It’s widely (and incorrectly) believed that the late US Republican Senator Everett Dirksen once said, “A billion here, a billion there, sooner or later it adds up to real money.” He did say the first half of that statement, and a billion here (or there) is what Holden injected into the development of the VE Commodore range. Fortunately it added up to some real improvements. The most visible result of the rather surreal level of sovereigns invested in the VE is the new aggressive, wide-arched styling. Complementing this is a set of 18-inch alloys wrapped in 245/45 rubber and sports suspension, with a sports body kit and spoiler, all coming as standard.
The SV6 looks like it’s moving forwards even when standing still. It has the muscular presence of its more well-endowed V8 cousins, but packs a more frugal 3.6-litre Alloytec V6 pumping out 195kW and 340Nm. You get a respectable mid-7 seconds to 100kph, but the SV6’s claimed fuel usage of 11 litres per 100km trounces that of its V8 brethren. Perhaps another Dirksen quote is relevant here: “The oil can is mightier than the sword!”
And that quote is more apt than it seems at first. You’d think a billion bucks would be prohibitive money for the Aussies until you realise their big market is the Middle East, and there they are competing for the sales that petrodollars will buy. Our equivalent could be milk-dollars — ‘white gold’ — but it’s not specifically farmers that the SV6 is aimed at: it’s families and fleet buyers.
The SV6 feels like a spacious car — if you’re basketball player you would have enough room to stretch your gargantuan legs. In fact, when I put the seat the furthest back I could barely reach the pedals, and I’m a gnat’s hair under six feet. The leather-wrapped steering wheel houses controls for the stereo, and they don’t intrude when driving vigorously, unlike some cars that cram as many buttons on the wheel as possible. These switches control the 80W Blaupunkt stereo which comes with seven speakers. The six-disc, MP3-compatible changer is optional, though.
Rear passengers get their own aircon vents, and there’s a ski hatch that folds down to form an armrest with a couple of cup holders. Which brings me to the disadvantage of the six-speed manual version: where you would usually put your arm when changing gear is exactly where the cups go for the driver and passenger. It’s even worse if you’re a water bottle-toting, hydration junkie like me because those bottles are tall. You want to have your arm perfectly placed, and well out of the way of liquid-carrying vessels to get the best out of the sporty gearbox, but unless you put your drink in the passenger’s side cup holder that just isn’t going to happen.
Motorway cruising, when you don’t have to change gears while remaining optimally hydrated, is excellent. It’s quiet, smooth and easy to drive. Cruise control and a trip computer that has four different selectable speed warning levels help keep you on the right side of the law. When the road surface isn’t smooth, you can feel the hardened suspension. It’s not a sports car, but it is capable of dealing with fast and slow corners. Antilock braking, electronic brakeforce distribution and electronic brake assist help you shed the speed before a tight turn, then after the apex it’s most fun to be in first or second because in the upper gears the acceleration is fighting too hard against the Commodore’s 1700kg.
So, you get V8 Supercar-inspired looks, but with a sensible V6. Like Republican versus Democrat, there are going to be people who just have to vote V8, but who know that a V6 might be better for their personal economy. It’s a question of what you need versus what is best for you, and that’s not saying that a V8 Holden isn’t the right choice over the SV6. It’s apt, then, to close on another Dirksen quite, “I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.”
Price: from $48,990
What we like:
- Standard kit is excellent
- Cavernous boot (489 litres total cargo area)
What we don’t like:
- Mid-range performance is thwarted by the car’s weight
- The handbrake lever, and cup holder positioning
Words and photos Darren Cottingham