It was with more than a twitch of sadness and emotion that A Wheel Thing handed back to the dealership, after three weeks covering the Christmas/New Year’s period, Holden’s VF SV6 sedan, with six speed manual and coated in a a Perfect Blue paint scheme. Coming off the back of confirmation that Holden would cease local manufacturing in 2017, it was somewhat poignant to spend time in the Commodore that has been so well welcomed by the media and public.
The Driven Heart
It’s a strong combination in the VF Commodore; the torquey 3.6L V6 and six speed manual. There’s 210 killer wasps (at a high 6700 revs) to be had alongside an immensely usable 350 torques at 2800 rpm, a rev point where push in the back acceleration can be had in the right gear. It’s mostly easy on the brain to drive, with a firm and progressive clutch pedal travel but a pickup point that seems to be on/off like a light switch. The gear shift itself, although not heavy, has a notchy feel when slotting the lever home. Reverse is across to the left and up and has no lockout mechanism. Oddly enough, first leaves the SV6 somewhat ragged and breathless but moves into its stride come second and third, where the torque of the V6 can really come into play. At freeways speeds sixth has the donk ticking over just under 2000 whilst the flexibility can be used to either simply slot back into fourth on the downchange or miss a gear on the upchange. There’s some induction noise and a nice rorty tune from the exhaust.
In a nod to Peter “Perfect” Brock, Holden offer a blue so very similar in shade to the famous colour that coated the VK HDT range known as the “Blue Meanie” that it’s been called Perfect Blue. It’s a lovely shade and evokes, in those old enough to remember or those that follow motorsport, what HDT’s mid ’80s groundbreaker was all about. With contrasting matt and gloss black bodywork, it’s an eyecatching colour that highlights the curves and creases on the VF shape, from the eagle eye headlights cresting the LED DRLs wrapped in gloss black through to the almost Camaro like tail light clusters above the rear apron, sporting twin pipes. There’s a subtle lip spoiler for the boot which impedes only minimally on rear vision from the cabin. It’s a strong and assertive profile which suits the various colour schemes available, especially on the SS versions whilst chrome highlights the gloss black inserts at the nose.
The Office Space
The VF has been around for long enough now for it to be familiar to most. The main change to the interior of the VF SV6 is a carbon fibre look to the dash and an interesting carbon fibre style weave in the seat cloth. It’s flexible, looks good and feels good to the fingers. As a manual, seating position is important and this was the case here, with a comfortable seating slot found easily. There’s sports style pedals, manual (not push button) ignition, red highlights to the dash display, whilst the centre dash display is the monochrome style from the Evoke, rather than the colour version found higher up the chain. Reverse camera parking was a doddle however satnav isn’t included, an odd omission. The MyLink system that is now standard across the range is user friendly, look the part and offers the internet based radio apps such as Pandora plus there’s Holden’s parking assist and blind spot notification system to enjoy as well. At the rear there’s the skiport access from the cavernous boot, a 60/40 rear fold would be handy though. Naturally there’s plenty of airbags should they be required.
On The Road
The FE2 suspension setup works a treat on the SV6; it’s firm yet supple, absorbent and fluid, provides confident handling and combines with a sensible steering ratio (with the electrically assisted steering) to give point and shoot driving. The Bridgestone 245/45/18s hang onto the road pretty well for the most part however did seems to lose some traction on barely damp surfaces, including one slide into a left hander on ramp. The six speed manual is not the epitome of smoothness in shifting, with a notchy crunch into each gear nor is the clutch exactly spot on. Although smooth and well pressured, the actual pick up point required a measure of finesse and constantly felt a little “lightswitch” on/off. A nice and nifty addition is the hill start brake system, holding the brakes for a second or so in order for the first gear to be selected and not allow rollback. Under acceleration, first felt rough and thready, running out breath even however in third or fourth a good go at the loud pedal saw rapid forward movement plus there was enough of a bark from the bonnet and exhaust to tickle the aural tastebuds. Brakes were progressive with enough bite from moderate pressure to haul in the 1800kgs or so of the SV6. Overall fuel economy was 9.4L/100 km with predominantly suburban driving; the first indication of needing fuel came at around the 600km mark.
It was with more than a sense of sadness that I had to give the mid $30K SV6 back to its temporary home; sad that soon Australia will lose such an excellent, well engineered, home grown product. Sad that, as a manual driver by preference and ideology, that the Australian market prefers the self shifter. Sad that the downsize factor takes away some of the sense of freedom and fun that a solid and torquey V6 offers plus the sheer roominess of a large sedan. Although the Malibu has failed to excite the wallets of Aussie drivers, it is, at least, a size comparable with the VF and requires some styling and engineering tweaks if it’s to be a serious contender to go some way in offering a physically large car exercise once the VF sees the end of Holden made cars in 2017. It was a poignant moment for me to hand over the key to what is a shining example of what will soon be lost to Australia’s future generations.
Information on the VF SV6 and its family can be found here:http://www.holden.com.au/cars/commodore/sedan-range