New Car Test - Holden Commodore SV8

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Jan 30, 2004.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    All the good bits at a lower cost.

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    By Julian Edgar, Pics by Julian Edgar
    Published: 2 May, 2003

    Looked at unemotionally, the Holden SV8 is comprehensively outgunned in the technology stakes by its Falcon opposition. More sophisticated engines (in the case of the XR6 Turbo, much more sophisticated), cutting-edge suspension designs and higher quality cabins all give an on-paper win to the blue oval. Or, if you want to head in a different direction, the AWD Magna Sports can also make for a very persuasive argument. But get the $40,490 SV8 on the road and the situation looks a little different: simply, the Commodore is an excellent all-round package.

    The opening for the SV8 was created when the SS kept heading upmarket with each new model launch. Instead of being the bare-bones-but-fast model that the Holden SS had once been, the SS Commodore was becoming more of a well-equipped GT. Pulling equipment out of it wasn't an option, so in came the SV8. It's a new model that enthusiasts can only applaud.

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    Built on the Executive, the SV8 receives over its base model brother 17-inch alloys wearing 235/45 Bridgestones, FE2 sports suspension, the twin exhaust 235kW 5.7-litre Gen III LS1 V8, a rear spoiler and a different interior seat trim. An LSD, trip computer, single CD radio, traction control and ABS are all standard.

    The test car - fitted with the optional side airbags and electric windows - didn't feel at all bare bones; first impressions are of a well-equipped and comfortable car. In fact there are some aspects of the cabin that we actually prefer over the more upmarket versions - the lack of shiny silver plastic covers on the steering wheel spokes is one, and the simpler instrument visuals is another.

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    The heart of the car is its engine. Developing in this guise 235kW at 5200 rpm (but revving delightfully freely to well over 6000 rpm on the full-throttle gear-changes), the big V8 is now a well-known engine in its local application. Dogged by oil consumption and other problems (all apparently made good by Holden at no charge) the pushrod design has its share of lovers and haters.

    Developing 465Nm at a high-for-this-engine-size 4400 rpm, some people find the V8 rather gutless down low - if you expect a wallop in the back of the head when you twitch your right foot at low revs you'll certainly be sorely disappointed. However, the corollary of that is that the engine is superbly progressive - simply, as revs rise, so does the acceleration. In fact we've never been one to agree with those unhappy with the low-down performance - until now.

    This is the first non-HSV Gen III LS1 we've driven with the auto trans, a rather old 4-speed non-tiptronic design. It has two modes - 'power' and 'normal', and for general road use the 'normal' mode is - as you'd guess - preferable. Unfortunately though, this mode prevents the trans kicking down to the lowest possible gear, even when the throttle is floored.

    The result is that you'll be happily cruising around, but when you suddenly want max acceleration (speeding up for a quick lane change or accelerating hard up a hill) it's nowhere to be found. In 'normal' mode, full throttle might give you a downchange to 3000 rpm - and at those revs there's simply not enough torque to throw the car down the road. Of course, if you drive around all of the time in 'power' mode, the kickdown is quite satisfactory, but then on gentle acceleration each gear is irritatingly held a little too long... The revised shift strategies used by HSV in the same trans seem to work much better.

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    The auto trans not only has a negative impact on in-gear performance, but standing start acceleration times are also much slower than for the manual six-speed cars. We recorded a two-up time to 100 km/h of 7 seconds flat - still a quick time but a noticeable second longer than the manual car's time. In short, the auto trans is certainly not a bad aspect of the car, but it does detract from performance.

    One area where you could guess that the auto trans might impact is fuel economy. However, despite the AS2877 government test figures showing significantly worse city and highway numbers when compared with the six-speed cars, the 14.2 litres/100km average that we recorded in the auto SV8 is one of the best figures that we've ever seen from a Gen III Holden. It's certainly still nothing wonderful, but when you contrast that with the consumption of up to 18 litres/100km that we've measured in other V8 Commodores, it's much more respectable.

    The engine may be the heart of the car - but its soul is in the way it drives. And despite its old-fashioned semi-trailing-arms-plus-a-link rear suspension and basic pull-on-the-accelerator traction control system, the SV8 is one car which you can confidently fling down a stretch of winding country blacktop. The power steering is heavily weighted but the feel of the car on turn-in is excellent - unlike (say) a Magna Sport, this is a car where two bites of the corner are never needed. The strong self-centre'ing that can be felt in a Falcon in constant radius sweepers is also thankfully lacking in the Commodore.

    When cornered hard the SV8 is composed and stable, pushing into understeer with the traction control system turned on or optional over- or under-steer with it off. The FE2 suspension and low profile tyres give a firm ride but it's never an uncomfortable jarring. Over really bad surfaces - pothole met while the suspension is loaded in cornering, for example - the SV8 remains accomplished and unfussed.

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    One of the aspects that struck us part way through the week that we spent with the car is that here in Australia we're becoming rather blasé about what we've got available for the money. For not only is the Commodore a large car in its external dimensions, it's also one with excellent interior packaging. The room inside the cabin is sprawling - front or back there seems to be hectares - and the boot is large enough to hold a party inside. (Although, oddly, water cascades into the boot when the bootlid is lifted when the car is covered in rain droplets.) In many countries the interior space of the Commodore would literally be found only inside enormously expensive limousines. And very few of those would have this much performance.

    In summary the SV8 represents a good value for money return to the entry level, high performance family car. Its ride and handling compromises are very good, and while the engine continues to be a bit thirsty and the auto trans makes the performance a little less accessible, the 235kW V8 and the car's sub-1600kg mass still combine to give excellent performance.

    As we started by saying - it's an excellent all-round package
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    Why you would:

    Practical and comfortable
    Excellent performance
    Very good handling
    Cost effective

    Why you wouldn't:

    Auto trans detracts from performance
    Fuel consumption high

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  2. Seifer

    Seifer Abort your Babies!

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    damn, they kinda trashed it..
     
  3. MeAmEddie

    MeAmEddie My car goes Whooosh psst

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    looks too much sentra/civic/hyundai :hs:
     
  4. Balddong

    Balddong New Member

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    that gauge is ugly....
     
  5. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    No love for the old SV8? You'll all see the SS flavor soon enough.
     
  6. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    is this the one that gets beaten by the 6cyl falcon? :mamoru:
     
  7. dmora

    dmora Guest

    Its better for handlobraesing! :eek3d:
     
  8. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Only if the Falcon has a "T" behind the XR6 on the side. :mamoru:
     
  9. dmora

    dmora Guest

  10. dmora

    dmora Guest

  11. dmora

    dmora Guest

  12. dmora

    dmora Guest

  13. dmora

    dmora Guest

    im done.
     
  14. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Sweet pictures. :cool:
     
  15. nhd

    nhd New Member

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    lol at the "looks like a civic..." comment. no clue
    the ss sv8 looks to be a winner, i havnt seen many in victoria/melbourne tho.
     
  16. troglodyte

    troglodyte Guest

    Looks like a Catera. Of course, there is a reason for that. At least we know a V8 will fit into a Catera engine bay if anyone wanted to make such a swap.
     
  17. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Heh, same car. But Holden crammed a Chevrolet V8 in theirs. :o
     

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