Holden's recently upgraded VZ Commodore range has a new addition to the family, the Commodore SV6. The Commodore SV6 replaces the Commodore S six cylinder last seen as a VY Series Two. The external differences over other models in the new line up are subtle. The most prominent feature is the rear spoiler, the front grille is lower and deeper and fog lamps are fitted. Specially designed alloy wheels are unique to the SV6 and overall the styling of the SV6 is the most conservative in appearance of all the sports models in Holden's line-up.
Value for money
Prices for the new SV6 start at $39,490 for the manual version; there is no additional cost if an automatic option is chosen. The older VY Commodore S was priced at $38,360 so the price increase for the new SV6 series is $1,130 and still keeps it within range of one of its main competitors - the Falcon XR6 which has a starting price of $38,665 for its manual version.
The new SV6 has the new 190kW Alloytec engine as standard and this engine is also matched to a new six-speed manual transmission. A new five-speed automatic is available. Sports suspension, driver and passenger airbags, traction control, ABS brakes with Electronic Brake Force distribution and Brake Assist, power windows and external mirrors are all part of the SV6 package.
Design and function
Space and practicality
The SV6 doesn't break any new ground in terms of increased space as the new model retains the previous model's body dimensions. It is a well-proven design that offers plenty of head and legroom for both front and rear seat occupants. Differing trim combinations are the major point of difference from the other models in the range. Boot space is generous and the rear seat has a fold down ski hatch for longer loads. A split-fold rear seat would be a welcome addition. The centre console can store plenty of CDs, likewise the glove box is a reasonable size and the interior light incorporates a flip down sunglasses holder. The back of both front seats have generous map pockets, for items such as large street directories.
Driver comfort has always been a strong point in the Commodore range. The seat bolstering especially to the seat base is very supportive in the SV6 and firm enough to hold the driver snugly when cornering. Rear seat comfort is also good with the seat base giving plenty of thigh support for longer journeys.
Internally the SV6 would be familiar to anybody that has driven Commodores. The switchgear positioning remains the same. The centre dash facia has three large easy to operate rotary dials for the air conditioning, other switchgear is well placed. Fog lamps are operated by pulling out the head light switch. Gear lever and clutch pedals are well positioned. The sports dash has speedo, tacho, fuel and water temp gauges that are easy to read; again fairly conservative in looks for a sports model. There are also steering wheel mounted audio controls.
Driver and passenger air bags are standard. All seat belts are three point lap/sash. A driver's seat belt reminder and auto headlights are fitted. The most recent ANCAP test was on the previous VY Commodore, which received a four star rating. The SV6 tested had the optional Side Air Bag package fitted which is an additional $520.
Security consists of an alarm and engine immobiliser with rolling codes. The remote control has two touch deadlocking on all doors and it also enables/disables the alarm. The SV6 scores 61 out of 120 for security which is above average for its class.
On the road
The 190 kW Alloytec engine and lower 175kW output version will underpin the Commodore range for many years. Both kilowatt outputs are based on the same engine. The Alloytec 190kW engine gains its additional power by utilising variable valve timing on both inlet and exhaust camshafts, [the 175kW version has variable cam timing on the inlet camshaft only], and using a variable flow intake manifold. The 190 kW engine has all the hallmarks to do the job. It's a much more refined unit than the previous Ecotec engine fitted in Commodores up to the VY series.
The new engine revs sweetly all the way to its maximum redline of 6,500 rpm. The older Ecotec engine maximum rpm was 5,200 rpm and was a pretty coarse unit past 4,000 rpm up to its maximum, so to see the tacho sail past the old engines redline up to 6,500 rpm will please the enthusiasts. The new six speed transmission is easy to operate, although doesn't have the finesse of some of the European six speeders going around. Driving around town you won't need to use fifth and sixth gears, it's out on the freeway where the last two gears come into play.
Sports suspension firms up the ride qualities over the base models. Although, it's never to the point that the ride becomes too harsh and passengers are generally pretty well insulated from most of the irregularities and pot holes on our roads.
Handling and steering
All the VZ range has received improvements to the power steering and front suspension. As a result the SV6 feels taught and more responsive on the road. The sports suspension has firmed up the ride and made the SV6 even more precise. Initially there is some slight body roll but once the suspension loads up the SV6 remains committed to its line whilst cornering. The steering is still a little 'wooden' in its feel, but in terms of directness and precision it's on the money. The SV6 is well sorted in the handling department, push it along and it impresses with how confident it feels.
The brakes are four wheel discs, ventilated on the front, solid on the rear - fitted with the latest generation Bosch ABS system. Also the brake booster/master cylinder combination has been revised. Braking distances recorded for the SV6 were shorter than the VZ Executive tested earlier and gave a much improved performance and more consistent pedal modulation
Smoothness and quietness
Smoothness is an area where the new 190kW Alloytec engine has made impressive gains. The old engine was noisy and became coarse when the engine revs passed 4,000 rpm. This new Alloytec engine shows the benefits of a new modern design approach. Out on the Freeway in sixth gear at 110kms the engine is barely above idle and engine and drive-line noise levels are low.
The new SV6 is an understated vehicle in terms of appearance. Buyers seeking an overtly sporty looking Commodore may have to choose from the HSV range of cars, but don't let the plain appearance put you off. For underneath Holden has put together a pretty impressive package that handles well, and is powered by a sophisicated new engine that is more refined than the old Ecotec unit used in previous six cylinder sports models.