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Car reviews - Holden - Commodore - Omega MY10 sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Smooth, free-revving engine, highway economy, ride and handling compromise, interior space
Room for improvement
Engine/transmission match, no centre rear head restraint, thick A-pillars

24 Nov 2009

THINGS have never been better for lovers of the traditional Aussie six, particularly Holden buyers.

Holden has slowly dragged the Commodore into modernity, not only giving it a pair of Spark Ignition Direct Injection (SIDI) V6s in 3.0-litre (in entry-level Omega and Berlina) and 3.6-litre guises but also a six-speed auto transmission with it in place of the archaic four-speeder.

The exterior is a modern, if conservative, take on the three-box sedan that looks at home on the streets of, say, Los Angles or Dubai. Which of course, wearing other brand badges, it does. This is a world-class design.

It is just as good inside where the neat, comfortable architecture is all clearly and spaciously laid out. The gauges are easy to read and the buttons are mostly labelled in a large, clear font. It is all user-friendly, although the VE’s vision-impairing thick A-pillars and small side mirrors remain. You can’t have everything, it seems.

The Omega owner’s station in life becomes apparent in the plain greys of the materials and the switch blanks that leave no doubt that this is a poverty pack. It might be a smart design but a closer look reveals cheap fit and finish.

Although Holden spent up big on VE development, it’s a wonder it could not have spent just a little more to complete the VE’s five-star safety picture with three adjustable rear-seat head restraints instead of just two outboard ones.

Even better if Holden spent the few extra dollars to give families with young children three child-seat tether anchor points, instead of the one supplied. The threads are there for the other two, but it’s a case of BYO securing bolts and tethers.

The boot is shallow but wide and long. Instead of a spare wheel, a puncture repair kit is supplied. A spare wheel is optional.

The big news, of course, is the Omega's new engine. In slow, stop-start traffic, the difference between this 3.0-litre engine and the old 3.6 is hard to pick, except for perhaps a less assertive launch feel off the mark.

It is smooth, quiet and refined, but in the city, economical it is not. There is no getting away from the fact that six cylinders are sucking down petrol at a rapid rate, and that costs at the bowser. We saw 18.8L/100km in the thick of it in town, which is about the same amount that a 3.6 pre-SIDI engine would use.

At least it can only get better out of the city gridlock, where the driver can appreciate the thrift of the new engine.

In a mix of outer urban and highway driving, 9.0L/100km is achievable, while we saw a low of 7.5L/100km on an easy 100km/h freeway cruise. That is good for such a large car.

The engine does not short-change the driver in power to achieve the improved fuel economy, winding out quickly with a pleasing induction note like a Euro six. Smooth, too.

Torque is adequate at lower speeds, but on the open road it becomes apparent that either low-rpm torque or the transmission – or both – are not entirely cohesive.

Any incline has the transmission shifting out of lock-up mode and sometimes kicking down to fifth, and we’re not talking about mountain climbs here, but slightly uphill freeway gradients.

The transmission otherwise seems fine with generally smooth shifts, although it can thump on upshift if you baulk with throttle lift-off.

The Commodore’s dynamics are as good as ever, with a touch of bodyroll and a lack of ultimate grip – normal stuff for an entry-level family car – yet with a far greater degree of adroitness than you have a right to expect. The steering feel is great and the chassis is malleable. Ride is firm but not terse.

It’s hard to imagine many people buying an Omega with their own money, considering the wide variety of other offerings on the new-car market.

On a time-share basis from the smiling faces at the rental counter, sure, but otherwise it is the fleet choice. The VE Omega is a good car, but the 3.0-litre SIDI engine does not thrust it into greatness.

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