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Car reviews - Holden - Commodore - SS sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Performance, front-end styling, interior, steering
Room for improvement
Price, rear-end styling, brakes, transmissions, gearing

Holden logo18 Nov 2002

By MARTON PETTENDY

ONE drive in the VY SS leaves no doubt where Holden has placed its emphasis for this car - changing the looks.

Apart from refinements to the steering, you'll need to be a ride/handling or performance testing expert to detect any further differences wrought by the number of detail changes for VY Commodore.

As a result, it is really the interior itself that is the most noticeable change from behind the new-look steering wheel.

Although not as comprehensive as BA Falcon's all-new interior (outboard air vents are carried over from VT and the steering column stalks introduced for VXII remain unchanged, for instance), it is a refreshing change for Commodore drivers who have lived with the stylish but oh-so-familiar interior for five years now.

The new interior is a classy, Euro-look affair with large, tactile rotary air-conditioning controls and an array of push-buttons for the six-CD Blaupunkt audio system, which contrasts with the multi-function approach of Falcon's piano keys.

As with Falcon, there's a modern information display revealing everything from trip computer to audio functions - mounted within the instrument cluster not on the centre console.

A stylish new woven headlining material lifts overall cabin ambience considerably, even in base Executive models, making Commodore's driving environment unquestionably more upmarket.

Narrower spokes make the new Volkswagen-look steering wheel more functional and we liked the steering wheel's new, braille-equipped audio controls too.

To go with the new-look steering wheel is that dramatically improved steering, with better on-centre feel that requires less driver input to achieve similar results as before.

It still lacks the feedback of BA Falcon and is too heavy at parking speeds, but no longer requires constant correction to maintain a straight line and feels far more responsive and precise than before.

Combined with a slightly stiffer bodyshell and the fitting of larger 18-inch alloys, the steering lifts SS Commodore's dynamic potential up a notch or two.

Although ride quality has suffered with the arrival of larger wheels, the VY SS is generally a nicer package to drive.

The addition of side airbags and front seatbelt force limiters increases passive safety, while new standard features like a rear sunshade, front reading lights and auto headlights make it marginally better equipped, and the full rear wheel arch linings considerably reduce noise from road debris contacting metal out back.

But the biggest change in the driving is the noticeable improvement in both exhaust and induction note, along with more refined off-idle engine response, making SS less of a chore to drive in traffic.

While better steering and a skerrick more peak power and torque make the new SS more rewarding to drive than its predecessors on the open road - and there's no doubting the deceptively quick pace of the mighty Gen III V8 - for the first time Holden's performance king has an opposite number with the credentials to seriously threaten its supremacy.

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