The Holden VE Commodore SS Z Series Ute adds some extra pizazz and creature comforts to the widely-respected V8 workhorse.
Holden VE Commodore SS Z Series Ute – PROS AND CONS
- Buckets of fun to drive – handles and accelerates like a proper performance car
- Bold styling
- Z Series adds some nice touches
- It’s the only two-door V8 Holden on sale
- Heavy clutch and gear throw
- Fuel consumption when you drive actively
- Steering wheel is way too large
- Could sound beefier
Holden VE Commodore SS Z Series Ute – OVERVIEW
Trusty ol’ utes have been on sale in Australia for as long as anyone can remember. The latest, and last VE Ute before the VF arrives, the Holden Commodore SS Z Series, gives buyers extra incentive to own something a little more special than the rest.
Prices for the Z Series SS Ute start at $42,490 for six-speed manual model, or $44,490 if you go with a six-speed automatic. The six-speed manual SS Ute is the cheapest way to get into a V8 Holden.
Under the hood of the Z Series SS Ute is GM’s 6.0-litre Generation IV alloy V8, producing 270kW and 530Nm (manual transmission – as tested). This is the same unit that powers the regular non-Z Series model.
Automatic variants (SS Ute automatic review) come with an Active Fuel Management version of the Gen IV, which can deactivate cylinders in order to reduce fuel consumption, however, they produce slightly less power; 260kW and 517Nm.
Special appointments exclusive to the Z Series Ute include dark grey 19-inch alloy wheels, leather bolstered seats, Z-Series floor mats, and Z-Series badges on both front guards. The Z Series extras don’t exactly change the way it drives, but they do make it a little more exclusive.
Z Series models also see the introduction of a new deep purple hue called Alchemy – a colour inspired by the gorgeous Holden Efijay. Other colours available are Heron White, Karma (blue/dark silver), Hazard (yellow), Phantom (black), Nitrate (silver), Poison Ivy (green), Redhot (red), Alto Grey, Voodoo (blue), and Sizzle (dark red).
The VE Ute sits on GM’s Holden-developed, billion-dollar Zeta platform, and much like the sedan, it features an independent suspension setup in the rear; making the VE the only rear-wheel drive ute in the world to run this type of layout.
SS Utes have a varied maximum towing capacity depending on the transmission – 1600kg for manual and 2100kg for automatic – while the recommended maximum speed while towing is 100km/h. Maximum payload limit for the VE Ute is 650kg.
Holden VE Commodore SS Z Series Ute – ACCOMMODATION AND EQUIPMENT
Open up either of the doors and it’s a business-as-usual SS Commodore affair. The cabin feels quite roomy for a ute, with loads of head and leg space, and a generous amount of room behind the seats for a carry bag and some shopping.
The Z-Series-exclusive seat trim looks and feels nice to touch. The seats are well padded and work hard to keep your posture in check.
Even with the recent Series II interior updates, the dash and console are starting to look a little dated. However, overall functionality is good with everything clearly marked out and at arm’s length.
New to the Series II Commodore range is a 6.5-inch LCD touch-screen Holden-iQ System. Through the system you can navigate USB, aux-in, and a Bluetooth-friendly audio system, and settings for the dual-zone climate control. The LCD screen is also used to display satellite navigation (a $990 option on the SS. Standard on the SSV).
Smack bang in the middle of the instrument cluster is a trip computer that shows the driver information such as average fuel consumption ratings, average speed, a digital speed readout, fuel used and range, and visual and audible speed warnings.
Holden VE Commodore SS Z Series Ute – DESIGN AND SAFETY
Externally, the Z Series is distinguishable thanks to its dark grey 19-inch alloy wheels and Z Series badges on the front guards. The exclusive deep purple Alchemy paint gives the Ute a more premium look, and matches well with the chrome highlights that surround the black front grille and lower air intake.
Given the VE was launched back in 2006, the exterior shape, albeit with a few minor tweaks for the VE Series II, has certainly aged well.
All VE SS Utes receive a five-star ANCAP safety rating. In the cabin you will find dual-stage airbags for the driver and front passenger, side impact airbags for the driver and front passenger, side curtain airbags, driver and front passenger audible and visual seatbelt warning, and a passenger seat child restraint anchor point. Driver’s aids include electronic stability control, ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, electronic brake assist, and traction control.
Holden VE Commodore SS Z Series Ute – ON THE ROAD
One thing that can definitely be said about the VE SS Ute is that is feels more like a sports car than a hay-bale hoarder. And it’s the closest thing Holden has left to a V8 coupe
The 6.0-litre V8 provides lots to ear-to-ear grin action. It’s a versatile engine that is happy to chug along at low rpm, but it’s also capable of sending the speedo needle spinning in a hurry. That said, if you want to get moving quickly you’ll find it a lot easier higher in the rev range
From inside the cabin, the engine is almost silent until you either flatten it or rev its neck out. Externally it’s pretty much the same; you really need to wind it out to get any real commotion from the exhaust pipes. When you do get it to make some noise, the deep bellowing tone sounds like the weather is changing for the worse.
Much like the VE SS sedan, the Ute feels well sprung and the steering provides a good understanding of what’s going on. It feels chuckable and certainly up to the task of providing some fun.
The rear end grips like no other performance ute on sale, but it will become prone to oversteer if you start heavily shifting the weight through some bends, especially when no weight is in the back. Any unplanned sideways action you do encounter is easily controlled, making the SS Ute quite the drifter.
Swapping cogs doesn’t happen without a good grip of the six-speed’s shifter, requiring its fair share of muscle. The clutch is also quite heavy, and the pedal depression is long. However, it’s not something that deters you from enjoying the SS. It all adds to the theatrics of driving a big Aussie V8 ute.
The brakes aren’t as impressive as the Brembo units that you get on the more expensive SSV Redline, but they do their job well and presented little to no brake fade during our test. Pedal feel is best summed up as meaty.
Holden VE Commodore SS Z Series Ute – VERDICT
The Z Series SS Ute is the last VE model to roll out before the 2014 Holden VF Commodore Ute is launched during the middle of this year. While the new model is highly anticipated, now is the opportunity to haggle with dealers and grab one of the last VEs ever made.
Holden VE Commodore SS Z Series Ute – THE COMPETITORS
Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo – 4.0-litre turbo six-cylinder, 270kW/533Nm – 1815kg – $41,190
The XR6 Turbo is equal in power but has 3Nm more torque. The smooth-as-silk DOHC straight-six provides lots of low down grunt, and a mid-range punch that has no problem turning the tyres at just about any speed.
Holden VE Commodore SS Z Series Ute – SPECIFICATIONS
Holden VE Commodore SS Z Series Ute
6.0-litre naturally aspirated V8
ENGINE SIZE / COMPRESSION RATIO
5967cc / 10.4:1
BORE X STROKE
101.6mm x 92mm
POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO
6.52: 1 (kg:kW)
HEIGHT / WIDTH / LENGTH
1463mm / 1899mm / 5046mm
Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
F: Twin-piston alloy caliper, ventilated discs
R: Single piston alloy caliper, ventilated discs
WHEELS / TYRES
F and R: 19- x 8-inch alloy, 245/45 R18
FUEL TANK CAPACITY
91 RON/E85 compatible
Tested average: 15.4L/100km
Official average: 12.3L/100km
0-100km/h: 6.1 seconds (tested)