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ZB Commodore: Holden rethinks model line-up

Inside out: The cabin of the ZB Commodore represents a giant leap over the outgoing Australian-built VF.

‘Sport’ and ‘Luxury’ lines across trio of model grades coming for Holden Commodore

Holden logo24 Aug 2017

By TIM NICHOLSON

HOLDEN looks set to shake up the model grade offerings for its new-generation ZB Commodore liftback and wagon range by offering distinct ‘Sport’ and ‘Comfort’ variants within each specification level.

While the company is keeping its powder dry on confirming variants and spec grades across the all-new German-built line-up, GoAuto believes the ‘Sport’ variants will, as the name suggests, feature a sportier suspension set-up and will be designed to appeal to buyers of the current VF Commodore SV6 and SS, while ‘Comfort’ versions will be tuned for all-round ride comfort.

Both Sport and Comfort liftback and Sportwagon models will be offered with a choice of three specification grades, ranging from a base variant through to mid-spec and a more luxurious flagship.

The VXR performance flagship is expected to have its own specification grade, as well as unique suspension and engine tuning, while Holden is yet to discuss equipment for the higher-riding Tourer wagon.

Since Holden launched the VFII in late 2015, the Commodore line-up has consisted of the entry-level Evoke and luxurious Calais and Calais V, while the SV6, SS and SS-V Redline have catered to the performance-car buyer.

Pricing currently ranges from $35,490 plus on-road costs for the Evoke sedan and tops out at $59,190 for the SS-V Redline Sportwagon.

Pricing for the ZB is being kept under wraps until much closer to its February 2018 launch.

GoAuto was among a group of select media outlets invited to test a variety of pre-production ZB Commodores at its Lang Lang proving ground south-east of Melbourne this week – and compare them with the current VF Series II Commodore – and there is a clear difference between the various as-yet-unnamed ZB specification grades.

The base version, sampled in Sportwagon guise, features a lot of grey plastics and fabric, and while it seems durable, you could not describe it as premium.

It does, however, have soft-touch materials on the dash top and some panels.

Stepping up into a mid-spec ZB Commodore adds higher-end materials, leather trim and light lashings of chrome – and it makes a big difference to the look and feel of the cabin.

It is difficult to judge the cabin of a top-spec Commodore as the vehicle we drove was a hand-built development mule with parts borrowed from a number of other GM products, but expect higher-grade leather and flourishes to lift the ambience.

In overall terms, the ZB cabin is poles apart from the VF, which despite ageing well is now out of step with the latest crop of European-sourced GM product.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given its Opel origins, the dash of the ZB Commodore closely follows the design and layout of the impressive new Astra hatch that arrived late last year, with a near-identical three-spoke steering wheel and matching instrument cluster, while the placement of the air vents, 8.0-inch touchscreen and climate controls likewise follow the European-sourced small car.

Given the examples we sampled were pre-production models, there were a number of interior elements, including some door panels, that were sourced from other cars, so we will reserve a full rundown of the Commodore’s cabin quality until we get our hands on the production version.

The seats across all variants are supportive with excellent side bolstering, but the headrests in the rear are intrusive unless they are raised.

Holden says the space around the driver in the ZB is the same as the VF, and lead development engineer David Johnson said the only two dimensions where there was a significant difference was the rear-seat headroom in the liftback (given the shape of the car), while the driver and front passenger sit a couple of inches closer to each other than in the current Australian-built large car.

The headroom in the rear of the liftback is dramatically impacted by the sloping roof, a fact underscored when jumping in the back seat of the Sportwagon, which has acres of room.

Toe-room is impacted slightly in the rear by the low-mounted front seats, but the good news is there are air vents across the board in the back.

Cargo space is impressive in both body styles. The wagon can accommodate 1665 litres with the second row folded – 130L more than the old Insignia wagon – but it is well down on the 2000L the VF can swallow.

It is still an impressive amount of space in the back of the wagon. Higher-spec variants will have an electronic tailgate with a kick sensor.

Storage space is just okay, with no map pockets on the seatbacks of the base variant, the glovebox is small for the size of car and the central storage compartment is adequate.

Elsewhere, the new Commodore’s steering wheel feels nicer than the thick tiller in the VF and the latest infotainment system is logically ordered and seemingly easy to navigate.

Overall, the cabin is light years ahead of the VF in terms of design, functionality, comfort and technology features.

The exterior design also impresses in the metal, with a number of journalists nominating the Sportwagon as the pick of the body styles.

The European Commodore looks like it will be packaged to appeal to a new type of buyer, but even the most rusted-on Aussie Commodore fan should find a lot to like inside the new Holden.

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