Commodore's last hurrah is the best yet

ROB MAETZIG
Last updated 06:40 12/12/2013
Holden Commodore SV6.
Fairfax NZ

LAST HURRAH: Holden Commodore SV6.

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Everyone knows that the future of the Australian rear-driven big car is limited.

HOLDEN COMMODORE SV6
Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive 3.6-litre DOHC direct- injected V6 petrol engine, with six-speed automatic transmission with Active Select.
Output: 210kW at 6700rpm, 350Nm at 2800rpm, 9.0L/100km, 211g/km CO2.
Chassis: McPherson strut front suspension, independent multi- link setup at the rear, electric power assisted constant ratio rack and pinion steering.
Safety: Seven airbags, ABS brakes, stability control, traction control, reverse traffic alert, blind spot alert.
Dimensions: L 4966mm, W 1898mm, H 1471mm, W-base 2915mm. Boot volume 496mm.
Pricing: $55,490.
Hot: Best Aussie large-car drive yet. Like the interior changes. Looks leaner than before.
Not: Engine noise still an issue.
Verdict: It's pleasing to note the VF has achieved its big challenge - to arrest falling sales.
As the motoring public not only downsizes what it requires for its daily transport, but chooses to go the way of new-age SUVs and crossover vehicles instead of traditional sedans, sales of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon have fallen dramatically.

As a consequence Ford and Holden have announced that their Australian assembly operation will close in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

This means the VF Commodore, which was launched in July, is almost certain to be the last of a model line that has enjoyed a stellar career since its introduction in 1978, to the extent it is now synonymous with motoring in Australasia.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that the VF is a suitable last hurrah, because it is the best Commodore yet built.

And, interestingly, many motorists seem to be recognising this fact because there has been a surge in Commodore sales since the VF was launched.

In fact last month it was the third most popular vehicle in New Zealand behind the Toyota Corolla and the Toyota RAV4, picking up 3 per cent of all new vehicle sales - pretty good for a large rear-driven sedan supposedly on its last legs.

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It's easy to spot the new Commodore, even though its dimensions are roughly the same and there have no changes made to the middle part of its bodyshell. But the front and rear ends have been pared down and softened, with the rear now looking particularly attractive.

This redesign work has also helped in the removal of a considerable amount of mass from the vehicle, which has contributed to weight reductions of up to 43kg depending on the vehicle model, despite the fact VF Commodore now carries a lot more equipment than the VE model it replaced.

This, plus a considerable amount of chassis development work, has resulted in a big reduction in unsprung mass in each corner of the car, but it is torsionally more rigid than before which has resulted in a more refined and secure drive.

The most popular Commodore in New Zealand in recent years has been the SV6, which has always combined slightly sportier styling with a slightly higher level of specification, all in a package that is powered by a 3.6-litre V6 engine.

Holden Commodore SV6It's nice. Although the Commodore remains a large car, the SV6 feels trim and more athletic than before. Helping along in a big way in this regard is the introduction of electric power steer, which not only is noiseless but is able to electronically best suit the characteristics of each Commodore - and in the case of the SV6 it offers a heftier sporty feel.

Suspension is set up to match all of that. The SV6 carries a sporter FE3 suspension which is tuned for reduced vehicle roll and to tie closely with the power steering setting.

Nothing much has been done to the 3.6-litre V6 under this Commodore's bonnet, which means it continues to offer 210 kilowatts of power and 350 newton metres of torque which is sufficient to give the big Holden sound performance, particularly when combined with that much improved ride and handling.

Probably thanks to the lighter weight, this SV6 is quicker than before, with the acceleration time to 100 kmh improved to 6.3 seconds. The fuel consumption has been slightly improved and now sits at an average of 9 litres per 100 kilometres. A major change that I love is a redesign of the interior, so that the power window controls have been shifted from the centre console to the doors, and the replacement of that awful finger-catching handbrake with an electronic park brake.

The car also features General Motors' so-called Global A architecture, which has allowed a wealth of technologies to be introduced, including the electric power steering and Holden's MyLink connectivity system.

When this VF Commodore was launched, the Holden people said its development was all part of a belief that if it can produce a lighter, more agile and more fuel-efficient car, then it will be able to change the public perception of what large cars are all about, and get people back into the model.

Obviously, the belief is now ringing true. Commodore's resurgence in popularity may not last that long, but right now the excellence of the work done by GM-H in facelifting the big sedan for what is obviously one last hurrah, is paying off.

Holden Commodore SV6

- Taranaki Daily News

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