Driven: Next-gen Holden Commodore

By Grant Edwards

Holden's new VF Commodore was developed alongside a left hand drive version that is sold in the US as a Chevrolet. Photo / Supplied
Holden's new VF Commodore was developed alongside a left hand drive version that is sold in the US as a Chevrolet. Photo / Supplied

In the wake of Ford's decision to depart Australian manufacturing, it's business as usual for Holden.

The lion badge has today launched the new VF - the most technologically advanced and the best performing Commodore ever released Down Under.

But the blue oval's announcement last week to shut all Australian manufacturing doors by 2016 has a cloud hanging over the industry.

While some may think Ford's move was a chance for its arch rival to celebrate, far from it. The mood is sombre within Australia's motoring fraternity.

Holden director external communications Craig Cheetham said it was "business as usual", and the Ford decision was a contingency the company was prepared for.

"It's desperately sad for the industry. For us the saddest thing is the 1200 extremely talented people out of work," he said.

"Certainly we as Holden would not be celebrating that fact, it is the end of a historic rivalry that has been great fun."

Mr Cheetham said there were a "handful" of shared parts suppliers with Ford which may ultimately have an impact on Holden production, but with two years lead time and using General Motors sources he was confident there would be no manufacturing disruptions.

While there are no long-term certainties, Holden is rightly confident of its latest offering.
This new Commodore is a brilliant drive with interior appointments and features traditionally restricted to more expensive European marques.

After a challenging few months in the sales arena, Mr Cheetham said the VF shows Holden firmly believes in the large car segment.

"We expect the sales to go up again with the launch of the VF," he said.

"We think there is a lot of love still for the car and the nameplate. But we are realistic, we know it won't sail straight to the top of the sales chart.

"The market has changed fundamentally and permanently."

The drive experience

Holden has made bold gains with its latest Commodore.  

The brief was to deliver a world-class car and the Australian arm of General Motors has delivered.   Even from the base model Evoke, Holden has developed an extensive specification list.

For $49,990, you get features like automatic parallel and perpendicular parking, a 20cm colour touch-screen, rear camera along with front and rear parking sensors.   

The luxury Calais V takes the technology assault even further with forward-collision alert, a full-colour head-up display and satnav with live traffic updates. It will sell at $72,390 with the optional six-litre V8.

In the performance rage, the SV and SS, technology is still at the fore, but all models get a boost, including the SS, which now packs the GenIV six-litre and a six-speed gearbox. The SV6, with the 3.6-litre SIDI V6 starts the line-up at $55,490, with the high-specced Redline SSV priced at $71,590.

Commodores with automatic transmissions can even be started remotely to cool or heat the car before you get inside.  

But one of the greatest achievements is nothing. Yep, there is little to hear by way of cabin noise.    

Holden actually had to remove some of the sound deadening materials on its sports models to ensure drivers could hear the engine note.  

And it turns flatter with a better suspension, while new electric power steering has enhanced the feel and predictability of a car which was already fun to drive.   

The Commodore has matured. Is it too late? The question will be answered by Aussie and Kiwi buyers.

VITAL STATISTICS

Details: Four-door large rear-wheel drive sedan, five-door Sportwagon or two-door ute.

Engines: 3.6-litre LPG V6 generating maximum power of 180kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 320Nm @ 2000rpm; 3.0-litre V6 petrol 185kW @ 6700rpm and 290Nm @ 2600rpm; 3.6-litre V6 petrol 210kW @ 6700rpm; 6.0-litre V8 petrol 260kW @ 5600rpm (270kW @ 5600rpm manual) and 517Nm @ 4400rpm (530Nm @ 4400rpm manual).

Transmission: Six-speed automatic or six-speed manual.

Consumption: LPG - 11.5 litres/100km; 3.0-litre - 8.3 litres100km; 3.6L 9.0L100km; 6.0L 11.5L100km (figures vary slightly depending on body choice).

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