Holden Commodore SS-V AFM 2009 Review

August 21st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham


According to a recent survey, sixteen percent of kiwi drivers have downsized their cars in the last year with another 30 percent giving it serious consideration. The number one reason for this trend was fuel economy followed by a realisation for many that they don’t actually require a large car. Is the kiwi love affair with large rear-wheel-drive cars finally finished? Holden doesn’t think so and it has a new trick to tempt punters back into the showroom.

As an integral part of Holden’s new Ecoline innovations, the Australian carmaker has released AFM (Active Fuel Management) technology across all V8 models at no additional cost. Only available with the automatic transmission it’s designed to improve fuel efficiency when high output isn’t required. It achieves this with a rather simplistic solution, by shutting down four of the V8’s cylinders during cruising. In the case of the tested Commodore SS-V when fuel is cut to half the engine it effectively changes it from a 6.0-litre V8 to a 3.0-litre V4. The system only engages on light throttle openings when the vehicle is in third through to sixth gear. It’s completely automatic in its operation and feels seamless when shifting between V8 and V4 modes. The trip computer screen lets the driver know of the change in operating mode.

To cut to the chase and ask the tough question, does the AFM system actually result in improved fuel efficiency during everyday driving?

It does, but only just. Holden stance is that “in a combination of town and highway driving, the technology can deliver fuel savings of up to one litre per 100 kilometers, with potential for even better results at constant cruising speeds.” This is a realistic assessment of the AFM system’s potential.

During a week with our Commodore test vehicle we achieved a 15.5l/100km economy. It was a combination of mostly suburban driving with some short stints on Auckland’s motorways while using a usually conservative driving style. Fuel savings will largely depend on what type of driving you do regularly. If you mostly drive around town it’s unlikely you will see much difference over a non-AFM equipped car. If you often cruise long stretches of motorway or open road the results will be more significant.

During the road test there were some moments when the AFM system seemed temperamental in its mode changes, at times refusing to drop to 4-cylinders even when conditions seemed optimal (100kph in sixth gear). It also took very little throttle input for the engine to shift itself back into V8 mode. The AFM tech has an overall feeling of being undeveloped and while it’s a necessary and welcome feature does require further fine-tuning.

Away from under-bonnet intricacies the Commodore SS-V is a solid all rounder. Typically muscular in exterior appearance it boasts pumped up wheel arches, a rear spoiler, chunky 19-inch alloys and quad exhaust pipes that signal true go-fast intent. Small AFM badges on the car’s exterior are the only visible representation of the new equipment.

Inside the SS-V has a modern techno styled cockpit that includes a large multi-function colour screen and a bright-red readout for oil pressure and battery voltage. Black plastics work in with silver trim and switchgear is easy to use but slightly crowded in the centre control stack. There is a luxurious amount of space for all occupants with the front seats being particularly wide and offering leather-trimmed comfort. The cabin does have some drawbacks, the exterior-colour-coded instruments can be tricky to read and some of the hard interior plastics don’t have a quality feel to them. Generally, it’s a spacious and usable interior that offers fair visibility and some character too.

On road the Commodore SS-V is impressively well mannered, it stays poised and stable but can still excite when pushed. Over-steer is a definite possibility but only when the SS-V is provoked and rarely under normal driving conditions. The gas pedal provides quick if not totally instant response and the brakes have real bite.

The suspension feels sporty and advanced with a multi-link set-up front and back combining with a tight chassis to offer good levels of grip and very little body roll. What’s really admirable is the SS-V’s ability to be focused and direct during spirited driving while remaining comfortable and livable during general daily use.

The throbbing 6.0-litre V8 is no toy and with 260kW of grunt under your right foot thoughts of fuel economy can be easily forgotten. It’s also a very flexible power plant and with 517Nm of torque on offer it can surge ahead in most gears. Feeling most comfortable at cruising speeds the motor can sound refined but still offers brutish, squatting acceleration when directed.

Safety bases are well covered and standard equipment includes 6 airbags (front, side and curtains) Electronic Stability Control with ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Traction Control and Electronic Brake Assist.

Overall, the Commodore SS-V is spacious and well-equipped, it’s a good handler with a comfortable ride quality and plenty of raw power to get the juices flowing. ¨The new AFM technology doesn’t offer any massive benefits at this stage but it’s a feature that comes at no extra cost and works independently and unnoticeably behind the scenes.

With fuel frugality becoming vital to the future success of carmakers, AFM is a clear signal of intent from Holden. With further development and testing the AFM system could potentially yield more significant results and possibly keep the large-capacity V8 off the endangered species list.

In terms of V8 fuel economy can you have your cake and eat it too? Not right now, but with Holden wearing the baker’s hat it may yet prove possible.

Click through to the next page for a list of specifications

Price: $69,790

What we like:

  • Fuel saving technology without price increase
  • Handling and ride quality
  • Spacious interior

What we don’t like:

  • AFM requires further development
  • Interior quality
  • Hard to read instrumentation

Words and Photos: Adam Mamo

Holden Commodore SS-V AFM (2009) – Specifications


6.0L 90-degree OHV V8. Cross flow cylinder heads.
Twin knock  control sensors.
On-board diagnostics.
Active Fuel Management  (AFM)
Continuously variable camshaft phasing for inlet and exhaust cams. Variable Intake Manifold (VIM) Central plenum with individual symmetrical runners.
Capacity (cc) 5967
Compression ratio (:1) 10.4
Power (ECE, kW)# 260kW* @ 5700rpm
Torque (ECE, Nm)# 517Nm* @ 4400rpm
Exhaust system — stainless steel Quad exhaust outlets
Petrol tank capacity (L) 73
Brakes Four wheel disc. Ventilated discs — front and rear. Twin piston alloy front caliper, single piston alloy rear caliper
Safety Electronic Stability Control (ESC)  Incorporating: Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Electronic Brake Assist (EBA),  Traction Control System (TCS)
Suspension Front: Direct acting stabiliser bar. Coil spring Rear: Multi-Link Independent Rear Suspension (IRS). Coil spring. Stabiliser bar
Steering Variable ratio rack and pinion

HSV E-Series 2 – first teaser video

August 14th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

HSV E-Series 2

Holden Special Vehicles has released its first teaser video for the updated E Series 2 range, showing a GTS that looks similar to the current model, but with some subtle differences.

There does appear to be changes to light clusters and the wheels have a new double-spoked design. A partly obscured bonnet suggests there may be some surprises in the basic body shape.

There is also no power shown in the clip, hinting that rumours of a power increase from 317kW to around 325kW are true.

The HSV E Series 2 range will officially debut on September 9.

Fuel-saving engines for Holden Commodore range

August 5th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Holden SIDI engine

The Holden Commodore, is set to lower fuel use and running costs with more economical V6 engines and other technology improvements.

The Model Year 10 (MY10) Commodore range will go on sale in late September in New Zealand with the most fuel efficient Australian built six cylinder engine in the market.

The Commodore Omega achieves just 9.3 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres in the official ADR81/02 testing — up to 13 per cent better than current models.

At 9.3 litres, a motorist travelling 20,000 kilometres could save $423.80 at a current indicative price of $1.63 and produce 600 kilograms less carbon emissions.

Holden will deliver the savings through two new engines offering a mew technology, Spark Ignition Direct Injection, a first for an Australian built vehicle.

An all-new 3.0-litre engine — and the familiar 3.6-litre displacement will be offered, depending on model.

The changes will be effective across the petrol sedan and Sportwagon range, as well as the SV6 Ute and the Statesman long-wheelbase variant.

The engines are the centrepiece of a model year upgrade with fuel efficiency and lower running costs firmly in mind.

A new six-speed automatic transmission will be matched with the new SIDI engines, weight reductions have been achieved, low rolling resistance tyres introduced and other fuel-saving upgrades installed.

The Engines

An all-new 3.0-litre SIDI engine — codenamed LF1 – will power the Omega and Berlina Commodore sedan and Omega Sportwagon.

The 3.6-litre SIDI engine — codenamed LLT — will be available for the premium Commodore range including SV6, Calais and Calais V-Series models, as well as the SV6 Ute and the long wheel-base Statesman.

The 3.6-litre SIDI engine improves fuel economy in the premium models. Calais boasts a 12 per cent improvement with fuel economy dropping from 11.2 to 9.9 litres per 100 kilometres on the ADR81/02 test cycle while keeping its luxury fit.

CO2 emissions are significantly reduced with the 3.0-litre SIDI Omega sedan and Sportwagon boasting a 12 and 14 per cent improvement respectively.

All V6 SIDI models will receive a power upgrade. The 3.0 litre has an increased output of 190kW from the 175kW of the previous engine, while the 3.6 litre is up from 195kW to 210kW per ECE regulations.

The new engines will be available on NZ spec Commodores from late September.

HSV W427 ends production with car 137

July 31st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

HSV W427 final car

Back in April Holden Special Vehicles in Australia put out the call to V8 enthusiasts that if they wanted a W427 April 28 was their last day to cash up.

With that date long gone, HSV has announced that the last order to be filled, W427 number 137, has rolled off the line at the Clayton plant.

Bound for Perth, the Heron White W427 (pictured) was ordered by an HSV dealer.

HSV’s self-proclaimed ‘Aussie Supercar’, the W427 came with a $155,000 AUS price tag and a 375kW V8 powerplant.

Managing Director at HSV Phil Harding sold it well, saying, “Who knows what the market for exotic muscle cars will look like in the future. The purchase of a W427 might represent a savvy investment opportunity — as well as delivering a driving experience that is pure exhilaration and excitement,”

The W427 marked HSV’s most ambitious project to date, only time will tell if the value of the exclusive model increases.

Holden Commodore survives stateside

July 15th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Chevrolet Caprice fq

With GM sending the Pontiac brand name to the scrapheap, there was no doubt Holden was nervous, it supplied VE Commodores as Pontiac G8s. Now, according to GM’s Bob Lutz, the plan is to continue offering the VE but rebadged as a Chev Caprice. “The last time we looked at [the G8], we decided that we would continue to import it as a Chevrolet. It is kind of too good to waste.”  Was the comment from Lutz.

As previously reported, there is also a feasibility study going on bassed around weather the cars could also be used as successful law enforcement vehicles to replace the current out dated American fleet. Either way, It looks like Holden Australia are going to have plenty of orders coming in.

HSV confirms update for E Series 2 range

July 6th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

HSV Clubsport R8

HSV has just confirmed that the E Series range will be given a significant upgrade with new features, driver enhancements and visual changes for introduction later this year.

According to Managing Director Phil Harding, the multi-million dollar program includes major visual differentiation and introduces at least five firsts for Australian production cars — offering a shot in the arm for the local industry.

“We know our customers want the latest technologies, as well as distinctive luxury and performance features in their HSV,” he said. “Our customers will be delighted with the delivery of improved economy, more power, some truly exciting driver enhancements and distinctive design themes.”

HSV will start a staged preview campaign aimed at generating customer interest and demand in the new model. Dealers, frequent buyers and loyal customers will be supplied this information ahead of general release because of the importance of this new model to HSV.

“This represents a massive change for the E Series HSV range and is the culmination of three years of research and development,” Phil Harding said.

More details will be released when E Series 2 nears launch. Until then, click here to check out the HSV website for further information on the E Series 2.

HSV preparing for next-gen E-Series range

July 3rd, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

HSV Clubsport R8 Tourer fq

Recent rumours suggest that Holden Special Vehicles will be making a number of cosmetic and mechanical changes to its E-Series range of performance sedans soon.

The upcoming changes will involve some mechanical tweaking to the 6.2 litre LS3 V8 used by the E-series range, which should see power graduated to around 325kW and fuel economy improved to just under 14 l/100km combined cycle.

Some updated body styling is also apparently being prepared. HSV is said to want to further visually move away from the volume-selling Commodore sedan range. Huge aesthetic changes would probably be too risky and expensive for HSV to accomplish, but new bumpers, wheels and other aero add-ons are on the cards.

The VE-based HSV line-up has proved the most popular in HSV’s 21-year history so the performance manufacturer is hopeful that an upgraded model line will keep customers interested.

Will the rumoured refinements for 2010 E-Series HSV’s keep sales figures strong in a market that’s steadily moving away from big, thirsty sedans? Only time will tell.

Holden posts $70.2m loss for 2008

July 1st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Holden posts loss for 2008

The global economic crisis, rising petrol prices, a consumer shift away from large cars and some large, one-off expenses have all worked against Holden to see it lose out in 2008.

Australia’s iconic automaker recorded a $70.2 million AUS loss for 2008, caused largely by a massive $76.8 million bill for various one-off costs, mostly related to the decommissioning of Melbourne’s Family II engine plant.

Before the decommissioning expense, Holden was on track to post a small after-tax profit of  $6.6 million for the year ending December 31. In the current economic climate, the loss is an acceptable one for Holden. Quality products, a strong export program and careful production management has still protected the company’s finances in a turbulent global market.

Total sales revenue dipped from $5.7 billion in 2007 to $5.4 billion, as many new car buyers shifted away from large cars like the Commodore.

Export revenue rose from $1.6 billion to $1.9 billion due to engine exports and the newly-released Pontiac G8 in the states, but with the G8 officially discontinued and GM enduring bankruptcy, this year’s export results may not be as positive.

The global economic slump prevented Holden from making a profit for 2008, like it did for many other automakers, but Ford came off much worse with a record $274.4 million loss.

Despite no profits last year, Holden is a solid performer and its position within the GM stable is still assured. The addition of the Cruze to Holden’s line-up should provide a vehicle capable of retaining customers downsizing from the Commodore, while the new locally-made small hatchback that’s expected to arrive next year will also give the company hope.

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