GoAutoLogo
MENU

Car reviews - Holden - Commodore - SV8 sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Performance, steering, subtlety
Room for improvement
Price, equipment level, transmissions

Holden logo9 Jan 2003

By TIM BRITTEN

CAR buyers with a conservative bent and a hunger for shut-'em-down performance will probably lament the passing of the V8-engined Commodore Executive.

No longer is it possible to flick through the options list and shoehorn Holden's 5.7-litre V8 into your white, innocent-looking, steel-wheeled family sedan.

Today, with the advent of the VY series Commodore, the only way to equip yourself with a V8 is to go upmarket - well, at least to $40,000 "S" specification, where the Gen III engine makes its first appearance on the price list.

If you're beginning to think this a pretty raw deal considering how cheaply the combination could be had in the past (just over $35,000), there are a number of incentives to sweeten the deal.

It may not suit the less flamboyant driver, but the SV8 Commodore does throw in a set of neat, 17-inch alloy wheels, a boot spoiler and various other identifiers including relatively discreet side skirts, an SS rear bumper and black-background head and tail-light clusters.

Inside, Holden's interior designers have added woven "spiral" trim for a more distinguished touch.

Of course, the more important stuff is the stuff you can't really see and this includes Holden's effective but not jarringly sporty FE2 suspension along with traction control and four-channel anti-lock braking (regular Commodores use a three-channel system). And, in manual form, there's also the long-legged six-speed transmission.

So, Holden customers, what you get with your new SV8 (the S is still also available with either regular V6 or supercharged V6 power) is, under the skin, almost precisely the same package that underpins the overtly rorty, but almost $10,000 more expensive SS.

The wheels are down one inch on the SS's 18-inch hoops and you miss out on the tactility of a leather-wrapped steering wheel and more sculpted seats, but the dynamics are virtually identical.

And, to be sure, the intrinsic appeal of the car is all tied up in the deep-chested, casually quick V8.

Where Ford's turbocharged (and slightly more expensive) XR6 is all high-tech clinical efficiency, the SV8 strokes its way along to an alluring beat from its eight muscular cylinders.

In its latest, 235kW guise, the Gen III loses the understated, hissing acoustics of the past and gains a deep, distant but satisfying rumble that in itself is enough to seduce a potential buyer.

The adoption of a full, divided exhaust nicely exploits the intrinsic aural appeal while also playing a part in extracting the extra 10kW.

The GenIII has never been a paragon of low-speed flexibility, but there can still be no denying its sheer size - and it is not likely to leave you waiting around for a surge of useful power.

Maximum torque may not appear until 4400rpm, but that doesn't mean there is not plenty available below that (it's easy to think though that the original de-tuning of the engine for Commodore might have played a part in its unusually rev-dependent characteristics).

Our manually-equipped test SV8 was usually a pleasure to slip through the gears, although there was occasional confusion when attempting a skip-shift from sixth to fourth, or third.

Otherwise, the box moves relatively lightly through the ratios with its not-too-heavy clutch and well-defined shift pattern. It is certainly more fluid to use than Ford's manual Falcon gearbox.

The V8 will deliver a pupil-dilating blast of power whenever asked, making good use of the traction control, yet retains the flexibility that enables it to be stroked along at a reasonable pace, using barely any of the revs available.

This may prove to be the discipline applied by long-term SV8 drivers because fuel economy is very sensitive to how the engine is used. We worked hard at keeping the average consumption below 13 litres/100km in a mix of driving conditions.

Like all other Commodores, the SV8 gets the new, more precise steering system which is an immediately noticeable improvement even if it is still not as nice to use as Ford's.

Ditto for the suspension, which does a pretty good job of gobbling up road irregularities at the expense of introducing a little softness and body movement when it is being hunted along. Where the Falcon feels affirmative, the Commodore tends to feel a little conciliatory.

The four-channel brakes that come whenever traction control is used (both use individual rear-wheel activation, rather than activating the rear wheels together as in three-channel, non traction-control systems) are strong and well up to the task - although they do require more pedal effort than those of the Falcon XR6.

The SV8's interior is not a huge leap over Executive, although you do at least get power windows and different trim, as well as a red background to the instruments, to remind you that you are not quite in a taxi.

The new instrument panel is an improvement that adds to the Commodore's impressions of class and tactility, and the seats were always pretty comfortable anyway, if lacking in the lateral grip usually sought by a sportily inclined driver.

The new steering wheel looks and feels good, too, but it would have been nice to see some leather trim on the SV8.

In the end, what you get with the SV8 is a pretty complete performance package that lacks the pizzazz of an SS yet is more of a standout on the road than a Commodore Executive.

The engine actually feels pretty refined and, if you're beginning to compare with the similarly priced but fundamentally different XR6 turbo, it still comes down to a battle between brains and brawn.

For most Australians, the appeal of a muscular V8 is hard to deny.

Share with your friends

Enquire on or Test Drive a New Commodore

Customer Terms and Conditions – New Car Lead enquires

Agreement

This is an agreement between GoAutoMedia Pty Limited ACN 094 732 457 of PO Box 18, Beach Road, Sandringham, VIC, 3191 (“we/us”), the owner and operator of the GoAuto.com.au website (“the website”) and the person wanting GoAuto.com.au to provide them with a lead for the purchase of a new car (“you”).

By completing a New Car Lead Enquiry, you agree to the terms and conditions and disclaimers and acknowledge the policies set out below.

Terms and Conditions

  • In order for us to effect a lead you must you must complete a New Car Lead Enquiry (“Enquiry”).
  • We will call you as soon as possible after you complete the Enquiry and certainly no later than the next business day. When we call, we will discuss with you your new car requirements.
  • You consent to our passing on the Enquiry and your requirements to an appropriate authorised motor car dealer as a lead.
  • We will contact you again in approximately eight days following your initial enquiry to check on the progress of the Enquiry.
  • While we will provide the dealer with the Enquiry and details of your new car requirements, we take no responsibility for what happens after passing on that material as a lead.
  • You acknowledge that we are a new car information service providing new car editorial information, pictures and prices to our customers as a guide only. Any new car prices published on the website are the manufacturers’ recommended retail prices and do not include delivery charges and on-road costs. Any authorized motor car dealer to which we pass on your Enquiry as a lead will provide you with full details of the price at which the vehicle will be sold to you.
  • You acknowledge that we do not sell motor vehicles. Any sale of a new car to you by a dealer after we have passed on your Enquiry to that dealer as a lead, is a sale by that dealer not by us.

Privacy Policy– New Car Lead Enquires

  • We take privacy very seriously. We understand that you will only complete an Enquiry if you can trust us to protect your personal information and use it appropriately. Our policy is to ensure that the personal information collected when you make an Enquiry is only used for the purposes of connecting you with an authorised motor car dealer.
  • We do not on-sell information collected from you or any other customer.
  • From time to time, we may email you with information or promotions that may be relevant for car buyers. You will continue to receive communications from us unless you tell us that you do not want to receive any advertising or promotional information in the future by unsubscribing from these communications.
close
* Denotes required field
** Australian inquiries only
*** Prices exclude on road costs and dealer delivery fees

Commodore pricing

Motor industry news

GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.