THE ute is as quintessentially Australian as lamingtons and pavlova.
But while the cousins over the ditch also lay claim to the latter two, there is no doubt about the utility vehicle which first rolled off Ford's Geelong assembly line in 1934.
Like all great inventions it was built from necessity.
The story goes that a letter, written by a farmer's wife who'd had enough of riding to church in the farm truck and arriving in saturated clothing, found its way to the Geelong plant.
“Why don't you build people like us a vehicle to go to church in on a Sunday, and which can carry our pigs to market on Mondays?” her letter asked.
The letter was eventually forwarded to Ford Australia's design team which at that time consisted of one man – 22-year-old Lewis Thornet Bandt. He got to work and the rest is pretty much history.
Initially regarded as a luxury, the ute was quickly accepted as a necessity of bush life, and won recognition around the world as the ideal farmer's or tradesman's vehicle.
Ford may have pioneered the ute but Holden has pretty much made it its own in the past two decades. Drives such as the SS Ute show that it may still be ahead of the race.
Whether you are using your ute to haul a load or simply as a two-door sports car, the cushy leather seats and generous legroom allow you to stretch out in comfort.
There is enough room behind the seats to store the shopping, a couple of overnight bags or a sizeable esky.
The cabin is more than functional but looks and feels dated.
I have never understood Holden's penchant to place the window and side mirror controls just next to the handbrake. It is clumsy and pretty impractical.
The bin, lined in high-density polyethylene, offers a payload close to 600kg – not a true work brute but close enough.
On the road
With a sports suspension with sports tuned dampers and power on tap, the SS Ute is rather more than a mere utility and is keen to demonstrate that.
The steering is responsive and nicely weighted and intelligent handling is a match for superior straight-line performance.
Cornering is good with the electronic stability control tuned for a fun, but sensible, ride.
It is reassuring in the wet and comfortable even without a load.
The SS is happy to cruise around using just four cylinders (courtesy of the fuel management system) but even just a look in its direction and the throaty V8 won't hesitate to spring into action.
What do you get?
Driving a ute these days does not equate to a lack of luxury. The five-star ANCAP rating includes six airbags, ABS brakes and electronic brakeforce distribution with brake assist.
Cruise control, rain sensing wipers and automatic headlights are fitted as standard as is Holden's iQ touch-screen infotainment system with Bluetooth and iPod connectivity.
You can store up to 15 CDs and it is MP3 and DVD compatible.
The traditional speedometer is ably supported by a digital one which makes it easy to keep an eye on your movements and the panel is also used to display the next navigation instruction, negating the need to divert concentration.
With the exception of the Ford XR6 Turbo ute ($39,190), Holden has had this segment pretty much to itself for the past decade.
The same features that give the SS Ute its sporting appeal also somewhat clouds its traditional uses.
The front skirt is extremely low, making a driveway with even the slightest bit of an incline tricky.
Blindspots abound. With thick A and B pillars and a raised back, it is difficult to change lanes and reversing can be a nightmare. Still, I suppose it is a skill mastered with use.
Our test vehicle had a soft tonneau instead of the pivoting hard one.
It is a great advantage for storage and much more practical although if you're looking for a downside – it can't be locked.
At 12.4 litres per 100km, the SS is hardly a camel. In its favour though is bio flex-fuel capability which allows it to run happily on bio-ethanol E85, E10, unleaded or premium.
There is something about a ute that holds a special appeal. This one looks trendy, fast and luxurious – and it is.
Utes are generally the preserve of the young or tradies. Sometimes they are one and the same.
The SS has some very untradesman-like comforts and a sportiness that will attract a different following. It can work hard, play hard and looks great.
Perhaps more suited for a salaried site manager than a first year apprentice, but.
Model: Holden SS Ute with premium options.
Details: Two-door rear-wheel drive utility.
Engine: 6.0-litre OHV V8 generating maximum power of 260kW at 5700rpm and peak torque of 517Nm at 4400rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with active select or six-speed manual.
Consumption: 12.4 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line: $42,490, Nav system ($990), Razor leather ($1250), prestige paint ($500).
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.