TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
Yep, after decades of rear-drive joy the Holden Commodore has finally embraced front-wheel drive. It’s undergone a few more additional changes with the all-new ZB generation too, with external dimensions shrinking and internal dimensions stretching, a hatch taking the place of a boot, the V8 option being ditched and a turbo four becoming the new entry-level powertrain.
Big leaps for a traditional Australian family car favourite, but do such wholesale changes affect its ability to be exactly that – a big four-door with space for your brood?
Interior space – or at least the perception of it – has grown despite the move to an 86mm shorter wheelbase. A repackaged cabin preserves shoulder room despite a narrower width, and the rear seat area is especially spacious. The arrival of a hatch bodystyle also brings some extra cargo-carrying versatility, even though seats-up boot space is now five litres smaller at 490L.
Local suspension and drivetrain tuning has endowed the flagship VXR with plenty of driver appeal, with commendable chassis poise and grip. It might not thrill like the dearly-departed SS V8 variants, but it still has much to offer those who fancy a spirited steer.
There’s now more equipment in the form of driver aids, with Autonomous Emergency Braking across the range, while the range-topping VXR variants brings adaptive cruise control and electronically-adjustable dampers. Opt for a higher-specification model, and an LCD display takes replaces the conventional instrument panel.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engines are impressive, in either petrol or diesel form. The petrol makes 191kW and 350Nm and takes power to the front via a nine-speed automatic, and is plenty rapid off the mark and blessed with a smart transmission that rarely makes a dud ratio choice. The 125kW/400Nm diesel is muscular and cultivated, meanwhile, and also exceeds expectations.
Weak acceleration from the V6 variants may not excite those who are familiar with the keener step-off of the now-departed VF Commodore. What’s more, the VXR’s naturally-aspirated V6 is no substitute for the VF SS’s V8 thrust off the line, despite a similar (estimated) 0-100 km/h time of 6.2 seconds.
Ride quality suffers on the 20-inch alloys of high-grade variants like the Calais-V, with plenty of suspension harshness over bumps. The only big-wheeled model to escape this is the VXR, thanks to its standard-issue adaptive dampers.
Interior lacks the charm and warmth of the VF Commodore thanks to sober textures and monochrome colour scheme. While it looks smart and handsome and is a great fit for lower-spec Commodores, it’s the higher grades that suffer from a lack of any additional visual glitz.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER
Key competitors to the Commodore include its traditional large-car opposition (as well as the newly-arrived Kia Stinger), while its move to a slightly shrunken transverse-engine format now exposes it to the likes of the Ford Mondeo, Mazda 6, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Passat, Skoda Superb, Subaru Liberty, Hyundai Sonata, Honda Accord and Kia Optima.
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