The 2018 Holden Commodore wears an Opel or Vauxhall badge in Europe.
The 2018 Holden Commodore wears an Opel or Vauxhall badge in Europe.

Hard to swallow? The German Commodore is better than ours

PATRIOTISM aside, it's time to recognise the Germans make a damn good car.

Better than Australians? In the case of the new Commodore, in many ways, yes ... but it took the crew from Down Under to make it great.

This month we welcome the first fully imported Commodore after local manufacturing ended at South Australia's Elizabeth plant last year.

Signalling the end of an era, the closure of not only Holden's plant but also Toyota's shuttering of its Camry production and Ford ending the Falcon tenure was testament to changing tastes. Large sedans are on the outer, as are V8s, and as for rear-wheel drive - most drivers nowadays don't care.

This new Commodore comes in three guises: Liftback (sedan), Sportswagon and Tourer (a slightly jacked-up version of the aforementioned load-lugger).

Don't be confused by the various 'V' monikers over four decades, this is only the fifth generation of the hallowed nameplate.

Based on the same platform that wears an Opel or Vauxhall badge in Europe, Australian engineers have given it an overhaul to ensure it meets local expectations.

That's not new to the industry, manufacturers like Hyundai and Kia have been doing it for years, but no marque other than Ford can get close to Holden for local input with the size of its local workforce and Lang Lang proving ground about an hour out of Melbourne.

 

The 2018 Holden Commodore has been sourced from Europe.
The 2018 Holden Commodore has been sourced from Europe.

DRIVING

A trio of engines are on offer. The big hitter is the V6 petrol, followed by a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol. Both come from the United States partnered to a nine-speed automatic.

Then there's a 2.0-litre diesel from Germany that is mated with an eight-speed self-shifter.

Holden had to lobby hard to get the V6, and it comes exclusively in all-wheel drive.

From start-up it has an aggressive exhaust soundtrack.

Well-weighted steering is the trademark across the range, yet the all-paw ability of the V6 shone bright in some challenging gravel conditions. It manages to find grip in the most difficult of circumstances, its torque vectoring ability of being able to push power independently to the corners that need it most coming to the fore.

 

The 2018 Holden Commodore Tourer.
The 2018 Holden Commodore Tourer.

Yet it's the turbo four-potter that proves a surprise packet. Touted as the most powerful entry-level vehicle we've seen in a Commodore, independent testing showed it's not marketing hyperbole.

Our GPS timing equipment registered the four-cylinder half a second quicker to 100km/h than the old Commodore SV6 - 6.7 versus 7.2 seconds.

The V6 AWD with nine-speed auto is just more than a second slower than the previous V8 (6.2 versus 5.1 seconds).

One caveat with the turbo is the recommendation of premium unleaded ... but it feels more lithe once under way.

The V6 AWD is almost 200kg heavier, which makes its smaller sibling more nimble and punchy.

The turbo diesel trails the others but it's no slouch - it's more than a second quicker to the speed limit than the new Toyota Camry four-potter (8.8 seconds versus 10.1).

 

The fully-imported 2018 Holden Commodore has arrived.
The fully-imported 2018 Holden Commodore has arrived.

ON THE ROAD

External dimensions are now more similar to a mid-size car, think the Toyota Camry or Mazda6, yet when you overlay the floorplan, passenger space is similar to the outgoing Australian-made vehicle.

Taller occupants will notice the lower roofline, and those up front sit closer together courtesy of a smaller console.

Rear seat space is okay for three adults, the front-wheeler has improved footwell space due to the absence of a transmission tunnel, although best suited for two over long trips.

Road noise is reasonably well suppressed and across varying conditions each variant felt well planted.

Engineers led by tuning guru Rob Trubiani made a host of suspension changes to the European model. Whereas overseas roads have better cambers and smoother surfaces, the Holden version of this car has less bounce through the bends, a more planted feeling and greater control when changing direction.

Testing the pair back-to-back the difference was stark, with the Opel offering a roller-coaster ride over some mid-corner bumps.

 

Inside the range-topping VXR.
Inside the range-topping VXR.

VALUE

Long-time Commodore fans will find familiarity in the specification line-up, with the Calais moniker sitting mid-rung. But it's not quite as lavish in terms of luxury finishes, rather athletic is the modern focus.

Core features across the range include a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, leather steering wheel, eight-way power driver seat, 60-40 split- folding rear seats, alloys and push-button start.

Get into the range-topper and you'll find heated and cooled front seats with massage function, radar cruise control, blind zone warning, rear cross traffic alert, 360-degree camera, wireless phone charging and ultra-fancy intelligent multi-LED high-beams that have a range of 400m and don't dazzle oncoming cars while still illuminating the road around them.

 

LED headlights in the new Holden Commodore.
LED headlights in the new Holden Commodore.

Base models have a driver layout similar to the Astra. That's not a bad thing, although you really have to step up the range to feel like something more premium.

Commodores of old were similar. For those who remember the Executives and Omega variants, they were bereft of features.

Holden fits most models with a space-saver spare, but the top-shelf VXR sticks with a tyre inflator kit. There is no option for a full-size wheel.

Service intervals are now 12 months/ 12,000km - the time frame has increased by three months but distances used to be 15,000km.

 

The fully-imported 2018 Holden ZB Commodore has arrived.
The fully-imported 2018 Holden ZB Commodore has arrived.

VERDICT

Brimming with technology and sophistication, even the most staunch Holden fan would be easily impressed. Size-wise it now faces off against the likes of the Toyota Camry, Mazda6 and Hyundai Sonata, and it remains to be seen what cache remains for the nameplate.

The entry-level variants don't have the same external pizzazz as the sporting models, but we were especially impressed with the proportions of the pumped-up Tourer wagon. It might be German, but it's good. Bloody good in fact.

 

The fully-imported 2018 Holden Commodore has arrived.
The fully-imported 2018 Holden Commodore has arrived.

AT A GLANCE

Holden ZB Commodore

PRICE $35,990- $59,450 drive-away (reasonable)

WARRANTY AND SERVICING 12 month/ 12,000km, $1176-$1276 over 3 years (ok)

ENGINES 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo 191kW/350Nm, 3.6-litre V6 235kW/381Nm, 2.0 4-cyl turbo diesel 125kW/400Nm (strong)

SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, up-spec models get radar cruise, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning (good)

CONSUMPTION 5.6L-9.3L (V6 can be thirsty)

SPARE Space-saver/inflator (standard nowadays)

BOOT 490L, wagon 560L (reasonable)

TOWING V6 2100kg, 4cyl 1800kg, tow ball 90kg (ok)

 

 

The 2018 Holden Commodore has been sourced from Europe.
The 2018 Holden Commodore has been sourced from Europe.

RETAIL PRICES

Liftback (sedan)

LT 2.0-litre turbo *$33,690

Calais 2.0-litre turbo *$40,990

Calais-V V6 AWD$51,990

RS 2.0-litre turbo$37,290

RS V6 AWD$40,790

RS-V V6 AWD$46,990

VXR V6 AWD$55,990

Sportwagon

LT 2.0-litre turbo *$35,890

RS 2.0-litre turbo$39,490

RS-V V6 AWD$49,190

Tourer (high-ride)

Calais Tourer V6 AWD$45,990

Calais-V Tourer V6 AWD$53,990

Diesel available - $3000 premium



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