Holden Commodore S Supercharged Sedan Aug 2001 to Oct 2002 Buying Guide
Stand Out Features
The extra toe-control link in the rear suspension improves both ride and handling, as well as rear tyre wear. The Commodore S is available with the optional supercharged 171kW V6. VX Series II Commodore also brought with it the option of leather trim for S and SS models.
Manual air-conditioning is standard on the S. Three rotary knobs on the dash, just below the centre air vents, control the system. Holden locates the heating/air-conditioning panel above, rather than below the radio. Adjustable rear outlet vents are provided for back seat passengers.
Holden has offered the Philips CARiN satellite navigation system across all Commodore models since March, 1999. The system covers all mainland capitals and close to 100,000km of bitumen. Holden Special Vehicles has offered the system since November, 1998.
A remote control power key, with rolling security code, operates the dome lamp and engages door deadlocks when pressed twice. It also operates the central locking for keyless entry through the driver's door only, or unlocks all doors when the button is kept pressed. The indicators are unable to flash confirmation if the door is left ajar when remote locking. The engine is disabled to immobilise the vehicle when the key is removed from the ignition. The S joins other Commodores with an alarm system, operated via remote control power key, which sounds the vehicle's horn when triggered.
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Almost-SS looks for less money, strong acceleration, good sports sedan ride
We Don't Like:
Supercharged engine sounds strained at high rpm, only one airbag
If you are around $10,000 short of cash needed to close a deal on a new SS Commodore but still have your heart set on a hot Holden, the supercharged version of the S model might just do the trick for you. With a very useful 171kW and a more than handy 375Nm of torque, the blown V6 wields V8-like power and backs it up with purposeful, sports sedan looks not far removed from the SS. The only real external giveaway, and it is quite subtle to many eyes, is that the wheel size is down slightly, from 17 to 16 inches. In Series II form the Commodore S is a better deal than ever, picking up important features such as traction control and the nicely reworked independent rear suspension that has helped close the gap to Ford's once clearly superior IRS system. In concert with revised tyre construction that gives sharper and more accurate steering feel, this makes the Commodore a sweeter, more balanced and stable package on the road. In the case of the S, all this is complimented by the FE2 sports suspension tuning that further sharpens the handling without detracting greatly from ride quality.
Stepping inside, you are not greeted by the lascivious, blatant ambience of the SS, but there are enough differences between S and garden variety Commodores to convince you that you are driving something a little special. The seats do not have the extra shaping of the SS but the full-cloth trim is colour-matched with the exterior paint and is a little more adventurous of pattern than an Executive Commodore. The steering wheel also gets a leather-stitched rim, although that's as far as the S goes in pursuit of touchy-feely specifics. Like the SS though, it does get electric control of the driver's seat cushion height and tilt, and there are adjustable lumbar supports for both driver and front passenger as well as standard air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows, a mini trip computer (including audible and visual speed warning via four adjustable settings, distance to empty, trip distance to go and time to go) and remote central locking. So the S driver, even with a base 3.8-litre 152kW engine, is not really going to feel short-changed. The optional supercharged engine - the Gen III 5.7-litre V8 is not available in the S - adds considerably more punch to the package, making better use of the basic elements already in there working towards a more stimulating than normal driving experience. The supercharger's mechanical drive means there is no such thing as the lag experienced in a turbocharged engine; the blown V6 is ready to go from the instant the accelerator is applied. It winds up with a noticeable but not unpleasant howl, feeling as deep chested as a good V8. The torque off the mark is good enough that the traction control system can be regularly asked to step in to avoid rubber-shredding antics on a dry road, or a surfeit of tail-out attitude on wet surfaces. It is switchable though, enabling drivers who think they have the skill to control power-oversteer tail-out attitudes, or feather the pedal to minimise wheelspin.
The downside of the supercharged engine's willingness to turn on the power is the unhappiness with which it approaches the already conservative redline. Here, the inherent harshness of the V6 becomes far too apparent as the engine loses its initial smoothness and turns on some unpleasantly rowdy behaviour. To the driver familiar with the car, it's usually a matter of knowing where the harshness comes in, and driving just short of it. The supercharged engine uses more fuel, naturally, sitting somewhere between the regular V6 and the Gen III V8. Holden recommends premium-grade unleaded, but also says it is possible to run with regular unleaded. This is a little unusual with a boosted engine and is made possible by modern engine management systems able to detect and prevent damaging pre-ignition, or detonation. A 75-litre fuel tank is a worthwhile advantage over the Falcon, which holds only 68 litres. The Commodore S suspension feels smoother, more compliant. Even the more sporty FE2 pack allows a comfortable and quiet ride, making it a real pleasure to live with.
The steering, as a result of the careful tyre redesign, feels a little sharper and noticeably lighter, which would not necessarily be a good thing were it not for the rear end improvements. These take the unsettling bump-steer reaction out of the car, meaning it tracks a line much more faithfully and steadily than before. The Commodore feels more secure on the road as a result, although it is still behind the Falcon in terms of general feel and responsiveness. The Commodore still has slightly "woolly" steering. Braking is aided by a proper, four-channel anti-lock system, a side benefit of the inclusion of traction control that requires individual control of each rear wheel to minimise wheelspin. In terms of practicality the S is the same as any other Commodore - meaning it has good space for front and rear passengers, and a decent-size boot that is let down by primitive, intrusive hinges and the use of a ski port rather than a split-fold backrest - as seen in the Falcon - that limits overall load-carrying versatility. The large, well padded front seats may lack the extra shaping of those used in the SS and may not give the same degree of lateral support, but they are worthy long-distance prospects. In the back, there is decent legroom to be had, plus good shoulder room. Perhaps the only justified extra spending on an S Commodore would be a set of passenger and side-impact airbags. The S gets extra foam padding in the doors to improve side-impact performance but this obviously does not give the protection offered by a side bag. A standard passenger bag is surely somewhere down the track for lesser Commodores too.
As we said earlier, if the budget dictates, you could do a lot worse than a supercharged Commodore S in your search for a big sports sedan. The dynamics are well up to scratch, with a much more refined suspension than before, and the performance is decidedly muscular. The downside is the V6 engine's disturbing unhappiness in reaching towards the tachometer's redline, where all the impressions of strength and refinement evaporate. It jars on the senses. If you are not mechanically sensitive it probably will not bother you, and even if you are mechanically sensitive it is not likely to bother you, in real terms, because nothing is about to happen. But if you think part of the pleasure of driving a performance car is the aural appeal of a sweetly efficient engine, eager to flex its muscles as the revs climb, then you will probably want to look elsewhere because here the supercharged Commodore fails to deliver.
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Like all Commodores, the supercharged S employs a front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels - in this case a 171kW blown V6.
The optional supercharged V6 engine available in the Commodore S utilises long-term experience gained in front-drive Buicks in the US. The engine has over-square bore/stroke dimensions of 97mm by 86mm, displaces 3.791 litres and is essentially the same as the regular cast-iron, overhead valve V6 but runs a lower 8.5:1 compression ratio (9.4:1 in the regular 152kW V6). It uses cross flow cylinder heads, while low friction technology was adopted with a major overhaul in 1995. It also has "hot wire" air mass metering, sequential fuel injection, twin knock control sensors, computer diagnostics and high energy distributorless ignition with three separate ignition coils, each one looking after two cylinders. The supercharged engine produces 171kW at the same 5200rpm as the standard V6, and bumps torque from 305Nm at 3600rpm to 375Nm at a lower 3000rpm. Holden recommends premium unleaded fuel but says it is okay to use regular unleaded, although it will not produce the same power figures. A full stainless steel exhaust system has a longer life expectancy than a regular steel system. The supercharged engine is only available with an automatic transmission, running the same ratios as the regular V6.
The Commodore S's front suspension is by MacPherson struts with a direct acting stabiliser bar and progressive rate coil springs. The rear end is a beefed up "FE2" version of the semi-trailing link, coil-spring independent system used on all Commodore and Statesman models, now significantly improved with the adoption of the extra toe-control links. These control toe change under bump and rebound to improve straight-line and cornering precision. The revised rear end also has less dramatic static negative camber, improving traction and assisting in reduction of rear tyre wear.
The S has anti-lock braking (ABS) as standard. Traction control (TC) is standard too and works on controlling engine torque, or selectively braking individual rear wheels to help prevent wheelspin. An optional limited-slip differential (LSD) helps traction in slippery conditions.
Standard transmission in the Commodore S is the imported five-speed Getrag manual, but the super-charged version comes as a four-speed auto only. The electronic four-speed automatic incorporates power or economy modes. Manual and auto gearboxes use the same final drive ratio as SS models (3.46:1 manual and 3.08:1 auto). A limited-slip differential is optional on S.
The S uses an all-disc system with four-channel anti-lock braking. When the wheel speed sensors and computer detect imminent lock-up, brake cylinder pressure is adjusted at each wheel to prevent wheel lock-up. The system operates through four-wheel discs, ventilated at the front. The four-channel system is only used on models with traction control.
The S comes with variable ratio, power assisted rack and pinion steering. It also has a leather-trimmed steering wheel which, like all Commodores, is adjustable for height and reach. The turning circle measures 11 metres and the wheel goes from lock to lock in 2.8 turns.
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3.791-litre front-mounted longitudinal 12-valve pushrod supercharged V6, cast iron
Bore x stroke: 97mm x 86mm
Front: independent by MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Rear: independent by semi-trailing links and additional toe-control links, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Power-assisted rack and pinion
Turning circle: 11.0 metres
Four-speaker AM/FM radio/CD player
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