Traditional style station wagons were an endangered species when Holden introduced the Commodore Sportwagon to the VE range back in April 2008.
Wagons were still finding favour with fleets and company reps, but increasingly private buyers were falling in love with SUVs as the new family wagon. Consequently, makers were dropping station wagons from their range.
VE Sportwagon has a more dynamic and Euro-styled look to it than most of its ilk. However, it’s still very practical, though load space is reduced significantly over the previous VZ wagon. The VE series cars are built on the standard sedan wheelbase rather than that of the longer Statesman used for previous models. Tailgate design and forward mounted hinge placement means a shorter more vertical sweep for opening the one-piece tailgate with less space required behind the car.
There’s an equivalent specification V6 Sportwagon to most all of the sedan variants, through from the entry level Omega to the high end Calais. That means a model to suit most tastes and budgets. All achieve a five-star ANCAP crash rating. Like sedan, the SV6 has proved popular with private buyers.
Sharing the basic sedan platform, interiors and powertrains, means Sportwagon offers a very similar driving experience to Commodore sedan. That’s not such a bad thing as the ride and handling is very good and well suited to Australian conditions. The interior is spacious and comfortable too.
Ergonomic issues such as fat ‘A’ pillars that block vision, poor placement of the cruise control and window switches, and a finger-catching handbrake lever design have been criticised by owners and critics alike. All bar the ‘A pillar issue have been addressed in the new VF series that released in mid-2013.
Engine and transmission combinations vary depending on year and spec level. Initially, there were 180kW and 195kW 3.6-litre engines with a four or five-speed auto respectively. Models from late 2009 featured the more fuel-efficient SIDI direct injection engines (3.0-litre 190kW or 210kW 3.6-litre) with standard six-speed auto. Six-litre V8 versions are available, as is an LPG only V6 (released in 2012).
The later six-speed auto is a definite improvement over the early four-speed boxes which were a touch old-fashioned and short on refinement. The 3.6-litre engines ‘pull’ a bit more enthusiastically than the 3.0-litre which needs to rev a bit more. Commodore’s V6 can sound a little coarse and gruff when pressed.
Used examples with higher than average kilometres may have been fleet vehicles where quality of maintenance could be variable. This should be reflected in a lower price, though it’s probably better to find good condition, lower kilometre, privately owned cars.
Check for interior trims that are worn or loose. Watch for oil or cooling system leaks, and brake pad or disc wear. Oil leakage at the engine sump plug could indicate a crack in the aluminium sump from plug over-tensioning. Autos should change smoothly without flare or clunking; if it doesn’t, further checks would be wise. Older four-speed boxes are more likely to have issues.
We hear that a few SIDI engines have had oil consumption issues related to their breather system, but dealers can implement an easy enough ‘fix’.
Under the pump
Sportwagon will use between 6.9 and 15.7 litres of petrol every 100km, or 10.0 and 16.2 litres of LPG every 100km, depending on model and driving conditions.
For an indication of what you would pay for this vehicle please go to RACQ's online car price guide or contact our Motoring Advice Service on 07 3666 9148 or 1800 623 456 outside the Brisbane area.
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