Our long-term Commodore drew plenty of attention when it lobbed in the CarAdvice garage for its extended stay. The wider CA team flocked to pore over its lines, critique its interior, and generally get a feel for Rüsselsheim’s finest export to Australia.
As the custodian of the ZB Commodore, I had the pleasure of spending a couple of weeks testing its mettle in a way the majority of cars of this nature will be used – the daily commute to work, including the obligatory school run, and the odd trip to the local supermarket.
I’m fortunate in that I live close to work. My daily commute is around 7km each way. But it’s also a reasonably gruelling commute, coming from Sydney’s Inner West, through the edge of the CBD, across the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge to CA HQ at McMahons Point. It’s inner city, peak-hour grind all the way, lots of stop-start traffic and lots of snarls to test your patience. It’s crucial, then, that a car is comfortable and offers a relaxed driving experience. The Holden Commodore RS is – and does – both.
Powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol, the RS pumps out 191 of James Watt’s kilos and a generous 350 of Sir Isaac Newton’s metres. Sending those outputs to the front wheels is a nine-speed automatic transmission. And what an agreeable combination that is, certainly around town.
Whereas the old Commodore felt ungainly, even unwieldy in traffic, especially in the type of inner-city snarl that is my daily commute, this new Commodore feels agile, spritely and refined.
There’s no torque steer whatsoever, despite 350Nm being sent to the front wheels exclusively. And turbo lag? Nope. Instead, the ZB moves away nicely from standstill, with smooth transitions between gears, and a quiet refinement that belies its sub-$40K pricepoint.
The transmission, with its nine gears, works effortlessly to provide you with the right ratio. Lean on the throttle for an overtake, and the auto shuffles down a cog or two to provide some extra revs and a healthy dollop of torque. Acceleration isn’t manic, but it’s easy and predictable.
Of course, in this enlightened age of better fuel economy, idle-stop systems have become pretty much standard on modern cars. Some are okay, others downright annoying, activating with a juddering lurch and hesitation that leaves you seeking the ‘deactivate’ button faster than commenters can type ‘but it’s not a real Commodore’ in the comments below. But, the idle-stop system in this ZB Commodore is sublime, easily one of the best such systems we’ve encountered.
That refinement is matched by the ZB’s on-road manners. Holden’s local engineers did a ton of tuning work on this new Commodore, ensuring the flagship family sedan remained true to its roots in at least one aspect of its storied history.
The ride is compliant, with excellent bump absorption, the big old saloon cruising effortlessly over some of Sydney’s worst roads. Larger hits are similarly dispatched with ease, the Commodore settling beautifully over speed humps and the like. It really is a testament to Holden’s suspension tuning team, which has consistently excelled over the years in engineering a supple and compliant ride. Road noise too is minimal.
Steering is nice and light, but not overly so. Parking and manoeuvring around the tight confines of inner-city streets and laneways is a cinch; a task made easier by front and rear parking sensors, although the rear-view camera is grainy and a bit low-rent.
The boot space is impressive too, although accessing the boot for the first time can be enigmatic. There’s no switch inside the car, nor is there a button on the key fob. And there is nowhere on the liftback where a button could conceivably be hiding. And that huge expanse of glass on the liftback entices you with its vast space inside that is seemingly inaccessible.
I’ll be honest, I had to phone someone in the office who had driven the car and asked them if they had accessed the boot. And how they had accessed it. ‘Press the Holden badge on the tailgate’ was the oh-so-obvious answer. And it is. I felt stupid.
I felt less stupid when a couple of weeks later, someone else from the CA office, who shall remain nameless, phoned me with the exact same dilemma. ‘Pfft, isn’t it obvious? Press the Holden badge on the tailgate’. And so it went on.
There’s really not much to dislike about the Commodore RS around town. It is lithesome and agile, and offers plenty of punch from its 2.0-litre turbo four. It’s spacious enough inside for most needs, both in the cabin and in that cavernous boot. It rides beautifully even over some of inner Sydney’s crappiest surfaces masquerading as roads, and is generally a very refined take on the large (okay, medium) sedan format.
2018 Holden Commodore RS