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Next Car goes the distance once again, on yet another long distance road test. This time we drive 2,635 kms at 11.2 l/100 km in a Holden Commodore V8 ute with AFM (Active Fuel Management) and automatic transmission.

ROAD TEST:   Holden Commodore SS-V utility

by Ken Walker

4th August, 2009

Home > Road Tests > Holden

Yes, it’s a head turning, attention seeking machine with enormous street appeal. This wonder from down under has this effect even when driven very sedately down Main Street anywhere in Australia. In fact, I have never seen so many rubber neckers, perhaps it was the colour.

Holden Commodore utilities do not come much better than this version that we drove between Sydney and Melbourne and around the accompanying suburbs.

Our SS-V test car has the same, well almost the same, features as the Commodore SS manual utility that we featured several months ago, but with added technology and additional features. In a time when fuel prices were about $1.90 a litre for unleaded fuel, sales of V8 powered vehicles slowed. Then along comes technology in the form of active fuel management (AFM) cutting out 4 cylinders, that is half of the 8 cylinders. AFM automatically closes the intake and exhaust valves of 4 cylinders. This in turn reduces fuel consumption whilst cruising at a steady and constant speed when high output is not required. Push down the throttle or hit an incline and the 4 idle cylinders kick in. The AFM feature is available in any of the Holden models fitted with a V8. However, choice of transmission is limited to the "automatic" as this allows the engine’s electronic throttle control system better management of the fuel function whilst preserving the torque which drivers expect from a V8 powertrain.

Our drive package is the top-of-the-line Commodore SS-V utility fitted with the 6.0 litre engine sourced from GM USA and known locally as a Gen (Generation) IV V8. The ute was fitted with a 6 speed automatic transmission, as determined by the requirements for the AFM feature. We travelled 2,635 km in a 2 week period at an average of 11.2 L/100 km. About 1,900 kms were travelled on the freeways and highways between Sydney and Melbourne with some detours for food and fuel. We were not conducting an economy run, but it was not flat out either as the speed limits were adhered to, including road work constructions zones sometimes at 40 km/h with a lot of lollypop 'stop/go' controllers. Cruise control was utilised for 90% of the trip (both ways). In the suburban and road work zones with stop/start driving the AFM programme remains in 8 cylinder mode. There is an indication of the mode in the trip computer as the change happens with very little fuss or disturbance. The driver has no input except to keep the accelerator steady or use cruise control. Engine revs do not alter with the change between 4 or 8 cylinder modes. (copyright image)

The SS-V has the luxury features of leather faced seats, sports profile leather wrapped steering wheel with illuminated controls for audio and Blue tooth compatible phone, 19” alloy wheels (20” alloys are optional), dual zone electronic climate control air conditioning, premium audio system with 6-disc in-dash stacker MP3 compatibility with an auxiliary input jack, colour coded ‘SS’ sports instrument cluster, 6.5” multifunction LC display, alloy faced pedals, projector headlamps and leather wrapped gear selector. There are 8 external colours with a choice of 3 trim colours.

Power windows with auto down function for the driver, cruise control and auto on/off headlights form part of the drivers comfort equipment. There are 4 storage compartments in the rear panel, behind the seats in the cabin with nets to contain any loose or small items. We found this a very handy feature for our cameras and extra CDs.

Mechanical specifications unaltered from the SS utility of our earlier road test, include 4 wheel disc brakes with ESP, ABS, EBD, and TCS. With the standard sports suspension the package has a firm and very positive feel on the open road with very flat cornering without any body roll. A limited slip differential is fitted as standard equipment.

Holden have a ute load of accessories available to further enhance the vehicle, so long as you can contend with the rubber neckers that this machine attracts.

We consider the Holden Commodore SS-V utility, with the AFM and auto transmission a very worthy touring vehicle even though it does not have the same awesome rumble of the V8 that is prevalent with the manual transmission.


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