Test: Holden VE Sportwagon SS V
Review by Feann Torr - 11/December/2008
The VE Commodore was an acclaimed success when it launched in 2006 but for too long the Holden Commodore range has been without a station wagon.
was always a goal for Holden to make a brand-spanking new wagon, but
the designers down at Fisherman's Bend weren't content to build another
Holden wanted to
change the way we view the humble Aussie station wagon.
And so the Sportwagon was born.
looks like a wagon - the long body - it smells like a wagon and feels
like one too, but there's something different about this new
What is it...
It's got style. Lots of style.
most elusive of qualities seems to come as easily to Holden's design
team as fish to the sea, and with a number of practical, sensible
features, the Holden Sportwagon could just be the best thing since French Toast.
Model: Sportwagon SS V
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Engine: 6.0-litre Vee 8-cylinder petrol
airbags (front and front side driver and passenger airbags (x2), front/rear
curtain airbags (x2)), ESP, EBD, ABS, EBA
Supplier: Holden Australia
Holden VE Sportwagon SS V
At the top end of the Sportwagon range,
the SS V comes with lots of luxury features
Engine: 6.0-litre V8 Petrol
longitudinally mounted 5967cc V8 engine has an aluminium
alloy cylinder head and engine block. The
includes 2-valves per cylinder (one inlet, one exhaust) actuated by gear-driven pushrods
The 6.0-litre engine features a 10.4:1 compression ratio,
and can use 91 RON petroleum fuel, and the SS V has a 73 litre
fuel tank capacity.
Max Power: 270kW @ 5700rpm
530Nm @ 4400rpm
When pushed to the limit, the Holden Sportwagon
SS V steers well and is very satisfying to drive hard
A practical family wagon that's a blast to drive and
has heaps of room inside? Surely this can't be right
The interior of the SS V can be customised for a
flashy look, but even in dark tones it looks good
The idea is simple - take the Holden Commodore sedan and raise the boot so it becomes a wagon.
But it's the execution of this idea that makes this vehicle so appealing.
of creating a bland, ultra-utilitarian vehicle suited for fleet
purposes only, Holden has crafted one of the best-looking vehicles this
country has ever seen.
The SS V model we're looking at here sits on
chubby 19-inch alloy wheels and when surrounded by the vehicle's sporty body
work and flared wheel arches it comes across as both tough and
It not only looks good, but it goes like a rocket with the big 6.0-litre V8 propelling the vehicle's obese mass with ease.
Like the Commodore sedan, the wagon is easy to drive and unlike a lot of European cars it's got a real sense of occasion.
It drives smoothly and is not without sophistication, and there's a feeling of refinement about it that belies its origins.
in, start the engine and you can feel the colossal V8 pulsing away
which gives it an appealing local flavour (even though the engine's
But while the engine has a brash character, the chassis is all sophistication.
the SS V model, which comes standard with sports suspension, rides and handles with
a good level of refinement which keeps everyone in the vehicle relatively happy and comfortable.
motivates very nicely in everyday traffic with excellent throttle
response and only over really deep pot holes and raised level crossings
did the car
jostle around on its suspension.
In general it's a pleasant car to drive from A to B and isn't bad at commuting either.
the highway it's a lot more efficient than in stop-start traffic, but
at the end of the seven day test I averaged 14.3L/100km, which is
impressive considering that freeway driving made up only a small
portion of the overall mileage.
Nevertheless, the SS's 6.0-litre V8 is a fairly thirsty engine and traffic is not its natural habitat.
muscle-car engines aren't your thing or fuel consumption is a big
issue, there is always the 3.6-litre SV6 model which is more efficient.
the SS V is not an ideal city car, but it absolutely eats up kilometres
on the open road and doesn't mind of a bit of tomfoolery either.
270 kilowatts of power and 530 Newton metres of torque on tap, the
Holden SS V Sportwagon has a phenomenal turn of speed.
Nail the throttle at the traffic lights and you'll leave all but the most exotic machinery in your wake.
The V8 may not be the most advanced lump on the market, but by gum it goes.
torque is progressive and really loads up the rear wheels at around
3000rpm, giving the car an astonishingly strong midrange.
I have to say that I
like the GM V8 better than Ford's in manual guise. It's easier to pedal along, the
clutch is lighter and the gearshift not as rapaciously rigid.
glut of power and torque from the hulking V8 is useful for removing yourself from dangerous
situations - such as being wedged between a B-double and wayward caravan on the
freeway - and also comes in handy if when you hit a winding section of
While the car's practical aspects are not in question, I did have reservations about the SS V's handling prowess.
A few hours in the saddle at a launch drive
is a good indicator, but it's not until you test a car on your
favourite roads that you begin to see the product more critically.
The verdict? It gets better the more you drive it.
very nicely in and out of corners and though there is some body roll as
the car loads up its suspension tipping into a corner, the wide 245/40
R19 tyres keep the car firmly adhered to the road.
excellent grip and a positive feel, the Holden Sportwagon SS V holds
its line through corners fairly well and it handles predictably when
you really start to shove it around.
There's a touch of oversteer
on gentle, open corners when you apply throttle as the V8 pushes the
rear wheels, but it does tend to nudge a little wide and understeer on
the tighter stuff, a symptom of too much weight hanging over the front
As a drivers car it can be rewarding and after a dozen corners you forget that its a wagon.
harder I drove it, the more fun I had and like the SS V Commodore sedan
this car is decisive in the way it attacks corners and overall
its an involving drive.
piston front and single piston rear brake calipers clamp 321mm and
324mm front and rear discs respectively, and in general the brakes do a
After an hour of at-the-limit driving however the
brakes did leave a bit to be desired and are perhaps the only part of
the chassis that aren't up to scratch.
Safety systems such as
electronic stability control (ESP), anti-lock braking system (ABS), and
traction control (TCS) allow you to push hard in the twisties without
being bitten, and you can turn off ESP if you really want to let rip.
Though the steering is lighter than the new FG Falcon's, it suits the the
car well. Feedback isn't too bad through the tiller and there's none of
the rack-rattle that seems to have permeated the Falcon range.
general I prefer the Ford Falcon's steering, but in this instance
the lighter Holden steering rack works in its favour and comes in very
handy when parking the4.89 metre long Sportwagon.
the SS V would ordinarily be a right royal pain. It's long, the rear
window isn't very large and the rear D-pillars are fairly chunky which
obscures your vision.
But with the aid of parking proximity
sensors, which are standard across the Sportwagon range, and now the
option of a reversing camera, reverse parking the Holden wagon is far
easier than it should be.
In traffic rearward vision is not perfect, but it is manageable and isn't as bad as in the Holden Ute for example.
lot has been said of the tailgate on the Holden Sportwagon, and getting
to use it in a crowded carpark confirmed that it is indeed one of the
best station wagon boot doors ever made.
Because its hinges
are deep within the roof it needs very little room to swing open, and
it's not what I'd call a heavy door either. It swings open
effortlessly, though closing it requires a bit effort.
high boot floor also makes loading and unloading goods fairly simple
and with 895 litres of space there's enough room for mountain bikes and
even lumber should you be building a shed.
Shopping bags will never fall over again, thanks to the little hooks in the boot and with
the rear seats folded down the 895 litres of space opens up to 2000
litres which is enough room to plonk a mattress on and sleep in. And if you forget a pillow its got six airbags.
SS V model we drove was optioned out with Calais-like upgrades
including a nicely integrated rear DVD system, along with standard
features like dual zone climate control and leather absolutely
Like the sedans there's a good deal of space for all occupants in the
Sportwagon, especially leg room for rear seat passengers.
a very sporty car as well, with drilled alloy pedals, leather steering
wheel and impressively designed sports instruments giving the
driver something inspired. The steering wheel controls are also convenient and intuitive
- one of the areas it trumps the new Falcon.
semi-sports seats for driver and front occupant are very welcoming but
could have used more lateral bolstering, and the rear bench seat is
fairly comfy too.
The Holden VE Sportwagon is a very practical
car, and this SS V model is also a very enjoyable vehicle to drive,
both of which are reasons to take a closer look.
At the end of
the day, if I was looking at buying a wagon that was partly for the
family, but also for enjoyment, the Holden Sportwagon SS V would be
high on my list, but the deal maker that lifts it above its rivals
is the look.
Holden has taken the VE Commodore sedan and
instead of just extending the rear they've put some thought - and style
- into the design so that the vehicle delivers an integrated, athletic
Never has an Australian-made station wagon looked so good.
Granted, the Holden SS V Sportwagon
comes with 19-inch wheels and a sports body kit which adds even more
machismo to the Sportwagon, but it's still an attractive vehicle in its
The roof spoiler, the quad exhaust pipes, the
blistered wheel arches, the projector headlamps -- I can't say enough
about the design of this vehicle. It's just magnificent.
If you drive a large sedan and have always dreamed of more boot space, the Sportwagon may already be on your shortlist.
it does offer a lot more practicality and - to my mind - a more
sophisticated look than the sedan, the basics of the Commodore
been retained. At it's most basic level, the car is still a lot of fun
to drive and the SS V model we tested is also an accomplished sports
with a very positive and progressive power-down feel.
has produced what is one of the best-looking cars to ever designed
in Australia, and the fact that it's practical and it drives well says
a lot about the engineering talent in this country. Highly recommended.
- Safety Features
- Overall Weight
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