Car reviews - Holden - Monaro - CV8 coupe
Styling, V8 performance, ride/handling, equipment level, value for money
Room for improvement
Reduced interior space, slow power seat mechanism, automatic transmission
9 Jul 2002
By TIM BRITTEN
HOLDEN has not wrong-footed for so long it is hard today imagining it committing any indiscretions at all.
This is dangerous in many ways because continuing successes can sort of leave a company with nowhere else to go. When you're sitting on the summit, a descent is unfortunately inevitable.
But, uncanny as it may seem, Holden keeps delivering the killer punches. The Monaro is a case in point.
When the first styling prototype was wheeled out at the Sydney motor show in 1998, the svelte two-door coupe came as a shock to the public in general and to the car industry in particular.
Its future seemed assured right from the moment it appeared (although the Monaro name - arrived at by public consensus - was not locked in for some time) and promised to be another notch in Holden's by now well-notched bow.
The Monaro is more than a nice design, too.
Its two-door body is actually more taut than regular Commodore sedans - bending stiffness is increased by 23 per cent and torsional stiffness by five per cent. And, as well as benefiting from the VXII suspension upgrades, it gets its own, specially tied-down setup to give the sporty handling its appearance promises.
The differentiation between Monaro and Commodore is assured by the fact that only the bonnet and front guards are interchangeable - even the windscreen rakes back at a steeper angle - while the tighter, stubbier look is enhanced by the fact that rear overhang has been reduced by 100mm.
Unlike the original Monaros, which could be specced down to very basic level - including a three-on-the-tree manual gearshift - the new car is fitted out at a high level to start with.
Both CV6 and CV8 are leather-trimmed and both get twin rear bucket seats rather than the Commodore's three-seater bench-style arrangement. The main deficit here is that no through-loading into the boot is available - although actual boot capacity remains basically the same as Commodore.
The CV8 has slightly nattier trim, with SS-style colour-coding on the instruments, dash and centre console, plus upgrades in the air-conditioning department to full climate control, a more complex trip computer and a premium sound system.
There's also a variable instrument dimming control, dual horns, satin chrome and leather trim on the gearshift and brake levers, road-speed dependent windscreen wipers, auto headlights-on and approach lighting.
Externally there's not a huge differentiation between V8 and supercharged V6 versions. But the CV8 does get a neat set of 18-inch alloy wheels that nicely set off the already sporty body treatment and are fitted with unique, low-profile 235/40 R18 tyres that have been developed specifically to complement the chassis set-up.
Mechanically the CV8 is a sort of two-door SS. It is available with the cantankerous four-speed auto or doughey six-speed manual transmission (the CV6 is auto-only).
The engine is the same 225kW, 5.7-litre V8 used extensively throughout the Holden range. It is slightly different in that the air-induction system has been re-designed for improved response and a more obtrusive engine note.
The suspension has been developed specially for the Monaro and is yet another variant of Holden's long-lived but excellent FE2 suspension pack. It uses revised front and rear springs, increased stabiliser bar diameters and re-tuned shock absorbers, and benefits from the new Control-Link rear suspension with the extra toe-control linkages that all but eliminates the previous Commodore's susceptibility to bump-induced nervousness.
All this adds up to a crisp-feeling, large coupe with the flexible performance of the alloy V8 and a noticeable tautness in the structure that adds an extra degree of confidence. The feel of the Monaro is quite different to that of regular Commodores.
Because passengers sit lower and the roof is closer, there is an even more enclosing feel, but it does not feel claustrophobic. Visibility is less driver-friendly around the rear three-quarters, but is otherwise fine.
The Monaro's front seats feel large and accommodating and it is unlikely there is any more comfortable two-door for rear-seat passengers than the Commodore.
Rear legroom is not exactly Caprice-like but there is room for two full-size adults and entry/exit is made easier by the (slowish) automatic slide-forward function of the electric front seats (Monaros are put together with a little more attention to detail than other Commodores, but this did not prevent the auto-sidle malfunctionuing on a test CV6).
As far as the driving experience is concerend, the SS parallels are not unsurprising, except the more taut body and further reworked suspension give a pleasant feeling of togtherness and the revised, slower steering feels more accurate. Unlike some variants of the original Monaro, the car always feels more like a sports coupe than a modified sedan.
The slightly more audible - thankfully, for the SS always sounds strangled when worked hard - V8 suffers the same charatcreisrics as the regular Commodore engine in that it is slightly tardy until the revs begin to pile on. This is not surprising when you consider the 460Nm torque maximum does not arrive until 4400rpm.
But at no time can 5.7-litres be denied and there's no question the CV8 is a more than adequate performer. This is a case where TCS (traction control) and LSD (limited-slip differential) are more than mere acronyms.
The Monaro uses the same basic four-wheel disc brake system - ventilated at the front - as the SS, which means it gets four-channel anti-lock as standard. These do a reassuring job of containing the CV8's performance.
Overall, the CV8 Monaro is an alluring large coupe that offers driving characteristics as unique as its styling. Well equipped and well priced, it remains to be seen whether the modern day Monaro lasts as long as its original namesake in the fickle sports coupe market.
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