Holden SS Storm Sportwagon review.

Holden’s VF Commodore has been with us now for a couple of years, having being given a light redesign on the exterior from the VE and a good working over for the interior for the main part. There’s some weight reduction and added tech underneath as well. A update is due soon and Holden tends to run a limited edition not long before the update happens, using Storm or Thunder as the nomenclature, depending on body shape. A Wheel Thing went west with the Holden Commodore SS Storm Sportwagon, taking the 6.0L V8 powered machine to Mount Panorama. But there was eyebrows raised and a question asked before making the trip to Australia’s spiritual home of motorsport to watch The Great Race; is it Blue Thunder Or Passing Storm?.Storm wagon engine

The Donk.
It’s a V8, currently selling at a rate of one in every three Commodores rolling off the dealership floors. It’s a relaxed, easy to live with engine, 6.0L in capacity and putting out 260 kW through the rear wheels via a six speed auto only. Torque is considerable, at around 516Nm, allowing a mere crease of the ankle to see 100 km/h in six to seven seconds.

It’s a 71 litre fuel tank that’s hidden in the Commodore’s flanks, allowing the V8 to either sip or guzzle, depending on how heavy the right foot is and the driving situation, from around 8.5L to 15L per 100 kilometres. Although it’s a quad tipped exhaust, a driver is hard pushed to tell there’s a brawny V8 under the aluminuim bonnet, such is the restrained manner of the donk’s gas outlets.

It’ll take E10 but it’s not the preferred tipple. Being an auto, the engine also cops AFM, the Active Fuel Management system wich, in effect, makes it a 3.0L V4 under ideal circumstances (long, flat roads with no throttle variation), with the computer shutting down half the engine.

The Suit.
Storm wagon frontAlthough the sedan had more plastic surgery on its backside, the ‘wagon was left with a nose job. The headlights for both ‘wagon and sedan were given a curvier lower section than the VE’s, a redesigned front bumper to suit and some Jaguar-ish fender inserts plus LED daytime running lights at each lower corner at the front (plus globe lit fog lights right next to each), however the rear on the Sportwagon was pretty much left untouched, just like the ute’s, sadly.

The Storm came with SS badging on the tail gate and Storm badges on each rear door, slipping visually under the radar, even with the Perfect Blue paint coating its near five metre length. Rolling stock was 245/45/18 Bridgestone Potenza tyres on five spoke alloys in an almost clover leaf design, the same as fitted to the SS sedan. Under the rear cargo Storm wagon roofracksspace cover is a full sized spare.
On the roof were the optional Holden spec roof racks, looking quite nice, as they should.

On The Inside.
This where the the first eyebrow was raised. The basement level Evoke has a monochrome display screen directly ahead of the driver. The SS gets a monochrome display. The Storm wagon has the monochrome display….the colour display as found in the SS-V upwards would have been a nice touch. The main dials get a mix of blue and red backlighting, easy on the eyes and not overpowering, whilst the tiller is standard Holden in look and feel.

There’s the faux carbon fibre soft weave on the upper dash panel with Storm embroidered into the upper left side, contrasting with the harder and glossy carbon fibre plastic insert on the lower section and gear lever surround. Holden’s MyLink touchscreen tech is front and centre, featuring satnav, Pandora and Stitcher apps, Bluetooth streaming and more whilst under the skin there’s Hill Start Assist, Blind Spot warning Storm wagon interiorStorm wagon dashtechnology, Automatic Park Assist and more.

As we also know, there’s the electric parking brake, mounted in the centre console while window switches are now in the driver’s door.
The seat trims are a matter of taste, being a mix of velour, machine made leather and the cloth stripe sown into the centre. Not a fan, personally. The aircon controls have dated badly, with colour LED backlighting in the dials already looking anachronistic although the use of the controls remains simple. There’s split fold seats and the cargo space at the rear is big enough to hide a helicopter.

Being a big car, there’s plenty of leg room front and rear, shoulder and head room plus the seats were comfortable enough, if lacking a measure Storm wagon bootof lateral support.

The Ride.
The SS gets Holden’s fabled FE2 suspension pack, with the car not wallowing over bumps nor pogoing in undulations and offering up, instead, a comfortable and compliant ride. The steering, electrically assisted since VF’s release, will follow the front wheels as they move themselves around over bumps and ruts, allowing the driver to hold the wheel to sense the bumps and ruts. The chassis is set up for neutrality, with no pucker factor when thrown around hard and resists push on understeer, whilst the wheelbase adds its length and aids the absorption. As mentioned before, the exhaust is muted to the point of inaudibility and even when the loud pedal is Storm wagon wheelpushed, it’s a restrained grumble, rather than a full throated roar. 

The brakes have plenty of grab and are sweetly progressive in their grab. The meaty rubber (at around $300 a corner, mind you!) also lend their grip, making the Storm almost unflappable across a variety of road surfaces, including the coarse tarmac around Bathurst, which hides screws and nails which found their way into not one, but two of the tyres on the car.

The Wrap.
Sadly, the Commodore is due to see the end of its life in 2017/18, manufacturing wise, leaving Holden highly unlikely to make any major changes before then. The 2015 model will be given some cosmetic changes, with the most notable being the addition of paddle shifts for the auto. This means we’re stuck with the sewn in seat stripes, the weave look on the dash and the aircon dials looking like they’re from an ’80’s disco. It also means that any exterior changes will be minimal, leaving only the underpinnings to be worked on. Even then, they’re likely to be minor refinements, as the chassis really is good enough, for the most part, being predictable in its response.

The Storm nameplate has, before now, been attached to the ute only, however it’s an ideal time to pack some value into the range by offering it on sedan and wagon as well. It’s a $500 premium over the standard SS wagon, taking the price to just over $47K plus ORC’s. It’s well priced, well featured as standard (compared to previous iterations of the Commodore) and is economic enough to drive if you don’t sink the slipper too often. It’s not quite blue thunder but it is a passing Storm.

Storm wagon profileThe question is: what will Holden offer that is at least this good an overall package?
For details: http://www.holden.com.au/cars/commodore/sedan-range/ss

The Car: Holden Commodore SS Storm Sportwagon.
Price: $47190 + ORC’s.
Engine: 6.0L V8 alloy block with Active Fuel Management.
Power/Torque: 260 kW @ 5600 rpm (auto), 517 Nm @ 4400 rpm (auto).
Tank: 71L.
Fuel: 91/95/98RON.
Economy: 11.8L/100 km combined, (claimed).
Dimensions: (LxWxH in mm) 4939 x 1898 x 1474.
Track: Front 1592 mm, Rear 1608 mm.
Wheelbase: 2915 mm.
Cargo: 895L/2000L (seats up/folded).
Towing: 2100 kg (braked), 750 kg (unbraked).
Service: Every 9 months or 15000 km.
Warranty: 3 years or 100000 km.

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