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Used car review Holden Commodore VX/VX II 2000-2002

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Graham 'Smithy' Smith reviews the used Holden Commodore VX/VX II 2000-2002, its fine points, its flaws and what to watch for when you are buying it.

When you’re on a good thing make it even better. That seemed to be Holden’s philosophy when it set about building on the success of the top-selling VT Commodore. The result was the VX, an even more refined and equipped update of the VT that continued Holden on its winning ways.

The VT may seem like an overnight success, but it took nearly 10 years to happen. After a decade in which the Commodore was largely on the nose with car buyers for a variety of reasons Holden began the long road back in 1988 with the new generation VN. Progress was made with each model after the VN, but it was the VT that really broke through. The VX simply built on that success.

Holden’s now retired chairman Peter Hanenberger summed up the VX perfectly when he said: “Our challenge was to take an extremely successful design and freshen it while retaining its huge appeal.”

MODEL WATCH

Although Holden’s styling boss Mike Simcoe is rightly proud of the new Monaro, he is even more proud of the VT Commodore that preceded the Monaro.

The VT had a purity of style that is rare. Simply it looks good from all angles, and the body looks as if it’s been shrink wrapped over the wheels which gives it a strong, sporty on-road stance.

When it came to the VX the changes were always going to be minimal. They had to be enough to distinguish it from its predecessor, but not radical enough to spoil its appeal. The major changes were to the headlamps, rear panel treatments, bumpers and colours.

Changes under the skin were aimed at refining the VT package, with changes to the driveline, electronics, suspension and NVH that made the top-selling Holden smoother, more responsive, more economical and quieter.

A new propshaft with dual rubber couplings addressed the drive line harshness that was a regular complaint from owners almost from the beginning. The new drive shaft significantly reduced driveline vibration and shudder on takeoff.

There was a small gain in power from the 3.8-litre ECOTEC V6, up 5 kW to 152 kW at 5200 rpm, thanks to a new intake manifold that improved flow and volumetric efficiency. Fuel consumption was also up, between three and four per cent.

The four-speed auto was recalibrated for improved response and softer downshifts, and there was a revised torque converter clutch for better drivability.

The 171 kW supercharged V6 was unchanged, but was made available to Executive and Acclaim buyers.

A higher flow intake manifold and revised fuel injectors helped boost the power of the 5.7-litre Gen III V8 5 kW to a new maximum of 225 kW.

Meanwhile revisions were made to the suspension to soften the steering response, which had been judged too sharp on the VT. The aim was to induce understeer and the changes included raising the front lower control arm pivot, the stabiliser to strut link became a ball joint and the steering was recalibrated.

Additional foam in the body pillars cut road noise travelling up the body while a raft of changes in the rear reduced airborne road noise.

Safety was also enhanced through new body side structures that improved protection for the head, neck and chest in side crashes, identified as the major cause of serious injuries since the introduction of air bags reduced injuries sustained in frontal crashes.

Further refinements were made to the VX in the Series II that hit the roads in 2001. Those changes mostly targeted the Commodore’s handling which was still thought to be too sharp even after the revisions made to the front suspension of the VX Series I.

Where the front suspension was changed in the Series I, this time it was the rear-end’s turn to undergo surgery, adding a pair of extra links to the Commodore’s IRS to better control toe change. That meant more stability and predictability, which meant in real terms that the VX II was easier to place on the road and would maintain a set course more precisely.

All models were fitted with an alarm, and there were new stalk controls for turn signals, wipers and cruise control. Berlinas now boasted twilight sentinel to turn headlamps on and off automatically.

ON THE LOT

The VX was a most popular new car, and that popularity has passed across to the used car market where it is now in good demand. That means good resale values for those trying to sell them and higher prices for those in the market to buy.

Series I Executives are making between $22,000 and $24,000, add $1000 for a wagon. The better equipped Acclaims make $23,000 to $25,000, again add $1000 for a wagon. Berlinas go for $30,000 to $32,000, Calais for $33,000 to $36,000, add $1000 for the supercharged V6. Sporty S packs make $30,000 to $31,000, the hot and very popular SS V8 $36,000 to $37,000.

The changes made in the Series II make it a worthwhile purchase if you can afford the extra ask. Execs are making $28,000 to $29,000, Acclaims $1000 more. Berlinas make $35,000 to $38,000, Calais $40,000 to $42,000. S packs are moving for $33,500 to $35,000, while the SS is commanding $40,000 to $42,000.

IN THE SHOP

The Commodore’s V6 engine is pretty robust and gives little serious trouble. Look for oil leaks from the rear main seal and the front cover seal.

The most contentious issue with the VX relates to the Gen III V8 and its oil consumption problem. Holden contends that the number of problem engines is relatively low, around two per cent of V8s sold, but it is of concern to anyone thinking of buying a V8.

The good news is that not all engines are affected, it seems it is affected by the run in and the oil used during the run-in period, and the other good news is that the fix Holden released – new pistons with reduced piston to bore clearance – works. The fix was implemented in production with the release of VY, but was used before that on engines that needed rebuilding.

Commodores up to and including VX Series I with IRS have a terrible habit of eating their rear tyres, but the introduction of the so-called ‘Control Link’ IRS with VX II pretty much solved that problem, which makes the Series II a better choice if you can afford the few extra bucks.

Other than that the VX is relatively trouble free with no widespread serious problems.

OWNERS’ VIEWS

Wayne Brown owns a 2001 VX Series I S, with the supercharged V6 engine. It’s now done 61,000 km and Wayne says he’s generally happy with it, although he rates the service costs expensive. His main beef is with the trip computer, which doesn’t accurately show distance to empty, and the fuel consumption of the s/c engine when towing.

Trevor Larkey has owned 38 cars over 40 years and with a couple of exceptions he rates the VX II the best car he’s ever owned. He waited until the VX II to solve the rear tyre wear problem and hoped the air-conditioning woes have been solved … so far so good. It has proved to be comfortable, economical and at less than $100 to service at the dealer it’s cheap in this area too. With 23,000 km on the clock the only problems so far have been boot catch adjustment, air leakage around the balance weights on the alloys and the Holden dealer persistently over-filling with oil at each service. He would recommend this model to anyone and with 2-3 years depreciation the VX II would be excellent buying.

LOOK FOR

• improved smoothness thanks mainly to new drive shaft

• reduced road noise through more sound deadening material

• slightly more power and lower fuel consumption from V6

• check oil consumption of Gen III V8

• more precise handling with new IRS in Series II

• revised IRS also improves rear tyre wear problem that affected previous models.

• good resale value

RIVALS

• AU II Falcon/Fairmont – 2000-2001 – $15,000-$36,000

• Toyota Avalon Conquest/Grande – 2000-2001 – $20,000-$34,000

• Mitsubishi Magna/Verada – 2000-2001 – $19,000-$37,500

 

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 16 comments

  • I owned a VT Commodore Executive straight from the dealership, first owner. It was a LS1 V8. Beautiful car to drive but build quality was pretty poor. Had to replace rubber bushes at front end after 80,000kms, Map pockets at back had come off, LS1 motor used about 1.5L of oil every 6,000kms (this was at 80,000km mark), power steering pump went after 70,000kms, air con compressor had leak at 90,000kms, diff had bearing issue that needed replacing but wasn't picked up until after warranty. Nice car to drive but would I buy any Holden again. Definitely not, and this is why Holden are having trouble selling cars like Fords. I now have a Hyundai Lantra 1999 model. Haven't had to replace anything and it has just clicked over 100,000kms.

    Troy of Sydney Posted on 04 October 2013 12:16am
  • Amazing that Seymour Donahue would write a load of rubbish about the VX and VE , It seems all the car magazines , and other owners are wrong , and he is right ! .....Very doubtfull about his comments , I would suggest he is a Ford owner with that sort of bias .

    sean roberts of perth Posted on 24 April 2013 6:48pm
  • I have a 2001 vx series 2 Commodore , and it has proved to be totally reliable , all I have spent in 175,000 klms is for tyres , brake pads , one set of shocks , 3 x accesory belts , 1 x battery , and 1 alternator , and the usual servicing costs , I service the car every 5000klms and use Shell Helix synthetic oil 10w-40 , I am happy with this car , I would buy another Commodore , but not until this wears out ....too reliable !!!!!!

    sean roberts of perth Posted on 27 March 2013 3:01pm
  • I have owned my 2001 series one from new, it is serviced religiously per booklet. Have replaced rear shockies and an airconditioner - other than that it has been problem free. The car has just had its 270k service, still drives like new. On a recent trip did 911kms (was on empty) it would only take 69lt of 91 RON - fuel gauge is not accurate. I have heard of problems with this model none of which have I experienced. Have never had a problem with uneven wear of rear tyres. 33 years of driving, this is by far the most reliable vehicle I have ever owned - better economy cruising than some 4 cylinder vehicles if you know how to drive it.

    Chris of Townsville Posted on 10 November 2012 10:15pm
  • Yeah..........Whatever,these heaps are one of the most problem prone crates of sh.t on the roads! I guess alot of us aussies just cant see beyond the old lion badge,we put up with these second rate clunkers because our local car makers produce this crap and we have no choice as far as holden and ford are concerned! Have had 1 vx and 1 ve and both were problem prone pigs!!!!!!

    Seymour Donahue of Perth Posted on 10 November 2012 2:32am
  • Have had my Holden Calais 2002 series 2 since dec 2004, 207,000km absolutely live it the most comfortable, beautiful to drive and economical vehicle I have ever driven.......nearly time to sell, will be very sad to get rid of :(

    Tjay of Port Augusta SA Posted on 04 October 2012 12:04am
  • Mine has been in the family since new. I inherited it. 2001 VX Berlina. 1500000ks and still going strong.

    Ed Willis of Sydney Posted on 05 September 2012 1:52pm
  • That was just bloody remarkable how the car still lives on

    nultneuccerma Posted on 10 August 2012 1:40am
  • We are looking at a 2002 VX2 Calais genuine 75,000km and like new in all respects. Three months warranty. RAA general valuation $8000, dealer asking $11500 and won't budge, Our trade 98 T Berlina 192,00km dual fuel well maintained all systems A1. Dealer offers $2500. Any one have a comment?

    Graham Sampson of Adelaide Posted on 25 April 2012 5:33pm
  • Our 2001 VX SS Commodore has let us down a couple of times of late. Failing to keep running after starting. " Serv Error" appears in the odometer display area in dash gauges. It would fire 30 times in a row, run for 1 second & then cut out. Someone suggested that the key might need replacing, that the engine immobilizer was cutting the ignition after one second as it was not identifying the old key correctly. Any advice would be appreciated regards TC

    Trent Cook of Sunshine Coast QLD Posted on 21 March 2012 10:41pm
  • Looking for one right now, problem is the clowns asking 7000 bucks upward for a car with 200000km+... Private sellers want their money back but dealers are the worst ATM. No warranty and 7000K? This is the year of the twentyK car and Peeps need to wake up to this and price accordingly.

    von boticus Posted on 17 March 2012 12:57pm
  • We just bought a 2001 VX II Commodore sedan out of a car yard for $3700.It has a Extreme sticker above the series II badge on the boot lid.Is this ligitimate?We drove it home 600km and it ran beautifully,quiet,smooth and very good on fuel.Can anyone answer my question? It does require new paint but that's all so far.

    Den Miles of Cue,Western Australia Posted on 08 March 2012 6:43pm
  • We just bought one today a 6 speed generation 3 the book says commodore calais from what we have gathered it seems as though we did alright 117000 on the clock he had changed the diff ratios and upgraded suspension, october 2002 for $9400 cash the v8 sounds and goes strong, really happy can any one give us a clue. Which are the best size wheels as the 5 inch rims look a bit cheap and i am sure it could have bigger ones.

    simon lavelle of lithgow Posted on 31 January 2012 11:01pm
  • I have one of the last VX Series 2 built before the VY was released in 2002, and despite being our family car for its whole life, and even forgetting a few services, it has just clocked 200,000km's and still drives perfectly. It starts smoothly every time (which I notice a friend who has an AU II Falcon does not always get) and is mechanically sound. I had it converted to LPG just over 12 months ago, and expected a drop in performance, and have to admit the only time I notice any difference is when overtaking, but that is fixed easily by switching back to petrol a few seconds before. It now only costs me $30 to fill with LPG which gets me 400kms a tank. I have looked around a few times to update, but have decided to run it in to the ground, which may be in a very long time judging by its current performance.

    stephen from victoria Posted on 23 September 2011 1:17pm
  • I agree i bought a s series 11 and except for the poor finish i will never go back to ford i got mine at a auction for 5000 auto the lot and it runs rings around any other car i have bought in the past

    adrian of melbourne Posted on 21 July 2010 4:47pm
  • I purchased a VX seriesII wagon in 2004 with 30,000kms on it.  It now has 135,000kms on it and has been totally trouble free.
    I got 120,000kms out of the original set of tyres and front disc pads.
    I grew up on Torana XU1’s and Torana SLR 5000’s, so I like a sporty handling car with a good amount of torque on tap.
    I never thought I would say this about a station wagon, but for what it is, a family vehicle, it handles great, has plenty of torque, very good fuel economy and just is a great all round vehicle to own and drive.
    For me it is still the best wagon on the road today and the best family vehicle holden have produced since the EH.

    Geoff Keech Posted on 30 June 2009 12:58pm
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