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2012 Holden Commodore VE Series II SS V review (video)

The new 2012 Holden Commodore VE Series II SS V in Peter Brock-inspired Perfect Blue is about as good as Aussie cars get; loads of grunt from its American-derived Generation IV 6.0-litre V8; enough room for five good-sized adults; plenty of features like cruise control and leather seats; and it costs just $55,290, plus on road costs. The new model update also comes with a smattering of revisions, as outlined in our Holden Commodore SS V preview.

(Click play on the video below to see and hear the car on the road before you read the full 2012 Holden Commodore VE Series II SS V review)

HOLDEN COMMODORE VE SS V TEST DRIVE VIDEO

HOLDEN COMMODORE VE SS V OVERVIEW

Our test model 2012 Holden Commodore VE Series II SS V was finished in the new Perfect Blue colour, spawned in memory of Holden legend, Peter Brock – the colour mimics the Formula Blue colour found on the HDT VK Group 3 SS Commodore. For once, we really like the ‘hero’ colour Holden has mixed up, and we’re sure it’ll stand the test of time – unlike some of the other somewhat controversial colours previously released.

Priced at $55,298, the 2012 Holden Commodore VE Series II SS V is a whole lot of car for the money. You think about it, what else on the road (and we’re not talking second-hand) offers so much in terms of power (270kW), presence (just ‘ave a look at those pumped guards), safety (five-star ANCAP rating), and performance? While you’re probably thinking we’ve been paid to say such nice things, however, truth is, Holden has a winner on its hands. And we have no doubt the Australian public will flock to it.

The first thing that popped into our heads after clocking up some kilometres, was how Australian the 2012 Holden Commodore VE Series II SS V felt. While that might sound a bit dumb, the Commodore is an Australian-built car to be driven by Australians, designed for Australian roads. A lot of cars that are delivered to Australia are adapted to suit, whereas the Commodore is built from the ground up with Aussies in mind.

HOLDEN COMMODORE VE SS V PERFORMANCE AND DRIVETRAIN

When a family sedan shares its engine with models such as the Chevrolet Camaro, and Chevrolet Corvette muscle cars, you know it’s going to be tough. The American, Generation IV 6.0-litre V8 found in the engine bay of the 2012 Holden Commodore VE SS V is the same as previous VE SS Commodore in terms of layout, however, as with all new 2012 model Holden Commodores, there’s a shiny new ‘E85’ badge on the back. This means the engine’s computer and fuel system is compatible with fuel that is up to 85 per cent ethanol blend (E85).

We used both fuels throughout the test period (BP ultimate and Caltex’s E85 biofuel) and it was really hard to differentiate between the two, in terms of performance and which fuel ‘felt’ nicer on the road. If anything, the engine did seem to have better response, and perhaps revved out a touch faster, and even sounded more crisp on E85.

Offering 270kW of power ad 530Nm of torque, the 2012 Holden Commodore VE Series II SS V engine never fails to throw the speedo needle into orbit. Be it off the line or knocking back a few gears to overtake; bring up the revs, and the engine will really stretch its legs. As anyone who has driven the old Generation III 5.7-litre V8 Commodore will know, the small block Chev did lack a bit of legs down low, whereas this latest Generation IV 6.0-litre feels punchy from just about anywhere between 1000rpm and 6000rpm.

And then there’s the engine’s exhaust and induction tune. Think of drunken bass guitar jam with Cliff Burton, add in some Tasmanian Devils fighting over a meat pie, and you’re on your way to imagining the grunting, bass-thumping, roaring sound this Generation IV 6.0-litre engine puts out (check the video above for some audio/visual stimulation). We can only imagine with a less-restrictive exhaust, and a properly modified intake, you’ll have yourself quite a V8 Supercar soundtrack.

Holden seems to have sorted the gear throw with the VE range. No longer does it feel like second gear is one-metre away from third gear, or a soup ladle in a bucket of dynabolts. The silky smooth alloy-like finish gear knob sits comfortably in your hand, and links from one gear to the next with a nice short tough-feeling throw. It can be a bit notchy at times, but the fact that it has 6.0-litres of engine in front of it does make you forgive and instantly forget. Same goes for the clutch – it’ll take a bit of getting used to, as it does bite pretty aggressively (almost like a brass button, but much, much lighter). As a result, it provides decent feel and sits in a spot that feels natural for the left leg to kick when it’s time.

We’ll argue black and blue that the factory-fitted limited-slip diff does spin the inside wheel just a tad too much, and right at the moments when you want grip maximum grip through and out of corners. The 2012 Holden Commodore SS V is certainly not designed to be skidded around like a Nissan S15 drifter, however, in those uphill hairpins, and stubborn tight corners, we found it was prone to let the inside wheel slip slightly more than is acceptable.

HOLDEN COMMODORE VE SS V STEERING, SUSPENSION AND BRAKING

On the road the 2012 Holden Commodore VE Series II SS V feels surprisingly nimble for a large car, changing direction with ease even when you’re pushing it. The steering feels a tiny bit numb around centre, but feels good once you’re on lock, never feeling too light mid-corner, or heavy around town.

The ride comfort, for a sedan that will mostly be used as a family car, absorbs just about every pot hole, undulation and bump that gets thrown at it on Australian roads. Mid-corner bumps do make the hefty ol’ girl unsettled a touch, but it’s nothing to worry about, and doesn’t really ruin your cornering confidence. The suspension package fitted to the 2012 Holden Commodore VE Series II SS V is a good happy medium that will keep the kids happy on the way to school, and dad happy in the bends come Sunday afternoon.

Under braking, the nose of the 2012 Holden Commodore VE Series II SS V can dive a touch, and the rear of the car can squat pretty heavily if your hard on the gas. It’s not such a bad thing, as it really sinks the 245/40 R19 tyres onto the road. With a wide track on the road, the factory brakes do pull up the 1700-odd kilos very well, and in time during those Bathurst-like moments.

Don’t expect just because you have a great big stonking V8 that it’ll fry rubber first, second, and third gears, or that it’ll launch sideways at every junction and bend, this latest Holden VE SS has more rear end grip than a baboon dragging its butt along a line of super glue. But to all the hoonigans out there, yes, it will step out if you really provoke it, but it needs a lot more baiting than other V8 Commodores gone by.

HOLDEN COMMODORE VE SS V SAFETY AND ACCOMMODATION

The outside of the 2012 Holden Commodore VE Series II SS V is mostly unchanged from the 2011 Commodore VE Series II SS V, except for new chrome inserts found around the grille, and a few other tiny changes that aren’t really that noticeable to be honest. The VE Commodore has always been a stern-looking Australian car, commanding respect with its hugely-flared front and rear wheel arches, making it appear to have a ‘I’ve got big shoulders’ type persona.

Carrying five adults isn’t ever really a problem when you have a Commodore. Front passengers will never complain about leg room (not even Andrew Bogut) and the rear ones will only have time to say, ‘ooh, this leather is nice’, and they too will then stretch out their legs. Same goes with the boot, it’ll fit the golf clubs, and even a few cases of beer to celebrate those always important backyard BBQs.

As far as the build quality goes, for the money you pay, you can sleep well knowing you’ve got your dollar’s worth. The latest 2012 Holden Commodore VE Series II SS V has also passed the newest and strictest ANCAP crash tests, and as a result holds a five-star safety rating, just for piece of mind.

While we weren’t all that impressed with the paint finish under the boot lid, or around the engine bay, the outside is nicely done, and overall it feels and looks solidly bolted together. Even the doors emit a nice thud as you swing them shut. The latest SS bodykit doesn’t seem to have the same intimidating fascia or wheels like the original VE SS V did back in 2006 when it was first released… it seems a smidgen softer around the edges. What do you think?

The Commodore might not have the finesse of a new BMW 5-Series, but it doesn’t cost as much. In fact, this 2012 Holden Commodore VE Series II SS V costs less than the cheapest BMW 3-Series (entry-level four-cylinder engine, cloth trim), kicking off at $55,290.

HOLDEN COMMODORE VE SS V EQUIPMENT

Inside the 2012 Holden Commodore VE Series II SS V you’ll find full leather trim, supportive sports seats up front with SS decals, and a rear seat with a middle armrest. The door trims also get a nice leather touch. The black roof lining is good to see, as we’re sure many 2012 Holden Commodore VE Series II SS V cars will become family chariots, and there’s nothing worse than seeing a Twix bar smudged into a light grey roof – light grey looks so ‘rental car’ anyway. The dark theme carries onto the dash, with light silver accents following through the middle, and out along the doors.

A great thing about any Holden Commodore is the amount of room you have – we said it earlier, and we’re going to say it again. If you’ve got loads of luggage, no problem. If you’re 7-foot tall, still doesn’t matter, you’ll fit. If you’re up for some spirited driving, click the seat into the upright position, and lift the back rest up from ‘cruising down the beach’ mode, and the stock SS seats will offer decent lateral support. However, if you do planning on doing a few track days, we’d suggest trying to find a more-supportive replacement bolt-in, as you might just end up in the passenger seat if you get too excited.

One thing that really points out that this car is built by Aussies, for Aussies, is how easy the dash controls are to use. Nothing is too complicated. We’re not saying Holden thinks us Aussies are a dumb bunch, or even ‘slow’, they just know we like things uncomplicated, so we can easily continue our laid back lifestyle whilst we motor around.

The centre factory-fitted satellite navigation iQ infotainment interface is excellent. It’s very easy to use. Whether its picking a song, or finding an album, none of it is a confusing rigmarole like you get with some fancy Euro barges. You’ll find USB input for your iPod, too.

The sound is quite sharp, and has good bass kick for when you feel like cranking out Highway To Hell. The only thing that would make the interior a nicer place to be would be a sunroof – it is available as an option ($1990), but it’s a must we reckon.

HOLDEN COMMODORE VE SS V VERDICT

In just about any car conversation around this great big red country of ours, the age-old SS Commodore will naturally always come up. You’ve either owned one, want one, or you’re a Ford man and having a stir. And it’s no wonder. The Holden Commodore is a regular in the top five of the official national VFACTS sales figures. Well done Holden, the 2012 Holden Commodore VE Series II SS V is a bloody great drive.

HOLDEN COMMODORE VE SS V SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL
2012 Holden Commodore VE SS V Series II

ENGINE
Generation IV 6.0-litre alloy V8

ENGINE SIZE (cc) / COMPRESSION RATIO
5967cc / 10.4

BORE X STROKE (mm)
101.6mm x 92mm

POWER
270kW@5700rpm, 530Nm@4400rpm

POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO
6.41 : 1 (kg:kw)

WEIGHT
1731kg

HEIGHT / WIDTH / LENGTH
1476mm / 1899mm / 4894mm

DRIVETRAIN
Six-speed manual, limited-slip differential

BRAKES
F: 321mm ventilated discs, twin-piston calipers
R: 324mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers

WHEELS / TYRES
F: 19 x 8 inch, 245/40 R19
R: 19 x 8 inch, 245/40 R19

FUEL TANK CAPACITY
73 litres

FUEL CONSUMPTION
Tested average: 20.7L/100km (on E85)
Official average: 12.2L/100km

PERFORMANCE
0-100km/h: 5.6 seconds (6.3 tested)

PRICED FROM
$55,290

PROS
Corvette-like engine note, power-down grip, bang for the buck, soaks up Aussie roads well

CONS
For the money you pay is it worth bagging it out? OK, we thought the brake pedal was a bit sponge-ish, and if you drive it hard your fuel tank, and your wallet, will be empty

THE COMPETITION
Ford FPV GS, Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo

Josh was one of the original co-founders of PerformanceDrive. His expertise is car culture and aftermarket performance. He was the editor at Hot4s Magazine for a few years, and has since worked at Fast Fours, Zoom, and as a journalist for The Project Group.

  • Steven

    The Holden SS is a true Aussie car. As long as the Holden SS is made, you know Australia hasn’t lost its heritage lol!

  • Yeah

    55K? Ouch, here in the USA we can buy the Pontiac G8 GT (used) for $20K, as I did…same car. Hope they bring these back to the USA in 2013 as the rumors suggest. Awesome machines. But at 55K they will not sell in USA due to fierce competition (that does not exist in Australia)

  • jess

    hi there dont now if you can help but my partner has a ve ss series 2 an we want to now how you can tell if it is a my12 ?

    • Daniel D

      Chrome trim around the front bumper air intake and fog lights is the giveaway.

  • Jared Tate

    Nice review!