Our long-term Holden Commodore has been through the CarAdvice reader wringer, decried for not being Holden enough, not Commodore enough, not rear-wheel drive enough, not Australian enough. We can’t argue the last couple of points - it is after all, a front-wheel drive, German-designed and built car now owned by a French company.
But, having lived it with for three months, the overarching impression is of a well-built, comfortable and well specified family hauler.
We’re probably guilty of not putting as many clicks on it as we could have. Our 2455km over three months equates to just over 800km a month (or a smidge under 10k a year) which is on the low side when compared to the national average of around 1100-1300km per month. But, as the custodian of the Commodore, my daily commute of around 16km was never going to trouble the odometer in a way the average Australian, statistically, would.
That urban grind was reflected in our fuel consumption figures too, the ZB returning 10.9L/100km over the course of our long-term loan against a manufacturer claim of 7.6L.
But three months and plenty of urban clicks married to some longer-haul drives still afforded us the opportunity to see how the Holden Commodore stacks up in an environment where large sedans are no longer the go-to for Aussie families.
Let’s be clear from the outset. It’s hard to look at this Commodore in isolation, such is the storied history of the nameplate. Comparisons to Commodores of yesteryear are as inevitable as they are futile. And the perception of the Opel Insignia-based Commodore suffers for it unfairly.
Our long-term Holden Commodore RS sits second in the nine-model liftback range. It’s by no means top-of-the-range but at $37,290 plus on-roads, it’s nicely specced, certainly on a par with the Omega-level VF Commodore it’s most closely related to. There’s a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty too and service intervals of 12 months or 12,000km, whichever comes first.
Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged inline four-cylinder petrol engine, the Commodore RS makes 191kW of power (at 5500rpm) and 350Nm of torque (between 3000-4000rpm).
When mated to a nine-speed auto sending drive to the front wheels, the Commodore proved its mettle in the urban grind, offering a relaxing driving experience. Quick off the mark, the ZB settled into an easy rhythm and navigated the worst of Sydney’s roads with a suppleness, isolating occupants from Sydney’s pock-marked roads. It also felt surprisingly nimble, despite its large car dimensions.
Longer highway runs also highlighted its credentials as a long distance cruiser. That healthy dollop of torque ensured overtaking was a breeze while the quiet and refined ride highlighted just how right Holden’s local suspension tune had indeed got it.
The nine-speed auto transmission also proved a likeable unit, rarely if ever, finding itself out of whack with the needs of the ZB Commodore. Aggressive when it needed to be and refined when you wanted it, the auto ’box occasionally stumbled looking for the right ratio, But, as an overall experience, the ZB remained smooth and refined on the open road.
The cabin isn’t the last word in premium, but there’s enough modernity to keep the Commodore relevant. The fit and finish is excellent, if overall presentation is a little bit dour, a sea of black and grey with a smattering of contrasting highlights.
Infotainment comes courtesy of a 7.0-inch touchscreen and it feels a generation old. There’s no in-built sat-nav so you’ll have to rely on smartphone mirroring for your route guidance. That’s fine around town, but could prove problematic in rural areas where mobile reception isn’t the last word in connectivity. Smartphone mirroring too, proved glitchy at times.
Spacious? It’s certainly not as roomy as Commodore of old, measurably smaller in nearly every dimension. While not an issue for front seat passengers (the front cabin remains spacious and comfortable), it’s keenly felt in the back row which, while accommodating enough for two adults, begins to feel claustrophobic when a third person is thrown into the mix.
Boot space is good though, 490 litres with the back seats in play expanding to 1450L with the back row folded flat.
As good as the ZB Commodore is, the reality is, buyers’ tastes have changed. Year-to-date just over 1400 new Commodores have shifted from the car yard to the road. That’s down around 46 per cent on the same period last year. And it’s not a patch on the nameplate’s heyday, when the Holden Commodore ruled Australia’s roads (in 1998 alone, nearly 95,000 lobbed in new driveways).
The reality is any large sedan is going to struggle to gain traction in a market flooded with SUVs and utes. It’s a changing autoscape. And that’s a pity, because the Holden Commodore remains an excellent option for those looking for a comfortable tourer, equally as adept in city traffic as it is with a free rein out on the highway. Just don’t call it a Commodore. Apparently.
2018 Holden Commodore RS
- Odometer: 6037km
- Distance since previous update: 128km
- Total Distance: 2455km
- Fuel consumption: 10.9L/100km
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