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Driven: Holden powers up with VF Series II Commodore

Muscled up: The headline act of VFII is the mighty – but mighty thirsty – 6.2-litre LS3 V8 sourced from the United States.

Commodore won’t go quietly, with most powerful V8 ever a parting gift from Holden


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7 Oct 2015

GM HOLDEN has saved the best for last, offering the facelifted VF Series II Commodore with the same V8 engine found under the bonnet of more fancied machinery from HSV.

Small but effective tweaks to the chassis of the SS V Redline, along with minor external bodywork changes, comprise the rest of the facelift – but Holden has left no doubt about who it is targeting with the late-life facelift.

“With all that expertise, taking the refinement of the VF in 2013, and maintaining that DNA, we can truly lay claim to saying that the VF II is the best Commodore yet,” said Holden general manager of product marketing Benjamin Lasry.

“Why are we focusing on the sports models? Because customers are telling us that’s what they want,” he said. “SV6 in the last three months has been over 50 per cent of our private volume, and year to date the figure is 48 per cent.

“V8 customers are giving us the feedback ‘give us a little bit more’. So we’ve listened to our customers, we’ve built on the DNA, and we’ve built on the refinement of the VF. This truly is a fantastic motorcar.” Found under the bonnet of the SS V Redline, SS V, SS and Calais, the plan to fit the LS3 engine to the Commodore range has been under development for two years. Previously, Holden’s performance arm HSV had exclusive use of the all-alloy V8 motor.

In Commodore spec, the high-compression ratio eight-potter produces 304kW and 570Nm of torque, up 34kW and 40Nm over the previous V8. It’ll do 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds in six-speed manual guise, and it’s a tenth slower when backed by the six-speed automatic transmission.

“We had to have a (power) number that started with a ‘three’,” said Holden lead development engineer Amelinda Watt, “and it’s about twice as loud as it was before.” It is also less fuel efficient, with the automatic-equipped SS V V8 consuming 12.6 litres per 100 kilometres, and the manual 12.9L/100km. These figures are a litre worse than the previous engine’s consumption numbers.

An all-new dual-mode exhaust arrangement has been designed for the LS3-equipped machines, with a specially constructed central pipe arrangement combining with a cleverly designed rear box and under-bonnet induction noise enhancer to increase exhaust volume in the cabin and outside the car.

“It’s not the (US-market) Chevy SS set-up,” said Ms Watt. “It’s our own design.” The rear tip is named after its inventor, Dr David Baillie, a respected senior Holden engineer who died earlier this year from leukaemia. A perforated internal sleeve is then shrouded with a larger diameter external pipe, which increases the volume in the cabin by about three decibels.

Holden’s Chief Engineer, Andrew Holmes, said the ‘Baillie Tip’ was an integral piece of VF Series II’s new sound character, and the naming of it is a fitting tribute to its creator.

“The Baillie Tip is a very smart but simple piece of engineering that contributes to the overall vehicle beautifully,” he said. “Sadly, we lost David to leukemia earlier this year and naming the part after him was a non-negotiable tribute that all the Holden engineers wanted to do.” A mechanical noise actuator also feeds induction noise back into the cabin via a hole in the firewall. The bi-mode switch is hidden in a set-up menu accessed via the infotainment screen.

The Australian-made 3.6-litre V6 remains untouched in VF Series II, as do the transmissions, though the final drive ratios in both auto and manual-equipped cars have been shortened by approximately 12 per cent.

Changes in chassis tune for the range-topping SS V Redline are the result of re-valved dampers for the FE3 sports suspension kit and the addition of a longer, thinner rear anti-roll bar, which has been relocated to mount on the outer edges of the lower control arms.

An upgraded brake package – known internally as the Chevy Police Pack – is available for $350, and comprises a larger master cylinder, different brake pads and larger front rotors. Models equipped with Brembo brakes now receive the Italian-made callipers on the rear.

Externally, a new lower front bar improves the flow of air to the engine bay, as well as directing air through the front wheel arches.

“The style changes are subtle but significant,” said design director Richard Ferlazzo. “We’ve always known that big fenders weren’t aero, but styling is king, so we got away with it.” The new lower aero ducts now suck air into and through the front wheel arch area and then ‘reattaches’ down the sides of the body when it exits the wheel arches.

V8-equipped cars also receive specially designed bonnet louvres that have been created to expel hot air but not to suck external air back in. Cleverly designed rain channels also keep moisture ingress from affecting under-bonnet components.

Looking at the entire sports range, cars from the entry level SV6 through to the range-topping SS V Redline receive the new grille and lower bumper, while the V8-equipped cars – including SS, SS V and Redline – have the option of the $350 performance brake upgrade.

SV6 and SS also score keyless entry and a push-button starter, as well as new-design 18-inch alloy rims.

All V8-equipped cars, including SS, SS V, SS V Redline and, when optioned, Calais V receive the bonnet vents, bi-modal exhaust and shortened final drive.

In addition, the SS V also gets a colour head-up display, new 19-inch rims and clear tail-lights. The SS V Redline, meanwhile, will roll on new 20-inch rims, with rear Brembo callipers fitted as standard and the updated rear suspension.

The Calais has been updated with heated front seats that slide rearwards when the ignition is switched off, as well as an eight-way powered front passenger pew. New 18s, along with clear tail-lamps on the sedan and LED tail-lights on the wagon, make up the rest of the updates.

All Sportwagon variants, meanwhile, receive new LED tail-lamps.

The Calais V can be optioned with the LS3 V8 engine for an uptick of $7500. Automatics across the range cost $2000.

The entry-level Evoke remains unchanged, save for LED tail-lights on the Sportwagon. The Ute, meanwhile, will also receive the new LS3 V8 and, on the SS V Redline, the rear Brembo upgrade.

The Caprice line, meanwhile, has been consolidated to the single model, the Caprice V.

2015 VFII Commodore pricing*
Evoke (a) $35,490
SV6 $37,290
SV6 (a) $39,490
Calais (a) $41,290
SS $44,490
SS (a) $46,690
Calais V, V6 (a) $47,990
SSV $47,990
SSV (a) $50,190
SSV Redline $53,990
SSV Redline (a) $56,190
Calais V, V8 (a) $55,490
Caprice V (a) $60,490
Evoke (a) $37,490
SV6 (a) $41,490
Calais (a) $43,290
SS (a) $48,690
Calais V, V6 (a) $49,990
SSV (a) $52,190
Calais V, V8 (a) $57,490
SSV Redline (a) $58,190
Evoke $33,490
SV6 $33,990
SV6 (a) $36,190
SS $40,990
SS (a) $43,190
SSV $44,490
SSV (a) $46,690
SSV Redline $50,490
SSV Redline (a) $52,690
*Excludes on-road costs

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