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Holden VF Commodore review | first drive

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    The Holden VF is great, but is a great Commodore good enough these days? Photo Gallery

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Paul Gover road tests and reviews the new Holden VF Commodore with specs, fuel economy and verdict

Holden VF Commodore 4

If the VF is the very last Commodore then it's a great way to sign off. This is truly a Holden hero, with world-class sophistication and refinement.

In many ways, the VF update is more like an all-new car than a mid-life update and facelift of the VE. Close to 70 per cents of the parts on the cars are new - and so is a pricing policy that tears a minimum of $5000, and as much as $9800, from the bottom line.

You only have to drive the cars for a few minutes, as I did in a preview sweep from the new Evoke through to the Calais V, to see and feel and enjoy the changes that reflect the best of Australian engineering and the best of global sourcing.

The VF is only a couple of ticks away from perfect. There is no hybrid, no four-cylinder fuel miser, and the centre part of the car is carried over - including the unloved exterior mirrors - and those are the only things that stop it scoring a five-star Carsguide rating.

But the VF Commodore has booked and paid for a place at this year's Car the Year shootout and should easily reverse the nasty sales slide suffered by the VE over coming months.

Is the VF package enough to save the Commodore? No, but it's more than good enough to put an old-fashioned Aussie six back on the shopping list.

VALUE

The extra value in the VF is not just on the bottom line. Yes, the new Evoke starter car is priced from $34,990 and that makes it $5000 cheaper than the outdoing base model and the cheapest Commodore in more than a decade.

The price cuts - and that's what they are, although Holden is painting it as a benefit from the Australian dollar - slash as deeply as $9800 for the Calais V with V6 engine and headlining SS-V manual.

But there is so much extra equipment in the car, particularly on the technology front, that the benefit to buyers is even bigger.

Compared with the old Omega, the Evoke gets things like auto park assist and an eight-inch colour touch screen to control the infotainment system.

As you move up the line the deals get even better, which helps to position the Commodore as a genuine import fighter and not just an old-fashioned Aussie six.

It's much more likely to be shopped against a Nissan Maxima or Honda Accord now, while the wagons make a better case against the fully-loaded SUVs that are so popular for school runs and shopping.

But there are still some buts. No-one knows how the impending end of the Commodore line in 2016 - despite Holden's claims that it will continue the Commodore badge on the car's foreign-spawned successor - will affect resale values. And that's a very big deal, both for private buyers spending big and for the fleets who have traditionally provided the backbone for Australian car sales.

TECHNOLOGY

Changes to the VF run all the way down to the basic body structure, including a new firewall to cut noise intrusion and new foot pedals for the driver.

The bonnet and bootlid are now stamped from aluminium to cut weight, as the VF drops around 100 kilograms from the VE in the search for better efficiency.

The Evoke package includes auto park assist - for both parallel and right-angle parking - as well as all-round radar and a rear-view camera. Holden claims improved voice recognition, full Bluetooth with iPod integration, Apps including Pandora and SmartRadio, as well as the giant eight-inch touch screen in the dash.

Things get predictably better as you move up the range, with the Calais getting blind-spot warning and the Calais V also has forward collision alert and a coloured heads-up dashboard display.

DESIGN

The changes to the VF bodywork are not huge, but more than enough to mark it out as a new Commodore.

The crew at Fishermans Bend worked hard to make the car look more aggressive but also more grown-up, even smoothing the rear-end look and insetting the rear glass slightly. The new nose is significantly different and works well both on the luxury and sporty SS models.

Things really get good inside, from the new dash to seats which are both more supportive and set lower for a better driving position.

The layout is a huge change and so is the presentation work, including the mix-and-match approach to surfaces and materials. You won't find a boring slab of black plastic in the VF, which has all sorts of contrasting design work from the new door skins - which hold the electric window switches on the drivers' side, up from the console - through to the impressive new centre stack.

SAFETY

The VF is, not surprisingly at all, a five-star winner with ANCAP. But … Americans will get their VF, tizzied and badged as the Commodore SS, with knee airbags for both front seats. Holden says they are not needed here, and that American crash testing usually includes results for un-belted passengers, but you still have to wonder.

On the other side, the Evoke package includes all that parking help, as well as an electric parking brake, hill-start asset and vehicle-sway control, and further up the line the active electronics will make a real difference with the forward collision and lane departure alerts.

And, in a country where far too many people spend their time focused on the speedometer and not looking ahead for potential hazards, the heads-up display is a big advance.

DRIVING

The bottom line on the VF Commodore is impressive. The car is a great drive, from the Evoke right through to the Calais V.

What's most impressive is the refinement and composure. The new Holden hero is easily the best Australian car I have driven, wipes rivals like the Honda Accord, and is more like an Audi or BMW in the way it covers ground with comfort and finesse.

It's not perfect, although even the clunky old V6 engine is now far quieter than in the past. I just wish Holden had been able to junk the undersized rear-view mirrors, as it has even managed to improve visibility by slimming the oversized A-pillars that blighted the VE.

My advance drive of the VF happens at Holden's Lang Lang proving ground, on roads I know well and respect immensely. It might be a closed course but it has the sort of surfaces and corners that show up even the tiniest flaws.

First up, I notice the extra comfort and support in the seat and the lack of engine noise. Even the pedals seem more isolated than before.

The performance is not noticeably better, despite Holden work and the slightly better economy, but I'm not as busy over bumps and the cornering grip is good without throwing me around. The six-speed auto shifts smoothly, although the manual is still a bit of a beast.

At highway speeds the car is really noticeably quieter, and there is plenty to play with in the cabin. I'm past the Gen-Y gadget age, and it's really a job for a full-scale test, but the infotainment package is a clear step up on anything else made here.

And then there are the little things, like cleaning the console by moving the switches to the door - and outside the spill zone alongside the upholders - and adding an electric parking brake.

My bottom line on the VF Commodore is simple: four stars. That's a great result at a time when big Aussie sixes are, like the dinosaurs, heading towards extinction. The score would have been better if Holden had a hybrid or a four-cylinder greenmobile - like Ford's EcoBoost Falcon - and if those mirrors were bigger.

Holden has done a great job on the VF, which thoroughly deserves the tag as Australia's best car.

It's just sad that the goalposts have shifted and Australia's best is not good enough, or satisfying enough shoppers, to resist the rising tide of imports.

VERDICT

The best Holden of all time? You bet.


This reporter is on Twitter: @paulwardgover
 

Holden VF Commodore: the line-up

Evoke

3.0-litre V6 engine
6 airbags
Stability control
16-inch alloy wheels (sedan and wagon only)
Dual-zone air-conditioning
8-inch colour touchscreen
6-speaker sound system with Pandora and Stitcher embedded apps
Electric power steering
Electric park brake
Rear view camera
Front and rear parking sensors
Self parking technology

Calais (same equipment as Evoke, plus…)

3.6-litre V6 engine
Leather seats
8-way electric adjustment on driver’s seat
18-inch alloy wheels
Chrome window trim
Daytime running lights
Colour driver information screen
8-speaker sound system
Keyless entry
Side blind-zone alert
Reverse Traffic Alert
Option: Navigation

Calais V (same equipment as Calais, plus…)

Rain sensing wipers
8-way electric adjustment on passenger seat
19-inch alloy wheels
Heated front seats
Lane departure warning
Forward Collision Alert
Heads-Up Display
Navigation
Bose sound system (sedan only)
Sunroof (sedan only)
Option: V8 engine

SV6 (same equipment as Evoke, plus…)

3.6-litre V6 engine
Front and rear sports bumpers
18-inch alloy wheels
Daytime running lights
Cloth sports seats
Bootlid spoiler
Side blind-zone alert
Reverse Traffic Alert
Options: Navigation, sunroof (sedan only), wing spoiler (sedan only), leather upholstery

SS (same equipment as SV6, plus…)

V8 engine
Options: Navigation, sunroof (sedan only), wing spoiler (sedan only), leather upholstery

SS-V (same equipment as SS, plus…)

Leather upholstery
19-inch alloys wheels
Navigation
Sensor key
Front Fog lamps
Colour driver information screen
8-speaker sound system
Footwell lamps
Options: Wing spoiler (sedan only), sunroof (sedan only), Bose sound system (sedan only)

SS-V Redline (same as SS-V, plus…)

Brembo brakes
19-inch forged alloy wheels
Heads-up display
Forward Collision Alert
Lane Departure Warning
FE3 suspension
Bose sound system (sedan only)
Sunroof (sedan only)
Option: Wing spoiler (sedan only)

 

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 24 comments

  • The headlights are terrible on this vehicle.  I have a Calais V VF and the headlights are no where near as good as the headlights I had on my VE, currently trying to address this with the dealer.  It is disgraceful that they sell me a car with such poor headlighs.  I am very upset that I even traded my Calais V in on this machine.  I am happy about the way it runs.  I also have like a dewdrop thing coming on the windscreen when I drive it at night which flashes on and off, it is very annoying..  Tried to speak to Holden about this problem but got fobbed off. 

    Mumscats of Melbourne Posted on 15 September 2013 8:43pm
  • Ah so the Malidore or is it Commabu or Cruzacomm is now here. So we now will have HSV Daewoo’s ! Did Holden hire the guy that designed AU to do this ? Hate say it but it’s a shocker on the eyes!

    That dash with twin toilet rolls for instruments and Sony wega TV screen in center is absolutely hideous! The base model Evoke has a Barina spark front end with Epica headlights!

    VE is miles in front, they took a few steps backwarrds with VF and sideways too. I’ll have a superseded VE thank you ! And I would like a real hand brake, one you actually pull up manually!

    Mr. Magoo of Sydney Posted on 05 August 2013 11:26pm
  • Ah so the Malidore or is it Commabu or Cruzacomm is now here. So we now will have HSV Daewoo’s ! Did Holden hire the guy that designed AU to do this ? Hate say it but it’s a shocker on the eyes!

    That dash with twin toilet rolls for instruments and Sony wega TV screen in center is absolutely hideous! The base model Evoke has a Barina spark front end with Epica headlights!

    VE is miles in front, they took a few steps backwarrds with VF and sideways too. I’ll have a superseded VE thank you ! And I would like a real hand brake, one you actually pull up manually!

    Mr. Magoo of Sydney Posted on 05 August 2013 11:25pm
  • Reading some of these comments really makes me laugh. We’ve all got opinions about GM v Ford however lets try and be positive. I too was a sceptic of locally built cars, due mainly to having 3 Falcons over 10 years that were (for the most part) pretty dodgy, quality wise. This was a fact I didn’t discover until my wife bought a Subaru which did over 200 thousand kms without a single (even minor) fault.
    I’ve always purchased my cars (Falcons) on price but I’ve grown increasingly disappointed with the brand, especially now that I know they’re pulling up stumps here in Oz.
    I drove the new VF recently in SS guise, and was surprisingly impressed. Can’t say I’m ready to jump ship just yet from Ford, but when I do the VF will be top of my list.

    Just on a side note, the manual gearbox on the demonstrator I drove was nothing short of magnificent.

    Marty of Melbourne Posted on 05 July 2013 2:30pm
  • @Darren H, Means bugger all really as the FG also has a 82kg disadvantage over the lghter VF meaning the tiny extra Torque difference is just wasted anyway

    Wasted Torque! Posted on 03 July 2013 8:57pm
  • Makes me laugh how the knockers bag out a Aussie made car and try to claim Korean,China, Indian or such are better quality. Get real people, most of these cars that are imported from these countries are absolute junk using much older engines and drivetrains left over from other brands with a bit of twiddling and dress up to make it look newer. No one can say the VF is not worthy it is a well refined piece of car that more then matches anything imported. And many other imported cars also have body shapes that well outdate the VE yet you dont guys seem notice. Most brands these days are not completly their own and use multi parts from other manufacturers ad countries.

    Johno Posted on 03 July 2013 8:46pm
  • Chevrolet need all the money they can suck out of our Government to help pay for their multi billion dollar investment in China. Who would have thought an American icon masquerading as an Australian icon built in China.

    Alan of Adelaide Posted on 20 June 2013 1:06pm
  • Well done Holden. I finally got rid of a Korean rice burner…never agian. Cant wait to get an Aussie Holden again.

    dave of brisbane Posted on 11 June 2013 11:04am
  • Sorry, but if you determine that buying a particular vehicle because you’ll use 2 or 3 litres per 100km less, then you should’nt be buying a car.

    Say worst case 3 litres at $1.50. That’s $4.50 more, or 4.5 cents per kilometre.

    If that sort of expenditure is a deal breaker, I suggest you spend your money on a good pair of walking shoes. Or catch a bus…....

    Venomous of Australia Posted on 04 June 2013 11:26pm
  • VF SIDI Commodore DOHC 3,556cc
    210kW at 6,400rpm
    350Nm at 3,200rpm only on PULP 98.

    FG Falcon DOHC I6 3,984cc TI-VCT

    195kW at 6,000rpm
    391Nm at 3,250rpm on just 91 octane ULP.

    however on RON98 PULP the FG 4.0 N/A makes:
    208kW at 6,000rpm
    420Nm at 3,250-4,000rpm

    furthermore 216kW/433Nm when using quality octane boosters that actually increase energy in fuel.
    Moreover the higher the octane the more power the N/A FG will make.
    This is a strange phenomenon, a truly liberal power-plant allowing a driver to run eg: some high octane racing auto fuel.
    eg: estimated 250kW at flywheel with 155 octane racing fuel.

    darren h of Perth WA Posted on 04 June 2013 5:46pm
  • Sorry to say but yes the public have spoken, this car is going the way of the Do Do. It may drive well but how well will it go in five years time. Some older Aussie mates who bought the big Aussie sixes are now over all of the issues and reliability problems that crop up after only two years or so. They now swear by Jap and Korean cars for years of trouble free motoring. Who cares how a car takes corners at speed when you have bills to pay and a family to look after? Sorry but if these cars were more reliable people would still buy them. I will stick to my Korean SUV with its economical diesel engine and five year warranty, three years on and not a single problem.

    Brendon of Sydney Posted on 03 June 2013 10:14pm
  • Bigger mirrors for 4.5 or 5 stars he says.  Bit pathetic!

     

    Steve of nt Posted on 03 June 2013 9:00pm
  • Key word there is “Rumour”.  I doubt that GM would change the “Holden” brand to Chevrolet.  It would be easier to leave it as it is - and there would very likely be a HUGE consumer backlash - something that Holden does not need.

    Doubt it Posted on 03 June 2013 6:13pm
  • looks like the best car from holden ever.but looks like theirs are few rednecks on these comments who don’t know the different between chocolate and s**t…get use to it.a mate just been to USA .and the rumours out their is after the ten years contract finish with the Australian government…GM will not renew holden contract.they are going to change the named to CHEVY.just like around the world.a chevy/Daewoo partnership in Australia.you’s talked about jap cars are better.but you fine most cars company in the world get theirs parts from korea or india..work that out rednecks.you dump ass..

    matt goss of brisbane Posted on 03 June 2013 12:36pm
  • “Is the VF package good enough to save the Commodore? No..”
    Who are you to decide on that one Mr Glover?
    Even Clarkson wouldnt come out with something like that - how could you possibly know? 
    Let the Australian motoring public decide on that one.
    It looks pretty good to me.

    Dave of Canberra Posted on 02 June 2013 7:26am
  • why are Holdens looking more & more like Daewoo’s ? I wonder!
    People save yourself some money The Cruz is just a Daewoo & the front & back of this Commodore ? looks very Korean.

    Tigger of Perth Posted on 31 May 2013 1:39pm
  • Can the daytime running lights be disabled?  Shocking bit of fashion that hopefully won’t be around too long.

    Philip of Traralgon Posted on 31 May 2013 12:36pm
  • @ “the viking” - how much more advanced do these engines need to be? Even the base model has VVT on inlet and exhaust plus direct injection. No other mass market car can match that. What’s more, the Evoke’s 185kW V6 uses less fuel than a 4 cylinder Mazda SP 25.

    MotorMouth of Sydney Posted on 31 May 2013 12:43am
  • What sort of fuel consumption do people expect??? I have a 2006 VE Berlina 3.6 and constantly get 8.5l/100k on trips and 10l/100k for mixed urban country driving!!

    Wayne Sands of Cargo Posted on 30 May 2013 6:38pm
  • same old style car with the same old engines with a lot off gadges to attract buyers,come on holden, we need a new style car with advance engines, i would like to see a diesel motor,ute buyers would love them.Thats why i buy japanese cars.

    the viking of adelaide Posted on 30 May 2013 4:04pm
  • looked at a Cruze SRi?  Cheap for what you get, and if fuel consumption is the problem/main factor, it’d be a very viable alternative.

    joe Posted on 30 May 2013 2:29pm
  • Good review. The goal posts haven’t shifted, Australians have just become less intelligent. How can someone justify buying an SUV over something like the VF?  Most SUV’s are heavier, have poor dynamics and are no more economical to own at best. Maybe the perception that a big SUV is safer than a Commodore or Falcon should be shot down with a few good articles from journos like yourself. Let people know that an SUV is many more times likely to experience a catastrophic rollover than a Commodore sedan or wagon. Once these people are educated, they may decide to test drive an Aussie built car. Once they do, they will realize why Commodore was our best selling car for over a decade. The VF is truly a world class car.

    Jeda of Melbourne Posted on 30 May 2013 1:10pm
  • yes, I think fuel consumption is going to be the problem. Rightly or wrongly many people expect a lot better than a decade ago, even if that involves the complexity/expense of diesel and/or turbocharging to achieve.
    8.3 is the same official fuel consumption as my 11 year of Toyota Avalon (and similar time to 100 km also) and look how many that sold. I would like to buy a replacement made in Australia and of a similar size, but can’t find anything that meets my (perhaps ridiculous but shared by many) fuel consumption wants. Otherwise, looks like a nice car

    looking to upgrade of adelaide Posted on 30 May 2013 12:53pm
  • Hey, Paul, after all the review you have yet to tell us readers the car’s use of fuel consumption!! How strange!!

    Zes of Balwyn North Posted on 30 May 2013 4:14am
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