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9 Aug 2006
By CHRIS HARRIS
The pinnacle of Holden’s performance car pack has reached a new high.
The 2006 VE Commodore SS V – Holden’s so-called ‘king of the hill’ – has arrived with a heap of hype with huge expectations.
Not only does the SS V provide Holden with a halo that illuminates across its entire VE range and will inspire the look of its next-generation V8 Supercars, it also has the responsibility of protecting the future of the politically-incorrect Aussie muscle car, particularly against the sharp ascent in fuel prices and the recent rise in housing interest rates.
The SS V sits at the top of Holden’s revised performance car portfolio, effectively replacing the SS as that badge moves down the ladder to take the place where the value-conscious SV8 once stood.
Sliding in at $51,990 for the six-speed manual with a $2000 premium for the optional six-speed automatic, the SS V hits the road with plenty of pace from its 6.0-litre V8 and a long list of standard equipment and safety features for only $200 more than the outgoing and outdated VZ model.
The revised Gen IV 6.0-litre pushrod V8 lifts peak power from 260kW to 270kW at a lofty 5700rpm while peak torque of 530Nm is delivered at 4400rpm – although it should be noted that Holden released these figures measured on high-grade 98-RON unleaded fuel.
The increase in power is derived from a number of subtle mechanical changes, including new exhaust manifolds that also assist in achieving the strict Euro III emission requirements and a high-flow exhaust with dual 2.25-inch pipes that exit through quad outlets at the rear.
The computer boffins have also recalibrated the engine management system to improve the performance and economy of the Mexican-built engine.
As befits a true Australian muscle car, the SS V is driven by the rear wheels through either a revised version of the trusty Tremec T56 six-speed manual or the brand-new GM 6L80E electronically-controlled six-speed automatic.
Holden_SS_V_Group.jpgThe T56 manual now features triple synchromesh on first and second gears and double synchromesh on the remaining forward gears to reduce shift effort. The shifter has been revised with a remote linkage that reduces NVH and has a shorter shift travel. Clutch pedal travel has also been reduced by 25mm to make everyday driving duties more comfortable.
The American-made self shifter not only adds two extra cogs for a greater spread of ratios that improves acceleration and fuel economy, it is a much more sophisticated unit than the clunky four-speed auto it replaces.
It is the same transmission used in GM’s global performance car hero, the Chevrolet Corvette, and a number of its luxury Cadillac models, and Holden is the first GM subsidiary outside of North America to fit the six-speed in a production vehicle.
Driven by a 32-bit electro-hydraulic control module, the gearbox features clutch-to-clutch shifting for precise and smooth gearchanges, a low 4.03:1 first gear for instant launch and swift acceleration and a staggered ratio spread - with a relatively tall sixth gear (0.67:1) for lazy highway cruising.
It’s been a long time coming, but Holden finally has a manual shift action for its auto – and it runs the right way around for enthusiastic driving, with forward for downshifts and back for upshifts.
Mechanically, the SS V rides on the FEII sports suspension that all sports and luxury short-wheelbase models, but picks up 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 245/45 Bridgestone tyres as original equipment while 20-inch dinner plates are on the option list.
The front suspension is a MacPherson strut with a double ball-joint lower arm, a direct acting stabiliser bar and front-mounted steering rack – which, when combined as a complete system, are designed to provide accurate steering and a more compliant ride than previous-generation performance Commodores.
The multi-link fully-independent rear suspension with coil-over dampers also has unique settings for the high-end vehicles and an aluminium diff centre that helps reduce weight.
Braking is delivered with ventilated 321mmx30mm front and 324mmx22mm rear rotors that feature twin-piston front and single-piston rear callipers, and an electronic brain that includes a locally-tuned Electronic Stability Program that links the anti-skid brakes and traction control to provide a fuss-free safety net that helps correct the car even in extreme conditions.
Building on the standard safety features, the SS V also has dual front, side and curtain airbags.
From a visual standpoint, the SS V has a number of unique features above the standard SS, including projector headlamps and exclusive tail lamps.
Inside, passengers are presented with a feature-packed interior with leather-trimmed sports seats and steering wheel, alloy pedals, colour-coded instrument panel with sports gauges, dual-zone climate control and a large colour screen display unit that controls the 230-watt audio system.
For those extrovert customers, a contrasting dash with coloured inserts either side of the centre unit is available as an option, as is a full-sized 19-inch alloy spare wheel ($250), an overhead DVD player ($1290) and an electric sunroof ($1690). Otherwise, the SS-V is fully loaded – in more ways than one!
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