Holden Commodore Ute SS 2 door Utility Oct 2000 to Oct 2002 Buying Guide
Stand Out Features
The new 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.
Manual air-conditioning is standard on the SS. 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.
A CD player is standard in every Holden ute. The sound system gets four speakers and a total output of 40 watts, with a power antenna standard on the SS. The steering wheel mounted sound system remote controls include selection of AM and FM stations, and operation of the CD player. An optional premium sound system is available.
The 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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Attention-grabbing looks, spectacular ute acceleration, comfortable interior, price
We Don't Like:
No traction control, agricultural automatic transmission
Could this be the bargain sports car of the year? With its overtly sporting looks and an equipment list that includes a 225kW 5.7-litre alloy V8, six-speed manual gearbox, anti-lock brakes, 17-inch alloy wheels and a snug interior with dual airbags, air-conditioning, cruise control and part-electric driver's seat, the Holden SS ute makes spectacular buying in the mid-$30,000 bracket. And with 460Nm of torque available to propel a kerb weight of 1620kg, this cross between a workhorse light truck and sports car never has any trouble asserting its authority on the road.
The SS ute is a vehicle that attracts attention, more than any other model in the Commodore range - apart from HSV creations - and certainly more than any other similar-size ute out there today. It is almost embarrassingly conspicuous, especially in Red Hot paint. When fitted with the optional, body colour rear hard cover, it's almost preposterous that it comes out of the factory looking the way it does.
The SS takes the clean, flowing lines of the long-wheelbase VU ute and adds things like 17-inch alloy wheels, a dropped-down suspension and a neat all-round bodykit that distances it almost unimaginably from Holden utes of the past. Inside, it gets essentially the same treatment as the SS sedans, including a pearlescent instrument panel, body-coloured instrument faces, leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshift, and a pair of shaped and decorated sports seats. Altogether, this makes a combination well-suited the Australian psyche. It combines the machismo of a dressed-up Commodore V8 with the outback appeal of a workhorse utility. And if it leans noticeably more towards the urban, recreational side of the scale, well, that's a refection of what many buyers out there actually want these days. In SS form, the pragmatic values of load space, payload and rough-and-tumble abilities play second fiddle to appearance, comfort and automotive athleticism. Of course the payload area is fully functional - huge in fact - with the extended wheelbase and extra width of the new donor components. The hard tonneau doesn't do wonders for accessibility and limits the load height, but it's still a good look and practical in terms of providing an absolutely weatherproof load area. It would be nice if Holden figured out an easy way of removing it for the odd times when the ute's full capacity might be needed. The optional polypropylene liner is a great way of protecting the inner tray area from scratches and dents - although there is an ominous warning about not storing fuel containers in the back due to the liner's ability to produce static electricity sparks.
If you're moved by the way this ute looks, you'll feel equally comfortable stepping inside and noting that it feels pretty much the same as an SS sedan. The seats are big and comfortable, there's plenty of space to settle into with more leg, shoulder and headroom than the previous ute, and there's more seat travel to cater for a varying range of physiques. The nice touch of leather on steering wheel and gearshift knob helps too. You'll probably notice there's not quite as much space behind the seats as Ford's Falcon ute, but there's still enough for a bit of soft luggage and there's a decent-size lidded bin in the extended centre console as well as a deep, handy little opening in the back. And there's a luggage net behind the seats good for restraining small items. In addition to the standard air-conditioning, remote central locking, power windows and mirrors, there's also a six-function trip computer and a radio-CD player so you're never left feeling at all short-changed. The driving position is fine for practically everybody, with a wide range of seat adjustment, longitudinally and vertically. Powered adjustment is provided for both height and backrest inclination on the driver's side. The two-way adjustable steering wheel helps too.
Take the SS out onto the road and the muscular V8 is omnipresent. It might sound disappointing (it hisses rather than rumbles from the outside) but there's always the satisfying knowledge that 5.7 litres of V8 is always waiting in the wings to perform wonders like quickly dispatching a passing manoeuvre on the open road, or matching pace with freeway traffic on the on-ramp. The six speeds seem somewhat redundant given the 460Nm of torque and in most cases the first five gears are more than enough. Only when you're cruising can you drop the SS ute into sixth without feeling you're under-revving it. Mind you, the Gen III V8 has never been renowned for its ability to pull stumps at low rpm and doesn't really come into its own until a few revs are on board. The figures tend to tell the story here anyway: Maximum torque doesn't come in until 4400rpm, which is not far short of the 5200rpm at which maximum power is developed. Still, the SS ute is always more than willing to light up the back tyres, given a little encouragement, and there are times when you wish a traction control system was part of the deal.
The six-speed shift is reasonable enough bearing in mind the engine size it's expected to deal with, but there are smoother, lighter, less truck-like six-speeders around in even more powerful vehicles - BMW's M5, for one. (Mind you, mentioning the M5 in the same breath as a Holden ute says a lot for the appeal of this car, especially when you consider there's a price gap approaching $160,000.) The tall sixth gear obviously pays dividends in economy too, although Holden has taken a wise step by bumping fuel capacity from 63 to 70 litres, which is still barely enough if the vehicle is being used hard. A further benefit of the tall sixth gear is that highway cruising becomes a very quiet business, aided by measures intended to make the ute as sedan-like as possible in terms of road and wind noise. There's none of the flapping and roaring from the back that was once a ute characteristic, even with the soft tonneau. With the tied-down, all-independent suspension the ute's ride and handling are decidedly car-like, particularly with the 160kg or so of ballast Holden had dropped into the back of the test vehicle to simulate its operation with a light load on board. Partly as a result of this, the ride in our test ute was free from the choppiness that afflicts some utes, while the steering remained slightly heavy in the typical Commodore sport chassis fashion.
The SS steers accurately enough, but the driver needs to treat that throttle pedal with caution if the road is at all slippery. But you never forget that there's a fundamental issue at work here, a definite forward weight bias that means the ute will always lose rear-wheel traction more readily than an evenly-balanced sedan. Wet, or unsealed roads must always be treated with huge respect. Still, there's no other ute quite like the Commodore out there right now. Nothing with the same degree of passenger-oriented ride comfort, or street machine looks. And certainly nothing with 5.7 litres of screaming alloy V8 connected to a six-speed manual gearbox. Like we said, it's a mechanical expression of the true Australian psyche.
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Car News: "Whereas the VG-VS ute looked almost effeminate from some angles, the VU is a bloke's truck"
Motor: "The SS ute is a ripsnorter that is let down by its auto gearbox and bettered by the superior real-world driveability of the Tickford (XR8 ute)"
Wheels: "For traction, cornering grip, handling balance and steering response, there seems little difference between the VU SS ute and VX SS sedan"
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The SS ute employs the de rigeur sports car drivetrain of a large front-mounted longitudinal engine driving only the rear wheels. In this case it's an all-alloy 5.7-litre pushrod V8 built by Chevrolet.
Standard issue in the SS ute is the imported Gen III all-alloy V8. It's a basic pushrod design, but uses state-of-the-art electronics such as sequential electronic fuel-injection, twin knock control sensors and separate ignition coils for each cylinder. The design also incorporates low-friction technology. It uses oversquare bore/stroke dimensions and has six-bolt main bearings where the base V6 uses a four-bolt design. A stainless steel exhaust prolongs the system's life expectancy. Capacity is 5.665 litres and compression ratio is a high 10:1. Recommended fuel is regular 91 octane unleaded. The V8 winds out 225kW of power at 5200rpm and 460Nm of torque at 4400rpm.
The SS'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 version of the semi-trailing link, coil-sprung independent system used on all Commodore and Statesman models. The SS uses Holden's lower-riding FE2 sports suspension package with revised spring rates at the front, along with a revised stabiliser bar diameter. At the back, spring rates and stabiliser bar diameter have also been revised, while gas pressure dampers have been adopted.
The SS ute has three-channel anti-lock braking (ABS) as standard. A limited-slip differential (LSD) is also standard and aids traction in slippery conditions. And you'll need it: traction control is not available with the VU.
The six-speed manual gearbox is exclusive to V8-engined utes and is the standard transmission on the SS. The SS is available with Holden's electronic four-speed automatic transmission, which incorporates power or economy modes. Both manual and auto gearboxes use the same final drive ratio as V6 models (3.46:1 manual and 3.08:1 auto) and both have a limited-slip differential to assist traction in slippery conditions.
The SS gets three-channel anti-lock braking as standard. When wheel speed sensors and computer detect imminent lock-up, brake cylinder pressure is adjusted at each front wheel and on the rear pair to prevent wheel lock-up. The system operates through four-wheel discs, ventilated at the front. The VU ute's braking system also features an all-new load sensing brake proportioning valve that was specially designed and calibrated to suit the independent rear suspension.
The ute comes with variable-ratio, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering. The SS has a leather-trimmed steering wheel which, like all Commodores, is adjustable for height and reach. The turning circle measures 11.5 metres and the wheel goes from lock to lock in 2.8 turns.
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5.665-litre 16-valve front-mounted longitudinal all-alloy pushrod V8
Compression ratio: 10.0.1
Bore x stroke: 99.0mm x 92.0mm
Four-speed automatic or six-speed manual
Front: independent by MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Rear: independent by semi-trailing arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Turning circle: 11.5 metres
Kerb weight: 1610kg manual, 1615kg auto
Part electric driver's seat adjustment
Tilt and reach adjustable steering wheel
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