Commodore Ute's last stand a bold one

WHEN  Country Cars originally planned to test drive the VF Commodore Ute, we had no idea it would be a last stand.

The Holden Ute will disappear when the company ceases production in Australia in 2017, and with it the last of the Australian-style car-based coupe utilities.

It is a segment that has been under extreme pressure from imported pick-up trucks that have adopted the "ute" label for themselves. Comparatively few Commodore Utes are sold as pure work haulers now, with sales of the standard Evoke eclipsed even within its own family by the SV6 and SS-V. Many tradies now prefer the versatility of a diesel-powered 4x4 light truck, which has seen a steady decline in the Commodore Ute’s popularity. Most are bought as lifestyle vehicles.

However the traditional coupe utility still has virtues which may have been forgotten by some. When Ballarat Holden offered us a red Commodore SS-V, we were quickly reminded of those virtues.

There are some things the ute cannot do which the pick-up style ute can. Its low ride height and the absence of all-wheel-drive limits its value in paddocks or worksites where it has a greater chance of getting bogged and the lack of rear seats counts it out for carting the family around.

What has been lost, though, is just how much better this type of ute is to drive. While pick-ups have improved their comfort and handling in recent years, the new VF completely outclasses them in terms of performance, comfort, ride and handling. There is no comparison.

The VF update has made ute look less like a work truck than ever before. The front end treatment in particular is more elegant than workmanlike.

It’s the interior, though, that really separates the SS-V from than anything that is remotely similar, including its old sparring partner the Falcon. Colour information screens, metallic instrument surrounds, carbon fibre and suede highlights – it feels far more like a sports car or a luxury sedan. Blind spot alert, rear parking camera, and Holden’s impressive MyLink infotainment system are all part of the SS-V package. Our only quibble is replacing the handbrake with a fiddly electric park brake.

As for performance, there is very little in the price range that comes close. The 6.0-litre V8 produces 260kW peak power and 517Nm of torque through a six-speed automatic – it is virtually supercar performance. We went for a spin out towards Mt Buninyong on some nice winding roads and were hugely impressed by the road-holding of such a powerful machine with a lightweight rear end.

Around town, the refinement is a match for more expensive cars and the ride, while firm, is not intrusive. With the V8’s ability to shut off cylinders when not needed, the fuel economy is not awful either.

But the Commodore Ute must also pay its way as a work vehicle. Tray capacity remains high by ute standards and 2100kg towing equipment is an option. If the owner can get past worrying about scratching the shiny paint, there is no reason the SS-V can’t cart as much or more than most pick-ups, in considerably more comfort.

Perhaps the Commodore Ute is too refined, too pleasant to drive and too stylish. Tradies and others who may never need four-wheel-drive may not even have the SS-V on their radar because it doesn’t look or feel rugged enough. That is a shame.

• Your local dealer is Ballarat Holden: 5339 9333

• Your local dealer is Ballarat Holden: 5339 9333

• Your local dealer is Ballarat Holden: 5339 9333

The new VF Commodore Ute SSV . Picture: Jeremy Bannister

The new VF Commodore Ute SSV . Picture: Jeremy Bannister

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