2017 Holden Commodore Review

Buying new? We'll match you to the lowest dealer quote, get the best price for your trade-in and the lowest rate finance. Save thousands. Get started here.
Buying new? Get the lowest dealer quote, best price for your trade-in and lowest rate finance. Save thousands. Start here.
2017 Holden Commodore Review

Overall Rating

0

4.5 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
Expand Section

Safety, value & features

4 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

5 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

4 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

5 out of 5 stars

Technology

4 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProComfort; space; equipment; V8 grunt.

  2. ConThirst; resale on some models; rear headrests not adjustable.

  3. The Pick: 2017 Holden Commodore SS-V Redline 4D Sedan

What stands out?

Expand Section

The Commodore is a roomy and comfortable family sedan or wagon, with great roadholding and the option of a big V8 engine. All models have a reversing camera and a self-parking system, and the more expensive can be ordered in sports or luxury versions.

What might bug me?

Expand Section

Paying for fuel, if you use the performance - especially in a Commodore V8.

That your new family car does not have auto emergency braking or active cruise control (which can reduce your set speed to match slower cars ahead on the highway, until the way is clear). These features are available on many imported cars that cost no more.

That you can’t mirror phone apps on the car’s touchscreen: no Commodore supports Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Trying to squeeze long objects into the boot: the seatbacks on the sedans don’t fold.

What body styles are there?

Expand Section

Four-door sedan and five-door wagon. Both are rear-wheel drive.

The Commodore is classed as a large car, lower priced.

What features do all Commodores have?

Expand Section

Cruise control, and headlamps that switch on automatically when it’s dark.

Dual-zone air-conditioning, which allows the driver and passenger to set temperatures independently.

A reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and a self-parking system (which can guide you into a parking spot).

An 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with a radio receiver, Bluetooth connectivity for audio streaming, USB input, voice control, and a suite of smartphone-compatible apps for music and other functions.

Height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, from which you can operate the cruise control, the sound system and your phone.

Trailer sway control, which can operate the engine and brakes automatically to dampen oscillation.

Wheels made from an aluminium alloy (rather than heavier and uglier steel). A full-sized spare wheel and tyre (except on the least costly Commodore, the Evoke, where this is optional).

Six airbags. Anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control – which can help you avoid a skid. (For the placement of airbags, and more on Commodore safety features, please open the Safety section below.)

All Commodores are warrantied for three years and 100,000km.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

Expand Section

Three engines are available in a Commodore: two V6 petrols and a V8.

The most fuel-efficient is the smaller V6, a 3.0 litre, which comes in the least expensive Commodore, the Evoke. It consumes 8.3 litres/100km on official test figures (city and country combined), and even this engine is sprightly.

One reason you wouldn’t choose it is that you would like the extra grunt – and easier towing – that comes with the bigger V6 in the better equipped Commodore SV6 and Calais.

This 3.6-litre offers about 20 per cent more power in most conditions, with a bit more zing to the exhaust note, while burning about 10 per cent more fuel.

In the real world you can expect to average about 11.5 litres/100km from a Commodore SV6 over a mix of city and country driving – about the same as a turbo-petrol Ford Mondeo or Kia Optima GT, and 10-20 per cent more than a Subaru Liberty or Mazda6.

There is a good reason why you migh bypass both V6 engines: you want to enjoy the outstanding performance and smoothness of the much bigger V8 – designated by General Motors the LS3 – that you can get in the Commodore SS, SS-V Redline and Calais V.

In many driving conditions, the V8’s 6.2 litres can lazily supply half again as much urge as you would get from the smaller V6. It sounds great doing it, too, with a roar that gets better at higher revs.

While the V8 can be thirsty, if you drive gently it’s easy to keep consumption near 14 litres/100km in the real world.

The V6 engines come only with a six-speed automatic transmission, as do all wagons, and Calais and Calais V sedans. The sportier V8 sedans come standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, with the six-speed auto an extra-cost option.

(Power outputs and all other Holden Commodore specifications are available from the Cars Covered menu, under the main image on this page.)

What key features do I get if I spend more?

Expand Section

The least costly Commodore is the Evoke, which comes with the smaller V6, cloth seat trim, 16-inch wheels, and the equipment in all Commodores. A tyre repair kit is standard, but you can have a space-saver or full-sized spare tyre as an option.

Spend more and you can have an SV6, historically the most popular VF Commodore. That brings you the bigger V6 engine, leather wrap on the steering wheel, and some fake leather on the seats. You can leave its proximity key in your pocket or bag while unlocking and starting the car. There is satellite navigation, and a head-up display (a speedo and tacho show on the windscreen). And you gain LED daytime running lamps, a blind-spot alert, and a rear-traffic alert.

The SV6 also has a stiffer, ‘sports’ suspension setup, and bigger (18-inch) wheels with wider and lower profile tyres, for more grip and more responsive steering. The big wheels work with a rear wing and side skirts to add some visual flair. The nose also looks different from the Evoke, with less chrome, a wider grille opening, and small vents near the outer edge of the bonnet.

The Commodore SS has the same equipment and similar styling treatment, but steps up the wheel size to 19 inches, comes with the V8 engine, and has a limited-slip differential (which can help the car accelerate by reducing wheelspin).

(Formerly the next price step took you to the SS-V, which had 19-inch wheels and added front foglights and part-leather trim. About January 2017 Holden dropped the SS-V from the Commodore line-up, however.)

Spending more again will get you an SS-V Redline, which uses the same V8 engine but stiffens the suspension another notch and adds bigger, more powerful Brembo brakes. Wheel diameter remains 19 inches but wider rear tyres are fitted. The automatic transmission gains shift paddles on the steering wheel. Smart key entry allows you to unlock the car with your key safe in a pocket or handbag. Windscreen wipers operate automatically when it rains. There is a sunroof, and a nine-speaker Bose sound system. Driver aids include a system that warns you of an impending frontal collision, at speeds over 40km/h.

The Calais shifts the focus from performance to comfort. It returns to the 3.6 litre V6 engine and drops the limited-slip differential. Equipment is generally at SV6 level, but the 18-inch wheels are shod with slightly narrower and taller-profile tyres, the suspension tune is softer, and the cabin has leather trim. Only an automatic gearbox is available.

The Calais V comes as a V6 or a V8, and generally mirrors the SS-V Redline’s fit-out but with 19-inch wheels and the softer suspension. It adds powered and heated front seats, and heated exterior mirrors with lights to illuminate the ground near the doors.

Each version except (for 2017) the Calais is available as a wagon – marketed as Sportwagon.

As a send-off for the Australian-built Commodore, for which production is to end in October 2017, Holden has also offered two enhanced sports sedans in small numbers.

The Commodore Motorsport Edition is based on the SS-V Redline, but adds adaptive suspension, better cooling and brakes, heated front seats, and cosmetic enhancements, while increasing wheel size to 20 inches. Holden said it would build up to 1200 of these.

The Commodore Director is a Calais V with similar modifications, limited to 360 vehicles.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

Expand Section

The shallower – or lower profile – tyres fitted to the bigger rims tend to ride more roughly, and may cost more to replace. High performance tyres on the sportier versions may wear more quickly. Stiffer suspensions tend to be less comfortable. The more powerful engines use more fuel.

Red and white are the only standard colours; the remaining seven cost more.

How comfortable is the Holden Commodore?

Expand Section

The presentation and ambience inside a Commodore depends on the model you’re riding in.

The Evoke gets a cheap feeling plastic steering wheel and some harder plastic finishes. That is offset by the logical touchscreen menus and comfortable seats. There’s good storage for smaller items, with decent door pockets and a covered centre console.

The SV6 and SS models bring a leather-clad steering wheel, and a sportier look thanks to some red tinges on the instrument cluster and elsewhere. However the SV6 and SS are also quite busy, with lots of different finishes: there’s matte metal, shiny chrome, Alcantara suede, shiny black plastic and textured grey plastics, for example.

By the time you get to the Calais V there is plenty more leather, and suede-look finishes that can be had in a lighter colour. It’s an elegant touch for what is an upmarket interior.

Being a big car, the Commodore also rides comfortably. That is partly because there’s plenty of distance between the front and rear wheels, so it’s less prone to pitching than a smaller car would be. It is also impressively quiet, something appreciated on long drives at freeway speeds.

In automatic form, the bigger of the V6 engines is the more soothing of the two, being less likely to change down a gear on moderate applications of the accelerator.

What about safety in a Commodore?

Expand Section

Every Commodore comes with anti-lock brakes, stability control, six airbags, auto-on headlights and a reversing camera.

The airbags are in the usual places: two directly ahead of the driver and front passenger; two outside the driver and front passenger to protect at chest level from side impacts; and curtain airbags on each side extending past both seat rows, to protect all outer passengers at head level from side impacts.

Every Commodore but the Evoke also has long-lived LED daytime running lamps (which make it easier for other drivers to see you), a Blind-spot alert and a Reverse traffic alert. The Blind-spot alert informs you of other vehicles lurking near your rear corners, which might not show in your mirrors. The Reverse traffic alert helps when you are backing blindly out of a parking spot, warning you of cars approaching from either side.

The SS-V Redline and Calais V lift the sensory safety another couple of notches with Lane departure and Forward collision alerts – both based on camera-type sensors. The former monitors your position on the highway in relation to lane markers, warning you if you have let the car wander (perhaps from distraction or fatigue). The latter looks ahead of you for vehicles that have slowed suddenly, warning you if it thinks you are approaching too fast.

Unlike most similar systems, the Commodore’s Forward collision warning is not designed to prevent crashes at very low speeds: it operates only above 40km/h.

No Commodore has autonomous emergency braking (which could apply the brakes automatically to prevent a crash).

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Commodore its maximum safety rating, five stars, in May 2013.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

Expand Section

The Commodore is one of the more affordable rear-wheel-drive cars, and the rear-drive affects how it performs – in a good way. The main advantage is that the wheels driving the car are not also steering it. Tyre grip is more evenly spread over the demands of accelerating and turning, and power from the engine is not fed through the steering system. The benefits become more obvious as the power output increases.

Even the more comfort-oriented Commodore models – such as the popular Evoke, Calais and SV6 – exhibit excellent road manners. The car corners confidently and brings high levels of grip, along with excellent control that ensures it is predictable and recovers quickly from lumps and thumps.

This is a car that rises to the challenge of faster, flowing bends.

Those seeking maximum excitement can opt for the sportier V8 versions, which have a stiffer suspension set-up that translates to sharper responses – the car reacts more immediately to steering inputs, for example.

The V8 engine is the standout choice, and the one Holden has invested the most time and effort in for this latest version of the Commodore, the VF Series II.

It has loads of pull in any gear, at almost any speed. Even in fifth or sixth gear up a hill it usually accelerates up confidently. Drive the engine harder in first or second gear and it’s very brisk and loads of fun.

There is enough power from the V8 to have the rear tyres fighting for grip, especially on a wet road. Traction control steps in to restrict wheelspin.

The V8 also has the sound to match its high performance. There’s a distinctive roar that intensifies with engine speed, to the point where it can be quite loud in the cabin. Enthusiasts will love it, but those looking for a relaxed, refined ride may be put off by the bellowing and burbling.

The bigger Brembo brakes on the SS-V Redline have a slightly firmer pedal feel, but their biggest advantage is being able to take more high speed punishment. The benefits on the road are likely to be minimal for most drivers, but those looking to take their car on a track will appreciate their extra performance in extreme situations.

The limited-run Commodore Motorsport Edition, and Commodore Director, take trackworthiness to another level, with their more capable brakes, engine oil and transmission coolers, and electronically controlled suspension dampers that react to road conditions and can be adjusted from the driver’s seat.

“The LS3’s grunt means you can hold the car in these lovely, flowing oversteer drifts across the top of the track, yet there’s real precision to its turn-in and mid-corner purchase,” Wheels magazine senior reviewer Nathan Ponchard reported after sampling a Motorsport Edition at the Phillip Island race circuit.

How is life in the rear seats?

Expand Section

The Commodore is one of the few cars where three adults can comfortably fit across the rear. It also has great head and leg room, along with rear air-conditioning vents.

However there is no centre rear headrest, and the outer rear headrests are fixed, so taller people cannot raise them for comfort.

It is designed to take three child seats (although some wider seats might not fit). However on the sedans, the mounting brackets for the top tethers are not fitted on the two outside seats; you’ll need to grab a spanner to screw in the appropriate bolts.

How is it for carrying stuff?

Expand Section

Only wagons get a split-fold seat set-up, leaving buyers of the sedan with less flexibility for carrying long or bulky items (there’s only a ski port that reveals a small hole in the centre of the rear seat).

Still, the boot on the sedan is sizeable and easily swallows a family’s holiday gear.

Where does Holden make the Commodore?

Expand Section

Until local production ends in October 2017, all Commodores are made in Australia.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Expand Section

Auto emergency braking, which some slightly smaller family cars offer as standard – among them the Mazda6, Subaru Liberty, Kia Optima, and Volkswagen Passat.

Adaptive cruise control, which can moderate your set cruising speed to accommodate slower traffic. Many other family cars offer this.

Better integration for your smartphone, via support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (which let you control several apps from the car’s touchscreen. This is standard on the Passat and the Ford Mondeo, for example.

Among other cars you might consider are the Toyota Camry, Skoda Superb, and Hyundai Sonata.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

Expand Section

At this late point in the Commodore’s life as an Australian-built, rear-drive car, any of the V8s looks like great value.

However, our reviewers are particularly partial to the SS-V Redline, citing its superb chassis and Brembo brakes.

Are there plans to update the Commodore soon?

Expand Section

The Commodore VF arrived in 2013. A minor update for the VF Series II in October 2015 focused on the V8s, replacing the 6.0-litre engine with the stronger, 6.2-litre, LS3 V8 that had previously been reserved for Holden Special Vehicles cars.

About January 2017 Holden dropped the SS-V trim-level and the Calais Sportwagon, and extended satellite navigation to all V8s and the SV6 and Calais, with V8s, the SV6 and the Calais V also gaining a head-up display.

The limited-run Motorsport Edition and Director went on sale for pre-order in January, with most spoken for a week later.

Holden has announced it will cease producing the Commodore in Australia on October 20, 2017.

Its imported replacement, due on sale early in 2018, will be a front-wheel drive car, with all-wheel drive also available. Holden will offer three engines: turbocharged petrol and diesel four-cylinders, and a petrol V6.