Holden's stylish Monaro coupe gets a much more macho look with the VZ which will hit New Zealand roads before the end of the year.
The potent Monaro, whose performance is almost downplayed by Holden (no doubt partially to stop unwanted Federal Government attention), now gets styling cues to match its very real performance capabilities.
And that performance is real, though the spoiler-less and understated lines of the original 2001-2004 edition, de-emphasised the muscle car that the Monaro was, in an attempt to make it appeal to the European sports coupe set.
Zero to 100km/h times in the sub-six-second bracket for a 1700kg car are spectacular; so too is a top speed of 270km/h. Both figures are taken from officials Vauxhall literature on the British version of the Holden coupe, the Monaro VXR which is equivalent to an HSV version.
Though the original Monaro was handsome, it didn't advertise its capabilities by the way it looked. HSV had the high ground there with GTS and GTO Monaro-based Coupes, but they looked a little over the top.
The VZ Monaro sets out to shift the balance back to the factory car with a strong look that breathes "muscle car." The front spoiler is more detailed and more aggressive, and atop the bonnet are intakes that echo both the HG/HT Monaro and the Pontiac GTO.
Similarly extrovert American muscle car-style cues have appeared on the VZ Commodore SS, in the form of louvres in the front fenders.
They may be window-dressing, but they tell a story: these are powerful, fast, muscular cars.
The hand of General Motors product guru Bob Lutz, who took the Monaro to the USA as the Pontiac GTO and put it into Britain as a Vauxhall, seems evident here.
And we think the new look is just great, even though our experience of the VZ Monaro is confined to photographs.
The SS is a different matter. We've seen it in the metal and we've driven it; it's great on both counts.
Lutz's influence can also be detected in the fact that the Yanks and the Poms ( Pontiac and Vauxhall and the US and British media) haven't been as shy as Holden or the Australian media (shy? Aussies being shy?) about stating the Monaro's performance.
Both Holden and the Australian press have been solidly upfront about the Monaro's acceleration figures.
But top speed has been a strict taboo. Ask a Holden executive about any Commodore V8's top speed and all you get is foot-shuffling and hedging - an understandable reaction in a country that often resembles a traffic police state (and whose policies, especially the ultra-draconian Victoria's, NZ often seems to follow slavishly) - but a bothersome reaction too.
Few owners will ever try to achieve a car's top speed - a crisis of courage at the vital moment or a sense of self-preservation will intervene well before the speedo needle clicks over 200km/h, let alone 270; but, let's face it, it would be nice to KNOW what the car was capable of, wouldn't it? Even if you take vicarious comfort in the fact, and let someone else take the risk to limb and licence of verifying the performance. But it WOULD be nice to know.
Holden says the VZ has had the most substantial upgrade since the Monaro's 2001 debut, and many of those changes - stylistically, structurally and dynamically - have resulted from Bob Lutz taking the car to America as a Pontiac .
Holden says the VZ Monaro CV8 is the most powerful mainstream Holden yet.
Its 5.7-litre Gen III V8 engine leaps to 260kW, and now develops 500Nm of peak torque which is available over a wider rev range.
Holden says changes to the powertrain deliver "a more forceful launch feel, more mid-range torque and a sharper sports character, balanced by an upgraded braking system that is the largest of any production Holden."
Big-bore 95mm dual exhausts deliver a stronger bass note V8 burble.
Combined with the twin bonnet scoops and more aggressive bodykit, that underscores and emphasises the car's strong on-road performance.
Holden says camshaft modifications improve low to mid-range delivery, sharpening take-off time and providing a sports performance feel that will be particularly noticeable on corner exits.
A shorter-ratio six-speed manual gearbox improves throttle response across the rev range in all gears: the revised gearbox is now a genuine six-speed rather than a four-speed with two overdrives.
The four-speed automatic has been beefed up to cope with higher torque loads, and modified for swifter shifting. The final drive ratio has been shortened for better acceleration.
The fuel tank is now mounted between the rear axle and rear seat (a modification required by the US government to allow the Monaro to be marketed as a Pontiac GTO). The inboard mounting allows for a new underbody deflector which reduces rear lift and increases aerodynamic stability.
Bright red twin-pot brake calipers bear the Monaro name and clamp the larger diameter 320mm ventilated front and 286mm rear disc brakes.
A new brake booster and master cylinder, which help to achieve ABS-invoking pressure almost 50 percent faster than before and reduce stopping distance by four percent.
The VZ Monaro CV8 also introduces Brake Assist, which works through the booster and cuts in during hard braking, helping drivers to activate ABS more easily in emergency situations.
A smooth new traction control system uses the electronic throttle control.
The VZ Monaro gets sharper-edged headlight styling, a more prominent, angular grille opening with textured hexagonal mesh detailing which is echoed in the larger air intake.
New deeper-dished 18-inch alloy wheels are a bolder evolution of the previous model's five-spoke design.
At the rear, 95mm diameter exhaust outlets tipped in bright chrome are separated by a black hexagonal mesh lower skirt. With the fuel tank now located in front of the rear axle, the fuel filler is repositioned at the top of the rear quarter panel.
There are six exterior finishes including the exclusive-to-Monaro Turismo (the blue mica of our cover car).
Inside the car, a glossy piano black centre stack and console surround is topped by a sports instrument binnacle with electronically integrated oil pressure and voltmeter gauges, angled towards the driver.
Holden chairman, Denny Mooney, says the Monaro "punches well above its weight on the world stage against supercars costing much more. It's a global car with a performance reputation to match."
And now it has looks that proclaim its abilities.
- story by Mike Stock. Photographs by Holden.