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Car reviews - Holden - Commodore - SS V Redline

Our Opinion

We like
Grip, high-speed stability, value for money, free-revving V8, supple ride belies big wheels, improved cabin design
Room for improvement
Chrome-effect wheels, no manual for Sportwagon, no launch control for auto versions

22 Jul 2013

ONLY a keen eye would pick the visual differences between the Redline and the lesser SS-V variants, but its the slightly changed wheels that give the game away.

While the front wheel dimensions are unchanged, the rear hoops have grown a half-inch in width (to 9.0 inches). Tuning partner HSV has been playing with split front/rear tyre combinations for years, but this is the first time Holden has made the move for one of its own.

Furthermore, the unique wheels wear a specially developed Bridgestone tyre which reportedly improves cornering grip and stopping distance, but not at the cost of increased wear.

Forged alloy construction means the wheels have also lost weight despite their increased dimensions, but the cheap chrome affect kills the mood a bit. That being said, a Redline ordered in Heron White, Red Hot or Fantail Orange is matched with gloss black wheels, which have a much higher quality look.

Interiors are shared with the well appointed SS-V too, with leather covering the seats, steering wheel and even parts of the dash.

Support from the seats is typically generous, with the firm cushioning staying comfortable no matter how the Redline was driven – although very spirited cornering did cause your streamlined scribe to move around a little.

Under heavy braking the deep seat held the driver well and prevented the need to brace on the steering wheel. The Brembo’s brake booster has been tweaked to give a firmer pedal feel – so no surprise there.

The big 355mm front rotors and new four-piston Brembo calipers have some bite.

Under the bonnet lies exactly the same 6.0-litre V8 found in the standard SS-V producing a healthy 270kW and 530Nm. The V8 internals may have remained largely the same for years, but the free-revving nature and accompanying soundtrack defy its age.

Instead of boosting power for the Redline variant, Holden took the decision to improve acceleration with the use of a launch control feature.

When the traction control is set to ‘Competitive Mode’, a stab of the throttle with the clutch pressed holds the engine speed at 4000rpm allowing an aggressive start once the left pedal is released.

However, Holden doesn’t offer this nifty system on automatic versions, which seems a shame.

The ESC managed wheel-spin well through all gears and allowed a little slip, but the combination of a dry surface and the warm wide tyres made the clutch smell like it wasn’t having such a good time.

Holden are normally a little secretive of performance figures, but with the Redline they have clearly let their pride get the better of them, reporting a zero to 100km/h of 5.5 seconds – and it feels every bit as quick.

The pair of Utes we used for a drag racing comparison handled the abuse well, though we wouldn’t recommend using the function on a day to day basis.

A majority of the Redline development focused on the chassis tuning, resulting in a change to spring-rate, damper rate, stabiliser bar stiffness and electric steering calibration, and this is where the Redline really excelled.

The drive loop provided a good variety of challenges with both tricky low speed corners and high speed bends with varying camber. The work pushed a significant amount of heat through the brakes and tyres but no amount of punishment could get either to misbehave.

After a full day of work the Bridgestone hoops showed no signs of uneven or excessive wear, and even on a soaked concrete skid-pan with traction control switched off, the Redline gripped well unless deliberately provoked.

Bodyroll was surprisingly minimal through high speed maneuvers, and the long wheel-base stability inspired the confidence to push the big beast hard.

Despite its lower rear-end weight, the Ute version of the Redline did not wag its tail any more than the sedan version.

The slightly more loosey-goosey Competitive Mode system allows an enthusiastic driver to explore the limits of traction in the knowledge that everything is still under control. You can wag the tail, but the tail won’t wag you.

Holden claims the chassis tweaks have resulted in a roll-angle of just 3.5 degrees per G compared to 5 degrees per G of the previous VE Redline Commodore.

On a super-smooth surface the suspension stiffness was an advantage with no surface imperfections to cause discomfort, but a more real-world comparison may reveal just how firm the ride is.

A head-up display is also another unique feature to the Redline, and it allows a variety of vehicle information to be projected on to the windscreen, avoiding the need to look down at instruments. It’s a nice Germanic touch.

When used to relay information such as vehicle speed, navigation directions and vehicle messages the system has an obvious safety advantage, but the ability to keep attention on the road is bound to have a benefit on the track too.

The HUD can display selected gear, lateral acceleration and engine speed incorporating a shift light to advise the driver when to change gear without having to look at the tachometer.

Only the Ute and sedan variants are available with manual gearboxes, which we purists feel is a shame – Sportwagon buyers should have the option too.

Opting for the auto version costs around $2000 on top of the manual and also forfeits the launch control feature so our money would be on the self-serve.

Now, the standard SS-V Commodore will cater for most drivers wanting a high-performance Commodore offering a good balance of value, comfort, quality and Aussie muscle.

But for lion-badge enthusiasts wanting to spend a few days a year on the track or even seeking out those favorite back-roads, the SS-V Redline does add a few features that make driving in a competitive environment genuinely more satisfying.

It’s $6000 on top of the SS-V, but we think the Redline is well worth the money.

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