Last year was a sad time for Holden, the Australian car brand established in 1856. In October 2017, manufacturing stopped at the Holden Elizabeth plant in South Australia, marking the end of a near 100-year automotive manufacturing industry in the country.
Toyota and Ford had already pulled the plug, leaving all hopes of the Australian car manufacturing industry with Holden. With the Government not intervening, Holden decided to shutter its manufacturing plant.
It also ended the home-built thoroughbred that was the Holden Commodore. A staple of the Holden range since its introduction in 1978. It’s nearly always had roots abroad though, with General Motors being their parent company.
Nowadays the all-new Commodore is strictly an import. Built in Germany under the Opel brand, which has now been sold to the Peugeot Citroen alliance, PSA Group. So in the space of a year, it’s gone from a pure Aussie to a confused French-German mashup.
In its most potent form, it’s also increased in price by $1,000, compared to the outgoing SS-V Redline Commodore. Along the way it’s lost a few cylinders too, going from a V8 to a V6.
Another change is the move from rear wheel drive to all-wheel drive. Oh, and one last thing, there’s a nine-speed auto gearbox instead of a manual.
Basically, everything you ever knew or loved about the fire-breathing Commodores of the past, are gone.
As you’d expect power is down in the newly overseas built Commodore. The old 6.2 liter V8 produced 304kW and 570Nm of torque, the new model has a 3.6 liter V6 with 235kW / 381Nm.
It’s a bit of a neutered beast compared to the Commodores of old. but apparently, the 0-100 km/h sprint is only slowed by a second, taking 6.2.
It’s even tuned in Germany, at the Nurburgring no less. OPC – Opel’s performance division took the lead on development.
In fact, over in Europe, the Insignia as it’s known, clocked a lap time 12 seconds quicker than the old VXR model. That wasn’t even with the big beasty V6 fitted either. The car tested only had a 2.0-litre turbocharged lump in it. This goes to show how much work has been put into developing the chassis and suspension.
What the GSi does share with the Holden VXR is the unique four-wheel drive system, its intelligent enough to send just the right amount of power to each wheel, at just the right time.
It does this via a clever dual clutch torque vectoring system, which will actually brake the inside wheels as you corner to provide a tighter line with more grip.
To aid ride and comfort, GM have fitted the Commodore VXR with adaptive Flexride suspension. There are three modes to choose from; Tour (default), Sport and VXR. These increase the stiffness and responsiveness throughout the steering, engine and suspension.
VXR mode has been hailed as even more aggressive than the most severe setting in the old VFII.
What else do you get?
Whilst it may be lacking in brute force and outright performance, the new Commodore comes with a raft of tech, most of which its competitors don’t have.
This is where that import philosophy pays off. Standard kit inside includes a color heads-up display, an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen system with inbuilt digital radio (which also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), automatic parking and an electric sunroof.
There’s also sports front seats, with a nice white stitched detail and a gorgeous black headlining to make you really feel cocooned.
The rest of the goodies include; full LED Matric headlights, 360-degree cameras, heated and cooled front seats with a massage function, rear heated seats, a BOSE premium stereo system, adaptive cruise control and a wireless phone charger.
Standard safety gear across the Commodore range includes autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, forward collision alert, blind zone alert, rear cross traffic alert and lane departure warning.
One thing that’s more noticeable is the lift back tailgate. There’s no proper saloon version here, a Ute…or a wagon. But the latter may be coming in the next few years. Europe has had VXR wagons before, so expect to see them make the jump down under.
Space inside isn’t at a premium considering it’s a lift back. The whole car is just 50mm shorter than the outgoing model, but it’s bigger than in every other dimension.
Legroom is roughly 2mm greater than the old VF, even though the wheelbase is 89mm shorter. So think of the new Commodore as something akin to a Tardis.
What about the rest of the range?
But it’s not all about the most powerful VXR model. The range starts off with the petrol LT at $33,690 which is cheaper than the last gen Commodore. There is a diesel engine, which will cost you an extra $3,000 but it’s one of the most efficient engine choices in the range, sipping just 5.6 liters per 100km.
If sporting looks are your thing, then the RS is the one to go for. This matches a smart looking body kit with sports seats and larger 18-inch alloys. The RS model starts from $37,290 with a four-cylinder or $40,790 with the larger V6.
Back to the VXR though. Without options, it will set you back a hefty $55,990 plus the ORC’s. Not to keep harking back, but the previous 6.2 liter V8 SS could be yours for just $43,990 in ute form.
As you can see the new VXR Holden Commodore is a bit of a mixed bag. No longer an Aussie, but a rebadged German with less power. It’s a sad replacement for a once proud brand. Holden is now an importer and has a limited say in what they want from each car.
But in a declining marketplace, sedans are no longer profitable, the world (and Australia) are turning to crossovers as their family wagon of choice.
Holden has now gone full circle, from importing rebranded GM’s in the early 90’s to becoming a fully-fledged car company once again, building their own platforms and vehicles, before switching back to badge engineered cars shipped to Australian shores.
There’s still plenty of performance and power to be had in the latest VXR Commodore, but it’s just not what it used to be…that history, character and passion has been wiped away in one fell swoop.
© Karl Adams 2018