The name Holden may not ring a bell to some Malaysians. However, to those who have frequented or had spent time in Australia, this is an established brand name synonymous with Australian made vehicles. The company itself has an illustrious history dating back to the 19th century and produced the first all Australian car, the 48-215 in 1948. Presently, GM Holden Ltd is a subsidiary of General Motors Company.
The Commodore is among the more popular models in the Holden stable. This model itself had undergone a number of design changes and variants over the years. In its latest guise, the Commodore offers a number of variants (Omega, Berlina, SV6, SS, Calais) and three different body styles (sedan, sports wagon and utility). The SV6 and SS are the sportier versions of the model while the Calais has more luxury fittings. The ‘Redline’ series which is a higher end sports version is available for the SS and Calais models.
We enjoyed a break in the land down under recently and took the opportunity to rent and sample a car that is unique to Australia. It was a toss-up between the Holden Commodore and the Ford Falcon which is another Australian icon. On that day only the Holden Series II Commodore SV6 was available. This sampled model is the entry level motor sports inspired version of the Commodore.
Externally the car looks like a muscled up sports version of an E Segment executive sedan. There is a prominent rear spoiler, skirtings all around and 18 inch machined alloy wheels. The car’s external dimensions are reasonably large by Malaysian standards, having a length of 4,894 mm, width of 1,899 mm and height of 1,476 mm.
Safety features are abundant with front, side and curtain airbags, Electronic Stability Control incorporating Anti-Lock Braking, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Electronic Brake Assist and Traction Control System. The car has a 5 star ANCAP safety rating.
The sampled car comes with the Holden-IQ system which is basically a multimedia centre and multifunction controller housed in a prominent and large touch screen LCD display at the centre console. The Holden-IQ system integrates the operation of the car’s climate control, entertainment system (radio, CD, MP3), park assist and navigation systems.
With a relatively large wheelbase of 2,915 mm there is plenty of room for all in this vehicle. The seats are fabric which is comfortable, provide good support and is a bit on the soft side. The driver’s seat can be adjusted manually (front, back, backrest angle) and electronically (height). Legroom is generous for the driver and passengers.
There are scroll wheels and multifunction buttons on the steering wheel to control the audio, the onboard computer, navigation and bluetooth mobile operations. All the requisite buttons and switches including those on the Holden-IQ system are easily within reach of the driver. We did not request for the optional navigation system, hence for this sampled vehicle our testing of the Holden-IQ system was more or less limited to the park assist, climate and radio functions.
The overall interior fit and finishing is of good quality and is an improvement over the previous generation, as I compared it with the cab which we took from the airport. The instrument panel is conventional with the usual gauges and a small mono coloured LCD panel housed in between the two main gauges.
Upon ignition, the engine sounded refined and there was hardly any vibration as it idles. The Commodore is available in a number of powertrains some of which are able to run on dual fuels (petrol & LPG). For this particular model, the engine is a 3.6 litre SIDI (Spark Ignition Direct Injection) V6. Compression ratio is quite high at 11.3:1 but the specs stated twin knock control sensors with individual cylinder adaptive control. I think this enables it to take the lower grade unleaded petrol of RON 91 which is sold here.
Fittingly with its muscle car image, there is plentiful power on tap and the Commodore SV6 accelerates quickly once you floor the accelerator. The max power is stated at 210 kW @ 6,400 rpm and max torque is at 350Nm @ 2,900 rpm. Frequently on the freeway I had to moderate my inputs on the accelerator as the car was very eager to push well beyond the speed limit.
Transmission is 6 speed automatic with Active Select which is an option for manual gear shifts. This can be performed by first pushing the gearshift lever to the left while you are on “D”. Pushing upwards/downwards will downshift/upshift and your current gear will be indicated in the LCD panel in between the two main gauges. Generally, the automatic gearshifts performed adequately but are not as fluid as some of the better gearboxes.
I was warned earlier to expect high fuel consumption as I chose this car over a Korean made B segment car for rental. However, the car’s average fuel consumption performed beyond my expectations taking into account the engine, performance and its size. Throughout the entire trip which was around 380km mostly on freeway runs, some town roads and even a short traffic jam we averaged about 9.3 liters per 100 km based on the on board computer. A general comparison with the fuel gauge movements concurred with the on board computer.
However, I need to qualify that throughout the entire test drive I had consciously minimized fuel consumption by being light on the accelerator as well as cruising on M6 where possible using the Active Select manual gear shift. Nevertheless, these are still impressive numbers from a car which is basically conceived for sports performance. The car cruised 110km/h at slightly below 2,000 rpm on M6.
The variable ratio rack and pinion steering was light, accurate and easy to steer. I preferred just a tad more weight and feedback for a car of this performance but the weight and feel of the steering should suit most drivers. Parking the car was not difficult with the graphical interfaced park assist on the Holden-IQ system.
Holden specified that the SV6 is equipped with sports suspension, sports-tuned spring and damper, and reduced ride height. If I had not read these specs after I had returned the car I would not have realized this as the ride quality was comfortable throughout the test drive and the car did not feel stiff or harsh. I did drive a few short km’s on outback tarred roads and the ride was fine and there were no complaints from my fellow passengers.
The tyres are 18 inch Bridgestone Potenza 245/45 R18. They performed satisfactorily but there was noticeable tyre roar when road surfaces in the freeway are a bit more coarse. Insulation in the cabin is good and is quite close to the levels of higher end cars. When road conditions are good the car cruises silently in the freeway.
I had to make some adjustments on braking. The brake pedal has a bit of free play before it bites. Once it bites, the brakes are able to provide good stopping power but I prefer a more responsive brake system for higher powered cars. Incidentally, the higher spec ‘Redline’ variant comes with Brembo brakes which may have better brake performance.
The Commodore SV6 is also equipped with cruise control which is operated by a lever on the right side of the steering wheel. Speed increments or decrements are done by turning a knob on the lever upwards or downwards. The system disengages when you step on the brakes. However, the system does not have a digital display on the actual speed which you have locked into. You will have to rely on the speedometer to monitor this.
Boot space is generous with a large cargo space of 496 litres. There is also a provision for a fold-down rear seat centre ‘ski’ hatch. Entertainment throughout our test drive was only the radio (as we did not bring any CDs) operated through the touch screen LCD display on the Holden-IQ system. Radio reception is good and the sound emanating from the speakers is clear and distinct. I liked the scroll wheel volume control on the steering as this is more responsive compared to the conventional push buttons. One unusual finding about the radio is that it remains ‘on’ even after I have removed the car key! You’ll need to push the large power button to switch it off.
There are other aspects of the car which I have not explored further as we were limited by time factor. I was also not able to do my usual audio sample on acceleration as I am not familiar with the surroundings and roads. However, even with the little time we had with the car, the Holden Commodore SV6 impressed us with its fuel efficiency, engine performance and ride quality.
|Engine:||3.6 litre SIDI Direct Injection V6|
|Max Output:||210 kW @ 6,400 rpm|
|Max Torque:||350 Nm @ 2,900 rpm|
Source: Holden Brochure
Note: Please reconfirm the above specifications with an authorized Holden dealer
Click on these to sample sounds from the car!