The SS draws the biggest crowd.
Holden crammed the L98 6.0-litre Gen IV V8 under the bonnet, which pumps out 362hp and 391 ft-lb. That’s enough to sling the 3,895 pound (1,767kg) Holden Ute from zero to 100-km/h (62-mph) in just 5.5 seconds. The acceleration in itself is impressive, but the guttural roar being belted out the quad pipes in the rear bumper makes it even more enjoyable.
There was a time when the Holden V8s were so muffled that you couldn’t tell what was under the bonnet. Those days are gone and the new V8 trumpets to all around that this is a vehicle that must be taken seriously.
The standard transmission is the Tremec T56 six-speed manual which has been improved with a nice light clutch or a GM-sourced six-speed automatic. Both do the job well enough, but the stick shift is the most fun.
Despite their power levels, Australian utes haven’t had the benefit of traction or electronic stability control until now. The VE has both, which is a nice safety net to have. Thankfully, anyone after a bit of fun can just flick the switch and the traction aids turn off. The prospect of a Ute that couldn’t perform circle work (donuts) would have been too much for the Ute fraternity.
With or without stability control engaged, it's clear the VE Ute is a handling star. Just like the VE sedan, the Ute feels like its body was carved from granite.
The SS Ute simply drives like a refined muscle car. Its firm suspension tune, which can be a bit jolting on rough roads, means there is almost no body roll in the turns and the car sits flat under hard braking and heavy acceleration.
The meaty steering is direct and gives you all the feedback you need. You can place this baby wherever you want in a turn.
Even on slippery gravel tracks of country in New South Wales, the SS is remarkably well behaved. With the stability control turned off, you can come hooking into a turn, get on the gas just before the midpoint and powerslide your way out of the turn like a rally ace.
You have to treat it with respect, but the VE Ute is very predictable. It has an impressive amount of grip on the tarmac. With fresh rubber on the rear, you can accelerate very fast without breaking traction.
On the other had, if you are in the mood for a Bridgestone barbeque, just press a little harder with your right foot.
Even when you aren’t smoking them up, the SS Ute can get you into a lot of trouble. Most highways in Australia have a speed limit of 100-km/h, and the VE Ute goes past that in second gear. The super tall gearing also means the VE Ute lumbers along at highway speeds doing about 1,200rpm, which is perfect for covering endless outback miles.
The SS costs $39,990 Aussie (US $34,650) and comes standard cruise control, cloth sports seats, six-stack CD, Bluetooth phone preparation, leather steering wheel and sits on 18-inch alloy wheels.
A more luxurious SSV is available for an extra $5,000 Aussie (US $4,330), adding leather seats, dual zone climate control, projector headlight lamps, alloy-faced pedals, colour-coded instruments, a 6.5-inch colour information screen, sports steering wheel chunky 19-inch rims.
Both models benefit from an improved interior which features 245-litres of space behind the seats as compared to 90-litres of the previous model.
It should be mentioned the SS Ute comes with a plastic tub liner a soft tonneau cover and six tie-down points.
Before you take this beast out for a run, take my advice – tie everything down really hard.