Holden Commodore VXR fun to drive, stylish, decently equipped and well made, but is expensive and has a flawed drivetrain
What is it?
The Holden Commodore VXR, in other words, the sporty one in the all new German Commodore family. Indirectly, the Commodore VXR replaces the Commodore SS and SSV variants, but swaps V8 muscle for a slightly more understated and very European-flavoured performance package.
What’s it cost?
The Holden Commodore VXR is priced from $55,990 plus on road costs and is only available with a nine-speed automatic and in the lift back body. Despite the rather steep price tag – we are talking Kia Stinger GT money here – the VXR’s standard equipment list is decent. You get adaptive cruise, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keep assist, Brembo brakes, impressive LED headlamps, 20 inch wheels, an excellent Bose stereo, heads up display, heated and cooled leather sports seats and much more. The only real option is metallic paint, which’ll set you back an extra $550.
What’s it go like?
Foot on the brake, hit the starter button and the Commodore’s exhaust pipes emit a snarky growl. So far so good for a performance sedan. The engine responsible for such a noise is a 3.6 litre V6 that develops 235kW @ 6800rpm and 381Nm @ 5200rpm that is mated to a nine-speed automatic that sends power to all four wheels.
Now, a little run down on that drivetrain. Holden has had its hand in the development in the new Opel Insignia/Holden Commodore from very early on in the whole process and it is alleged that Holden convinced Opel to install the V6, as Opel had intended to only offer the new Insignia – ahem, Commodore – with four-cylinder power plants.
We were quite impressed by the performance, smoothness and drivability of the 2.0 litre turbo petrol when we sampled the Calais a little while ago. Anyway, Holden decided that more expensive versions of the Commodore: the VXR, Calais V and Tourer models – should be fitted with the V6 to distance them from lesser variants and to offer buyers more performance. Obviously.
Unfortunately, that seems to be a bit of a false economy. While acceleration is fine and the Commodore VXR feels quick, the V6 runs out of puff and needs to be revved hard if you really want to build up the pace, the opposite of the rather muscular and torquey turbo four. The transmission seems to be an odd pairing too. It never seems to be in the right gear, and when it is, said gear isn’t held for long enough. The VXR sports exhaust sounds decent, though, and gives the car a distinctive personality.
Holden claims an average combined fuel consumption figure of 9.3 litres per 100 kilometres.
The adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist both work rather well. The cruise quickly adjusts itself to changing traffic conditions and the lane keep assist is never obtrusive.
While the drivetrain leaves a little to be desired, the Commodore VXR shines in the corners. It feels balanced, poised and it delivers excellent feedback through the steering wheel. That four-wheel drive system delivers excellent grip and overall, it’s a blast through the twisty stuff, while being a comfortable tourer.
What’s it like inside?
Rather slick, sporty, well made and er, very Germanic. But that isn’t a bad thing. Ergonomics, materials and fit and finish are all excellent. The part analogue and part digital instrument cluster is easy to fathom and as usual, the heads up display is helpful.
The Bose stereo is excellent, there’s Apple CarPlay and there’s Android Auto for added convenience.
The front sport seats hold you tight and are firm, yet rather comfortable and offer heating and cooling. Head and legroom up front is more than acceptable.
Slip into the back and you’ll notice that you’ll be able to fit three adults across the rear bench with relative ease. Legroom is rather good too, although passengers over six foot may have to slouch as that panoramic sunroof eats into headroom.
Overall, a snug, sporty cockpit and a pleasant place to be.
What we like:
- Awesome handling
- Impressive interior
- Exhaust note
- Looks great
What we don’t:
- Drivetrain can be frustrating
- Price – we’re looking at Stinger GT territory here
- Heavy liftback should have electric assistance
Sale or no sale?
The Holden Commodore VXR is an engaging European sportster, but that V6 and transmission disappoint.