NOT SURPRISINGLY, the installation of GMís 6.2-litre LS3 V8 has done excellent things for Holdenís VF II Commodore range. To be honest, we canít think of many things a 6.2-litre V8 wouldnít improve, but combining it with a rear-drive ute is certainly going to be a happy marriage.
You know the headline numbers by now, 304kW/570Nm shaving the 0-100km/h time to just 5.0sec when equipped with the six-speed auto, the manual a tenth faster. An extra 34kW/40Nm is bound to have a profound effect on any vehicle, especially one with such little weight over the driven wheels. But whatís impressive is just how unperturbed the VF II ute is by the substantial increase in grunt.
Traction is strong and it takes a concerted effort to break the rear free under power on dry tarmac, though slippery surfaces are a very different matter. Stiffer spring rates than the sedan (it is, after all, built to carry some loads) makes the ute a livelier handler than the sedan, and care needs to be taken in hard driving to control the rear.
However, itís generally very easy to control and capable of impressive speed for something with a 2064-litre boot. This was true for the original VF ute, too, but the difference now is the bits of road between corners disappear much more quickly.
The LS3 revs cleanly and has awesome overtaking ability, but as with all VF II SSs the thing that hits you like a hammer to the face is the sheer volume of noise. Thanks to the new bi-modal exhaust and mechanical sound enhancer (to pipe engine sound into the cabin) it makes a glorious racket, sounding like a hot-rodded old Holden 308.
Holdenís recent utes have always been a lot of fun, primarily for their very car-like behaviour, but whether or not the SS V is the right one to choose probably depends on how youíre going to use it. For an extra $4000 it gains niceties like leather, sat-nav, colour digital instrument display, eight-speaker stereo and keyless entry and go. So for everyday use itís probably the nicer package compared to the basic SS.
For our money, though, the Redline (which weíve pictured) remains the standout and is well worth the extra $5500. Itís the lightest and most agile of the Redline range, as well as the cheapest, and the brake, suspension and rolling stock upgrades mean you have a car that can not only haul furniture and tow the boat, but tear up a track as well.
Car-based performance utes are a uniquely Australian invention which are soon going to disappear, so letís hope Holden is currently figuring out how to stick a V8 in the Colorado to somewhat fill the void in years to come. M
LS3 grunt, hot-rod soundtrack, dayto- day package
Under-braked, small payload