2016 Holden Commodore Review

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2016 Holden Commodore Review

Overall Rating

0

4.5 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

5 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: 2016 Holden Commodore SS 4D Sedan

What stands out?

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The Commodore is a roomy and comfortable family sedan or wagon, with great roadholding and the option of a grunty 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?

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Paying for fuel, if you use the performance.

Less than stellar resale values on some models.

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

What body styles are there?

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Sedan and wagon. Both are rear-wheel drive. The Commodore is classed as a large car, lower priced.

What features do all Commodores have?

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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, and a self-parking system (which steers the car into a parking spot).

A colour touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, and a suite of smartphone compatible apps for music and other functions.

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).

Electronic stability control, which can help the driver recover from slides. All new cars must have this feature.

Six airbags: two directly in front of the driver and passenger; one outside each front occupant to protect their bodies from side impacts; and a curtain airbag on each side protecting front and rear occupants’ heads from side impacts.

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

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

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The smallest, which is the 3.0 litre V6. In the least expensive Commodore, the Evoke, fuel use is 8.3 litres/100km on official test figures (city and country combined).

While even this V6 engine is sprightly, there are two bigger engines that feel more relaxed on the highway and make easier work of pulling a caravan or boat. Arguably, they are also more fun.

The 3.6 litre V6 offers about 20 per cent more power in most conditions, with a bit more zing to the exhaust note.

The V8 is the performance standout. In many driving conditions, its 6.2 litres can lazily punch out half again as much urge as you would get from the smaller V6.
It sounds great doing it, too, with a fantastic roar that gets better at higher revs.

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

The 3.0 V6 is offered only with a six-speed automatic transmission, while the other two engines can also be had with a six-speed manual ‘box.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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The Evoke is the only Commodore without a spare tyre – it comes with just a repair kit for punctures. You can option a full-sized spare for the 16-inch wheels.

The most popular Commodore is the SV6, which comes with the 3.6 litre V6 engine. Wheels grow to 18 inches and support wider and lower profile tyres, for more grip and more responsive steering. The big wheels also work with a rear wing and side skirts to add some visual flair. The nose also looks different from the Evoke, with less chrome, and a wider grille opening, and small vents near the outer edge of the bonnet.

The SV6 also has a a stiffer, ‘sports’ suspension setup, LED running lights (which help visibility), and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. A blind-spot alert warns if someone is alongside when you indicate to change lanes, and a rear-traffic alert warns if someone is crossing your path when reversing. The manual transmission version gains a limited-slip differential, which can help the car accelerate by reducing wheelspin.

The SS has the same equipment and same styling treatment, but comes with the V8 engine and has a limited-slip diff for the auto (as well as the manual). The SS-V steps the wheel size up to 19 inches and adds front foglights and leather trim. The trip computer built into the instrument cluster goes from monochrome to multi-colour, with more detail.

The SS-V Redline 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 tyres are fitted at the rear. The automatic transmission gains shift paddles on the steering wheel. There is a head-up display: a speedo and tachometer show on the windscreen. 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, a nine-speaker Bose sound system, and satellite navigation. 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 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 is available as a wagon – marketed as Sportwagon.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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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 eight cost more.

How comfortable is the Holden Commodore?

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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/SS models 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?

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The Commodore comes with a full suite of airbags, auto-dipping headlights and a reversing camera.

All but the base model Evoke also warn of cars approaching from either side when reversing.

The Calais V and SS-V Redline warn if the car wanders out of its lane. Another alert beeps if a car or bike is in a blind spot alongside when you try to change lanes.

The Forward Collision Alert on Calais V and SS-V Redline Commodores warns of an impending crash, but unlike some more advanced systems it does not apply the brakes automatically. The alert is also overly sensitive, often warning of a risk that doesn’t exist.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program has awarded the Commodore its maximum safety rating, five stars.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

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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.

How is life in the rear seats?

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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?

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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?

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All Commodores are made in Australia.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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A more fuel-efficient engine. The Ford Falcon has a four-cylinder engine option. So do many of the mid-sized cars – such as the Toyota Camry and Mazda6 – that draw buyers who might formerly have purchased a Commodore.

A split-fold rear seat in the sedan.

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

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Our reviewers like the Commodore SS, pointing to its fantastic value for a performance sedan. While it misses some trinkets fitted to the SS-V models, the V8 engine is the same.

Are there plans to update the Commodore soon?

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The Commodore was given a minor update with the release of the VF Series II in October 2015.

Expect some special edition packs late in 2016 or throughout 2017 to mark the final period of local Commodore production.

Holden has announced it will cease producing the Commodore in Australia by the end of 2017. There will be an overseas-built replacement about that time.