We’ve recently reviewed the new ZB Calais Tourer wagon and the mid-spec Commodore RS-V Liftback. This week we’re looking at the VXR, the performance flagship of the new Commodore range which ostensibly replaces the previous SS and SS-V models.

However it can hardly be called an apples-with-apples comparison. The new Commodore VRX comes with a 235 kW / 381 Nm V6 engine and a nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The superseded Commodore SS had a 304kW / 570 Nm V8, six-speed auto and rear-wheel drive.

The use of all-wheel drive puts the big Commodore into the same class as popular high-performance models like the Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Evo, even the hot Audi quattro variants.

The hatchback (aka Liftback) body gives new Commodore a sleeker and more stylish profile than its sedan predecessor. A look that’s enhanced in the VRX by a sports body kit, rear lip spoiler and 20-inch alloy wheels.

Commodore VXR is marginally smaller than the Australian-built model, its sleek styling means there is slightly less rear seat headroom. To take their minds off this potential issue passengers in the rear do get heated seats as well as a twin drinkholders in the centre armrest. Surprisingly there aren’t any map pockets in the back of the front seats.

Both driver and front passengers get a memory function in their seats together with ventilation and massage settings.


There are plenty of storage areas with a large deep centre-console bin and generous door bins that can hold bottles.

The fit and finish is excellent albeit with a bit too much hard plastic.

Because it’s a hatchback not a sedan there’s a substantial larger opening area. This gives access to 490 litres of space with the rear 40/20/40 split seatbacks in place and up to 1450 litres when they’re folded.

The new Commodore range is bang up to date in terms of safety features including autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning (now essential for a five-star ANCAP rating); pedestrian detection braking; lane keep assist; following distance indicator; forward collision alert; LED daytime running lights; rain-sensing wipers; reversing camera; and front and rear park assist.

The RS models add rear cross traffic alert with the VXR and Calais also getting 360-degree camera; head-up display; adaptive LED matrix headlights; and adaptive cruise control.

The outer rear seats get IsoFix child seat anchor points.


The 3.6-litre V6 is an updated version of the one previously fitted to the Australian-built Commodore and Calais. Maximum power is 235 kW at 6800 rpm with peak torque of 381 Nm at 5200 revs.

Transmission is through a GM-sourced nine-speed automatic that’s smooth and seamless. All-wheel drive gives it a real handling and traction advantage.

Commodore VXR uses a dash-mounted eight-inch colour touchscreen to display the Holden MyLink infotainment system. There’s also the option of Siri voice activation. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can be linked. It has DAB+ digital radio. VXR gets a Bose premium audio system.

Smartphones can be charged wirelessly through a pad located at the base of the dashboard. There are USB ports at both front and rear. Unlike a number of cars that used smartphone-based satellite navigation Commodore VXR uses the more user-friendly embedded system.

In line with the car’s performance credentials the front seats have quite high and rigid seat bolsters which, although power adjustable, I found difficult to settle into and certainly not my choice for a long-distance journey.

On the road the new German-sourced ZB Commodore was always going to have its work cut out in trying to better, the previous VF model. Despite a significant level of Australian input by Holden engineers it doesn’t quite get there. It’s a capable enough vehicle but, not surprisingly, it lacks the grunt and driving excitement of the V8 SS.

Steering is lighter than we like in the default FlexRide Tour mode but firms up nicely when you activate Sport or VXR Performance. Which also changes dampers, transmission, cruise control, AWD and drivetrain, even the engine sound, for greater driving enjoyment. The FlexRide settings can be customised through the infotainment touchscreen.

One area that the ZB Commodore does excel is in its ride and handling, courtesy of its all-new Twinster’ adaptive All-Wheel Drive system.

Official fuel consumption is listed at 9.3 litres per 100 kilometres. In our testing we were almost able to match that figure when cruising on the motorways, but averaged just under 12.0 L/100 km around the suburbs.

Many rusted-on Holden fans will no doubt frown upon this new Commodore from Germany but if they drop their preconceptions and look at it with an open mind they’d see a high quality European car packed with equipment at a very reasonable price. The new Liftback body adds style while the all-wheel drive system in V6 models makes it safer than ever.

The King is dead, long live the King.


SPECIFICATIONS (Holden Commodore VXR 3.6-litre petrol five-door hatch)

LT 2.0-litre turbo-petrol five-door hatch: $33,690
LT 2.0-litre turbo-petrol five-door wagon: $35,890
RS 2.0-litre turbo-petrol five-door hatch: $37,290
RS 2.0-litre turbo-petrol five-door wagon: $39,490
RS 3.6-litre petrol AWD five-door hatch $40,790
Calais turbo-petrol five-door hatch: $40,990
Calais Tourer 3.6-litre petrol AWD five-door wagon: $45,990
RS-V 3.6-litre petrol AWD five-door hatch: $46,990
RS-V 3.6-litre petrol AWD five-door wagon: $49,190
Calais-V 3.6-litre petrol AWD five-door hatch: $51,990
VXR 3.6-litre petrol AWD five-door hatch: $55,990
Calais-V Tourer 3.6-litre petrol AWD five-door wagon: $53,990
Note: This price does not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Holden dealer for drive-away prices.

Capacity: 3.649 litres
Configuration: V6
Maximum Power: 235 kW @ 6800 rpm
Maximum Torque: 381 Nm @ 5200 rpm
Fuel Type: Standard unleaded petrol
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 9.3 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 215 g/km

DRIVELINE: Nine-speed automatic, all-wheel drive

Length: 4897 mm
Wheelbase: 2829 mm
Width: 1863 mm
Height: 1455 mm
Turning Circle: 11.1 metres
Kerb Mass: 1737 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 62 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc

Three years / 100,000 kilometres

About Alistair Kennedy

Alistair Kennedy is Automotive News Service and Marque Publishing's business manager and the company's jack-of-all-trades. An accountant by profession, he designs the Marque range of motoring book titles, operates the company's motoring bookshop on the NSW Central Coast and the associated web site, as well as its huge digital and hard copy database. Whenever we can escape from the office he does so to cover new vehicle releases and contributes news stories. Alistair's other interests include cricket and family history on which he has written three books.
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