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Car reviews - Holden - Monaro - CV8 coupe

Launch Story

Holden logo11 Mar 2005

By BRUCE NEWTON

WHAT a difference! VZ Monaro is by far the best example of the breed to drive – particularly in manual form.

The cam and exhaust changes have delivered 93 per cent of peak torque from 2300rpm to 5300rpm and an extra 40Nm across the range. Combine it with those shorter gears and all of a sudden the whole performance persona of Monaro changes.

There’s a far less peaky nature to the engine and no sign of moon-shot gearing that combined to make this engine feel a tad breathless below 4000rpm.

Whisking along some hurdy-gurdy roads during the launch was a joyful experience, the meat of the rev range never too far away.

And the sound! Not only do you feel the engine is working for you, you can hear it pumping along as well, creating a mechanical song that brings a grin to your face.

All that’s aided by the vastly uprated traction control. No more tap-tap-tap on the throttle foot and sudden halts as spark is cut. Now the whole process is far more subtle and progressive.

Not invisible mind you, but good enough to make speedy progress a far more linear experience.

The improvement of the traction control system allows the chassis and suspension to shine brighter. Always one of the better handling Holdens, the Monaro now feels like it has taken another significant step forward.

And this is all happening well before the all-new car and its Zeta platform arrive in 2006, replacing the basic MacPherson strut front-end and semi-trailing arm rear suspension with double wishbones and a true multi-link system.

There’s no doubt about the improvement to the brake system either, which over a series of crash stops held up strongly against fade. This is another recognisable advancement from the old Monaro.

Any improvements in the four-speed auto are less easy to decipher. It’s such an old ’box now that its lack of ratio spread and semi-manual mode make it a dead weight compared to the changes for the better in the rest of the package.

If you have a sporting bone in your body and buy a Monaro auto, then prepare for disappointment. In this day and age it is simply not up to par. The changes continue to jar, it will jump between ratios too easily and will dull the driving experience simply too much in the trade-off for self-shifting.

So put the auto in the familiar category, along with the interior. But thankfully the latter doesn’t need the sort of attention the transmission does. It’s a comfortable place to be if you are up front and liveable for a while if you are in one of the two rear pews.

Interior presentation remains just on the gauche side of loud.

Which brings us to those bloody bonnet scoops. If you love the pure and simple shape of the reborn Monaro, then you won’t be won over.

Sure, they’re well executed and somewhat menacing when another Monaro is following in the rear view mirror. But as for many of us, I fancy the best thing about them is we won’t be able to see them when we’re driving.

And the driving is certainly the really exciting part of the VZ Monaro story.

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