Holden Commodore RS-V
Here’s something that hardcore Aussie Commodore fans aren’t going to like – the new European-built Opel Insignia-based ZB Commodore is a far, far better car than the Australian-built car it replaces. Right, the steadfast Commodore crowd have thrown this magazine away in disgust now, so we can get down to exactly why the ZB Commodore is so convincingly good. Let’s start with looks – the sleek and sexy RS-V Sportwagon you see here is easily the classiest Commodore ever. In my opinion. Looks are very subjective, however, and the argument can easily be made that not enough has really been done to make it look different to the Insignia. That is all part of the massive identity crisis that Holden is currently going through as it juggles a range packed full of cars from different sources, with different design languages, and tries to convince us they are all one family. Let’s start with the drivetrain. Under the bonnet the ZB’S revised 3.6-litre V6 is a superbly responsive thing that sounds great too, with a surprisingly belligerent roar when prodded along. The nine-speed transmission is a wonderfully slick and refined thing, but the undisputed star of the drivetrain is the thoroughly excellent AWD system, particularly the fantastic Twinster torque vectoring rear differential. The Twinster system – supplied by UK manufacturer GKN – uses two clutches to distribute torque between the front and rear axle and between the two rear wheels, rather than planetary gears, or a brakebased electronic system and it transforms the Commodore into a sure-footed, sharp handling delight that simply belts into and out of corners with remarkable composure. Add to this impressive handling prowess a great ride and some nicely sharp steering and you easily have the most engagingly capable Commodore ever. But it doesn’t do big, lurid RWD skids, so there’s that. Inside the ZB things aren’t quite so convincingly superior over the VF, but it is still nicely made with high quality materials. Well laid out and brilliantly comfortable with some seriously comfortable seats, the RSV’s interior is pleasant enough, but there are some obvious areas of cheap-looking, hard plastics, particularly the centre console. It isn’t all sweetness and light, however. Using the steering wheel paddles to manually shift gears is an almost complete and utter waste of time in the RS-V, with you more likely to be beeped at and have the “Shift Denied” message flashed at you than actually grab a lower gear when downshifting, while the incredibly close ratios mean little in the way of satisfaction is to be had in upshifting either. Fortunately the new transmission is more than capable of keeping up with spirited driving, and using the manual shifter on an automatic Commodore has always been a moot point, so there’s nothing different here. Drive it before you judge it harshly for not being a “real” Commodore. It’s way better than that.