Introduced in 2006 the VE Commodore replaced an imported platform the Aussie icon for years was built around. The massive investment back then allowed for a world-class and truly homemade design.
The VE was inherently a good car. We here at EFTM spent thousands of kilometres in them as owners. But even die-hard Holden supporters will admit a 7 year wait for something even remotely new was torturous.
The 10 Minute Test Drive
The test vehicle supplied to EFTM was the range topping Calais V Sports-wagon V8.
Immediately it’s evident rather than wholesale changes in sheet metal big dollars have been spent lifting the traditional weak point, the interior and lack of technology.
The cabin ambience is very non Commodore. It’s suave and sophisticated and finally eradicates the now-dated, lacklustre VE environment.
Convincing suede and carbon fibre look trim streak around the dash and doors. Upper parts of the dash are coated in stitched leather. A brilliantly clear 8 inch colour display sits front and centre with completely redesigned air conditioning and other instrumentation controls surrounding it.
Commodores have always had big comfy and accommodating seats, the charcoal perforated leather seats with cream racing stripe are no different.
Front on the new VF (Sportswagon as tested) boasts a new bumper and headlights with the now obligatory LED daylight running lights. A taller more regal creased bonnet helps further distinguish the VF from the VE.
Sadly in wagon mode aside from a superficial air vent behind the fount guards no further sheet metal has been altered. Same rear end, same tail lights. Disappointing.
But once moving the multitude of advancements become noticeable. Stopping power is confidently delivered, the brakes really are fantastic anchors.
The new electric steering is sharp and balanced, it’s much lighter than the old system at lower speeds. The ride is just as absorbent and rugged as before.
The steering wheel itself is now smaller in diameter, but still aggressively chunky and flat bottomed. It’s also covered in never before seen buttons on an Aussie built car. More on that shortly.
Behind the wheel are refreshingly new and deeply recessed instrument cluster dials. A modern multi function display replaces the old school VE graphics.
Cabin quietness seems to be improved, I think this is largely due to a redesigned firewall which definitely isolates you from the engine bay. The 6-litre V8 we drove is barely noticeable at idle, which sits a tick over 500rpm.
New sound deadening material is used in the wheel arches reducing tyre roar. But I’ve sat in quieter cockpits, a Chrysler 300C for example.
In’s and Out’s
Under the new aluminium bonnet is the same storming 6.0-litre V8 carried over from the previous model. 260kW / 517Nm, this thing is rocket like, your fuel bill will end up in orbit as well. I averaged 14.2-litres.
For me the reprogrammed 6 speed auto is massively better. The old units when paired with the V8 were sluggish and clunky. Shifts are now seamless, intelligent and trustworthy.
I’m surprised Holden have dropped the firmer Calais suspension set up. Now it shares the same spring setting as the base Evoke model. The V8 when pushed overwhelms the softer set up. Hard acceleration really lifts the big car off it’s springs making things a little floaty.
A sportier suspension tune package is reserved for SS and Redline models.
Being 2013 the big Aussie now boasts a push button start ignition, in fact a button on the key fob can start the engine remotely, perfect for freezing mornings.
Another first is the ‘heads up display’ (HUD) which is projected onto the windscreen just outside your line of sight. It’s a strikingly clear and effective system that indicates various information.
Your speed, current speed zone limit, turn singles, navigation instructions and tachometer appear magically in front of you. The names of incoming callers are displayed. Perhaps the most gimmicky piece of information is the G-force load readout, I pulled about 1-G around a corner apparently.
Buttons on the steering wheel control many of the new high-tech features. Blind spot monitoring lights blink away in the side mirrors, a new forward collision alert system goes ape via alarms and a red strobe display on the HUD when things get hairy.
A lane drift alert system also keeps an eye on things. However I firmly believe that such concepts are wasted without them ultimately intervening on your behalf. You eventually become oblivious to the array of beeps and chirps or even simply turn them off.
Self parking with parallel ability works 90 percent of the time. Such systems still require acute human attention. Having experienced this system on several cars it’s actually surprising how rarely a scenario occurs where you may use it.
One feature I haven’t seen before is reverse traffic alert. Hidden sensors peak around corners when backing out into traffic, allowing for approaching vehicles left or right to be detected.
The MyLink system is intuitive and propels the Commodore even further into the feature. Selected smartphones are fully integrated. Chatting to the famous iPhone Siri assistant via the press of a steering wheel button is a novelty. Pandora and Stitcher radio apps are also compatible.
Despite virtually none of these being on our roads (ours was in fact a pilot model) the VF Calais V Sports-wagon rolled through traffic rather anonymously. But of course the sedan versions feature a radically different rear end and are bound to turn more heads. HSV variants even more so.
There’s also something very satisfying about cruising around with so much firepower under the right foot.
The inner sanctum of Commodore purists will be green with envy when you lob in one. Or even the ‘Regal Peacock’ green of our test car.
The hip pocket
It’s exceptionally good news here. The base V6 Holden VF Calais is priced from $39,990 that’s a massive $8000 less than the VE equivalent.
Calais V-Series models with a V6 start from $46,990, down $9000 and for the V8 $52,990 down $9800.
Considering the bang for your buck I’ll never understand the never ending march towards SUV’s.
EFTM Rubber Stamp.
I’ve read the many VF reviews already, I think there’s an underlying bias and desire to try to portray the VF as a game changer. Understandably most motoring scribes feel a sense of pride and nostalgia for the big Holden, me included.
But after over 1000 kilometres sitting behind one I think the improvements while positive and progressive are only marginal.
There is a sense of new-found refinement. But that probably comes from the vastly improved space you’re sitting in.
I’d happily own one however, not to do my bit for the nation but rather because of that little bit more polish applied to an already great car.
The VF Commodore earns the EFTM Credit stamp of approval.
Trevor Long will bring you a full review of all the technology inside the VF soon here at EFTM