A NEW DAWN

TESTED: HOLDEN’S IM­PORTED COM­MODORE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - JOSHUA DOWL­ING

Anew Holden Com­modore ar­rives less fre­quently than a so­lar eclipse. The lat­est, only the fifth gen­er­a­tion in 40 years, is the first com­pletely new model in more than a decade. Adding to the sus­pense for car en­thu­si­asts and fleet man­agers, this Com­modore is like no other. It’s im­ported from Ger­many, smaller than the home­grown model it re­places, and has four-cylin­der petrol or diesel power, or V6 all­wheel drive.

This is the first time Holden has been with­out a V8 since 1968. The Chevro­let Ca­maro ar­rives in se­lected Holden deal­ers later this year, and the Corvette joins it in 2020.

The Holden heart­land now has to con­tem­plate the Com­modore join­ing the likes of Toy­ota Camry, Mazda6, Hyundai Sonata and Ford Mon­deo, all pre­vi­ously dis­missed as ri­vals. The start­ing price is sharper than the pre­vi­ous Com­modore but dearer than most of its new com­peti­tors.

As we have re­ported pre­vi­ously, this is the car Holden would have built had it con­tin­ued lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing, so V8 diehards would be in mourn­ing ei­ther way.

Times have changed and so too have buyer tastes. V8s have rep­re­sented more than onethird of Com­modore sales over the life of the car but Aus­tralians weren’t buy­ing enough to sus­tain a lo­cal vari­ant, let alone a fac­tory.

This new Com­modore is sold else­where as a Buick, an Opel and a Vaux­hall. Holden en­gi­neers have been all over it, fine-tun­ing the steer­ing, sus­pen­sion and trans­mis­sion cal­i­bra­tions over the past 18 months. A V6 was squeezed un­der the bon­net just for Aus­tralia but there’s no room — en­gi­neer­ing-wise, not in terms of phys­i­cal space — for twin tur­bos.

This is the first Com­modore with­out the op­tion of a man­ual trans­mis­sion; in­stead there is a nine-speed auto for the petrol en­gines and an eight-speed auto for the diesel.

It’s the most hi-tech Holden to wear a Com­modore badge.

More ex­pen­sive mod­els come with heated and cooled front seats with mas­sage func­tion, radar cruise con­trol, blind zone warn­ing, rear cross traf­fic alert, 360-de­gree cam­era, wire­less phone charg­ing and in­tel­li­gent multi-LED high-beams that don’t daz­zle on­com­ing cars while still il­lu­mi­nat­ing the road around them.

Most ver­sions have just a space-saver spare (fit­ted lo­cally rather than ex-fac­tory) and the flag­ship comes with an in­fla­tion kit. Ford, Subaru, Toy­ota, Hyundai and VW have full-size spares on cer­tain mod­els.

Ser­vice in­ter­vals are 12 months/12,000km, which means more fre­quent ser­vic­ing for driv­ers who do big dis­tances; the pre­vi­ous in­ter­val was nine months/15,000km.

ON THE ROAD

First im­pres­sion at the wheel? The dash looks like an As­tra. It’s a pleas­ing de­sign, it just doesn’t look as if you’re in a pre­mium in­te­rior.

Only the most ex­pen­sive Com­modores get the dig­i­tal in­stru­ment dis­play; lesser mod­els get ana­log di­als and a small dig­i­tal screen that will look fa­mil­iar to Cruze and As­tra driv­ers.

Holden’s tape mea­sure shows that while the ex­te­rior di­men­sions are smaller, the new

Com­modore is al­most as roomy as be­fore. Based on what we’ve seen, at the very least the Camry and VW Pas­sat are roomier.

Key dif­fer­ences: the roofline is lower, so taller driv­ers will need to stoop or bang their heads, and it has a no­tice­ably nar­rower “cou­ple dis­tance” — the driver and front pas­sen­ger sit closer to­gether.

The rear seat has two Isofix child seat mount­ing points; when they’re not in use it’s more suit­able for two adults rather than three.

The boot is a frac­tion smaller than be­fore but has the con­ve­nience of a hatch­back and split­fold­ing rear seats, so larger loads fit more eas­ily. How­ever the boot is not very deep.

Holden says the Com­modore can af­ford to be smaller be­cause the sedan is no longer tasked with do­ing ev­ery­thing. To­day, two-car house­holds might also have a hatch­back, an SUV or a ute.

A wel­come Com­modore trait that has been re­tained: plenty of length and height ad­just­ment for the driver’s seat. Other good news: Holden has done an ad­mirable job of tun­ing the Com­modore to lo­cal con­di­tions.

To il­lus­trate the point, Holden had me­dia also sam­ple the Com­modore with Ger­man sus­pen­sion. Sur­prise, sur­prise, the Aussie-tune was su­pe­rior, set­tling quickly af­ter big bumps.

The steer­ing is di­rect and the V6 all-wheel drive has more cor­ner­ing grip than most buy­ers will ever ex­plore, let alone need.

Straight-line per­for­mance will be met with dis­be­lief by some of the Holden heart­land.

Us­ing our GPS tim­ing equip­ment in­side Holden’s test track. the turbo front-driver with nine-speed auto is, as­ton­ish­ingly, half a sec­ond quicker to 100km/h than the old Com­modore SV6 — 6.7 sec­onds ver­sus 7.2.

The V6 AWD with nine-speed auto is just over a sec­ond slower than the pre­vi­ous V8 (6.2 ver­sus 5.1 sec­onds). The Euro­pean turbo four AWD would be al­most as quick.

It may like a drink and in­sist on pre­mium un­leaded but I pre­fer the turbo petrol, which is more re­spon­sive on the move.

The V6 AWD sounds coarse and is al­most 200kg heaver than the petrol four.

The turbo diesel trails the others by some mar­gin but it’s no slouch — it’s more than a sec­ond quicker to the speed limit than the new Toy­ota Camry four (8.8 secs ver­sus 10.1).

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