Holden Commodore Ute S 2 door Utility Oct 2000 to Oct 2002 Buying Guide 
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Holden Commodore Ute S 2 door Utility Oct 2000 to Oct 2002 Buying Guide 

Holden has read the ute market slightly differently to Ford with its new VU utility. The sleek workhorse leans heavily towards the lifestyle end of the spectrum. At top of the range SS level it almost encroaches on street machine territory with its clean, minimalist lines that can be further set off by a super-slick, body-colour hinged cargo cover. But the most eloquent statement of Holden's position on the ute is the independent rear suspension. The same system as used in other Commodores, the semi-trailing link rear-end has been tweaked a little to cope with the varying loads it might be asked to carry, but it still rides and handles in an un-ute sort of a way. Then there's the option of a Chev 5.7-litre V8. As a V6 it's more staid, but there's no question if you want to pose, this is the ute to do it in.

The Car

The Car

                                                          holden, commodore, ute

Straight Commodore from the B-pillar forwards, the Commodore ute flows lazily rearwards in one smooth sweep of sheet metal to create a long, commodious tray area. This is a ute that actually turns heads. The wheelbase is the same as that of Commodore station wagon and Statesman models. Unlike the Falcon ute, there?s no separation between cab and tray areas. Small quarter windows help minimise the B-pillar blind spot but the area behind the seats is not as big or useful as in the Ford. The flush-fitting soft tonneau cover is standard on S and SS models, while the smooth looking, body-colour hard tonneau is optional.

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Seat Plan & Seats

Seat Plan & Seats

Seat Plan

There are two seats only in the ute, but then again that's standard in most sports cars... The tray area is much bigger than the previous ute and has not been noticeably compromised by the more space-greedy independent rear suspension.


The cabin, with its big, well-shaped seats feels plush and inviting, with plenty of elbow and legroom, plus a centre console that extends further rearward than Commodore sedans. The driver even gets power seat adjustment, while both seats offer adjustable lumbar support. Cloth trim might not quite suit overalls and building sites, but is perfectly at home in the semi-sporty S version of the Commodore ute.

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Dash & Controls

Dash & Controls


The S ute's dash is a straight replica of Commodore sedans, with its sweeping surfaces taking in the instrument display and centre console controls. The basic design is ergonomically sound too, with rotary controls for heating and (optional) air-conditioning, and the master switch for the lights on the dash to the right of the instruments rather than on a steering column stalk. The passenger gets a glovebox, but no airbag unless it is optioned.


The ute's steering column is adjustable for both height and reach, while the sound system may be operated via controls on the steering wheel. The steering wheel also locates the (standard) cruise control buttons for ease of use. The pull-up handbrake is located between the centre console and the driver's seat. Electric windows are operated from a panel on the centre console and the rearview mirrors from the familiar GM pad (also seen on Saabs) on the driver's door.

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Wheels/Tyres & Luggage

Wheels/Tyres & Luggage


The S ute uses essentially the same body panels as the base ute, so it relies on five-spoke alloy wheels and some painting out of the lower body to differentiate itself from the cheaper version. The wheels are similar to the SS version but smaller, at 16 inches in diameter. They are fitted with 225/55 R16 92V tyres. 17-inch eight-spoke and 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels with V-rated 235/45 tyres are optionally available.


The VU ute's load area measures 1220mm x 2400mm. Panels are heavy-duty galvanised steel. The flush fitting tonneau system - standard on S ute - uses three bows and was wind-tunnel designed to minimise noise, especially the boom from the tonneau itself. The base ute will carry up to 830kg payload - 18 per cent better than the previous ute, while the S version is rated at 735kg in manual transmission form, 710kg in auto form. V8 versions carry up to 660kg. The VU's tray is 48mm longer and 55mm wider between wheelhouses than the VS ute. A Holden approved 1600kg towing package is available.

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What's Changed

What's Changed

                                                           holden, commodore, ute

The VU ute shares little with the VS, especially in terms of sheet metal. Independent rear suspension is standard on all VU utes, the tray is longer and wider than the previous VS ute's and carrying capacity has also been upgraded - to 830kg in base ute form, 735kg in S form.

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Stand Out Features

The new soft tonneau cover, standard on the S and SS utes, has a concealed, flush-fitting fastening system and was designed to minimise boom at speed. The optional hard tray cover is finished in body colour and is hinged from the forward end. The cabin area is also larger than in the previous Holden ute. Body panels flow smoothly from front to rear, without a break in the cabin area.

Climate Control

Air-conditioning is optional on the V6 S utility, standard if the V8 engine is specified. The system is controlled by three rotary knobs on the dash, just below the centre air vents. Holden locates the heating/air-conditioning panel above, rather than below the radio.

Sound System

A CD player is standard in every Holden ute. The S ute system gets four speakers and a total output of 40 watts. The sound system remote controls on the steering wheel include selection of AM and FM stations, plus operation of the CD player. An optional premium sound system is available.


THE S ute's security system includes a remote control 'Power Key' which operates door deadlocks, dome lamp and central locking for keyless entry through the driver's door only. 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.

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Our Opinion

Our Opinion

We Like:

Un-ute ride and handling, comfortable interior

We Don't Like:

Unrefined V6, only one airbag. Unlike Ford, no three-seat option

Holden's new VU ute has a slightly different take on the term "macho". Rather than flaunting bullbars and roof-mounted spotlights, the new workhorse leans towards the clean, slick street machine look. In fact, when optioned up with the body-colour, solid rear cargo cover - and especially in SS guise - the new ute wouldn't look half bad cruising the boulevards at the annual Mecca for street machiners, the Canberra Summernats.

The slightly downmarket S V6 version of the new ute looks pretty neat too, even though it lacks the 17-inch wheels and body add-ons of the rorty, top-spec 5.7-litre V8. Only differentiated from the base ute by the (16-inch) alloy wheels and the odd dab of body-colour instead of matt grey, the S ute is nevertheless a cool customer. It's better at taking on a general multi-purpose role than the blatant SS because it's got a more absorbent suspension and a more high-riding, underside-saving stance. The S also comes with the workhorse 3.8-litre V6 that does duty across the Commodore range, plus the choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Because the ute is lighter than the Commodore sedan, this means a quite reasonable turn of speed. And because of the fully independent rear suspension, there's also the fact that it is less skittish on so-so road surfaces than traditional expectations.

The VU ute comes across as a stylish semi-workhorse that's been to finishing school. There are few rough edges and the claim by Holden that the experience of driving the ute is little different to driving a Commodore sedan proves pretty realistic. In practical terms it carries a greater payload than the VS could (up by 18 per cent in the base model) in a wider, longer tray made useful by the extensive application of galvanised steel and by the availability of a full polypropylene cargo liner that minimises the risk of scrapes and dents.

The interior is bigger than VS, too, although it doesn't have the usefulness of Falcon's large behind-seat storage area (it does offer fairly decent space here though). Leg, shoulder and headroom are better than before, and there is more seat travel to cater for a varying range of physiques. Presentation is essentially the same as VX Commodore sedans with soft seat trim and fabric inserts on the doors to give a warm, cosy feel. The seats are big, supportive and, in the S, fitted with power adjustment for height and backrest rake angle on the driver's side. Not so for the passenger, although adjustable lumbar support is provided. The passenger also misses out on an airbag, and air-conditioning is optional, although at least there is a six-function trip computer and a CD player, as well as power windows and steering wheel controls for the audio and cruise control. At around $9000 less than the SS, it's understandable that the S ute doesn't have anti-lock brakes but it does get a limited-slip differential and the soft tonneau cover missing on the base ute comes as standard.

So what is this cushy new ute like to drive? Is it a sort of namby pamby, half-baked show pony, or does it combine functionality with its unarguably good looks? There's some doubt that owners of S utes will really want to get down and get dirty, but the vehicle is, at the end of the day, capable of doing anything the Falcon will do. In fact, the S has a greater payload capacity than its nearest Ford equivalent, the XLS Style Side. From the driver's seat there is indeed the feeling that this is a very comfortable, compliant suspension. It hasn't gone entirely soft, but the suspension certainly walks over rough roads better than any live-axle setup. There is, however, still the weight distribution factor and, however effective the rear suspension is, the laws of physics dictate that light weight and tyre grip are not necessarily compatible elements. So the S ute will light up the rear tyres readily, and it will develop some rear-end wander on really rough roads if no load is being carried (we didn't drive the vehicle unloaded because Holden had thoughtfully loaded the test ute with a few bags of lead shot).

The S is not sporty in the same sense as the SS, but it's dynamically quite capable up to a point. The familiar 3.8-litre V6 is happy in this application where its slightly unrefined feel is maybe less of a concern. As ever, it revs easily, but neither smoothly nor particularly quietly, and delivers strong torque low in the rpm range. It's quite economical, especially on a highway cruise where it lopes along nicely, with none of the boom from the tonneau that was familiar in early ute designs. And the standard limited-slip differential gives some sense of security - even more when the back is loaded - in slippery going. The load area is handily free of intrusions apart from the inner wheel arches, while the optional polypropylene liner gives a nice feeling that those shiny, smooth panels are pretty likely to stay that way. The smooth-look soft cover is attractively presented, but is a little less easy to unclip than a more conventional tie-down design. Some familiarity helps.

So has the Holden ute gone too soft? Do ute buyers really want complete practicality at the expense of anything else? Well, there's no doubt that some people will want a little more of the rugged character offered by Ford - particularly in its one-tonne tray-back versions - but for a good many applications the Holden will suit just nicely. More than just nicely, in fact, for many ute owners factor recreational use more heavily into the mix than straight workhorse duties. The Holden will front up for a bit of hard yakka too, but there's no doubt it's going to be more comfortable doing the stuff where style and presence is important. If you want a real workhorse, buy a Rodeo.

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Other Opinions

Other Opinions

Car News: "Whereas the VG-VS ute looked almost effeminate from some angles, the VU is a bloke's truck"

Motor: "It's quieter, better equipped and dynamically superior to any Holden ute before it"

Wheels: "For traction, cornering grip, handling balance and steering response, there seems little difference between VU SS ute and VX SS sedan"

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holden, commodore, ute

Plan Views

Commodore S Utility employs a longitudinally-mounted V6 driving the rear wheels.


The S ute's 3.8-litre cast-iron, pushrod V6 engine is the same as used on Commodore sedans. It produces 152kW at 5200rpm and 305Nm of torque at 3600rpm. It uses 12-valve, cross-flow cylinder-heads and low friction technology on moving parts including pistons, rings and the valvetrain. The engine uses 'hot wire' air mass metering and sequential fuel injection as well as high energy distributorless ignition and twin knock control sensors, plus an electric cooling fan. A sophisticated engine management system with computer diagnostics maximises efficiency. A die cast inlet manifold improves air flow and helps increase power, while a stainless steel exhaust prolongs the system's life expectancy. A dual fuel petrol/LPG version is available with automatic versions of the V6.


The front suspension is by MacPherson struts with a direct acting stabiliser bar and progressive rate coil springs. The rear-end comprises a beefed up version of the semi-trailing link, coil-sprung independent system used on all Commodore and Statesman models. The system was adapted from Opel and has been in use in cars from that manufacturer for two decades.

Electronic System

The S ute offers three-channel anti-lock braking (ABS) as optional. A limited-slip differential (LSD) is standard on S and helps traction in slippery conditions.


The V6 S ute uses a five-speed Getrag manual transmission, with Holden's electronically controlled, two-mode four-speed automatic transmission available as optional. A limited-slip differential is standard on the S ute, while a six-speed manual transmission comes with the optional Gen III 5.7-litre V8.


The VU ute has four-wheel discs, ventilated at the front. The ute's braking system features an all-new load sensing brake proportioning valve that was specially designed and calibrated to suit the independent rear suspension. An optional three-channel anti-lock braking system (ABS) is available. When wheel speed sensors detect lock-up, brake cylinder pressure is adjusted at each front wheel and on the rear pair to prevent wheel lockup.


The VU ute comes with variable-ratio power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering. All models have a height and reach adjustable steering wheel. The turning circle measures 11.5 metres and the wheel goes from lock to lock in 2.8 turns.

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Holden says the VU utility has higher standards of safety technology than other commercial vehicles. Occupant protection was benchmarked against passenger car standards, with a front structure designed around "soft pulse" crash energy management principles. The structure behind the front wheels has been designed to manage narrow offset collisions and reinforced side structures protect against side impacts. Seat belt webbing clamps and buckle pretensioners assist safety belt performance. The driver's airbag has a low pressure inflator designed to prevent injury from airbag inflation. A passenger airbag is optional only.

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  • 3.791-litre 12-valve pushrod cast-iron V6

  • Power: 152kW @ 5200rpm

  • Torque: 305Nm @ 3600rpm

  • Compression: 9.4:1

  • Bore/stroke: 97mm/86mm


  • Five-speed manual/four-speed auto


  • Front: MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar

  • Rear: independent by semi-trailing links, coil springs, anti-roll bar


  • Rear: independent by semi-trailing links, coil springs, anti-roll bar

  • Turning circle: 11.5 metres

  • Turns lock to lock: 2.8


  • Length: 5049mm

  • Width: 1845mm

  • Height: 1484mm

  • Wheelbase: 2939mm

  • Track front: 1569 mm

  • Track rear: 1587mm

  • Kerb weight: 1540kg

Standard Equipment:

  • Driver's airbag

  • Alloy wheels

  • Cruise control

  • Limited-slip differential

  • AM/FM radio with single CD player

  • Electric driver's seat adjust

  • Power windows

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