruise control (a gawky stalk instead of pushbuttons on the wheel) and operation of the trip computer functions is far from intuitive (why isn’t the ‘reset’ button called just that?).

You may need to consult the owner’s handbook to zero the tripmeter.

You do get a full-size spare wheel and tyre, which is good news. But some owners might be disappointed that this is a 16 X 7 steel wheel shod with a tyre to match the rolling circumference of those fitted to the four 17-inch alloys.

There can be no doubting the glamour, effortless performance and general efficiency of the SS Ute.

Although there is plenty to criticise, the final impression is of an excellent ute which will not disappoint buyers trading out of a dedicated sports sedan.

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