It somehow seemed appropriate that our first extended VF Commodore test in our home area should be a station wagon, or a Sportwagon to use Holden’s title.
Commodore was king of the family car market for 15 years before many buyers moved to either smaller cars or medium SUVs. So it’s likely the big VF station wagons could draw those who strayed from Commodore back into the fold again.
There’s something distinctly Aussie about the way the VF Commodore feels on the road, particularly in country driving. It lopes along with a minimum of fuss, makes light of coarse-chip surfaces that can rattle even the most expensive Europeans, and copes with corrugated dirt as though it’s barely there.
Out onto the open road the interior of the Commodore is noticeably quieter than before and there’s a real feeling of luxury not unlike that of cars that cost tens of thousands more.
The 3.6-litre V6 on our test SV6 Commodore wagon was happy to sit at minimum revs thanks to the efficiency of the six-speed automatic transmission. The engine and transmission are both responsive and communicate with one another to give pleasing amounts of torque at all times.
However, the 3.6 is still not as smooth as that of similar units used in many competitors. It’s certainly not as harsh as when first introduced almost a decade ago, but it really should be better.
Performance is strong, yet fuel consumption has been reduced markedly compared to that of the already good VE Commodore. Expect the 3.6 V6 to use about seven to nine litres per hundred kilometres when cruising in the country. And around nine to eleven litres when driven sensibly in suburban areas.
Many external styling changes to the VF distinguish it from the VE it supersedes. The new front gives it a stockier look, partly because the bonnet has been raised to incorporate pedestrian protection, but also to fall into the global General Motors design theme.
While the VF sedan is significantly different at the rear, the wagon (and ute) remain much the same as before, principally to save design dollars. Tellingly, at no time during our road test that covered over 600 kilometres did any other drivers stare at the Sportwagon’s rump and recognise it as a new Commodore.
Changes to the interior are extensive and give the VF Commodore a fresh, modern look. The centrepiece is the large, easy-to-read 8-inch colour touchscreen with well-spaced controls that are big enough to avoid the dreaded push-two-buttons-at-once hassles.
Visibility outwards is still marred by the huge A-pillars that we have been complaining about since the earliest VE Commodores. Some alterations have been made to the trim to try and cure this. Slimming the underlying metal was going to be expensive so we will have to live with the need to move our heads around to negate the blind spots created by the wide pillars.
At least the damn-fool handbrake that was so irritating in the VE has been replaced by a small, sophisticated electric unit.
Although it’s built on the same platform as the VE Commodore, around 60 per cent of chassis components have been either modified or replaced. An overall weigh reduction of almost 40 kg has been achieved, mainly through the use of an aluminium bonnet and boot lid.
Handling is excellent with good feedback through the steering wheel and the suspension system. The new electric power steering (EPS) gives a sharp feel that’s all but indistinguishable from that of the old hydraulic assistance used in all Commodores till now. EPS is there primarily as a fuel save because it only takes power from the engine when it’s needed, not all the time as when a hydraulic pump is running permanently.
There’s something just right about settling into these big Aussie cars. A feeling of security and easy going running, particularly in the bush. This ‘something’ will really be missed if it disappears from the motoring scene forever…
AT A GLANCE
Evoke 3.0-litre V6 four-door sedan: $34,990 (automatic)
SV6 3.6-litre V6 four-door sedan: $35,990 (manual), $38,190 (automatic)
SS 3.6-litre V6 four-door sedan: $41,990 (manual), $44,100 (automatic)
SS-V 6.0-litre V8 four-door sedan: $45,490 (manual), $47,690 (automatic)
SS-V Redline 6.0-litre V8 four-door sedan: $51,490 (manual), $53,690 (automatic)
Calais 3.6-litre V6 four-door sedan: $39,990 (automatic)
Calais V 3.6-litre V6 four-door sedan: $46,990 (automatic)
Calais V 6.0-litre V8 four-door sedan: $52,990 (automatic)
Evoke Sportwagon 3.0-litre V6 five-door wagon: $36,990 (automatic)
SV6 Sportwagon 3.6-litre V6 five-door wagon: $37,990 (manual), $40,190 (automatic)
SS Sportwagon 3.6-litre V6 five-door wagon: $43,990 (manual), $46,100 (automatic)
SS-V Sportwagon 6.0-litre V8 five-door wagon: $47,490 (manual), $49,690 (automatic)
SS-V Redline Sportwagon 6.0-litre V8 five-door wagon: $53,490 (manual), $55,690 (automatic)
Calais Sportwagon 3.6-litre V6 five-door wagon: $41,990 (automatic)
Calais V Sportwagon 3.6-litre V6 five-door wagon: $48,990 (automatic)
Calais V Sportwagon 6.0-litre V8 five-door wagon: $54,990 (automatic)
Caprice 3.6-litre LPG V6 four-door sedan: $54,990 (automatic)
Caprice V Series 6.0-litre V8 four-door sedan: $59,990 (automatic)
Note: Prices do not include government or dealer charges. Contact your local Holden dealer for driveaway pricing.
SPECIFICATIONS (Holden Commodore SV6 Sportwagon 3.6-litre five-door wagon)
Capacity: 3.564 litres
Head Design: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Bore/Stroke: 94.0 x 85.6 mm
Maximum Power: 210 kW @ 6400 rpm
Maximum Torque: 350 Nm @ 2800 rpm
Driven Wheels: Rear
Manual Transmission: Six-speed
Automatic Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive Ratio: 3.27:1
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4939 mm
Wheelbase: 2915 mm
Width: 1898 mm
Height: 1474 mm
Turning Circle: 11.4 metres
Kerb Mass: 1776 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 71 litres
Towing Ability: Up to 2100 kg (with braked trailer)
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES:
Front Suspension: MacPherson strut
Rear Suspension: Independent, multi-link
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Ventilated disc
0-100 km/h Acceleration: Not available
Type: Petrol 91RON
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/02): 9.3 L/100km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATINGS:
Greenhouse Rating: 5.5/10
Air Pollution Rating: 8.5/10
Three years/100,000 km