As a young bloke growing up, whenever I saw a ute there was a tradie behind the wheel, dressed in King Gee overalls and it was usually loaded to the hilt.
How times change.
While the basic layout of front engine, rear wheel drive, two doors and a dam big boot remains, today’s Utes are very different animals and Holden’s hottest plaything, the SSV Redline has plenty of street cred and eye-catching appeal. It comes with a thumping 6-litre V8 engine, a six-speed gearbox, big wide alloy wheels, flared wheel arches, Brembo front brakes and a sport body kit.
These days trail bikes, surfboards and jet skis have replaced toolboxes and ladders.
But don’t for a moment think it’s all go and no show. The near $50K Holden SSV Redline ute boasts loads of creature comforts and a host of safety features such as Lane Change Assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, Forward Collision Alert, Stability and Traction Control and anti-lock brake accumulating into that five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Holden first lobbed a ute on our streets in 1951 and this last VF series bookends the Holden ute story that, I reckon, might make the humble Aussie ute, like the SSV Redline, a collector’s item. I guess time will tell, but all we know is come 2017, it will vanish.
Wanting to show the world how to build a fast ute, Holden’s Aussie engineers took the SSV Redline to the Nurburgring in Germany and blitzed the record time for a commercial vehicle; stopping the clocks at 8 minutes 19.3sec for a lap of the daunting 21km circuit. It wasn’t specially modified for the tilt at the record and it didn’t have a racing driver perched behind the wheel.
Check out the record setting lap here: Holden SSV Redline Ute Nurburgring lap.
To me the appeal of the SSV Redline ute is the way it drives and sounds. Every time I slipped behind the wheel, I had a grin from ear to ear and I always found the long way to go anywhere and even invented reasons to go for a drive, such was its allure.
Touch the start button and the big brawny V8 engine bursts into life with a deep muscular beat. Push in the surprisingly light clutch and snick the six-speed gearbox into first and its 270 kilowatts, which peak at 5,700rpm is pleasantly docile when it has to be, though the temptation to trounce the accelerator is hard to resist.
When you do let it off its leash it bites the road, throws you back in the seat and roars ferociously to the redline as you grab another gear and then another. It is intoxicating and exhilarating. And it does it so effortlessly, thanks to the 530-newton metres of torque driving out through limited slip differential and fat grippy 19-inch rear tyres. There’s little need to constantly shuffle through the six gears, except for the fun of it, which is there in bucketsful.
The SSV Redline gets Holden’s top shelf sports steering and suspension tune, identical to that used on the hot lap around the Nurburgring. As you’d expect the ride is quite firm but never uncomfortable, the electric power steering obligingly accurate and well weighted and despite most of the bulk sitting in front of the driver, it is remarkably well balanced. It loves showing off its handling prowess by launching you from one corner to the next with great composure. The big meaty brakes do a wonderful job of tempering your enthusiasm. However, a big dose of caution should be used when it’s wet it, as it becomes a very different beast and ready to wag its tail at a moments notice.
Even though it comes from workhorse origins, the near $50K SSV Redline ute is all very civilised inside, from the comfy leather and Alcantara sports seats, to the chunky multifunction steering wheel, the heads up instrument display, climate control air con, rain sensing wipers power windows and mirrors and MyLink infotainment system for the phone, audio, HVAC and reversing camera. Three quarter rear visibility, the bane of ute drivers, isn’t an issue in the SSV Redline with blind spot assist that displays a light in the exterior mirrors when another vehicle is close by or unsighted from the driver’s seat. It certainly takes the stress out of city and freeway driving.
Taking care of those inside is a host of safety features such as Lane Change Assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, Forward Collision Alert, Stability and Traction Control as well as anti-lock brake that give it a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
The stature of today’s ‘sports ute’ was ultimately brought into perspective when I visited a garden supply outlet, rolled back the tonneau cover and asked for a couple of metres of garden mulch. The bloke driving the tipper was almost in tears and said, “We have home delivery mate, and I can’t believe you’re putting this stuff in that ute”.
How times change.