I travelled of all places recently to New Zealand where I drove the 2018 ZB Holden Commodore range. The fully imported car based on the Opel Insignia has many Holden fans aghast. The root cause of such outrage varies but there’s a couple of key triggers. Firstly, it’s not made here, secondly it looks nothing like a Commodore and thirdly there’s no longer a V8. I’ve spent a week in the car that aims to be the performance hero of the new bunch. It’s no SS replacement but does the Holden Commodore VXR have some noteworthy credentials? Here’s a quick fix to find out.

Make: Holden

Model: Commodore

Variant: VXR

Engine / Transmission: 3.6-litre V6, nine-speed automatic with All-Wheel-Drive (AWD)

Vital Stats: 235kW/381Nm

Holden Claimed Fuel Economy: 9.3L / 100km

EFTM Claimed Fuel Economy: 10.1 L/ 100km

Price: $55,990 before on roads.

Wow Factor: Holden want you to know the VXR is not supposed to be a SS replacement. But it’s hard not to draw comparisons when it’s supposed to be the performance range topper. So where does the wow factor come from when the SS and SS-V Redline came equipped with a LS3 6.2-litre V8 that pumped out 304kW / 570Nm and was Rear-Wheel-Drive (RWD)?

Well it comes from the vastly superior transmission and drivetrain. With AWD the VXR with its 50:50 Twinster system is about as grippy and sticky as it gets. It would easily be the best handling Holden Commodore ever. The nine-speed transmission sounds like overkill but is so seamless and refined many of its ratios are almost imperceptible on the run.

Most Impressive: The VXR slays the VF SS and SS-V Redline on the technology front. But this is an area many diehards seem to care little about. However, with Adaptive LED Matrix Head Lamps (16 LED lights in each mind you), Adaptive Cruise Control, 360-degree camera, Autonomous Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection and even front massage seats it makes the VF look Jurassic. The naturally aspirated V6 while way down on the V8’s power actually sounds enthusiastic. I can’t remember the last time you could say that about a V6 Holden.

Least Impressive: We’ve had this argument in the EFTM Man Cave during one of our podcasts. But the straight-line speed to 100km/h is lacklustre compared to the mighty V8. At around 6.2-seconds the VXR is on a good day roughly a second slower than the SS. Does this matter? Yes, in terms of bragging rights, no in the real world. But again, this is the performance flagship. Will it take HSV to up the numbers? We don’t know, but meanwhile the Kia Stinger is pulling sub five-second times. Although I maintain the VXR is a better sorted, more engaging drive.

The Sweeping Statement: The ZB Holden Commodore VXR is the best handling Commodore ever, with a much-needed injection of 2018 technology. But in Liftback form and despite local tuning efforts some will be forever offended. That group of fans simply can’t bring themselves to sit in, let alone drive one. I award it the EFTM Credit Rubber Stamp of Approval.