With the Australian made Holden Commodore now non-existent, why would we even review one? Simple really, because it’s not until something is erased that you realise how important it was. So, we went about getting our hands on one of the last VF Commodore examples, a gleaming new Calais V. Chris Bowen has one last crack at the now defunct Aussie icon.
The Good Old Days.
Let’s move on and get over the fact the current Australian designed shape, born way back in 2006 as the VE, is gone. There’s nothing more boring than that debate. But having not driven a Commodore for a couple of years I was reminded this week of what a bloody good sedan it is, to a point. It’s the perfect size for a so-called large family sedan, it makes a Camry feel insufficient and certainly destroys dual-cabs for space and common sense when it comes to day to day use.
The “luxury” variant known as the Calais was always an aspirational-type vehicle, outside of the performance orientated SS. It was the sort of car a mid-level manager at a paper company would drive. In fact, it would be right up David Brent’s ally from the UK version of The Office.
It’s like the VIP room at a newly refurbished RSL, or the first-class cabin on the XPT. Special, but hardly opulent. But having said that the bits and pieces of leather, suede and chrome-look trim throughout the cabin are acceptable. On the outside I’ve always felt the VE / VF range was just about the most inoffensive sedan on the road. The VF even more so after Holden reduced the size of the exaggerated flared front wheel arches. It has always just sat well with me, particularly in Calais mode. Give me a clean, silver example with the added silver chrome brightwork over the SS any day of the week.
King of Our Roads.
The thing that really makes the Commodore such an underdog is how it handles our conditions. The suspension is just about perfectly set up to accommodate even the most disastrous tarmac. Despite 19’’ wheels, it just lopes along smashing anything thrown at it. Keep in mind this is without any fancy dynamic or air-assisted springs. The steering control is spot on, pointing the front end doesn’t come much easier on any car. It also brakes well for a large, heavy car with a peddle feel that any level of driver would feel safe with.
The 3.5-litre V6 sounds like a 20-year-old blow dryer but still packs a good punch. The 210kW/350Nm unit has some real go to it, plus it’s matched to a decent six-speed automatic without paddle shifters, which really is almost an industry standard for this category of car. Sadly it also simply uses too much fuel, I averaged 10.8L/100km. This in part is why a SUV is in your face everywhere you turn.
Attention to Detail.
When you sit in a Calais V you notice all the goodies, but then all the let downs. It has a stack of modern safety tech sure, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, gap alert and reverse traffic alert are great but these systems won’t ever actually intervene. It’s all just warning lights and beeps, that’s old school.
The MyLink infotainment system is ok, in fact it was almost a benchmark a few years back. But with no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto it too has fallen behind. The Head Up Display is right up there with the best systems however. If you’d like to keep track of G-forces, this is the car for you.
But it’s the expected details found on many cheaper and lesser cars that left the VF lagging.
If the VF was given the chance to evolve it would potentiality end up a world beater. It’s a couple of rungs up anything the Americans have on offer, has many local attributes that make European sedans look stupidly overpriced and had the trust and respect emerging South Korean sedans have yet to earn. But if inflated, status symbol SUV’s are want the public wants guess what the public will get? Goodbye Commodore, you’ve been a $48,750 good kid.