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Reborn in 2001, Holden's hero car came back to the marketplace creating the sort of buzz that is a manufacturer's dream. A combination of stylish good looks and strong performance kept buyers motivated, but a change was needed to maintain the Monaro's status over increasing opposition. Some criticised its shape as too refined for an Aussie performance icon.
To appease its detractors Holden have given the VZ version a harder, meaner character with a more aggressive nose treatment and prominent dual exhaust outlets, while some not so subtle bonnet scoops - primarily designed for the US market, have met with a mixed reaction.
Under the new skin a host of mechanical upgrades make the Monaro the most powerful production Holden ever. Matching the improved performance is an enhanced braking system which is the largest offered by the manufacturer.
With only one model in the range buyers only need to choose between the four-speed automatic or six-speed manual. Both are priced at $60,490 plus on-road costs.
As expected the Monaro comes equipped with a host of standard equipment which includes; dual zone climate control, cruise control, trip computer, power windows, leather trim, eight-way adjustable power front sports seats (driver's with 3 position memory), Blaupunkt 10 speaker sound system with six-disc in-dash CD player, rear parking sensors, 18" alloy wheels, FE2 sports suspension, alloy pedal covers and leather sports steering wheel.
Inside, the Monaro's lower roofline gives the cabin a more purposeful feel. In front there is plenty of leg and head room but in the rear space can get tight. Fortunately the Monaro only seats four and while the individual rear buckets reinforce the car's sporting intent, head and leg room can be at a premium. There is adequate storage space in the cabin but one major drawback is the limited boot space, reduced from the previous models 370 litres to a mere 245 litres.
The lost area is now taken up by the fuel tank - a result of meeting U.S. regulations where the car is sold as a Pontiac GTO. This compromise means the boot floor is wide and short, and without the possibility of a split-fold seat or "ski-hatch" its practicality is severely affected.
Offering a generous amount of adjustment the power front seats have good support under most conditions. Longer trips can find the cushion and backrest feeling a bit flat but the worst niggle is the lumbar adjustment. There is so little space between the adjuster and door that it is easier to use with the door open - not an ideal situation.
Two individual sports seats look after the rear passengers. While space can be limited - depending on how much room those in front want, the heavily bolstered buckets offer good comfort. Gaining access to them is difficult, and some gymnastics are required, the slow moving power front seats leaving little space to enter or exit gracefully.
Additional gauges above the centre console for oil pressure and battery charge mark the only major change to the dash layout. Instrumentation is now colour coded to the exterior and our test cars yellow gauges made for a vivid dash display.
Switchgear is the same as any high-end Holden, the centre dash populated by push button controls for climate control and audio functions. All of the switches have a similar look and feel so it can take some time to become familiar with them. Additional audio controls mounted on the tilt-reach adjustable steering wheel simplify matters.
Forward vision is good, but the shallow, steeply raked rear screen gives a limited view when parking. The standard parking sensors are a welcome feature in tight situations.
Although the VZ Monaro has not been tested under the ANCAP program the outgoing model's four star rating is a good indicator of the cars integrity. Safety equipment includes four-wheel vented discs with ABS - now with BA (Brake Assist) and EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution), traction control - with less intrusive operation, dual front airbags, side airbags, front seatbelts with pre-tensioners, force limiters and webbing clamps, front seat active head restraints, seatbacks and anti-submarining ramps.
Fit and finish on the test car proved very good without any rattles or squeaks. Like its siblings the Monaro's interior has a durable look and feel. While the Devil Yellow paint finish appeared smooth and evenly applied, the plastic fuel filler flap and bonnet "nostrils" were noticeably lighter in colour to the rest of the bodywork.
A rolling code remote key controls most security functions. At this stage the Monaro's rating has not been assessed, but standard features include remote drivers door only unlock - with interior illumination, engine immobiliser, alarm system and night time exterior lights on function.
Holden recommend a diet of PULP for its revised V8, although running on standard unleaded is fine - simply reducing outright performance. Around town it's fairly obvious there are 5.7 litres to feed, the 18.3l/100km city average making you a regular visitor to the bowsers. Out on the highway things improve appreciably with a steady right foot returning 11.5l/100km.
Boasting a healthy 15kW increase over the previous model the Monaro's performance is readily accessible and impressive. The extra power comes courtesy of a full dual-length exhaust system, revised camshaft and a new engine management system which takes full advantage of premium octane fuel. Drive-by-wire throttle control also brings improved feel.
With 500Nm of torque on hand the Monaro's response to the throttle is immediate with impressive acceleration in all gears. Steep hills aren't in this car's vocabulary and overtaking is accomplished without any fuss. The engine can sound coarse as the revs rise, but the V8 soundtrack being played through the less restrictive exhaust and under the bonnet is better than any CD player.
Standard for all automatic Monaros is the heavy duty 4L65 transmission. Able to handle the engine's increased torque the four-speed transmission's shift quality couldn't be described as silky smooth. Gearchanges are noticeable on light throttle openings becoming harsher with firmer acceleration. The Monaro also lacks the sequential shift mode offered by its rivals.
Given its sporting intent the ride quality is very good. Wearing low profile 40 series tyres the car never displays any harshness, even over fairly rough suburban bitumen and takes patchy secondary roads in its stride.
Adaptable handling is another plus. Weighing in at just under 1700kg you would never expect a nimble car, but what you do get is a capable car. Generating high levels of grip the premium tyre package sends good feedback to the driver. There is enough compliance in the well damped suspension to let the big coupe take a set into a corner, changing the cars attitude via the wheel or accelerator. The steering weight increases as cornering speeds rise, and while it provides good feel it doesn't have a pin sharp character.
Now fitted with the largest brakes of any Holden the Monaro's system is excellent. The firm pedal requires some leg muscle even at suburban speeds, but the package is more than a match for the car's performance levels proving especially good in our emergency braking tests.
It can be a juggling act to provide a comfortable driving environment with muscle car character, but the Monaro offers a good mix. Even if there is always a sense of menace lurking in the background - thanks to the V8's soundtrack, this is a car that is just as relaxing to drive between suburbs as cities.
Holden have given the new Monaro a shot of adrenalin which has added more character to their hero car. While its fuel consumption and limited boot space will worry some buyers the fact remains this is one high performance car which is easy to live with.
|Model||Monaro VZ CV8|
|Price of vehicle tested||60,490|
Reduced luggage space
|Country of manufacture||Australia|
|Warranty||3 years/100,000 kilometres|
$60,490 - manual & auto
|Number of cylinders||8|
|Engine size||5.7 L|
|Claimed max power (kW)||260 kW @ 5600 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||500 Nm @ 4000 rpm|
|Wheel size||18 "|
|Spare tyre type||17" alloy space saver|
|Type||Power assisted rack & pinion|
|Turns to lock||3.0 m|
|Turning circle (measured)||10.7 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||2030 mm|
|Fuel capacity||70 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||1600 kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||3.2 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||4.2 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||4.8 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||6.7 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||11.5 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||18.3 L/100km|
|Average on test||13.5 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||24.8 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||68.1 dB(A)|