Sixty thousand dollars!
Yes, sixty thousand dollars is the approximate starting price for the current Series III version of the only 2-door passenger car presently built in Australia, the Holden Monaro.
Let's get right into the tough questions! Can an Australian car be worth 60 thousand big ones? Can a big two-door car be worthy of your consideration? Does it really possess an image to justify it's big price tag? Is it just a fancy Commodore with 2 doors missing? What's it like on the road?
Starting with the image ...... after all, when spending $60,000 on a car the first consideration is going to be the perceived image. Holden's judgement with the name was absolutely 100% spot-on. The obvious link to the Monaro of the late 60's and through the early to mid-70's are critical to the marketing of this car. Let's face it, the Monaro isn't bought by teenagers, so it's clear those who buy Monaro will have some knowledge of the past glory attained by it's namesake back in the good old days! Just as the original Monaro was a stylish winner, so too is this new edition. The Monaro still gains attention and it's style from the side is appealing. Front and rear views aren't so exciting. Maybe future models will be more appealing. Perhaps Holden are seeking a reserved sportiness with their powerful 2-door.
Power ...... surely no-one ever needs 245 kW of a brutally powerful 5.7-litre V8 thundering away underneath their racing inspired aluminium accelerator pedal. But it sure feels good, let me tell you! And talk of torque reveals a massive 465 Nm at 4000rpm is available. Little wonder this car accelerates so fast. In the interest of road safety, please do not provide this type of car to inexperienced drivers. Back to the V8 talk though. The burble of this big V8 is music to the ears. It sounds absolutely delightful on both idle and acceleration. The burble will justify the expense of the car alone! Well, almost!
Driving the Monaro is inspiring. The car, despite it's 1.65 tonne weight and it's big physical presence is a dream on the road. It's sure-footed handling and precise steering, together with it's power and the firm, but quite comfortable ride provide an exceptionally pleasant driving experience. I had the pleasure of driving the car from Sydney to Newcastle and from Newcastle to Old Bar and return. All told, 1,072 kms were covered in a week. The longer the drive, the better the drive! This car is extremely well suited to long highway trips. The comfortable interior provides exception comfort on such trips.
Rear vision is limited when reversing and also at lane-changing time. Reversing alert is standard. The standard cruise control requires driver attention and pro-active management, so you don't exceed the speed limit on long downhill runs.
Our example was coloured 'Quicksilver'. It's interior was the standard 'Bermuda Blue' leather offering. Not as sporty looking as the yellow Monaro, but none-the-less an attractive combination and quite suitable to the taste of many, given the unrelenting popularity of silver coloured cars.
The test car was fitted with a 6-speed manual transmission. The old Monaro had a 'chunky' feel to the manual gearbox, but the current model has an easy to use unit with a relatively short throw. Once just a few k's are covered it is almost second nature to accommodate the selection of any of the six choices.
The six cylinder Monaro has been deleted from the current Monaro range. So only the 5.7 litre V8 with either 6-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission is presently available. The standard equipment list is comprehensive, as you would expect with a $60,000 car.
The Monaro is exported to the USA, but not Canada for reasons best known to General Motors alone, and it's clear that the Monaro's capacity to remain on our market is linked to it's success as a Pontiac GTO in America. Given that it's a niche market in Australia, we can be grateful that the Americans are being targeted with 20,000 examples this year, which means we can have this wonderful car too. It's almost certain that when GTO fades from America's market, it will also fade from our market.
So how does Monaro measure up? In summary, one needs to accept that Monaro has no faults (except maybe the cruise control which isn't as good as some others). The car is well built, it performs exceptionally well and at $60,000 it's an exception car which is bound to satisfy.
If you don't worry about fuel prices and if you enjoy motoring long distances in absolute comfort with more power under your foot than one ever needs, then it's difficult to ignore the stylish and well equipped Monaro, as driver satisfaction is virtually guaranteed.