Holden Commodore SS ute used car review

RACV RoyalAuto magazine

Holden SS Ute

As the Australian-built rear-wheel-drive utility starts to disappear from the new car scene, these icons are still selling strongly on the used market. Originally the ute was a workhorse for tradies or farmers. But over the years this role has broadened and many are now well-dressed fashion statements that comfortably cruise around town. In between the extremes, utes perform almost every imaginable combination of these roles.

Leading the charge on the used market is Holden’s V8 SS Commodore Ute line-up, plus stylish, performance-focused HSV models. As part of the VF Commodore family, the utes have fundamentally the same styling, features, cabin presentation and proven running gear.

The VF Ute was released in 2013, with the SS models boasting a 6.0-litre V8 engine producing an impressive 270kW (260kW in auto), while the VF II, in late 2015, increased the capacity to 6.2 litres and pushed out 304kW. HSV then squeezed more power out of those engines for its Maloo models. Transmission options are a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, with availability on the used market split evenly between the two.

Dressed to impress

Main grades are the SS, SS-V and SS-V Redline, with a number of special editions as well. These are premium models, dressed to impress, and the standard features would put many luxury cars of the time to shame. Leather sports-style seats, comprehensive instrumentation levels, advanced infotainment technology and a host of creature comforts show few signs of a commercial heritage. This is also reflected in the relatively light payload, particularly in higher-spec models, due to the weight of the extra equipment.

Owners tend to rave about the superb on-road ability of their vehicles, although the responsive and potentially brutish performance is delivered in a civilised manner. Likewise, the suspension is firm but liveable. Even though utes are notoriously light in the rear, the handling is relatively surefooted and sharp, while higher-performance brakes are em­ployed as you move up the model line. A highlight of the VF II V8 is a stirring sound created by the bi-modal exhaust and mechanical sound enhancer, designed to match the muscular image.

Fuel consumption with this performance on tap will depend on the way it’s used, with anything from 8.5L/100km to 17.0L/100km possible. The best consumption would probably come from 6.0-litre VF models with Active Fuel Management, i.e. cylinder deactivation. 

Vision for the driver is poor. Thick pillars create significant blind spots forward and back. A rear-view camera, parking sensors, blind-spot warning and rear traffic alert, which were standard on some models and optional on others, help but don’t solve the problems.

Improved reliability

As Commodore ute has evolved, its reliability has improved greatly, more so in the V8s than the six-cylinder versions. Most owners are very happy with their V8s but there are a few that have had issues. It is essential to check what type of work it has done, its mechanical condition and the service history. The infotainment system and other electronics had software updates as a matter of course if the vehicle was regularly serviced by a Holden dealer; otherwise you may need to pay to have them done if the warranty has expired.

We have heard reports of automatic transmission problems and gearshift selection difficulties in the manuals.  Often in this type of vehicle, the clutch and brakes are also worked hard.

There has been a number of recalls. Most problems should have been rectified but it is worth checking with Holden or a dealer to make sure.

Finally, be wary of heavily modified examples.

FUEL CONSUMPTION: 8.5-10.0L/100km on the highway. But around the city and suburbs, up to 17.0L/100km is possible.
SAFETY:
5-star ANCAP rating for all models.
TOWING: Maximum is 1600kg with a 160kg towball load.
THE COMPETITION: Ford Falcon XR8.

PRICE RANGE
SS 6.0L (2013-17) $26,300-$32,900
SS-V 6.0L (2013-17) $28,500-$35,700
SS-V Redline 6.0L (2013-17) $32,200-$40,400
SS 6.2L (2015-2017) $34,500-$43,100
SS-V 6.2L (2015-2017) $39,600-$46,000
SS-V Redline 6.2L (2015-2017) $42,000-$53,600
Approximate Glass’s Guide prices for an automatic.

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Written by Greg Hill
July 17, 2017