VF Holden Commodore – Inspired, Uninspiring

If you’re one of those die-hard Holden fans – you have a red/black jacket and like to cheer your heroes around Mount Panorama, you own a McMansion, have a wife named Shazza or Kyles and you aren’t averse to robbing people, etc etc – then you would have been very interested in last weekend’s news.

Last weekend, GM’s Aussie branch let out pictures and information on the newest version of what used to be Australia’s favourite car, the VF Holden Commodore.

The big question: will people like it?

Let’s start this post with a poll. Here are the old and new Commodores. The VF (the new one) is on the LEFT. The VE Commodore (the old one) is on the right. Which do you prefer?

Commodores

The poll……

[poll id=”10″]

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My advice: grab a low-mileage VE Commodore in the run-out sales and stow it away for 20 years to impress your mates when you retire. The VE is the last Aussie-designed Commodore that’s what you might call……… ours.

I’m no fan of GM, as most people will know. Aside from caring about the jobs of Holden’s employees here in Australia, I don’t really care if the Commodore is a successful car or not. I do take an interest, however, because there’s more at stake for we Australians. There’s a sense of identity.

Many people (not me, surprisingly) think the Commodore is a piece of crap. The difference is it’s OUR piece of crap and on many levels, it’s actually a very competitive vehicle. The Commodore’s problem is that fewer and fewer people care about the criteria on which the Commodore can be judged a success. The large sedan market in Australia has plummeted in the last few years as buyers move into either smaller, more efficient cars, or ‘crossover’ SUV’s.

The VF Holden Commodore will be the last Commodore that’s engineered and built in Australia. Holden will replace the vehicle with an Australian-built global GM vehicle from 2016, though the new vehicle will keep the Commodore name.

The bad

My initial take on this new VF Commodore is that I’m not a fan of the way it looks on the outside.

The pictures above do the old VE Commodore little justice. It actually has a fair amount of presence on the street. It looks strong and angular without having the more garish lines of other GM products (*cough* Cadillac!). When I see a Commodore SV6 on the street now, I invariably think it’s the best design the Commodore’s ever had (aside from the VH SL/E in Navy Blue, which looked fantastic!).

This new Commodore looks like one of those cartoon images of an object inflated with with gas. It’s bulging in places it shouldn’t be and it’s eyes are nearly popping.

And then there are the styling cues that look a bit like they’ve been pinched from other car companies. I’ve stated a number of times that car companies are all being forced into the same basic design shapes thanks to safety rules governing vehicle design. It almost feels like Holden have just said “screw it” with the outside of the vehicle – if you can’t beat them (in sales), imitate them. It feels like they’ve taken inspiration from the competition instead of trying to lead the competition, which is what the Commodore once did.

The headlamps and grille could come from anywhere in Asia, and the rear….. well, one guy on Facebook summed it up best without writing a single word:

Commodore Comparo

The sad truth is you could chop and change between a number of different manufacturer rear ends and find plenty of common elements.

The Good News

The good news seems to be on the inside and under the hood.

The interior of the outgoing Commodore is less than inspiring and has taken some heat for lesser grade materials compared to its competitors. Bear in mind that the photo below (and those above, by the way) shows the Calais, the top end of the model range. You don’t premiere a new generation with the base model that most people will buy. Regardless, the design seems a lot more comfortable and accommodating.

VF Commodore Interior

Interior design manager, John Field, said the following:

“The brief was very clear; we wanted to keep all the good things about the VE – and they’re things like width and the spacious feeling they have, and also the driver orientation,” he said.

“But we wanted to make it much more dynamic, much richer in material execution, we wanted to integrate in a seamless way some really cool new technology, and we wanted to improve the way the customer interfaces with the vehicle in things like quality perception and ergonomics.

I think they’ve let themselves down in terms of driver orientation. Any dashboard that’s symmetrical in the way this one is fails that particular test. It does look much better than the old one, however, so no complaints from me at all. It’s said to be laden with gadgetry, too.

The other area where Holden are claiming significant progress is powertrain. Official figures aren’t released yet, but word is that Holden have fallen just short of their aim at getting down to 7.0l/100km, which would be remarkable economy for a full size sedan without a hybrid drivetrain.

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Conclusion

I’m no Commodore fan, but I do like the fact that Australia has held on to the RWD sedan for so long. This will most likely be the last of them from the Holden camp (and the Ford Falcon doesn’t have long to live, either).

I don’t like the exterior much. I think they could have just made the VE exterior even more aggressive and it would have sold like hotcakes. Instead, it feels like they ‘Euronesed’ it in a bid to follow some vague trend or other. It’s soft. Uninspiring.

Here’s hoping it’s actually a great car to drive – a fitting way for the Aussie Commodore to go out. It’ll turn up on showrooms in around 4 months, so we should hear more about how it goes down the road at that time.

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16 Comments

  1. After having seen the first pictures I thought GM wanted to sell it also in Europe under the Opel brand, as it uses the Opel front grill and it looks quite Opel’ish in the back. But on the other side, I don’t think Europe need a high power RWD Opel, as the brand doesn’t have enough cache to sell such a car.

    1. I thought the same about the Opel similarities. However, for the price that Opel would want for this car, I think that it could sell, particularly in the UK. Not large quantities, but it could sell.

  2. The VE looks like an old VW Passat mated a Rover. The VF looks like your everyday Opel/VW/Audi/whatever.
    The interior is just plan horrible with strong WarGames vibes from the 80s.

  3. The front immediately reminded me of Skoda Octavia MY2012, while the rear is almost the same as Opel Astra sedan MY 2012. The design is bland, that’s for sure, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be succesfull. So is this like a GM version of Skoda Superb for Australia?

  4. I’m not a fan of the new Commodore styling either. The old version looked better to me as well. In defence of the new version, I think we’ve only seen the Calais version so far, so the more basic version might look a bit cleaner? The Calais nose would probably suit the LWB Statesman Caprice version better, but I believe that car will be getting minimal mods (due to low sales) with mostly an interior upgrade. If the upcoming Chevrolet version looks more interesting and aggressive, I’m sure there will be a lot of Aussies trying to make their Commodores look like the US export car. That happened with the VE to some extent. I’ve seen quite a few Pontiac G8 lookalikes. Personally I think GM made a big mistake building the VE and should have gone with the smaller Torana hatch concept. I’m pretty sure that would be selling in much higher numbers than the Commodore does these days.

    http://www.canberratoranaclub.com/history/tt36.htm

  5. I like the steering wheel – where have I seen that before :/

    prefer the front of the VE but I do like the back of the VF more, so on balance the VF is a nicer looking car

  6. i think for the available funds etc holden have done ok and the dash will keep aussies busy on those 1000k runs, i’d have it over a camry, passat, cruze or falcon and day of any year, cannot be too critical as nevs may also give us a dog in some shape or form…

  7. The back of the VE looks like an Audi A4. I do prefer the front of the VE and back of VF. Hope they bring it to the UK to go above the Insignificant.

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