Lionel Brockman Richie Jr was born in Tuskegee, Alabama in 1949. He graduated Joliet Township High School as an Ace tennis player took up a Scholarship at Tuskegee Institute before dropping out in his sophomore year. Despite then seriously considering becoming a Priest, Richie opted to continue down the path of a musical career – his silky smooth voice and talents on the Saxophone made him the ideal choice as front man for the for a newly formed group that had recently merged together the Mystics and the Jays. Why am I telling you all of this? Well, around the same time as this newly formed group was topping the charts; Holden released a car baring the same name – both car and group have gone on to hall of fame status!
1978 saw the launch of the VB Commodore with its German body design (Opel record) and Aussie engine (2.85L 64kW straight 6) and it was an instant press favorite. Not far off 4 decades later and the Commodore is still turning heads.
I managed to grab some alone time in The VFII SS V Redline and it was quite the experience. At first glance, from the outside it’s very much as I’d come to expect from this large four door sports sedan – substantial kerb-side presence, all muscular and manly but as I looked a little closer I got to see some of the subtle improvements. Sculptured body sweeps add a touch of class to the cars Aerodynamic functionality (as do the LED Running lamps) and although its Chrome tipped Quad exhausts lie in the shadow of a huge tail spoiler they are more than happy to make their presence known under acceleration. Tap the air vented bonnet and you realize it’s made of lighter carbon fibre, under which is a 6.2L LS3 V8 that produces 570Nm and 304kW of power complete with a glorious soundtrack – but I’ll get to that later. Essentially it’s a trimmed down but beefed up version of its previous self.
The interior looks great too. The plush dashboard is made up of interweaved layers of textured materials that go together as sweet as a tiramisu. The top hard durable shell is unfortunately too shinny for the NZ sun and on a good day heavily reflects off the windscreen. A soft touch layer follows and then onto Alcantara style leather, then a carbon effect row before going back to a durable shell. The Result (when you add in some chrome bling) is a very inviting cabin. The Leather seats are comfy and the adjustments are more than ample. The Wheel feels great and grippy but the paddles behind were marginally too far away from my fingertips (it’s a small point but seemingly noticeable). On the subject of noticeable, the side mirrors are strangely small however offer up great rear views and with the Blind Spot alerts encompassed in the glass the SSV has your rear view covered.
The instruments are clear and all the Mylink functions are presented in 8” touch screen glory. The Head up display is both adjustable for height and offers a variety of information – my favorite was rev’s, speed and gear selection.
Before setting off, Dave from Holden Schofields showed me how to switch OFF the BiModal exhaust feature – basically turning off the guttural V8 soundtrack hmmmm. I thanked him for letting me know but we both agreed that ON was best. So; with the soundtrack in place and gear selection in ‘Sports’ I hit the road.
The SSV is incredibly easy to drive; it feels light and nimble, which to me was quite the surprise. The steering it sharp and the car felt responsive and solid on the road. Cornering is taut and fulfilling as is its off the mark speed. However using the paddles was not as sporty an experience as I would have liked, it seemed to take a moment to register the fact that I had changed gear (either up or down). At the lights the SSV fidgets and wiggles, but in a good way; it’s like it doesn’t appreciate sitting still for any length of time, it spends the down time sort of flexing its muscles or stretching in anticipation of the big game or waiting to pick a fight.
Lionel Richie may not have the octave range of someone like Freddie Mercury or Axl Rose but there is no doubt that his voice fitted in perfectly with what was expected by the Commodores of that time. Much like the earth trembling, chest pounding roar I thankfully got to hear in this SSV Commodore – Both sounds match the style and mood that their audience craves BUT only one comes from a BiModal 6.2 Litre V8.
This could very well be the last Commodore under it’s current guise but fingers crossed this iconic name will live on for years to come.
Photos: Car Advice
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