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Driven: Holden VF Commodore

Here it is: Holden Commodore sales may be a fraction of their past glory, but a new one is still critically important to the Australian car industry.

We review the cheaper and more high-tech new Holden VF Commodore range


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30 May 2013

HOLDEN has given the homegrown Commodore sedan and wagon range its first major update in seven years.

Say goodbye to the VE – known as the billion-dollar baby in reference to its development costs – and say hello to the VF.

Reflective of the times that see large-car sales continue to tumble, the VF redesign is not quite wholesale, as it was the VE, but nevertheless Holden says it has taken substantial strides in making the range desirable to the average Aussie all over again.

Said strides include a more upmarket cabin with the latest infotainment, the use of aluminium on some panels and components, the fitment of parent company GM’s active safety technology and – not least of all – price cuts of between $5000 and $9800 to better compete with bargain imports.

At $34,990 plus on-road costs, the Evoke is $5000 cheaper than old Omega.

The trend continues through the entire range, with prices down $6800 for the SV6 ($35,990), $8300 for the Calais ($39,990), $5800 for the SS ($41,990), $9800 for the SS-V ($45,490), $9800 for the Calais V V6 ($46,990), $9000 for the Calais V V8 ($52,990), and $6300 for the SS-V Redline ($51,490).

Sportwagons are an extra $2000 across the board.

All this, it hopes, will be enough to persuade some of the buyers that have been leaving the car in droves back into the fold, and away from their compact SUVs and small hatchbacks.

The desire takes on added significance, coming as it does just one week after Ford Australia announced the impending death of its great locally made rival, the Falcon.

All VF variants get new, more aerodynamic frontal styling. But this is par for the course in any upgrade. More significantly, the panels don’t just look different, they’re lighter too. VF is the first local car with an aluminium bonnet and boot.

Furthermore, the use of aluminium on the suspension and instrument panel beam has helped save up to 43kg from some versions. The base Evoke is now 1622kg, while the heaviest model in the regular range, the SS-V Redline Sportwagon, tips the scales at 1851kg.

Under the skin, Holden has updated more than 60 per cent of the chassis components, added a more efficient new electric power steering system, a space-saving electric parking brake, more sound insulation, and a stiffer steering column.

By making the car lighter and more slippery, Holden claims to have reduced fuel consumption by up to 8.0 per cent. The Evoke now satisfies fleet guidelines by sneaking beneath 200 grams of CO2 per kilometre (8.3 litres per 100km) – better than many smaller cars.

The V6 and V8 engines and transmissions have been ‘calibrated’ for better economy, but are fundamentally unchanged and have no extra power or torque. In fact, the base 3.0-litre actually has less power (5kW fewer, down to 185kW, to be precise).

This means the 3.6-litre V6 still produces 210kW and 350Nm, while the Gen 4 6.0-litre V8 produces 260kW/517Nm in regular guise and 270kW/530Nm in the flagship SS-V. Holden claims fuel consumption is down by between 2.0 per cent and 7.2 per cent.

Powertrain tweaks include adding response to V8 take-off feel, making the clutch ligher and less truck-like on all versions, and axing the dual-exhaust setup from the Evoke.

Their are three chassis tunes, the ‘refined’ FE1 (on the Evopke, Calais, Calais V and the long-wheelbase Caprice and Caprice V), the ‘sporty’ FE2 (SV6, SS and SS-V) and ‘hardcore’ FE3 (SS-V Redline).

Holden has also added GM’s Global A architecture – a data network that links up all the car’s electricals, making it easier to diagnose problems and cheaper to fix them.

A good thing, too, says Holden, since a host of new tech is also fitted to all variants. Even the base version – now called Evoke rather than Omega – can be started remotely from outside the car, and gets an app-enabled MyLink infotainment system and reversing camera on an eight-inch screen.

Apps available include Pandora and Stitcher music streaming, while the system also accommodates voice recognition, Bluetooth streaming and – on higher-spec versions – sat-nav with traffic updates.

The range is also safer, thanks to better side impact performance and pedestrian protection, and new technology such as park assist, lane departure warning, forward collision alert, blind-spot monitoring, reverse traffic alerts and a head-up display has been added.

Holden also claims to have improved every key metric in its own safety tests, improving the safety cage and rollover protection thanks to more high-strength steel (49 per cent in total), updated airbags and a trio of ISOFIX-enabled child-seat latches for when the government eventually legalises them.

Finally, towing capacity is unchanged, starting at 1200kg (can be modded to 1600kg) for the base auto to 2100kg for the V8s.

VF Holden Commodore pricing*
Evoke (a)$34,990 (-$5000)
SV6$35,990 (-$6800)
SS$41,990 (-$5800)
SS-V$45,490 (-$9800)
SS-V Redline$51,490 (-$6300)
Calais (a)$39,990 (-$8300)
Calais V V6 (a)$46,990 (-$9800)
Calais V V8 (a)$52,990 (-$9000)
*Excludes on-road costs. Auto transmission $2000 extra on selected variants.

Evoke sedan and Sportwagon:
3.0L SIDI V6 engine
6 airbags
16” alloy wheels
Dual-zone climate control
Electric Power Steering
Auto Park Assist
Rear view camera
Front and Rear Park Assist
Automatic release electric park brake
Hill Hold Control and Hill Start Assist
Trailer Sway Control
ISOFIX child seat anchorage system
Remote vehicle start (automatic transmission only)
Enhanced multi-function display (one colour) with:
- Vehicle information menu
- Trip information menu
- Fuel economy menu
- Warning/messages
Holden MyLink Infotainment System with 8” high-resolution colour touch-screen display
Embedded Apps including Pandora® and Stitcher SmartRadio
Single CD player with MP3 capability
Full iPod® intergration including Siri Eyes Free and touch screen access for playlists, artist, albums, songs and genres
Enhanced voice recognition: phone calls, radio, navigation, smartphone/iPod®/MP3 or USB audio control
Bluetooth® audio streaming and auxiliary input jackSV6 and SS sedan and Sportwagon highlights over Evoke:
3.6L SIDI V6 engine (SV6) and 6.0-litre Gen IV V8 engine (SS)
Front & rear sports fascia
18” alloy wheels
LED daylight running lamps
Sportec/cloth sports seats
Lip spoiler (sedan only)
Blind Spot Alert (option on Evoke)
Reverse Traffic Alert (option on Evoke)
Sports styling: front and rear sports fascia, side skirts
Chrome exhaust tipSS V sedan and Sportwagon highlights over SS:
6.0-litre Gen IV V8 engine
Leather appointed seats
19” alloy wheels
Sensor key technology with push button start
Front fog lamps
Colour digital instrument display: vehicle information menu, trip information menu, fuel economy menu, warning/messages
Satellite Navigation with full colour mapping with live traffic updates, traffic management control and points of interest
Footwell lamps
Eight Speakers
DVD (playable when stationary)SS V Redline highlights over SS V:
Brembo brakes
Forged 19” alloy wheels
Colour Head-up Display
Forward Collision Alert
Lane Departure Warning
Updated FE3 sports tuned suspension
9-speaker Bose premium audio (sedan only) (option package on SS V with sunroof)
Sunroof (sedan only)Calais highlights over Evoke:
3.6L V6 SIDI engine
Leather appointed seats
18” alloy wheels
Chrome highlights
Sensor key technology with push button start
Colour digital instrument display
LED daylight running lamps
Blind Spot Alert (option on Evoke)
Reverse Traffic Alert (option on Evoke)
Premium styling: front and rear premium fascia, chrome side door accentsCalais V highlights over Calais:
6.0L Gen IV V8 engine (option)
8-way power driver seat
19” alloy wheels
Lane Departure Warning
Forward Collision Alert
Colour Head-up Display
9-speaker Bose premium audio (sedan only)
Satellite navigation with full colour mapping with live traffic updates, traffic management control and points of interest (option on Calais)
Rain sensing wipers
Heated front seats
Sunroof (sedan only)
DVD (playable stationary)

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