Then & Now: 1989 and 2017 Holden Commodore SS
The Holden Commodore SS is about to come to an end. The latest VF II models are right up there as some of the best cars ever built in Australia. Turn the clock back 28 years and the Holden VN Commodore SS, when released, brought with it great handling, reliability, a more rounded look, and electronic fuel injection.
This isn’t a comparison but rather a glimpse at how much has changed over the years. Let’s take a look.
The 1989 VN SS was the first mass produced Holden Commodore V8 to come with electronic fuel injection. The Holden V8 producing 165kW and 385Nm. The cast iron engine was great for low-down and mid-range grunt, especially when coupled with the standard five-speed manual transmission. Four-speed automatic models made for effortless motoring, however the manual was the pick of the two (in this writer’s opinion). Move 28 years on to the VF II Commodore SS and power jumps to 304kW and 570Nm thanks to a GM-sourced 6.2-litre LS3 V8. The LS3 was featured in the E2 and E3 HSV range, as well as the GEN-F and Some GEN-F Series II models. If you’ve never heard an LS3 at full song, go to YouTube and delight your ears. For an engine that comes standard in a sub-$50k vehicle, it sounds sublime. And packs a real punch.
We’ll start with the VF II. The LS3-equipped Holden can shoot from 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds. The VF II models are actually very hard to break traction, with the rear suspension working very hard to shoot the SS off into the distance. There’s zero chance of the VN SS catching the modern 304kW screamer, with 0-100km/h coming up in 6.8 seconds – which is actually pretty fast… for 1989. The VN SS used a live axle rear suspension setup, much like every SS Commodore before it. The first Holden Commodore SS to feature an independent rear suspension setup as standard was the VP (the model after the VN).
For a large sedan with a cast iron V8, the VN SS was relatively light compared with today’s models, tipping the scales at just 1403kg when equipped with a manual transmission, and 1427kg when fitted with the four-speed automatic. The VF II SS, no doubt in part to being loaded with modern technology and lots of safety kit, tips the scales at 1720kg. The VF II SS is also 114mm longer, 104mm wider, and 68mm taller than the VN SS. The VF II’s front and rear track is also 141mm and 130mm wider respectively.
Again, despite the VF II SS being a bigger and more powerful car it beats the VN SS in the fuel efficiency department, using a combined average of 12.6L/100km (manual) and 12.9L/100km (automatic) . The VN SS is rated at 15.1L/100km (manual) and 15.8L/100km (automatic). Given the VF II SS’ much larger engine capacity, power, and weight, real world figures might be very different – during a test last year we saw upwards of 18L/100km for the city commute (ouch). Perhaps a fair price to pay to own and drive Holden’s last ever SS.
The VN SS sat on showroom floors in 1989 with a price tag of $27,486 for the five-speed manual model. Move to 2017, and cheapest VF II SS on sale is priced at $47,490 (both prices exclude on-road costs). Using the RBA’s inflation calculator, the VN SS translates into $55,999.03 in today’s money. Which is thereabouts what you pay for the better equipped VF II SS V Redline model. So the pricing really hasn’t changed much over the years despite the extreme difference in power and performance.
If you own a neat original Holden Commodore VN SS, we suggest you hang onto it because someday it’ll most likely be worth a decent amount of money.