Remember when utes were just that, utility vehicles? Cargo carriers with a sedan front end and a big tray behind into which lots of stuff could be stuffed.

Some still do use their utes in the old fashioned way, to cart things, but many are now bought as large sportscars with extraordinary large boots.

Utes, such as the Holden SV6 Ute that spent time in our driveway last week, are increasingly popular with ‘the boys’ and sometimes girls as well.

The trouble with being a motoring journo is that neighbours, family and friends spot a ute in the driveway – and call in to ask if perhaps we could help them move things.

So last week we did a couple of trips to the tip and spent time loading up flat packs of unassembled parts from a well known Swedish store that specialises in allen keys.

Many external styling changes to the VF Ute distinguish it from the VE Ute it supersedes. The new front gives it a stockier look, partly because the bonnet has been raised to incorporate pedestrian protection, but also to follow the global General Motors latest design theme.


Although it’s built on the same platform as the VE Commodore, around 60 per cent of chassis components have been either modified or replaced. The use of an aluminium bonnet has trimmed a bit off the mass of the Ute, but it’s still a large hefty vehicle.

While the VF sedan has significantly different styling at the rear, the Ute and station wagon remain much the same as before. This has been a ploy with Holden’s local designs for many decades and buyers understand the cost-saving reasoning.

Changes to the interior are extensive and give the VF Commodore a fresh, modern look. The centrepiece is the large, easy-to-read 8-inch colour touchscreen with well-spaced controls that are big enough to avoid hitting two-buttons at the same time.

Visibility outwards is still marred by the wide A-pillars that we have been complaining about since the launch of the VE Commodore. Some alterations have been made to the trim to try and cure this. Slimming the underlying metal was going to be expensive so we will have to live with the need to move our heads about to negate the blind spots created by those big pillars.


The awkward handbrake we found irritating in the VE Commodore for so many years has finally been replaced by a small electric unit in the centre console, it’s so much easier to use.

The big VF Commodore Ute lopes along with a minimum of fuss and makes light of coarse-chip road surfaces that can rattle even the most expensive Europeans. It deals with corrugated dirt tracks as though they’re barely there. The phrase ‘built tough for Australia’ is an oldie but a goodie.

On the open road the interior of the Commodore is noticeably quieter than before and there are times when you forget you’re driving a commercial vehicle because it feels like a relatively upmarket sedan.

The 3.6-litre V6 and the six-speed automatic behind it are both responsive; they communicate electronically with one another to give pleasing amounts of torque at all times.

However, the V6 is still not as smooth as similar engines used in many competitors. It’s certainly not as harsh as when first introduced almost a decade ago, but it really should be better. Now, it may never be…

Performance is strong, yet fuel consumption is surprisingly low for a big utility. Expect the 3.6 V6 to use about seven to nine litres per hundred kilometres when cruising in the country. And around nine to eleven litres when driven sensibly in suburban areas.

Handling is excellent with good feedback through the steering. The new electric power steering (EPS) unit gives a sharp feel that’s all but indistinguishable from that of the hydraulic units used in all previous Commodores. EPS is there primarily as a fuel saver because it only takes power from the engine when it’s needed, not all the time as when a hydraulic pump is running non-stop.

There’s something just right about settling into these big Holden utilities. They give a feeling of easygoing security on all roads, good, indifferent, bad, awful that’s simply not there on many imported cars. We will miss this ‘something’ when Australian designed and built car vanish from the motoring scene forever in 2017.


Ute 3.6-litre two-door utility: $33,490 (automatic)
SV6 Ute 3.6-litre two-door utility: $33,490 (manual), $35,690 (automatic)
SS Ute 6.0-litre two-door utility: $39,490 (manual), $41,690 (automatic)
SS-V Ute 6.0-litre two-door utility: $42,990 (manual), $45,190 (automatic)
SS-V Redline Ute 6.0-litre two-door utility: $48,990 (manual), $51,190 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Holden dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Holden SV6 Ute 3.6-litre two-door utility)

Capacity: 3.564 litres
Configuration: V6
Head Design: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Bore/Stroke: 94.0 x 85.6 mm
Maximum Power: 210 kW @ 6400 rpm
Maximum Torque: 350 Nm @ 2800 rpm

Driven Wheels: Rear
Manual Transmission: Six-speed
Automatic Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive Ratio: 3.27:1

Length: 5062 mm
Wheelbase: 3009 mm
Width: 1898 mm
Height: 1494 mm
Turning Circle: 11.6 metres
Kerb Mass: 1656 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 71 litres
Towing Ability: Up to 1600 kg (with braked trailer)

Front Suspension: Direct acting stabiliser bar, coil springs
Rear Suspension: Independent, multi-link, stabiliser bar, coil springs
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Ventilated disc

0-100 km/h Acceleration: Not available

Type: Petrol 91RON
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/02): 9.0 L/100km

Greenhouse Rating: 6/10
Air Pollution Rating: 8.5/10

Three years/100,000 km

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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