The 1998 VT Commodore was essentially the love child of the Australian automotive industry, on release it won the illustrious Wheels Car of the Year in 1997 and easily outsold the ugly and unloved AU Falcon. The styling appealed to the average punter and the engine choices ranged from a 3.8L V6 through to a 5.7L V8.
The 3.8L was carried over from the previous VR/S model and was actually slower to 100km/h. Although slower, the new model featured substantially better suspension and a different transmission tune. The transmission is the trusty 4L60E 4-speed automatic used in many variations of the Commodore previously. As a result it is a big let down for the car, why Holden didn’t fit a 5-speed remains a mystery as they were available. As a result the VT is slower than it needs to be and the gear shift, although improved, can still be clunky and abrupt. Most examples for sale now will have well over 100,000km on the odometer and should be run in completely. The transmission features a ‘PWR’ button useful for towing and hilly terrain where holding a lower gear at higher RPM is necessary. The transmission can be exceptionally slow to kick down when power is needed, on corner exit for example. When it does kick down, often poorly timed, it is raucous and uncouth.
The engine itself is for the most part exceptionally reliable if all applicable servicing and maintenance is carried out. In terms of performance it is able to sprint away from the mark smartly but overall is not as quick as its displacement would suggest. It is equally at home wafting around town at no more than 2000rpm to maxing out at 150km/h + on derestricted motorways in the Western states.
Much has been written about the thrashy nature of the V6 in the upper rev range, not only this it is also incredibly thirsty if driven in such a manner. So you can expect high fuel usage if you prefer to race from light to light. The brakes are strong, though if driven at speed on a mountain pass with successive hard use they do fade making for a very un-easy pedal feel. This leads you to slow down and do what this particular model does best, cruise. It prefers fast sweepers to hairpin bends.
You can expect that the interior, made of what seems like recycled wheelie bin plastic will have only two conditions. The first, it will be exceptional and well looked after, the second, hardened by the hot sun, having soaked up hours of it, potentially cracked in places. Not only this, the interior plastics seem to only absorb heat and once hot, are damn near impossible to cool down if they sustain consistent sunlight. As a result, it is not un-common to find yourself bathed in a slick of sweat if you happen to own a model not fitted with air-conditioning. It does feature HVAC vents to the rear seat passengers however.
This particular variant features trusty widow winders, though can be optioned with power windows. The winder itself is made of a bake-light type material and after several hundred thousand kilometres is sure to be very worn and flexible. The suggestion is to replace these if considering keeping your VT for and period of time upwards of 150,000km. The seats in the Commodore are comfortable and supportive, featuring back, fore and aft and electric base adjustment as standard. There is also ample room in the cabin to fit 5 people for longer journeys without discomfort, although, middle seat passenger is always uncomfortable. The base Executive is a no frills proposition when it comes to in cabin technology with a CD-Player and sparse trip computer being the highlights. ABS and Cruise Control are not standard, finding a variant with ABS should not be difficult though.
Overall, the VT Commodore deserves praise for its ability to be almost a jack of all trades, its a comfortable, safe, reliable vehicle which if looked after should easily complete 250000km. The only downside is the blandness of some features and the spartan accessory list on the base Executive. Age has not been kind to the VT, as it looks incredibly bland against newer, safer, versions of the Commodore, though, all versions prior to the VT look worse.