New angle on wagons
Holden has moved the goalposts when it comes to the family wagon, writes the carsGuide team
ALOT is riding on the newage Commodore wagon. The VE Sportwagon is a fresh new look but, far more importantly, an all-new direction for GM Holden’s family favourite.
It has to fight against the surging tide of family four-wheel drives and win ordinary Aussies back to a more-traditional local purchase.
It also must add an essential sales boost that has been missing from Team Red since the loss of the VZ Commodore wagon.
But things are very different with the Sportwagon. Fleet companies bought up to 90 per cent of VZ wagons, but Holden believes the future is all about people buying for themselves.
Holden believes drivers want something versatile, not just a family van for kids and dogs.
They are going in hard with the Sportwagon, pegging the price of every model at $1000 above the equivalent VE sedan. It knows there will be some substitution with the sedan, but still expects to sell 800-900 wagons a month.
That means a starting-money Omega Sportwagon comes in at $37,790, down $440 from its VZ Executive equivalent. Among its key features are a multi-function steering wheel, 16-inch alloys, cruise control, trip computer, rear parking radar, a single-CD sound system and automatic headlights.
But bargain buyers looking for an LPG hook-up for a V6 or V8 will have to wait. The Sportwagon’s tail space— already smaller than the VZ wagon — will be compromised by the addition of an LPG tank.
Still, Holden says it is responding to petrol pressures, even if nothing is coming until the next update of the whole VE line.
‘‘Rapidly rising fuel prices are a challenge for all manufacturers. Holden is responding by looking at a range of alternative technologies and fuels to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,’’ GM Holden sales, marketing and aftersales executive director Alan Batey says.
‘‘You can expect to see dedicated LPG, ethanol and diesel engines, more fuel-efficient internal combustion engines and hybrids. We’re not just betting on one type.’’
The VE Sportwagon goes on sale later this month and should give Holden an edge over Ford, which is still working on its wagon plans. Nothing is firm yet on an FG-based successor to the original Territory.
The Sportwagon weighs 91kg more than the VE sedan, but has a good-looking back end that Holden says maintains the car’s 50:50 weight balance.
The wagons have 72 unique body panels and, for safety, retain the front, side and curtain airbags and stability control of the sedan.
All Sportwagons get a 17-inch steel spare as standard. A full-sized wheel is a $250 option.
The wagon sits on a slightly shorter wheelbase than its VZ predecessor (down 24mm) and is shorter overall by 36mm, cutting load space from 1402 litres to 895 litres with the seats up. Fold them flat and the VE takes 2000 litres, still less than the VZ’s 2752 litres.
Holden’s engineering team says the sedan platform was chosen for the wagon because the longwheelbase Statesman would not have increased the load area, just the rear legroom.
The bodyshell is stiffer and stronger, and Holden says it reduces booming and road noise from the tail.
The front multi-link suspension is largely a carryover, apart from a slight increase (1mm) in the stabiliser bar (the sports suspension spring rate is up 23 per cent), but the rear multi-link suspension has an upgraded spring rate and a stabiliser bar that has shed 4mm to a 12mmdiameter.
The rear end has also been tweaked with three cross-axis ball joints (up from two).
Inside, it’s familiar VE in the front, but the rear seat has had the expected alterations, though anyone looking for a seven-seater will have to think about a Captiva.
The 60:40 rear seat can fold nearly flat. There’s a two-position cargo blind, four load hooks on the floor, an extra four hooks, two retractable shopping bag hooks, a storage bin, a 12V power outlet and a lowmounted light in the load area. Rear headroom is unchanged from the sedan’s.
Regarding cost, the Berlina is $38,240 — $5600 below the VZ equivalent — and gets 17-inch alloys, front fog lights, a leatherwrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, six- stack CD sound, poweradjustment for the driver’s seat and dual-zone climate control as extras.
The SV6 starts the sports range at $42,290 with sports suspension, 18-inch alloys, a body kit, dual exhausts and a sports interior.
The SS V8 six-speed manual costs from $46,290, and the six-speed auto $48,290 with a limited-slip differential. The SS V costs from $53,790 as a manual or $55,790 with automatic transmission.
The Calais is $46,790 and gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear selector, and electric seats with leather bolsters.
The Calais V V6 starts at $55,290 for the five-speed automatic and the V8 six-speed automatic is $60,290. It’s equipped with 18-inch alloys, a leather-wrapped sports steering wheel, front and rear park assist, rain-sensing wipers, a rear DVD player, power-adjustable leather seats and the option of the six-speed automatic transmission.