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Car reviews - Holden - Commodore - Acclaim sedan

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No stability control on Acclaim wagon, gruff induction note at high revs

19 Aug 2004

ACCLAIM has long represented a smart buy for those whose regard safety as a priority in a full-size family sedan or wagon.

And now Acclaim is even safer, with the sedan version offering Holden’s cutting-edge stability control system – the same as that found in Ford’s Territory all-wheel drive – which cuts power like traction control but adds a higher level of security but grabbing brakes at each wheel individually to ensure traction even on the most slippery of surfaces.

The benefits of stability control have been well documented, with various systems having earned well deserved reputations in many European models for some years. Holden, which claims significant reductions in the number of potential single-vehicle accidents, will doubtless capitalise on the fact it’s the first Australian car-maker to offer it in a passenger car.

All of which makes it all the more inexcusable that ESP is not available in Acclaim wagon, which is surely the more attractive option for family car buyers. Especially when the hardware appears to be available with the new Alloytec V6’s engine management system.

Sure, both Acclaim variants get revised braking systems that seem to have improved initial pedal feel, and the VZ range-wide fitment of standard electronic brake-force-distribution provides a much higher level of stability by delivering better front to rear braking force.

But in our opinion if ESP is standard in Acclaim sedan, so it should be in Acclaim wagon, which continues with the inferior mechanical brake assist system and not the electronic version that Holden itself claims invokes ABS intervention twice as quickly.

Apart from EBD, the only safety advantage for VZ Acclaim buyers is an improved traction control system, which now features a higher intervention threshold and activates unobtrusively (meaning there’s no longer the disconcerting pedal push-back as found in VY Commodores).

Still on chassis matters, changes to the power steering pump and front anti-roll bar have certainly improved on-centre feel in a straight line to the point where Falcon’s steering superiority is now seriously threatened. All Commodores’ steering response is now sharper and more linear as steering angles are wound on, but the downside is that the faster reacting front stabiliser bar seems to induce understeer earlier.

While this is an advantage for more conservative drivers who will enjoy the earlier onset of front-end push, which signals the limit of adhesion well in advance, but more enthusiastic drivers may rue the more docile handling trait during ambitious cornering. Still, the sharper initial steering response and increased safety envelope probably outweigh the softening of on-the-limit handling for most Acclaim buyers.

Apart from some subtle exterior styling changes, the rest of the VZ Acclaim story centres on its new engine and fettled transmission package.

Offering just as much "step-off" torque, something the venerable Ecotec 3.8 was famous for, and a much wider range of useable power, the base Alloytec V6 brings entry-level Commodores into the 20th century in terms of performance and refinement.

Clues to the extra driveability lie in the fact Alloytec produces more torque at 2000rpm than Ecotec and that the new V6 delivers 90 per cent of its torque between a much wider 1630 and 5460rpm.

Along with the extra performance, there’s slightly better fuel economy too.

It’s not all good news though. As you’d expect, the base Alloytec offers distinctly less urge in the mid to top-end rev range when compared with the premium Alloytec 190, and nor is it what you’d call music to one’s ears.

While Alloytec is in another league to Ecotec in terms of refinement, especially at the higher extremes of its rev range, and there’s none of the coarseness and wheeziness that afflicted the outgoing V6, there’s a racket of induction noise in the second half of its speed range, which reminds us more of the Ecotec than a BMW straight six.

And the fact remains that in base form, Alloytec lacks both the peak power and torque outputs of Falcon’s 4.0-litre inline six.

Indeed, the changes to Holden’s aged GM auto seem as impressive as the advances in engine technology, the revised four-auto offering much smoother (but slightly quicker) shifts, less gear-hunting on an even throttle and vastly reduced flaring or over-revving during downshifts.

Overall, Acclaim’s new engine/transmission package is world’s apart from the one it replaces, which alone is worth the incremental price rise.

It is a pity Holden doesn’t value Acclaim wagon buyers as highly as its Acclaim sedan customers, but the fact is stability control is simply the icing on the cake of the more sophisticated and eminently more driveable Commodore family sedan.

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