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Car reviews - Holden - Commodore - SV6 sedan

Launch Story

Holden logo18 Feb 2005

By MARTON PETTENDY

SV6 is the new six-cylinder hero of the Commodore range, replacing the naturally aspirated and supercharged Commodore S variants.

Unlike them, however, SV6 offers more than just the promise of performance because it’s now the only manual V6 Commodore available.

Married to the top-shelf 190kW/340Nm Alloytec 190, the new Aisin six-slotter makes SV6 quicker than both the sloppy Getrag five-speed manual S and the gruff, auto-only supercharged S.

Also available with the silky new five-speed auto - complete with steering wheel shift buttons - the bodykitted SV6 takes six-cylinder Holden performance to new levels of refinement for an attractive price - $38,990 auto and manual.

Combining VZ Commodore’s two greatest new strengths – the new premium Alloytec 190 and the choice of two superb new transmissions – SV6 is a showcase for the advanced new technology that’s now available in Australia’s favourite car.

Apart from being the only V6 Commodore to be available with a manual transmission, SV6 is also the cheapest to score the top-shelf 190kW alloy V6.

As such, at a price that’s somewhere between the Commodore S models it replaces, the new SV6 represents outstanding value - wrapped up in a mildly tweaked but elegantly executed bodykit that features worthwhile upgrades like painted wing mirrors and foglights.

But the new hardware is what SV6 is all about, and in either six-speed manual or five-speed auto guise it’s an impressive new tool.

Yes, the lack of ESP and benefits of an upgraded ABS system it brings is disappointing, but at least there’s traction control.

And yes, the manual’s tall gearing takes some shine off the new V6’s highway performance, with 100km/h coming up at just 1800rpm in sixth gear.

But with six speeds to choose from, useable torque available from as low as 1500rpm, a first gear ratio that’s lower than that in the Getrag it replaces and a lighter clutch pedal action, SV6 is both a doddle to drive in slow, stop-start going and in high-speed overtaking situations.

That’s made easier, too, by shorter-throw shift action, more positive gear selection and a generally tighter feel. In fact, a notchy reverse gate, located forward and to the left next to first where it should be, is the only shortcoming.

But if the new manual is good, the new five-speed auto is a revelation. Featuring pull-shift buttons on the steering wheel (the left one for upchanging, the right one for down-changing), which area activated by pushing a button on the shift gate, they’re tactile and simple to use.

While there’s no separate manual shift gate for the gearlever itself, there is the ability to lock the gearshifter into second, third and fourth gears. As with the paddle shifters, this prevents upchanges even at the 6500rpm redline, changing down only to prevent stalling during deceleration.

In Drive mode the transmission changes up and down sweetly and quickly, with none of the flaring that afflicted the current four-speed auto, and vastly reduced hunting between gears under a constant throttle.

A Power button is also provided, which when selected allows the transmission to hold a gear when lifting the accelerator from more than 75 per cent of its travel, for example when lifting off before braking into corners.

This adaptive system is a real treat during enthusiastic driving, when it seems eager to hold a lower gear than it otherwise would to provide good engine braking and response when acceleration is required again.

Only the lack of a new tacho disappoints, with the new engine revving smoothly and seamlessly well past the current V6’s 5500rpm redline – and without any of the Ecotec’s harshness and reluctance.

And this is where the relatively lightweight SV6 shines. With almost as much "step-off" torque as before, the new V6's strong launch feel precedes a healthy midrange that’s perfect for effortless highway overtaking and general driveability.

But the free-spinning top-end is what separates Alloytec most noticeably from the aged Ectotec V6, with only a surprising amount of induction noise detracting form the impressive package.

Changes to the front suspension anti-roll bar pick-up point (now fixed by a ball-joint instead of a rubber mount) seem to have increased steering responsive, making the steering in all VZs feel just a little sharper. And a new power-steering pump is the reason there’s slightly better feel off-centre feel.

Representing Holden’s most convincing counter-punch for Ford’s popular XR6, SV6 is a worthy contender for the Aussie six-cylinder sports sedan crown.

Offering more power than the standard XR6 and making its Commodore S forebear look almost silly, SV6 should easily keep Holden’s six-cylinder performance Commodore sales rolling along – and will make many sub-$40K sports sedan buyers happy.

But with Ford’s 240kW XR6 Turbo appearing somewhat like a stroke of genius, Holden will doubtless be delving further into the Global V6 parts bin to create the ultimate six-cylinder sports weapon, the SV6 Turbo.

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