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First drives with Darren Moody – Holden Commodore

Almost forty years and four generations of Australian-built Holden Commodores has ended, but that isn’t the end of the Commodore nameplate.

Its replacement is from the GM global large-car program, built in Russelsheim Germany and sold in Europe as an Opel, UK as a Vauxhall and the USA as a Buick. Now that might not sound too much like the Commodore we know, but Holden design, drivetrain and vehicle dynamics experts have been involved since its global inception to add those things that Australians know as ‘Commodore personality’.

In a category where size does matter, the ZB doesn’t disappoint. While in every external dimension the new Commodore is smaller than the outgoing VF, it is still bigger than the VT series that preceded it. Gone from the new range is a booted Commodore, replaced with a hatch design that adds some additional practicality as well as assisting designers to provide a sleek and modern look. A sport wagon is included in the range as is a ‘hi-rider’ Tourer, which sits about 18mm higher than the sport wagon in an attempt to lure some of those SUV buyers to the Commodore range.
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The model range is a little complicated, so bear with me on this. Entry level is LT, which is available with a 2.0L turbo petrol or diesel option. RS is available with a 2.0L turbo petrol or AWD V6 option. RS-V and VXR are a V6 AWD configuration only. Calais is a 2.0 turbo petrol or diesel, but is available in Tourer form with V6 AWD. Calais-V is V6 AWD in both the hatch and Tourer form. Sportwagons are available in LT, RS, RS-V models.

To go with the new design, drivetrains have had a huge change. The stock drivetrain is a turbo four-cylinder driving the front wheels only, and before you say ‘we have seen a four-cylinder Commodore before’, erase that old car from your memory. The new engine delivers 191kW and 350Nm, which exceeds both the power and torque of the base spec engine in the superseded model, and matches the torque in the old 3.6L V6. It is, however, designed to run optimally on 95RON Premium fuel. The 2.0L turbo engine is the premium offering in Europe, but we get it as base specification. Official fuel consumption is 7.4L/100km (LT) on the combined cycle. Joining the turbo petrol is a 2.0L turbo diesel, also driving the front wheels only with official combined cycle economy of a frugal 5.6L/100km. The diesel offers a huge 400Nm of torque while providing 125kW. Commodore Interiror Web.jpg

Topping the range and likely to attract most buyers initially is the V6 AWD variant. The 3.6L engine is an evolution of the previous model and delivers 235kW with 381Nm with a combined cycle of 8.9L/100km. Like the four-cylinder engines, the V6 is mounted ‘east-west’, which was pivotal to reducing the width of the ZB externally while not actually reducing occupant accommodation space. This was achieved by significantly reducing the transmission tunnel width, which is now only needed to accommodate the driveshaft to the rear differential. While the AWD system is capable of delivering a 50/50 front-rear drive split, it’s an on-demand adaptive system that is front-wheel drive biased under easy operating conditions like driving up the highway. Grip and slip is measured up to 100 times per second, ready to distribute drive wherever it’s needed in an instant via GM’s ‘Twinster’ twin-clutch rear differential, which is able to move up to 100% of rear drive to either wheel.

Both petrol drivetrains get GM’s latest 9-speed auto transmission, tuned to our local conditions. Unlike a couple of other nine-speed transmissions on the market, which don’t engage the final ratio until you’ve exceeded the maximum highway speed limit, this one will engage ninth gear at or before 100km/h. Holden drivetrain engineers have ensured it is well calibrated for Australian conditions. The diesel option gets an 8-speed. V6 models have a braked towing capacity of 2100kg, while four-cylinder models can tow 1800kg.

Holden Australian vehicle dynamics engineers have their fingerprints all over the new Commodore, with Australia-only damper and electric power steering tuning suited to our at-times challenging road network. They needed to work with two different suspension configurations as the four-cylinder models have a more conventional McPherson Strut four link design, while the V6 AWD vehicles have a more complicated Hi-Per strut five-link design. Calais models get a different suspension tune than other models, more in line with a more comfortable ride.