The Holden VZ SV6 manual is a vehicle we tried to fall in love with.
With 190kW and a wonderfully broad spread of torque, the high-tech new Holden should be the ideal machine to scare V8s without guzzling excessive amounts of fuel. Or at least, that’s how it seems on paper...
But on the road it’s a very different story.
In real-world driving, the SV6 manual is a disappointment. Below about 4000 rpm (the operating range where you do most driving), the SV6 is flexible but it never performs at anything more than a pedestrian level. The word “effortless” (which we’ve used to describe the rival Ford 4.0) simply does not apply here.
If you want to pull ahead of traffic, you are forced to take the 3.6 litre V6 engine to high revs. This wouldn’t be an issue if the engine was a sweet, willing revver – but it isn’t.
The engine has a gravelly roar and – in manual gearbox versions – high rpm vibration floods through the clutch and gear knob. And it appears that Holden doesn’t want anyone giving the V6 a big rev. Curiously, the marked redline is at just 5500 rpm (1000 rpm below peak power!) and there are no markings beyond 7000 rpm. The rev limiter is squeezed in at 6700 rpm.
With the throttle pedal to the floor and taking the engine to its 6700 limiter, the SV6 is brisk rather than fast. The best 0 – 100 km/h time we achieved was 7.8 seconds (achieved with the traction control switched off for an optimal launch, 2 people onboard and an ambient temperature around 25 degrees Celsius). With a less brutal launch and in hotter conditions, this stretched to almost 9 seconds...
Obviously, the SV6 won’t scare a typical V8. Even a garden-variety Falcon 4.0 or Magna VR-X will give it a close run.
And the SV6 can’t hang its hat on fuel consumption. We recorded almost 15 litres of fuel per 100km in mainly urban conditions with the air conditioning pumping. In normal circumstances, we’d expect high 13s – pretty ho-hum in the category.
Note that normal unleaded will satisfy the engine’s 10.2:1 compression ratio but Holden suggests high octane unleaded may achieve a small performance improvement. We used normal unleaded for our performance testing.
The SV6 chassis benefits from the lighter mass of the Alloytec V6 and feels responsive to steering inputs. The 1592kg SV6 can be driven very quickly and it remains remarkably stable at all times. A high level of grip is provided by the 235/45 17 Bridgestone Potenzas. Body roll is minimised with use of FE2 sports suspension, which gives an occasionally harsh ride.
The progressive power delivery means full-throttle traction is ample, except when flinging through tight corners. In these situations the traction control system does its thing without kicking back through the accelerator pedal as in previous models. Unfortunately, the SV6 does not benefit from the electronic stability control system found in other V6 models. It understeers moderately in tight conditions.
The SV6’s variable ratio power steering is fine, though it does vary considerably in weighting. The brakes – with ABS, EBD and brake assist – are well up to the engine’s performance. The VZ update also brings a new brake booster/master cylinder arrangement.
The rest of the SV6 is very familiar.
The cabin is conventional VZ featuring dual airbags, sports trim, a leather wheel, cruise control, trip computer, single CD/tuner and the usual electrics. You don’t get fully electric seats or climate control.
Visually, the VZ update is very similar to the superseded VY series. VZs get sharper bonnet lines and a revised nose with a larger Holden emblem. The SV6 goes further with black bezel headlights, revised taillights, fog lights, a deep front air dam, rear spoiler and an oval exhaust tip. Attractive 17 x 8 inch wheels are also standard.
At AUD$38,990, the SV6 is AUD$1k dearer than a Mitsubishi Magna VR-X and within couple of hundred dollars of its nearest competitor – the Ford XR6. Note that our test car was also equipped with an optional LSD, which adds AUD$360 to the base price.
The SV6 doesn’t feel as effortless or refined as the Ford, but it does hold the advantage of slightly better fuel consumption and slightly better all-out performance. Just don’t fall into the trap of thinking it goes like a performance car - this is not a serious alternative to a V8. If you want to go fast you’re better off with the 5.7 litre SV8, which costs only AUD$3,000 more.
But given the LS1’s running costs, that’s something we are loath to suggest...