Garry Fabian road tests and reviews the Holden VF Commodore range.
Despite the doom and gloom about the future of the Australian car industry in recent times, there can be no argument that here in Australia we can still build world class cars, and the new Holden VF Commodore is the best car ever made in Australia.
The VF is a vastly improved car over the VE. While the exterior lines may look familiar, around 70 percent of the car is new.
Like the nicely weighted electric power steering (EPS) system, the weight-saving aluminium bonnet and boot, the redesigned lightweight aluminium suspension and mechanical components and the aerodynamic improvements.
Overall, the Commodore has dropped 43kg, despite adding more noise insulation and higher quality interior materials.
And the changes to the car’s design and underneath has resulted in a drop in the car’s drag co-efficient from 0.330CD to 0.309CD
Holden has thus managed to bring the fuel consumption of its Evoke sedan down to 8.3 l/100km, which, when sensibly driven is achievable.
Comparing the VE to the VF is chalk and cheese – only the centre armrest lid and rear vents are carried over; everything else is brand new. A huge eight-inch colour touch screen sits in the centre of the dash, with crisp, clear detail.
Nothing feels flimsy or cheap; the selection buttons and dials feel solid under the hand, and the recessed screen with ‘ledge’ below adds an interesting three dimensional element to the centre console.
The fibre-weave trim panel on the dash flows onto the door trims, as well as surrounding the instrument cluster on sports models, or lighter suede-effect trims in luxury models
Thankfully, Holden has included ISOFIX mounting points across all three rear seats, meaning three baby-seats can be fitted safely side-by-side.
The VF comes with a very impressive standard equipment list.
Electric park brake, hill hold and trailer sway control, auto parking assist (which autonomously steers the vehicle into parallel or reverse parking positions), parking sensors, reverse camera, and remote starting on all automatic models – so you can get the climate control working before you hop in.
There’s also Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB and aux inputs, speed-sensitive steering, auto lights, voice recognition, powered lumbar on the seats, dual-zone climate – it’s all standard on every single model.
VF introduces many new featuresto the Commodore. It utilises the crystal-clear eight-inch colour touch screen and provides voice recognition technology activated via the steering.
Android allows viewing of your SMS messages on the screen, even those which haven’t been opened yet.
You can then have it read an SMS to you, and you can also reply with preset messages – all without touching your phone or the screen – by simply talking to the system.
And yes, it understands the Australian accent perfectly, as you’d expect from an Aussie car.
Underneath the VF is a suite of major changes to increase refinement and quality feel. The improvement on road is absolutely obvious.
The engines are now extremely quiet at idle – from both inside and outside – and there’s been plenty of work done in reducing NVH levels while at speed.
Wheel liners are now made from a recycled plastic-based material, reducing road noise and water-splash on wet roads; something we were able to experience during the launch through a freezing-cold Canberra.
Like the VE, there’s space behind the front seats, but with two cup holders on the centre console, spaces for bottles in the door bins and a good-sized glove box, there’s enough storage.
The ride is a lot firmer than the Omega, owing to a suspension revision that features a tighter damper tune and larger stabiliser bars front and rear. Holden calls it the “Touring” suspension setup (FE1) which Evoke shares with Calais and Caprice models.
The electric power steering is excellent. Holden set out to mimic the linear progressive feel of a hydraulic system and have produced one of the best electric power steering systems you’ll find on a sub-$50k car.
There’s one area, though, in which the VF positively shines: the automatic transmission. It is now every bit as good as a ZF – this auto is very impressive.
Even at the top end of the rev-range, it spins cleanly and surprisingly quietly. Couple that with the fabulous automatic and the drive train is a winner. It’s not an Aussie car without a V8, right?
With the VF gaining so much refinement, it’s lost some of that bassy-V8 rumble we’ve all become so accustomed to (and loved). There’s a V8 note in the background, but it doesn’t immerse your ears and surroundings with the same visceral bellow as the VE on song.
With the FE1 suspension employed, the Calais models have an exceptional blend of ride and handling, though it’s a tad on the firm side.
Those used to the VE’s loping ride will need to adjust to this Euro-based damper tune, but the upside is brilliant country-road grip.
Both V6 and V8 models are impressively quiet, although at speed, coarse-chip surfaces present some tyre roar from the bigger rubber down below.
The comfort tune of the EPS actually feels better than the heavier weighting of the SS, as it’s less artificial, and wheeling it through a set of corners really is a pleasure.
Like all VFs, the Calais benefits from the fantastic work on the automatic in both engine formats, and, with the same quiet exhaust note, befitting its luxury bias.
The colour head-up display (HUD) on the Calais V is one of the clearest around, and with information on speed, revs, gear selection, navigation and G-forces, you’ll want for little. There’s also a thumping Bose audio should you wish to shake up the neighbourhood.
The amount of energy that has gone into making this car for Australian motorists, at the price level it is, is truly staggering.
No car this size, at this price, comes close for quality, comfort or drive experience.
It’s not perfect, of course. The thick A-pillars still hinder visibility in tight cornering, and that steering-wheel looks out of place, but the shaping of the wheel and the leather used, especially on sports models, does make it nice to hold.
Holden labels the VF as being a “world-class vehicle”. So often that’s just marketing spin. In the case of the VF, it’s simply the truth.
Holden’s new VF Commodore answers so many questions. A clear message for people who may not before have considered a larger car.
Difficult to park? The VF’s auto park assist, does it for you – both in parallel and reverse parking.
The VF comes with blind-spot alert, reverse traffic alert, parking sensors and reverse camera on all models.
Excuses for not buying a Commodore have officially run out.
At this price level, there’s nothing that can touch it.
Holden’s job now is to convince that an Australian built car is still a very sensible option, and may possibly save the local industry if enough buyers heed the message.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 3.0 litre V6 producing 185kW and 290Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Safety: Five stars
Price: From $34.990