GM Holden Ltd.’s all-new VE Commodore Ute range includes a A$46,990 ($37,817) SS V V-8 model that will be the auto maker’s most expensive and high-performance 2-door car-based pickup (CBP) ever.

The upscale move is aimed at strengthening Holden’s position in the premium sports-pickup market, which also includes Ford Motor Co. of Australia Ltd.’s Falcon Ute. Both vehicles essentially are modern renditions of the classic Chevrolet El Camino and Ford Ranchero, respectively.

The new Holden vehicle also could form the basis for another VE Commodore-derived model to be exported to the U.S. alongside the upcoming ’08 Pontiac G8 sedan. Media reports say Holden already has sent some prototypes to Detroit to be evaluated for export by parent General Motors Corp.

Reflecting the trend towards premium-performance products, the Commodore VE SS V Ute also will offer comfort and style when it goes on sale in October.

Features include 19-in. alloy wheels, projector headlamps, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a 150-watt premium audio system. The new Ute also will be the first locally produced CPB to offer the auto maker’s Electronic Stability Program skid-avoidance safety technology as standard across the range.

GM Holden Chairman and Managing Director Chris Gubbey says the Commodore VE SS V is designed with a split personality to appeal to people who need a dual-purpose vehicle.

“This ute can be a weekday workhorse and a weekend warrior.”

The VE Ute is Holden’s first completely new CPB design since the VU series in 2000.

The silhouette features a coupe-like, integrated roofline. The clean presentation is aided by the use of a single-piece body side, which runs from the A-pillar all the way to the tailgate.

Storage volume behind the seats is 8.7 cu.-ft. (245 L), a significant increase over the previous VZ Ute’s 3.2 cu.-ft. (90 L) of space. There are two storage compartments beneath the load floor, as well.

New dual-stage driver and passenger front airbags inflate according to impact severity and respective position of occupants.

The base Omega Ute offers a 4-speed automatic transmission paired with Holden’s locally built Alloytec 3.6L DOHC V-6, delivering 241 hp and 243 lb.-ft. (330 Nm) of peak torque.

The 6-speed manual Omega has the more powerful High-Output Alloytec V-6, delivering 261 hp and 251 lb.-ft. (340 Nm) of torque, with dual exhausts added. SV6 trims add a sport suspension package.

The SS and new high-end SS V Ute models are powered by GM’s 6.0L Gen IV OHV V-8, which generates 362 hp and 391 lb.-ft. (530 Nm) of torque. It is matched to a choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic gearboxes.

Prices range from A$30,990 ($24,936) for the 6-speed manual Omega to A$46,990 for the 6-speed automatic SS V.

“We introduced the new V Series on (the) VE sedan as a way of offering customers extra value and features normally only available on special editions,” says Alan Batey, executive director-GM Holden sales, marketing and aftersales. “The response from the market was overwhelmingly positive, so we’ve decided to extend the V Series to the (CPB) range,” he adds.

Holden spent A$105 million ($84.5 million) developing its new CPB range, which is based on its A$1 billion ($804.8 million) investment to develop the VE Commodore. More than 400,000 miles (650,000 km) of reliability testing were carried out on the new platform, the auto maker says.