2013 Holden VF Commodore review

Holden is looking to turn around the downward trend in Commodore sales with the VF – mounting a three-pronged attack based around significant price cuts, a big range of additional equipment and a renewed export drive.

Annual sales of the Commodore have been in steady decline since their peak of nearly 95,000 in 1998 with the 2012 tally of around 30,500 being the lowest ever. While the car’s age undoubtedly contributed to this number the overriding reason has the trend away from large passenger cars towards both medium SUVs and smaller cars.

The VF Commodore is the fifteenth model since it launched with the VB in 1978. It’s been a long time coming as the VE series it has been on sale since 2006. The big delay largely due to the near bankruptcy of GM as a result of the GFC.

VALUE

As we’ve reported previously, the VF Commodore gets price cuts ranging from $5000 from the VE Omega to the Evoke up to $10,000 on the two Caprice models.

With such dramatic price reductions coupled with leading-edge technology we wouldn’t be at all surprised if many buyers who have been swept to the SUV trend will be having second thoughts.

DESIGN

There are many external styling changes to the VF to distinguish it from its predecessor, with a new front and rear that give it a stockier look partly because the bonnet has been raised to incorporate new pedestrian safety features.

The changes to the interior give the new Commodore a fresher, more contemporary look. The centrepiece is the 8-inch colour touchscreen with large, well-spaced buttons and knobs that displays the vast array of features available through the Holden MyLink infotainment system. We will take a closer look at this, along with a plethora of other new features designed to make motoring not only safer but also more entertaining, in a separate story.

MODELS

VF Commodore model names have been tweaked with both the previous entry level Omega and the second tier Berlina both gone – the latter after nearly 30 years in the range – and replaced by a single model called Evoke designed to bridge the gap between fleet and private buyers and to generate a more upmarket image.

Evoke uses a 3.0-litre SIDI V6 engine. To reduce fuel use and exhaust emissions power is marginally down (from 190 to 185 kW compared to the VE series). This is more than counteracted by an overall weigh reduction of almost 40 kg in the Commodore, mainly through an aluminium bonnet and boot lid. Performance isn’t affected while fuel consumption is just 8.3 litres per hundred kilometres, down from the 8.9 litres in the equivalent 2012 VE Series II.

Other model names are unchanged, with the SV6, Calais, and Calais V each having the 3.6-litre SIDI V6. The SS, SS V, SS V Redline all use the 6.0-litre Gen IV V8, which is optional on the Calais V. All models offer the choice between sedan and Sportwagon.

The long wheelbase Caprice sedan, now designated WN, comes with either a 3.6-litre LPG-fuelled engine in the standard model or 6.0-litre petrol V8 in the Caprice V. Transmission options are unchanged with six-speed automatic in all models and six-speed manuals in the sportier variants.

Although it’s built on the same platform as the outgoing VE, around 60 per cent of chassis components have been either modified or replaced.

DRIVING

The two-day launch of the VF Commodore included a 500-kilometre drive program from Canberra south to the Snowy Mountains and back.

It’s hardly surprising given the length of time that the Commodore has been around, but there’s something just right about settling into these big Aussie cars. Something that will really be missed if they were to disappear from the scene forever...

Manoeuvring the new VF out of the congested underground car park the first thing you notice is the new electric power steering (EPS) that gives a noticeable improvement in sharpness.

Out onto the open road the interior is noticeably quieter than before and there’s a real feeling of luxury unlike any you have felt car in this price range. The route chosen for the drive program was dominated by long straights designed to let the VF stretch its legs as we rotated through the different models.

Climbing into the foothills of the Snowys we came away most impressed. It’s well-balanced and courtesy of the weight loss and lighter steering felt anything like a large family car.

VERDICT

Quite simply, there has never been a better value package than this new Aussie family car.

2014 Holden VF Commodore and WN Caprice range:
Evoke 3.0-litre V6 four-door sedan: $34,990 (automatic)
SV6 3.6-litre V6 four-door sedan: $35,990 (manual), $38,190 (automatic)
SS 6.0-litre V8 four-door sedan: $41,990 (manual), $44,190 (automatic)
SS-V 6.0-litre V8 four-door sedan: $45,490 (manual), $47,690 (automatic)
SS-V Redline 6.0-litre V8 four-door sedan: $51,490 (manual), $53,690 (automatic)
Calais 3.6-litre V6 four-door sedan: $39,990 (automatic)
Calais V 3.6-litre V6 four-door sedan: $46,990 (automatic)
Calais V 6.0-litre V8 four-door sedan: $52,990 (automatic)

Evoke Sportwagon 3.0-litre V6 five-door wagon: $36,990 (automatic)
SV6 Sportwagon 3.6-litre V6 five-door wagon: $40,190 (automatic)
SS Sportwagon 6.0-litre V8 five-door wagon: $46,190 (automatic)
SS-V Sportwagon 6.0-litre V8 five-door wagon: $49,690 (automatic)
SS-V Redline Sportwagon 6.0-litre V8 five-door wagon: $55,690 (automatic)
Calais Sportwagon 3.6-litre V6 five-door wagon: $41,990 (automatic)
Calais V Sportwagon 3.6-litre V6 five-door wagon: $48,990 (automatic)
Calais V Sportwagon 6.0-litre V8 five-door wagon: $54,990 (automatic)

Caprice 3.6-litre LPG V6 four-door sedan: $54,490 (automatic)
Caprice V Series 6.0-litre V8 four-door sedan: $59,990 (automatic)

SPECIFICATIONS

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