Holden Commodore SS 2013 new car review

It’s a dinosaur; a heavy, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive V8 that doesn’t pretend that it will go off-road.

Darren Cottingham
Darren Cottingham
Expert reviewer | Auto Media Group

The situation the Commodore SS finds itself in is a conundrum. To all intents and purposes it’s a dinosaur; a heavy, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive V8 that doesn’t pretend that it will go off-road.

The good
  • Lots of grunt
  • Excellent MyLink entertainment system
  • Feels solid
The not-so-good
  • Tyre noise on some surfaces
  • Driving around town will use lots of fuel
  • SV6 seems slightly more balanced

Taking a look at the supposedly more highly evolved competition you see entire genera of vehicles like compact SUVs and crossovers – they’re new and trendy. They’re ‘evolved’. We appear to have moved on from the 1980s and people don’t want big four-door sedans.

On the road

People are wrong. The Commodore is every bit as safe as an SUV with its 5-star ANCAP crash rating, it handles better due to its lower centre of gravity, for the performance it has comparable fuel economy with SUVs of similar acceleration, and at $61,490 you can’t get a ‘performance’ SUV. It’s not going to fit as much luggage, but it does come with a large boot that’s enough for four people’s gear (495 litres).

The Holden will park itself in parallel or right angle parks using Automatic Park Assist. You just need to control the throttle, brake and transmission. If you’re reversing out of a right angle park, the Reverse Traffic Alert warns you if a vehicle is approaching in your blind spots. 

And speaking of blind spots, when you are driving along, the Commodore constantly scans them and warns you using an orange light in each wing mirror if another vehicle might be in a place where you can’t easily see it.

Electronic safety systems include electronic stability control (ESC), anti-lock brakes (ABS), traction control (which is very welcome in the wet), trailer sway control, hill hold control, reversing camera and six airbags. You have to move up to the Redline model to get forward collision alert and lane departure warning.

The quoted fuel economy is 11.5l/100km. I achieved 10.5l/100km on a trip from Auckland city to Hamilton and back, with a little around town and rush hour motorway driving thrown in. If you are driving mostly around the city, Holden quotes 17l/100km, and that’s quite a lot, whereas on the open road it’s fairly easy to keep the economy in the 8s.

Inside and out

Passenger comfort is excellent. There is plenty of room in the back, and the front seats are supportive but with a good level of comfort.

If you plug your iPhone in via USB you can access the apps included in the MyLink media centre. These include Pandora and Stitcher, plus it supports Siri Eyes Free so you can compose texts and give your phone verbal instructions without looking at it. Support for Tunein would be nice too (mainly because that’s the app I use), but you can always set an app playing and leave it connected via Bluetooth.

In comparison to the 3.6-litre SV6 which we reviewed here the SS crams in a 6-litre V8 and adds a healthy 75kW, boosting power to 260kW with a whopping 517Nm of torque, and that’s the only difference. It arrives with the kind of noise that makes a grown man smile. The slight compromise seems to be that it feels slightly heavier and less agile in the nose, although it’s difficult to tell without doing a back-to-back test.


The conundrum: should you buy an SUV or should you buy a large sedan? If you need to tow something large or carry objects of unusual dimensions on a regular basis, by all means, get an SUV.

However, if you want driving pleasure, speed and handling, then the Commodore is the way to go. Therein lies another conundrum. The SV6 is really good; arguably better value than the SS because the only difference is the engine which, at 210kW vs 260kW isn’t exactly ‘lacking’ in power. The extra power doesn’t allow it to tow more; both are good for 2100kg on a braked trailer. Plus, if you go for the V8 you’ll probably want to fill it with premium petrol (even though both models will take regular unleaded or premium unleaded).

Perhaps if you want more bells and whistles like bigger alloys, push-button start/stop, satellite navigation, premium audio and Brembo brakes, then the SS starts to make sense with the SS-V and Redline models.

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