Holden's new wagon puts pleasure ahead of business.
Baby boomers, rejoice! Part of your childhood — motoring holidays to beachside campsites in summer and being driven to footy training with your mates on Saturday mornings — has returned.
This time, however, you'll be the driver and not the kid on the back seat.
Holden is luring buyers back to the humble station wagon with an enticing offering.
Its stunning Sportwagon vigorously shakes off the bland, boxy look of old — even that of last year's Holden wagon, in fact — replacing it with a sexy European-styled family-leisure machine that mixes easily with Audi, Volvo and BMW rivals.
Based on the VE Commodore, the Sportwagon is 129mm shorter than last year's VZ Commodore wagon length and sits on a 24mm shorter wheelbase. Yet it has a generous cargo area that, while down on the VZ, is claimed to rival the Toyota Land Cruiser for length.
There are seven models in the Sportwagon line up and all share model names, drivetrains, interior design and features with the sedan.
All get rear park sensors as standard, on top of electronic stability control, six airbags, alloy wheels and airconditioning.
Additional features over the sedan include a two-position cargo blind, four load floor hooks, an extra four hooks, two retractable shopping bag hooks, a storage bin, a 12v power outlet and a low-mounted light for the load area.
The unusual forward-hinge tailgate gives easier loading than the traditional upright door and needs less of an arc to open, meaning access is available in confined spaces.
Despite the extra sheet metal and expanded feature list, the Sportwagon will cost only $1000 more than the sedan when it hits showrooms later this month.
Prices start at $37,490 for the Omega with a four-speed automatic gearbox and 180kW V6 engine that is rated at 11.1 litres/100km.
The V8 with six-speed auto claims 13.8 l/100km, more frugal than its six-speed auto at 14.4 l/100km.
Pricing (see sidebar) is very keen. The Berlina is $5600 cheaper than last year's model despite a big jump in specifications and a much prettier look. The base model Omega, destined for fleets, is $440 cheaper.
The spare wheel is a temporary unit with buyers asked for an additional $250 to get a full-size spare.
Holden believes the wagon will greatly boost sales, though won't talk volume because it regards this car as an “unknown” quantity.
Holden marketing director Philip Brook said: “We're moving in unchartered territory.”
“Fleets are very excited about the Sportwagon,” he said.
“We want to maintain fleets (90 per cent of the VZ wagon went to fleets) but add private buyers. We expect a lot of first-time wagon buyers, many trading from SUVs and sedans, and predominantly women owners because of the car's family-friendly versatility and its style.”
The Sportwagon added $110 million to the investment made in the VE Commodore sedan, though is bundled within the VE's $1 billion budget.
It also added 513,500km to the testing and created about 75 body parts that differ from the sedan.
The rear suspension gets increased spring rates to compensate for the wagon's extra weight — up 91kg on the VZ — and cargo duties. Both standard and sport suspension set-ups are available.
HOLDEN COMMODORE SPORTWAGON
Price: from $37,790
Engines (3): 3.6-litre, V6; 3.6-litre V6 variable-valve timing; 6-litre V8
Power: 180kW; 195kW; 270kW
Torque: 330Nm; 340Nm; 530Nm
Fuel tank: 73 litres
Economy (official): 11.1-14.4 litres/100km
Greenhouse: 261-343g/km (Corolla: 175g/km)
Transmission: 4-speed auto; 5-speed auto; 6-speed manual; 6-speed auto; rear drive
Brakes: 4-wheel discs, ESC, ABS, EBD
Suspension: Front _ MacPherson strut, direct-acting stabiliser bar; Rear _ multi-links, coils
Wheels: 16-inch alloy (Omega); 17-inch alloy (Berlina, Calais); 18-inch alloy (SV6, SS, Calais V); 19-inch alloy (SS-V); space-saver spare
Cargo capacity: 895-2000 litres
Omega _ $37,790
Berlina _ $38,240
SV6 _ $42,290
SS V8 man _ $46,290
SS V8 auto _ $48,290
SSV man _ $53,790
SSV auto _ $55,790
Calais _ $46,790
Calais V V6 _ $55,290
Calais V V8 _ $60,290