It doesn’t matter if you
love traditional style muscle cars or you hate ‘em - the new VZ Holden Monaro
demands admiration. It looks tough, sounds bloody incredible, goes around
corners, stops and, yep, she’ll get up an’ go.
Boy, does it go!
The Monaro’s newly-tweaked
LS1 5.7 litre V8 offers great throttle response and mind-blowing torque across
the normal rev range. It doesn’t matter what gear you’re in or if you’re driving
half asleep, you only need squeeze the throttle and – bang – you’re off. You can
see the front passenger’s head flung back on almost every throttle
The sheer accessibility of
this performance makes the Monaro very flexible and rewarding to drive. The only
time you can catch it off-torque is when cruising in top gear (6th)
at anything less than about 80 km/h. The engine is happy and docile enough to
maintain a steady 60 km/h cruise in top gear (at a mere 1000 rpm) but it doesn’t
really respond when you squeeze the pedal. But drop it back a gear and you’re
And, speaking of romping
away, the Monaro is a car that can slaughter other ‘performance’ cars at the
lights. No need for a tyre-frying launch – just floor it off the line and you’ll
reach 100 km/h in around 7 seconds dead. With the traction control switched off
for a big launch, the best 0 – 100 km/h time we recorded was in the low 6s.
That’s seriously fast.
The VZ update sees the
Monaro’s pushrod LS1 bumped up to 260kW and a massive 500Nm (at 5600 and 4000
rpm respectively). Note that these are the highest power and torque figures
we’ve seen from the LS1 with the exception of HSV’s 285kW and C4B 300kW engines.
The newly Monaro engine also offers a massive 93 percent of peak torque from
2300 to 5300 rpm – no wonder it’s always ready an’ raring to go!
Changes to the engine
include a revised camshaft, free-flow induction system, new ECU calibration (to
suit high-octane fuel), electronic throttle control and a split dual exhaust
that reduces backpressure by around 25 percent. Ahhh, the exhaust... The Monaro
burbles and pops through its dual 95mm tips and is sure to put a smile on the
face of any petrol head. But in light driving conditions, there’s only a distant
murmur from the system so it’s not a constant annoyance.
The VZ Monaro can be
purchased with a 4 speed auto or a 6 speed manual (as tested). The updated T56
manual ‘box receives shorter ratios, which are partially responsible for the
car’s improved driving flexibility and response. Unfortunately, the shifter has
a relatively long throw – a short-shift would be a nice touch. The LSD rear-end
maintains the previous model’s 3.46:1 ratio.
The 1692kg Monaro is a
relatively large car but drive it on a narrow, twisting road and is shrinks
around you – the suspension, steering and overall feel come together very well.
Our only criticism is the sports-spec suspension can be a tad harsh at times –
there’s an occasional crash-bang into the cabin.
The Monaro exhibits a mild
amount of turn-in understeer but the chassis is wonderfully throttle-responsive
through the mid and late section of a corner. It also feels slightly more
tail-happy than a Commodore sedan, but it’s never unnerving. The traction
control system – which no longer kicks back through the accelerator pedal – is
smooth and effective.
Under its skin, the Monaro
is largely unchanged - the biggest change is the relocation of the fuel tank to
between the rear seat and axle (to satisfy US safety standards). Relocating the
70 litre tank provides space for the fitment of a dual split exhaust and rear
undertray which is said to reduce rear aero lift by 16 percent. The downside is
significantly reduced boot space which is exacerbated by the relatively
intrusive hinge mechanism – it’s a shame gas struts haven’t been installed to
help maximise existing space.
The brakes instil the sort
of confidence you want given the Monaro’s straight-line speed and point-to-point
pace. The VZ Monaro has the biggest brake set-up of any Holden - 320 x 32mm
ventilated fronts and 286 x 188 ventilated rear discs. The new Corvette C6
twin-pot calipers are also a stand-out from behind the front wheels. These come
in addition to the other brake system changes found in the VZ update – there’s a
new brake booster and master cylinder, standard EBD, ABS and brake
Our only criticism is the
slight oversensitivity of our test car’s ABS system – in one instance the pedal
could be felt pulsing while braking with a front wheel over a manhole cover.
Mind you, this was entering a corner
at a fair click...
The downside of all these
antics is a fuel bill that is nothing short of scary. Drive it so you can hear
the exhaust and you will pay for it –
we recorded over 18 litres per 100km during our test! Holden claim 15.3 litres
per 100km (ADR 81/01) for the Monaro 6 speed.
And don’t forget the new
engine tune is optimised to suit the expensive Premium Unleaded brew.
Despite the rorty nature of
the car, the Monaro is remarkably pleasant, comfortable and easy to drive. The
cabin offers roomy seating for four and all seating positions are comfortable
enough to be used over long distances. The deep, heavily contoured front seats
attract praise from everyone but – equally - access to the front and rear seats
drew criticism. The first time you step into the Monaro there’s a high
probability you’ll crack your head on its sloping A-pillar. Access to the rear
seats is also made difficult by the bulky front seats and their slow
single-action tilt/slide mechanism.
And what about interior
gizmos? Well, you get dual-zone climate control, front and side airbags, a
comprehensive trip computer, electric seats (with memory settings on the
driver’s side), a punchy 6-stack CD system and cruise control. A handy parking
distance beeper is also included in the deal.
markings are attractive in an old-school sort of way and there’s an add-on
binnacle on the centre of the dash containing an oil pressure gauge and volt
meter. Unfortunately, these are not angled toward the driver – they’re aimed
straight down the centreline of the car. The cabin is fully leather-lined and
comes with highlight stitching on the steering wheel, gear knob and park brake
lever. There are also glossy ‘piano black’ trims, which show dust and finger
The VZ Monaro attracts more
attention than almost any other stock-standard car we’ve driven. The Monaro
shape is well proportioned, smooth and attractive and the VZ update adds a bit
of extra sex appeal. The bulging bonnet features Pontiac-style scoops (which
don’t feed air to anything), there’s a revised grille and headlights plus a deep
front facia with a vertical slots containing the park and projector-type fog
lights. The rear is distinguished by aftermarket-looking 95mm chrome exhaust
tips and a black mesh lower skirt. Rims are attractive 5 spoke 18 x 8s wearing
235/40 Bridgestone Potenzas.
In one admirer’s word,
“it’s pure horn.”
With a retail price of
AUD$60,490 the VZ Monaro is one of the most expensive Holdens you can buy. But
compare it against cars like the Nissan 350Z, Chrysler Crossfire and the
big-power Euros costing more than twice as much and it starts to show its value.
Ask yourself this; with the exception of the Holden-based HSV GTO, what other
big performance coupe can you buy for anywhere near the price of a
The Monaro is a car we’ve
absolutely loved during our test. It scores very well in all areas with the
exception of its oh-so-slightly too firm ride, reduced boot capacity and its
dunce-hat rate of fuel consumption.
But nobody can deny its
character and capabilities.
The VZ Monaro 6 speed was
provided for this test by Holden Australia. www.holden.com.au