Z-series Commodore holding fort until new model VF arrives
The Holden Commodore Z-series runs on 91-octane unleaded and quite a bit of goodwill. In the cold light of day we all know what the Z-series is: an extra-equipment runout model designed to keep the VE Commodore moving out of showrooms, when everybody knows that the new VF is just around the corner.
Ordinarily I wouldn't bother, but I'm suddenly feeling warm about the VE and I really wanted to drive one again. As we all know, the death warrant has been signed for Commodore already: when VF finishes production in 2016 it'll be replaced on the assembly line by a different kind of car. Possibly a smaller sedan, more likely a crossover.
I've been determinedly unsentimental about the possible (now actual) demise of Commodore until now; probably because so many of my Australian colleagues have argued so hard for the survival of the car in the face of all evidence to the contrary.
But suddenly, it feels a bit sad. Yes, yes, I know: there's still one more to come. But the VE will stand as the last Commodore to be launched with a gung-ho, Aussie-takes-on-the-Euros kind of bravado where anything seemed possible.
The new VF will likely be a great car because the VE certainly was back in 2006, but it'll also be one manufactured and marketed under heavily modified sales and life-cycle expectations.
So let's have a last look at the VE. You know, for the good times. Ordinarily there would be very few good times to be had in the humble entry-level Omega, which is essentially what you're looking at here. But in Z-series guise it picks up 18-inch alloys, reversing radar/camera, leather upholstery, rear spoiler and chrome exterior detailing. It certainly doesn't look like an Omega and actually, it isn't called one: it's just the Z-series (although there's also a Z-series version of the SV6). On balance, this $49,990 machine is better-looking and better-equipped than the $53,790 Berlina, and even does a passable impersonation of a Calais from a distance.
Being an Omega, we're talking the 3.0-litre direct-injection V6 with 190kW/290Nm and a six-speed automatic transmission. There's still that faint differential whine that Aussie Holdens have had since there was such a thing as an Aussie Holden, but there's a certain appeal about loping along under lazy V6 power. The latest Omega doesn't do too bad on economy, either: 8.9 litres per 100km according to ADR figures.
Never been a fan of the VE's giant steering wheel, but the big rear-driver is still an enjoyable machine through corners. Interior finish has never been an Aussie strong point, but the VE pulls through thanks to trim upgrades introduced for the Series II in 2011. Some long-standing Commodore idiosyncrasies remain: window switches in the centre console, boot release in the glovebox, a tripmeter that races around in 100m increments.
After six years the VE is no longer feeling fresh, but it's not feeling hopelessly old either. It still looks fantastic, it's good to drive and it's a lot of car for the money in Z-series guise.
Actually, Commodore is still hanging in there to some degree. Last year it was the fourth-best-selling new car in New Zealand. However, it was pipped at the post for third by another Holden, the Captiva crossover. Clearly, it's not 2006 any more.