Road test: Holden VF Commodore Sportwagon worthy of revival
FASHION has a habit of repeating itself.
Just look around, jeans are being rolled up again to have a cuff - and I just thought that was done by people too tight to get alterations done.
Our recent stint in a Commodore wagon had a hint of nostalgia. Both have been on the nose somewhat in recent times as large cars and station wagons have been snubbed in the style fashion stakes.
Yet this experience was different. We were in the new VF Commodore Sportwagon which might look similar to the previous model, but it's actually a vastly different machine once you step inside.
Cool new technology like automatic parking and an ability to stream music and talkback through smartphone connectivity, groovy interior trimmings along with improved driving prowess make for a contemporary Aussie wagon.
Is it enough to save the iconic nameplate from extinction? Middle Australia will decide over the next 12 months.
This is the Commodore you buy when searching for value.
Carbon-fibre looking trim across the dash and doors, suede-style inserts on the sports seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and the ultra-modern colour 20cm touch-screen, you get most of the trimmings found in the SS but without the V8 sound (or its fuel bills).
Plastics use is limited, and the ambience is one of quality as opposed to the relatively basic Berlina models from bygone eras.
About the only aspect missed is the relatively basic graphics for the driver instrument panel.
The virtues of large car transport are sung once you climb inside. Excellent head, leg and knee room is available front and back, space which five adults can appreciate.
Both large front sports pews offer excellent support in all directions which is appreciated on long highway journeys.
The driver has a good view of the world, now aided by blind spot alert that flashes if a vehicle is detected when you are about to change lanes. It's a handy new ally due to the small side mirrors, while another brilliant feature is the camera which can peer around corners when pulling out of nose-in vertical spaces.
On the road
Old-fashioned grunt accompanies each prod of the right pedal.
There aren't too many V6s around nowadays and it was refreshing to plant the foot and take advantage of the rear-wheel drive bent six's brawny ability.
Shunting the shifter across flicks the automatic box into Sport mode for more athletic cog-swapping.
For the first time Commodore has electric power steering and engineers have done a stellar job in getting the feel right.
That, combined with the FE2 suspension, and the Commodore relishes the bends with improved surefootedness.
It feels much more planted in the bends due to less body roll which in turn delivers greater car control.
What do you get?
The Evoke is the new entry-level model, but this SV6 really raises the bar in terms of interior styling. On the standard kit
list is 18-inch alloys, dual zone climate controlled air con, multifunction display that has trip information and a fuel economy menu, CD stereo with MP3 connectivity and a sports body kit - you can also start the car via the remote to cool it down or warm it up depending on the season.
Commodores also have an automatic parking functionality which works on reverse parallel and rear-to-kerb vertical parks. Other safety equipment includes six airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control and trailer sway control.
Best of all is the MyLink system, which uses Pandora and Stitcher apps to stream virtually unlimited amounts of music and talkback/podcasts. It also has Siri voice recognition so you can find what you're after without taking your hands off the wheel.
For those wanting integrated sat nav, it costs an extra $750 and leather trim is $1500.
Wagon competitors can be hard to find with Ford no longer offering one in the Falcon, but there is the Skoda Superb Wagon (from $40,990), or the smaller Mazda6 Wagon (from $34,760) and Volkswagen Passat Wagon (from $40,990).
Our test achieved about 10 litres for every 100km which is close to the official figure from Holden. You can use ethanol blend fuel, but premium improves performance and efficiency.
There are no concerns with maintenance costs due to capped price servicing and there should never be a big wait on parts.
Apart from the additional space in the back, the Sportwagon trumps its sedan sibling for flexibility courtesy of split-fold rear seats.
They drop to provide a useful cargo space and champions the wagon cause despite the national obsession with SUVs.
Up front there are two cup/bottle holders, while one also pops out from the seat base in the rear.
The Commodore also has a large console along with a great space in front of the shifter for phones, wallets and keys.
Our test car had a stunning red colour palette, boosted by the sports skirts, front and rear fascia. Apart from the bonnet bulges, it doesn't look much different from the previous iteration with most of the rear improvements occurring on the sedan.
What matters most
The good stuff: Nice growl from the V6, well weighted steering feel, split-fold rear seats (they don't drop in the sedan), looks like an SS.
What we'd like to see: Updated rear design, better economy, updated graphics in driver's instrument panel, the Commodore survive.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year, 100,000km warranty. Servicing is capped at $185 for the first four services over three years or 60,000km. Servicing is every 15,000km or nine months.
Model: Holden VF Commodore SV6 Sportwagon.
Details: Five-door large rear-wheel drive wagon.
Engine: 3.6-litre V6 petrol generating maximum power of 210kW @ 6700rpm and peak torque of 350Nm @ 2800rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 9.3 litres/100km (combined).
Bottom line: $37,990 (plus on-roads).