Holden MY17 Commodore

Laps of judgment for hardened-up Limited Edition models

NATHAN PONCHARD

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

HOLDEN’S Zeta platform has given birth to some bloody impressive gear during its 11-year tenure, so it’s fitting that the lastever Aussie-made, rear-driver bows out with a celebratory ‘bang’.

Close to a year before the pin is finally pulled on domestic production, Holden has gathered together all the best components from global Zeta-platformed cars to create three limited-edition models – Motorsport Edition sedan, Director sedan (see far right) and Magnum ute.

The Motorsport Edition is the headline variant. Based on the VFII Commodore SS-V Redline sedan, it scores Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) suspension as fitted to the Chevrolet SS export model, completely re-tuned by Holden.

Featuring four drive modes (Touring, Sport, Performance and Track), Sport sees the MRC switch to an FE3 damper tune, opens the bi-modal exhaust flaps, introduces torque vectoring and meatier steering. Performance mode brings firmer ‘Competitive’ damping and launch control (manual only).

Track delivers a ‘Competitive’ ESC calibration. The Motorsport also gets stiffer rear subframe bushes to prevent the rear cradle from rolling and pitching in extreme (track) situations.

Braking and cooling packages complement the upgraded suspension. Mounted behind lightweight forged 20s, the ventilated brake rotors receive cross-drilling front and rear, and a floating-disc two-piece front rotor design for shorter, more consistent brake-pedal travel. An aluminium hat for each front rotor saves 3.25kg across the front axle.

The cooling pack brings all three limited-edition VFIIs up to ‘GM Level 3’ track spec, joining Camaro and Corvette. They get an engine oil cooler as well as an in-tank cooler for the manual and an auxiliary cooler for the auto ’box.

The Magnum ute ($59,290) misses out on MRC (due to an exhaust contact issue) but gets the regular SS-V Redline sedan’s excellent FE3 suspension, ignoring any need for load-carrying duties.

Magnum’s rear spring rate is 26 percent softer, allowing maximum use of its long-wheelbase balance and grip. Yet it shares all the cooling and braking upgrades of the Motorsport.

Like 2014’s VF Redline, Holden introduced the media to the MY17 Limited Edition models at the Phillip Island circuit. But this time, with additional LS3 V8 power (304kW/570Nm, as per VFII V8), the Commodores truly had the power to push the envelope.

We kick off hot laps in a manual Motorsport. The LS3’s grunt means you can hold the car in these lovely, flowing oversteer drifts across the top of the track, yet there’s real precision to its turn-in and mid-corner purchase, and tireless braking performance.

Down the Island’s main straight, the Motorsport easily hits the rev cut-out in fourth gear (over 230km/h). And there’s that everpresent, wonderfully shouty V8 induction riot going on to garnish the whole experience.

Without the tautness of MRC’s ‘Competitive’ adaptive-damping tune, the manual Magnum ute we also test feels softer than the gun sedan, but not by any huge measure. The ute’s longer wheelbase slows its changeof- direction ability a little, but running the same engine, braking and cooling package, it signs off the final chapter in Australia’s own motoring story with respectfully brutish brilliance.

Yet it’s bittersweet, all of this.

‘Going out on a high note’ is one thing; knowing there will never be a car like the rear-drive VFII again makes the whole experience a lot harder to swallow. Greatness, however, is everlasting.

PLUS & MINUS Finest-ever everyman’s Commodore a fitting s Trying to get your hands on one may prove elusive if you don’t act quickly wansong to rear-drive

CHEVY ME TIMBERS All Limited Edition cabins score performance front seats with metallicised bling from the Chevrolet SS, though only Director and Motorsport also get heaters. Autos feature steeringwheel paddles and all three get their model name embroidered into the instrument-panel trim. 01 COVER DRIVE Pool-room sweeteners for the Motorsport Edition include a commemorative presentation case and a 1:18-scale Biante model of your car. A car cover is optional, which buyers can personalise with their own name.

While dealers are taking orders for all three models, deliveries won’t start until July. 02 BUILT OZ TOUGH Motorsport Edition cops a ‘KOM’ on its build plate (for ‘King of the Mountain’), reflecting Commodore’s 24 Bathurst victories and 470 ATCC/V8 Supercar wins. Buyers can also opt for ‘NOPD’ (no pre-delivery), meaning your car arrives collector-friendly, wearing full factory plastic protection. 03

Number crunch

With just 1800 limited-run Commodores planned for 2017 – 1200 Motorsports, 360 Directors and 240 Magnums – you’ll need to be quicker than the V8 manual’s launch control to score one, though not all will be available to Joe Public. Holden employees and dealer principals will be offered cars first, leaving 1000 Motorsports, 250 Directors and 200 Magnums for general consumption. In a nod to Greg Murphy’s race number, New Zealand gets 51 Directors, 51 Magnums and 151 Motorsports.

OR TRY THESE...

Calais V-based Director is an engineering ringer of its be-spoilered brother, though it lacks the trick rear subframe bushes. Black roof, bonnet vents and forged 20s make this auto-only sleeper a true Calais-on-the-juice from the factory.

A transverse engine, all-wheel drive and a wicked-up 2.0-litre turbo (from the Golf R) has an element of Holden’s future to it, and this will be the benchmark – VW’s polished, roomy and rapid Passat 206TSI.