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For close to 40 years, the Holden Commodore has forged itself a place in our national identity as being the quintessential family sedan.
But later generations have garnered praise, not solely for their nuclear family hauling abilities, but for their more athletic prowess. The Commodore it seems, has become somewhat of a sports sedan.
And sure, when packing the whopping great 304kW 6.2-litre LS3 V8 engine it isn’t hard to see why. But that’s not to take anything away from the ‘lesser’ V6. While not quite as rorty, it's still a very competent player in the family sports sedan game.
We’re choosing now to pay closer attention to the V6, as the limited 2016 Holden Commodore SV6 Black Edition bundles some nice dress-up components with a comprehensive equipment list to provide a well sorted and appealing package.
Whether it is black edition, black series or black label, the colour of night has come to represent something a little bit special, ignoring the fact our test car is actually white.
For the Black Edition Commodore, which costs about $1000 extra on a standard SV6 sedan, ute or wagon, you receive blacked out grilles, LED running lamp housings and mirror cap trim, plus a nice black lip spoiler on the boot. There are a set of unique 18-inch alloy wheels and the requisite badges and floor mats.
You can option a set of 20-inch wheels for $1000, which look quite smart, but are more likely to attract gutters and perhaps compromise the Commodore’s excellent ride quality.
It goes a long way to improving the sporting profile of the Commodore, which is already a pretty handsome car. You can select from nine colours, with premium or metallic finishes attracting a $550 option. Our car is Summit White (no cost option).
We’ve long been fans of the VFII Commodore, but in some areas you can see that its time is coming to an end. The lack of HID or LED lighting (not including the DRLs) at the front gives it a very specific ‘age’ and things like the lack of an external boot release frustrate even more when you know this is just never going to be addressed.
That said, even in its current $38,990 drive-away SV6 automatic guise (the auto transmission is the same cost as manual), the Commodore looks like a lot of car and still holds its own against many European saloons that double or even triple the price tag.
There are goodies inside too. Black Edition cars score the multi-function head-up display, red stitching on the seats and satellite navigation (itself a $750 option on the standard SV6).
Given there are only about 12-months left in the VF platform, this is a good bundle of gear to see added into the SV6.
Sure, there are no powered or heated seats at this level, but get past that and there’s not much else missing for a comfortable and entertaining drive.
Holden’s eight-inch MyLink touch screen is well featured, but is dating in some areas. The navigation is a welcome addition of the Black Edition, and surprisingly comprehensive, offering a good point-of-interest database, local fuel station advisory information and real-time traffic information.
But the menus in the rest of the system are now looking a bit ‘under designed’ and perhaps lacking in some of that modern polish we see in other consumer systems, like SYNC3 in the Ford range, or even the newer version of MyLink in the new Astra.
There is no support for device projection (Apple CarPlay) and just the single USB plug in the centre console. But bluetooth is fast to pair and works well for the most part.
The head-up display offers a number of different modes, and shows everything from speed, to a tachometer, even g-force loading. It’s easy to adjust position and brightness but it can sometimes look a little blurry. You just need to find ‘your’ correct angle.
There’s more tech too, from automatic reverse and perpendicular parking, blind spot and rear cross traffic alerts, plus a forward collision warning system. This is paired with six airbags and a five-star ANCAP crash rating.
Easy to use dual-zone climate control, good storage including cup holders, central cubby, sunglasses holder and a phone tray, plus the convenience of keyless entry and start are all included.
The rest of the cabin has that ‘Commodore’ charm of being a little bit old, but still being quite stylish, roomy and exceptionally comfortable.
Even the seats, which are covered in a mixture of suede and leather-like materials might not be the softest Italian leather, but they are fantastically comfortable and supportive, especially over longer trips. You get powered lumbar support on the driver's side though.
And it's that longer distance driving where the Commodore still really shines. We live in a big country, and despite our centralised population areas, there’s still plenty of road to travel even if just for a day out.
So to put the SV6 Black through its paces as a multi-role sporting family sedan, we headed out of town for a drive that is the quintessential sporting family day trip.
Lunch in Lorne via the Great Ocean Road.
Not only is there beach and ice-cream waiting for little people, there’s a great diversity of road conditions to test the response of the V6 as well as the handling of the big sedan.
It’s that perfect mix of high-speed highway touring, paired with some one-up one-down country sections and signed off by one of the world’s most entertaining dynamic sections of blacktop.
Under the bonnet of the SV6 is Holden’s locally developed, and locally built LFX 3.6-litre V6. It offers a solid 210kW and 350Nm and features variable valve timing as well as direct fuel injection to help manage the whole power-vs-economy battle.
Holden claims a 9L/100km combined consumption cycle, and we managed to better that for our day trip. Arguably there was a good stint of freeway touring in there, but our 8.9L/100km consumption for the day even noted a best figure of just 6.7L/100km, again under Holden’s highway-only claim of 7L/100km.
The V6 doesn’t have the theatrical sense or low-down urgency of the V8, but it’s a smooth lump that gets the 1640kg sedan up to speed quickly, even around town. The only real negative is the lack of exciting noise, with the combination of engine and exhaust exhibiting a breathy ‘whoosh’ rather than a more European purr.
In and around the city and suburbs, the Commodore is very tractable and easy to run around in. It hits its stride on the highway though, loping along at low revs, always comfortable, but with response available if you need to overtake.
The six-speed automatic in this role is great at a cruise, but can have a delayed reaction when needing to kick down a few ratios from the important 80-100kmh pickup.
You can tip it into a manual shift mode, but there are no paddles nor a ‘sports automatic’ function so in this setting you do need to use the lever to push back and forth for gear changes. It takes a bit of getting used to.
It’s worth getting a bit of practice, as when the traffic clears and the winding ribbon of costal tarmac that is the Great Ocean Road opens in front of you, the more entertaining you can make the experience the better!
The road is sign-posted at 80km/h, so this isn’t about outright speed, more just driving enjoyment. Plus with little people in the back, you can’t be too enthusiastic!
Response from the LFX here is good, but it needs to be kept high in the rev range. Maintain the mechanics turning above 4000rpm and the throttle can be as twitchy as you need. Lower down, the Commodore can feel a bit lazy in its response.
Turn in and body composure has always been a strong trait of the Commodore, and even now it tips in with confidence and gives good communication through the wheel.
You can feel the weight though. With some gear and people on board on my few runs to Lorne (one for fun, one for filming) the big sedan did feel like a considerable amount of machine to move around through tighter bends.
The right-side A-pillar too, provided a big blind spot on right-hand corners, which are themselves quite often blind, meaning good judgement and care is always needed.
Independent of all this though, the whole way, Melbourne to Lorne, and back again, the rear passengers never complained about space or comfort.
There’s great leg room, especially with just two passengers in the back, and the centre seat back can fold forward to offer cup holders and a central ‘tray’ which is great for impromptu games of Uno on a longer tour.
It’s the only pathway into the boot though, the rear bench doesn’t fold, meaning the 495-litre boot is pretty much what you see is what you get. There is a full-size spare under the floor though, and you could always opt for the wagon if you need more space!
For what is a relatively iconic 150km trip, the run to Lorne from Melbourne is still an excellent day out, and a great way to experience a car. Worth noting too, that on both our runs we saw plenty of other Commodores enjoying the same drive. There’s something to be said for that.
The 2016 Holden Commodore SV6 Black Edition isn’t the newest SUV or most flashy European saloon, but in terms of being a big, comfortable multi-role family sedan, with a bit of a sporting edge, it keeps up with many much higher above it in the finance food chain.
For buyers still looking for a great tourer, that represents excellent value (there's a further $2000 bonus offer at the moment - making the auto SV6 'Black a $36,990 drive-away proposition) and is, just a bit more sporty than just another SUV, the Commodore is still a world class car. The value added in the special edition pack lifts the appeal of the SV6, and it remains a whole lot of car for not a whole lot of money.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser.