Ok, finally I’ve reached the last contender in my car test drives. As most of you know I driven and reviewed the BA XR6T, XR8 and VY SV8 in the last couple of weeks. Well today I was treated to a jet black, fully optioned VY SS manual.
As you may remember from my SV8 (auto) review, the most prominent thing I was impressed with was nature in which the auto performed with the 235kw Gen3 V8. Well at least that was until the auto became warm and went off on it’s own crusade!
I must say folks that my experience with the SS was entirely different, right from the sales person to the quality and performance of this car. I know many of you may be thinking that both the SS and the SV8 have an identical driveline, however please stay with me as I explain further….
The Dealer experience…
Richard was the name of my salesperson at a different Holden dealership to the SV8. Right from the start he was most professional and knew his cars well, which I found both refreshing and helpful. He also went out of his way to obtain a test car that I specifically wanted, right down to the colour. If all new car sales people were this tentative, they would sell a lot more cars in my opinion. If I was to knock him for anything, it would be for a little ‘Holden arrogance’ and Ford bashing.
The VY SS in black must be the most attractive colour in that shape in my opinion. I am not a fan of some of the more recent styling cues of these cars, however in black duco, I simply forgot about my hang-ups with them. Build quality was also much better on this SS, in contrast to the poor effort made on the SV8. I’m not sure why this was; however I was not complaining. The SS 18” rims look superb on this car and were just as good as the XR 18”’s. The fact that they come as standard was even more appealing and I would like to see Ford adopt the same strategy in future.
The interior of the SS was superior to the SV8, however I’m not just referring to feature differences here; I’m taking about console finish, the instrument cluster and minor fittings. These maybe small items to some, however it made a very relevant impression on me. The leather seats on the SS were form fitting and ‘Recaro’ like. My only real complaint was the quality of the leather, as it felt cheap and thick like a discounted lounge soafer.
Putting the 6 speed into gear…
Richard, like all the other dealers drove the car out of the yard to show me all the features, functions and to prepare me the dominant thrust of the 235kw engine. At this point he was unaware that I had driven the XR6T or the XR8. The first thing I noticed was the exhaust note over the previous SV8. In manual trim, the exhaust sound was more evident and upon acceleration the noise rose to a soft, however flat deep tone.
Richard explained to me that the 18” on the SS gave a slightly harder ride and indeed he was right. Though I remember experiencing this with my aftermarket lowered AU XR8, I felt nothing of the sort with either BA XR’s riding on similar 18” low profile tyres. In fact on a slight bumpy road the car felt just a little unstable.
Richard finally parked the car and allowed me the driving position. Behind the wheel, I felt comfortable, although I sat a little lower than the XR’s. Driving around the back streets, the steering like the SV8 was direct and crisp. The gearbox feeling was good and reminded me more of the XR8 rather than the Turbo, however in saying this, the XR8 had a more positive notchy feel to it.
In small bursts the pull from the car and the overall refinement of the engine was noticeably harsh in stark comparison to either XR’s, especially the 8. I’ve read about this harshness in recent media reviews, however I thought it would not be something ‘I’ an average bloke would actually notice.
Once we got out on to the highway I was invited to stretch her legs ( I didn’t need to be asked twice!!). We’ll I guess like the XR8, I was expecting a lot from this car and I was prepared to put it through it's passes. I tried all different things, hard take off’s from 1st, drop backs to 2nd, accelerating hard in 2nd and 3rd etc, etc... The SS is capable, yes, strong when pushed …and I mean pushed, however a ‘kick in the guts’ or ‘sling shot’ performer this car as not.
At this point it was clear to me that the XR8, considering it’s weight was ahead in my books in terms of ‘seat of you pants’ grunt, refinement and driveability. I don’t even want to bring the Turbo into this comparison. The XR8 was much stronger and felt faster, even if the reviews state that may not be the case. Interior of the BA was better, however not so much so over the SS that it be a turning factor for me.
In this case the more I drove the SS, the more I loved the XR’s. Its not that the SS was some kind of dog, I actually have more respect for it now than I ever had before. It is a fine machine indeed and a great competitor for the likes of an AU3 XR8 in terms of drivability anyway. But the VYSS I drove today was no match for the Barra’s based on my experience today.
If I was in the market for a new car this time last year, the Ford's may have been in trouble. I’m pleased to say that this year this is simply not the case. Thanks to Richard for being a top bloke. I hope Holden appreciate him.
P.S – For FF members of LS1.com.au, as much as I would like to, I will not be posting this on that forum as my opinion seems to make the tribes restless.