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  • Series II changes, ride, comfort, space
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2011 Holden Berlina Sportswagon Review
2011 Holden Berlina Sportswagon Review
2011 Holden Berlina Sportswagon Review
by Karl Peskett

This Aussie wagon nearly has the market to itself

Model Tested:

  • 2011 Holden VE Series II Commodore Berlina Sportwagon; 3.0-litre, V6, petrol; six-speed automatic; four-door wagon: $45,490*

CarAdvice Rating:

If you’re after an Australian-built station wagon and don’t need an SUV, right now the Holden Commodore Sportwagon is your only option. There’s an amazing array of choices as well, from the entry-level Omega, right up to the 6.0-litre V8-powered Calais V, and even HSV offers a Clubsport version called the Tourer R8.

A feature of all of them is the easy loading and practicality of having that huge boot, and tons of room for passengers. But if you can’t bring yourself to drive the base model Sportwagon, then the step up from there is this week’s test car, the Berlina Sportwagon.

The differences between the Omega and the Berlina are simple: Faux-leather bolstering on the seats with a different patterned cloth insert, a new grille with a solid chrome cross bar, ten-spoke 17-inch wheels, different foglamp surrounds and a leather-wrap steering wheel. The VE Series II upgrade also brings with it a smoother front end with reshaped headlights, but the biggest improvement is the new touchscreen infotainment system called Holden iQ.

It allows for USB, iPod and Bluetooth integration all controlled by the one screen, plus an optional sat-nav system. You can even rip and store music on the built in hard-drive. The stereo doesn’t have the greatest sound, though. The iQ’s menus are extensive, but it’s reasonably simple to navigate through, and the sat-nav works well, giving you speed-, red-light-camera and school-zone alerts as well as automatic zoom while navigating.

2011 Holden Berlina Sportswagon Review
2011 Holden Berlina Sportswagon Review
2011 Holden Berlina Sportswagon Review
2011 Holden Berlina Sportswagon Review

There’s a new HVAC setup in the VE Series II as well, looking a lot cleaner and more upmarket. Everything else is typical VE Commodore.

Good-sized, supportive seats, both front and back. Heaps of head and legroom for all rows. Plenty of width, meaning three full-sized adults can occupy the back seat for long drives without feeling cramped. Unlike the sedan which only has a ski port, the Sportwagon’s back seat can be folded down to create a huge open area. And that makes it even more practical than the Commodore Ute.

There’s a similar load area to the ute with the seats folded down, it’s covered at all times, is taller (by virtue of not having a tonneau cover) but it can be used as a five seater, which the ute cannot. And of course, the Sportwagon has that fabulous VE ride.

No other wagon absorbs the bumps quite like it. And as your speed increases, the ride gets better. It irons out all the tiny imperfections in the road, and even on unsealed surfaces it’s never uncomfortable. The suspension is biased toward comfort more than sports-car-like handling, but it still has excellent road-holding. The Commodore’s ESC is also brilliant, allowing a degree of slip before bringing you back into line. ABS and ESC calibration on gravel is outstanding.

The steering is excellent too, with good weight and feedback, while braking is also good. The biggest change for the Berlina Sportwagon, though, is under the bonnet.

2011 Holden Berlina Sportswagon Review
2011 Holden Berlina Sportswagon Review
2011 Holden Berlina Sportswagon Review
2011 Holden Berlina Sportswagon Review

The 3.0-litre SIDI V6 is now flex-fuel compatible. That means that you can run an ethanol blended fuel up to E85 (85 percent ethanol) or anything in between. It’s Holden’s way of reducing reliance on fossil fuels, though on the face of it, it’s not as rosy as it seems.

Currently there are only 30 service stations stocking E85 Australia-wide. Caltex (the only company currently distributing it en masse) says that the number of stations will increase only if there is a demand for it. In the month straight after the VE Series II was launched, over 3500 Commodores were sold. The casual observer will notice a large number of Sportwagons running around with fleet livery. One particular company has over 100 Sportwagons on fleet and continues to add them. The demand is there, especially when E85 is said to be around 20 cents a litre less than unleaded petrol; people will vote with their wallets.

But some states miss out altogether. The Northern Territory, for example, has no E85 dispensed from service stations. Neither does Western Australia. Because this test was done in Perth, we were unable to report on how the Berlina Sportwagon runs on E85, and what the economy difference is between regular fuel and the ethanol blend.

CarAdvice spoke to Caltex about the situation, and at present there are no plans to bring E85 to WA or the NT. And if there is no significant increase in demand from present, don’t expect to have many more servos dishing out E85. As it stands, on regular unleaded, fuel economy is not that special. We averaged 12.8-litres/100km for the week despite the official ADR figure being 9.1L/100km. Don’t forget, this is a 1.8-tonne car being motivated by only 290Nm. That means that it’s up to the automatic to keep the engine in its sweet spot. That it does, but not without some slow decision making.

2011 Holden Berlina Sportswagon Review
2011 Holden Berlina Sportswagon Review
2011 Holden Berlina Sportswagon Review
2011 Holden Berlina Sportswagon Review

While driving and exiting a corner, the auto will often drop down two or three gears depending on your right foot position. The problem is it often does it in succession, or hesitates before selecting the right gear. It can get a little annoying while it pauses to have a think if you’re asking it to accelerate hard, but if you’re driving calmly, it’s quite smooth. The V6 is also fairly smooth, though it can get a little thrashy at the top end. The best way to drive a Berlina Sportwagon is sedately.

But if you’re going to drive it like that, then you’ll probably be looking for something that’s economical, has a good load area and is comfortable. If that’s the case, then Skoda’s Superb Wagon makes a strong case for itself.

True, it’s not as wide, so if you’re loading up with five people on a regular basis then the Sportwagon will be the one to pick. But with massive rear leg room, a good sized load area and a better quality interior, the Skoda Superb Wagon also offers a diesel engine, and with it, better fuel economy – 6.6L/100km. Based on the ADR fuel figures, the Skoda also has a greater range – 900km versus 780km.

Then there’s the torque. The Holden only makes 290Nm at a relatively high 2900rpm. The Superb Wagon offers 60Nm more at a low 1750rpm – perfect for shifting a load. It’s also $1500 cheaper.

2011 Holden Berlina Sportswagon Review

Let’s be honest: most buyers aren’t going to be cross-shopping the Berlina Sportwagon against the Skoda Superb Wagon, but don’t write it off. It is much better value than the Berlina Sportwagon – it just doesn’t have quite as much room.

It’ll be a difficult call, but weigh up how often the car will be fully loaded up. That will be the decider.

Ratings:

CarAdvice Overall Rating:
How does it Drive:
How does it Look:
How does it Go:


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2011 Holden Berlina Sportswagon Review
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Holden Berlina Specs

DUAL FUEL : VE II : 3.6L MULTI POINT F/INJ - 4 SP AUTOMATIC - LIQUID PETROLEUM GAS - 4D SEDAN
Car Details
Make
HOLDEN
Model
BERLINA
Variant
DUAL FUEL
Series
VE II
Year
2011
Body Type
4D SEDAN
Seats
5
Pricing
New Price
N/A
Private Sale
$12,760 - $14,500
Dealer Retail
$14,250 - $16,940
Dealer Trade
$10,200 - $11,600
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
MULTI POINT F/INJ
Engine Size
3.6L
Cylinders
LIQUID PETROLEUM GAS V6
Max. Torque
325Nm @  2600rpm
Max. Power
175kW @  6000rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
106.6W/kg
Bore & Stroke
94x85.6mm
Compression Ratio
10.2
Valve Gear
VARIABLE DOUBLE OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
4 SP AUTOMATIC
Drive Type
REAR WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
3.27
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
LIQUID PETROLEUM GAS
Fuel Tank Capacity
73Litres
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
13.4L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1641
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1476mm
Length
4894mm
Width
1899mm
Ground Clearance
110mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:2100  Unbrake:1000
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
11.4
Front Rim Size
7x17
Rear Rim Size
7x17
Front Tyres
225/55 R17
Rear Tyres
225/55 R17
Wheel Base
2915
Front Track
1602
Rear Track
1618
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Multi-link system, Coil Spring, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber, Anti roll bar
Standard Features
Comfort
Auto Climate Control with Dual Temp Zones, Power front seat Driver
Control & Handling
17 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program, Traction Control System
Driver
Cruise Control, Leather Steering Wheel, Mobile Phone Connectivity, Parking Distance Control, Power Steering, Trip Computer
Entertainment
CD with 6 CD Stacker, Radio CD with 7 Speakers
Exterior
Fog Lights - Front, Power Mirrors
Interior
Cloth Trim, Power Windows
Safety
Dual Front Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats, Side Front Air Bags
Security
Alarm System/Remote Anti Theft, Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Comfort
Power Sunroof, Rear Seat Enhancement Pack
Control & Handling
Sports Suspension
Driver
Satellite Navigation
Engine & Transmission
Limited Slip Differential
Exterior
Metallic Paint
Other
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
Warranty
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Pass Side Windscreen
Country of Origin
Australia