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Car reviews - Holden - Commodore - SV6 sedan

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10 Aug 2004

MEET Holden’s new six-cylinder hero, Commodore SV6. Set to extract both maximum marketing and performance leverage out of The General’s VZ Commodore facelift, SV6 is the only model in the upgraded range to marry a new six-speed manual with the premium 3.6-litre Alloytec 190 V6.

As such, the new model will be used as the centrepiece in Holden’s VZ advertising campaign that will saturate our television screens throughout the Athens Olympics. And if Australians’ penchant for six-cylinder sports sedans is anything to go by, we’ll also soon be seeing plenty of SV6s on our roads.

Effectively replacing both the current VYII Commodore S and supercharged S variants, which employ naturally aspirated 152kW/305Nm and force-fed 171kW/375Nm versions of the garden variety 3.8-litre cast-iron Ecotec V6, SV6 also offers a new Aisin D173 six-speed manual transmission to replace the cumbersome five-speed Getrag manual now available in the base Commodore S.

SV6 is the Japanese gearbox’s first application anywhere in the world.

Also available with GM’s German-built 5L40 five-speed automatic transmission when it goes on sale with the rest of the VZ sedan and wagon range late this month, both SV6s will be priced between the previous S variants at $38,990.

Given low-series VZs like Executive, Acclaim and Berlina carry on with an upgraded version of the four-speed GM 4L60 auto used in Commodore for eons (mated with the base 175kW/320Nm Alloytec V6), SV6 will be the least expensive VZ variant to feature the top-shelf Alloytec 190.

Following the discontinuation of the Executive manual in the Commodore range from VZ, SV6 is also now the only V6 available with a manual transmission, in a similar move that saw the Executive V8 discontinued from the VY Commodore onwards, replaced by the entry-level sports SV8.

Note, however, that SV8 and SS continue with the vague T56 Tremec six-speed manual, not the SV6’s slick-shifting Aisin six-slotter, which is not torque rated to handle the 5.7-litre Gen III V8. Of course, the V8 sports Commodores also continue with a revised version of GM’s four-speed auto, not the silky-smooth GM five-speed, which features Active Select paddle shift buttons on the steering wheel.

Available only in SV6, Calais, Statesman and Caprice, the 5L40 also features EC Cubing (allowing partial torque converter lock-up or controlled slip in third, fourth and fifth gears) and Performance Algorithm Liftfoot (where it will hold a gear when lifting the accelerator pedal from more than 75 per cent open) and Shift Stabilisation (which operated during constant speeds to reduce hunting between gears).

Offering a wider spread of ratios than the four-speed it replaces on premium VZ models, the 5L40 can also shift at up to 6500rpm.

Similarly, while the new six-speed manual’s final drive ratio is a taller 3.83:1 (versus the superseded Getrag five-speed’s 3.08:1) and its sixth gear ratio is 0.75:1 (nine per cent taller than the Getrag’s fifth), a much lower 4.48:1 first gear ratio actually makes first gear in the new manual lower, making for easier take-offs without harming highway fuel economy.

In the engineroom, SV6’s premium 6.0-degree Alloytec 190 produces, you guessed it, 190kW at 6500rpm and 340Nm of torque at 3200rpm, with 90 per cent of that available between 1570 and 5870rpm. Holden says that’s 11 per cent more power and a 59 pe rcent increase in 90 per cent torque range over Ecotec.

While all Alloytec engines feature electronic throttle control, four valves per cylinder, four overhead camshafts and inlet valve timing, the premium Alloytec 190 adds exhaust valve timing and a two-stage intake manifold for even greater efficiency. Oil change intervals are 15,000km or 12 months and the SV6 automatic’s official fuel economy figure is 11.5L/100km, compared with the supercharged S’s 12.9.

Holden’s official kerb weight figures show SV6 is 27kg lighter than supercharged S and while no claimed performance figures are available, expect the manual to undercut seven seconds for the 0-100km/h dash and to complete the 400-metre sprint in the low 15 seconds range.

While most of the VZ changes are under the bonnet, including new front anti-roll bars with ball-jointed mounts to increase off-centre steering precision, like all VZs SV6 features new front-end styling including the single-bar grille previously restricted to the sports models and new twin ridges that run up the bonnet.

While SV6 misses out on the new front quarter vents exclusive to VZ SS, it does score an aggressive front bumper with gaping airdam, plus front, side and rear body extensions, foglights, coloured exterior mirrors, rear wing, 17-inch alloys, chrome tailpipe, and new, more compact headlights without the current S Commodore’s “bull’s eye” parking light.

Though SV6 gets sports FE2 suspension, only a 15-inch steel spare wheel is supplied.

While mechanical Brake Assist and Electronic Brake-Force Distribution are now standard across the range, SV6 only employs Commodore’s current traction control system, not the clever Bosch 8.0 ESP stability control system found on more expensive variants. Which means neither the manual or auto SV6 features Electronic Brake Assist, Cornering Brake Control or upgraded ABS.

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Inside, SV6 features a leather-wrap steering wheel, cruise control, power windows/mirrors, road-speed intermittent wipers, auto headlights, trip computer, twin front airbags, 80-watt six-speaker CD sound system, cloth trim, air-conditioning, power driver’s seat and remote central locking

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