Holden Commodore ZB

Holden’s approach is as simple as it is confident: get as many people as possible behind the wheel and the car will sell itself.

By its own admission, Holden has a job on its hands to sell the idea of a Commodore that is imported, front-wheel-drive and powered by a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine. Where, the pundits ask, is the local build, rear-wheel-drive and V8 option that defined ‘Australia’s Own’ car for the past 40 years?

Holden’s approach is as simple as it is confident: get as many people as possible behind the wheel and the car will sell itself. To this end, “take your time’ (overnight) test drives are in the offing, following on from extensive first-hand feedback sessions.

“We’ve hosted over 400 customers at the Lang Lang proving ground… (to) get their feedback on how it drives,” Holden’s Vehicle Development Manager Jeremy Tassone said.

“We’ve had a few sceptical people come for a drive, but once they’ve been in the car and experienced the work the team has put in, they’ve left with huge smiles on their faces.”

Having experienced a six-hour road trip and half-day controlled environment session driving the new Commodore range (except for the diesel) at Lang Lang, we have an insight to why.

Forget any comparison with the previous four-cylinder engine – the asthmatic 1.9-litre Starfire – that Holden dropped into the VC and VH Commodore back in the early-1980s. The new, 191kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine that powers the front-wheel-drive LT, RS and Calais models is a smooth, responsive unit and more than up to the job.

And the 235kW/381Nm, 3.6-litre V6 that drives the all-wheel-drive RS, RS-V, Calais-V, VXR, Calais Tourer and Calais-V Tourer is a fitting halo engine, with performance to spare. Significantly, it was only added to the program as a result of Holden’s urging. Both powerplants work seamlessly with Holden’s new 9-speed auto.

But the real story is the Australianised handling and ride quality, delivered by Holden engineers at home and working with their Opel counterparts in Europe: unique steering tune, suspension hardware and damper tune in addition to locally-fettled stability controls.

To experience the results first-hand, we drove a Commodore 2.0 and its kindred cousin, the Opel Insignia 2.0, back-to-back. The Commodore felt markedly more “tied down’ and less floaty over bumps and handling change of direction more dynamically. The steering, too, offered more feel.

Other exercises – wet road slalom (pictured), reverse parking an 18-foot boat and trailer and high-speed dirt road driving included – also proved an illuminating test of the ZB’s abilities. And the road trip, from Essendon in Melbourne to Phillip Island via rural back roads, gave a further insight to how well it handles typical Aussie conditions.

But, there’s more. We look forward to putting the new Commodore ZB through a week-long test here in Queensland in due course and bringing you the results in The Road Ahead magazine.

Watch this space…

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