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Holden's wild wagon breaks cover

Holden Commodore SS Wagon
VY Holden Commodore SS wagon

Holden Commodore SS Wagon
465Nm of torque from 5.7-litre V8

Holden Commodore SS Wagon
17-inch alloy wheels, bodykit, trick interior

The humble wagon class of car has been a long-time favourite in Australia, though the times they are a changin'...

Ford has indicated that it will be winding down production of its Falcon wagons in the near future to smaller numbers, though it's new AWD Territory crossover vehicle is aimed at filling this gap when it arrives in mid-2004.

Toyota doesn't offer a wagon in any shape or form in its '03 Camry line-up, though Mitsubishi will still offer wagons when its new face-lefted TL Magna arrives in July 2003. There are, however, a few dark clouds hanging over a wagon option for the all-new 2005-model Magna...

Holden, on the other hand, has stated that its Commodore wagon isn't going anywhere, and for the first time in the marque's history it has unveiled an SS wagon.

The flagship SS Commodore sedan that helps sell oodles of lesser units on its street cred and sharp looks alone, will soon be available in a limited edition run of wagons.

Simon Carr, Holden's large car big-chief, says the debut release of the SS Commodore wagon was consistent with the company's commitment to providing its customers with a wider choice of specialised vehicles.

"There's been strong buyer demand for a sports-oriented Commodore wagon for some time – and we decided that nothing less than the full SS treatment would satisfy their expectations," he said.

"Our wagon also has the advantage of independent rear suspension, which means it can deliver exciting driving dynamics in addition to great style, safety technology and high equipment levels – at a very competitive price," Mr Carr concluded.

The only other Aussie-built sports option currently available to wagon lovers is the Magna Sports V6, with Mitsubishi's mildly tuned 3.5-litre, 163kW V6 powering the front wheels.

There are a number of imported performance wagons on offer (referred to as 'estates' in Europe) but most don't offer the high power outputs of the new SS wagon.

And the few that do trump it - the 331kW Audi RS6 estate as one example - ask you to sleep with the bank manager to obtain one, what with their $200,000+ price tags.

So in retrospect, the SS wagon at $51,410 represents pretty good value, and while it doesn't quite come with all the bells and whistle's of the SS sedan, it is still one helluva wagon and with only 500 units on offer, it's also a very unique and exclusive vehicle.

On sale in June, the wagon gets the same sharp and rather aggressive-looking front apron, complete with central-lower black cutaway, big fog lights and deeper overhangs. It gets the side-skirts giving it a more planted look, but at the rear it doesn't get the same bumper treatment as the SS sedan, but as a trade-off you get roof racks as standard equipment.

The SS wagon is available in only two colours - black and red, or Red Hot and Phantom Black as the creative types like to call them. The red model is teamed with black leather trim, while the black exterior coloured wagon gets red leather trim.

Apart from the colour-keyed leather trim on the front sports and rear seats, driver's get a leather-wrapped steering wheel, alloy pedals, red-coloured instrument cluster, driver, passenger and side impact airbags, a six disc in-dash CD-player, power windows front and rear, cruise control, air conditioning and a cargo blind.

Unlike other more expensive FWD performance wagons, such as the 184kW Saab 9-5 Aero SportEstate and the 140kW MG ZT-T 190, the SS is a rear-wheel drive proposition offering 235kW of power @ 5200rpm, up 10kW on the standard 5.7-litre pushrod V8 from holden, which is liberated via a freer breathing exhaust system.

Peak torque of 465Nm kicks in @ 4400rpm, and though no official figures are given, the SS sedan will hit 100km/h from rest in roughly 6.1 seconds with a manual gearbox, and due to an increased weight over the sedan, roughly 50kg, the SS wagon will probably complete the same sprint in about 6.3 seconds, which would be remarkably quick for a wagon.

The engine can be matched to either a four-speed auto or six-speed manual gearbox and other mechanicals include (switchable) traction control, a limited slip differential and a more aggressively tuned FE2 sports suspension rig, which also reduces ride height.

Unlike the massive 18-inch wheels of the sedan, the SS wagon gets 17-inch five-spokers, and can only be specified with other HBD 17-inch rims, which would sugged the 18's simply don't fit into the wheel arches.

Performance wagons are a very niche market, not just in Australia but globally, and any marque would be considered brave to release such a vehicle, so kudos to Holden for offering a limited run of SS wagons.

With the Gen III V8's well-documented power providing locomotion and all the fancy bits that make the SS look so good inside and out, we only have one question: Where's the Ford XR wagon?

Holden Commodore SS wagon: $51,410 (manual and automatic)
Phantom black metallic finish: $255

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