Lifestyle: a weekend away with the diesel Holden Commodore
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Cruising through the Karangahake Gorge on our way to Tauranga, we’re listening to Fat Freddy’s Drop’s Wheels pumping out through a Bose seven-speaker system synched through Apple Car Play in the Holden Commodore LT Liftback that is ours for the weekend.
It is one of many refinements in this diesel-powered car that feels as if it was specifically designed for cruising, ensuring the driving experience is as much as about the journey as it is about reaching the destination.
The ride is so smooth, the road noise is barely detectable. In fact it’s not until we stop in Waihi that we realise we have been travelling in almost gale-like conditions as we battle the blustery afternoon to climb up to look at the Martha mine.
We’ve taken the more-travelled route out of Auckland, turning south from the Bombay hills to the Hauraki Plains. On we go to Ngatea, stopping for lunch at a cafe celebrating its first birthday under new ownership.
Passing Paeroa’s colourful wall murals, our stop at Waihi and that huge gaping hole in the earth just above the main street and then to the harbourside of Tauranga and the seaside Mount, where we find a B&B for the night.
We’re catching up with friends and family too, using our phone to sync with the 7-inch touchscreen for effortless navigating to their addresses.
And each time we visit someone or send a brag pic on our phones to family, particularly my mechanic brother, about our weekend wheels, we get the same reply. “Is that an Opel?”
Good skills, family, as this Commodore does share its architecture with the latest Opel/Vauxhall the Commodore was built in Germany on the GM E2 global platform. (And no, I’m not a font of all knowledge or someone swatting up to be on The Chase on the telly, I just happened to remember that information from an article Driven journalist Colin Smith wrote about global platforms and economies of scale within the car industry early this year.)
The upshot of those decisions is this Commodore’s slightly smaller body and, for this model, its appealing sloping liftback. Plus ABS and traction control calibrations adapted for Downunder drivers make it a smooth operator on our roads.
And should you forget where you parked it in a busy street or a full supermarket carpark, this colour is an easy to spot, Absolute Red complemented by those shiny, stylish alloy wheels.
The engine is 2-litre turbo nine-speed auto with safety features such as the Electronic Stability Control and the HoldenEye package (Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist and Forward Collision Alert).
Although new car buyers tend now to expect such items, we find it reassuring to know they’re there if needed, particularly on those stretches of rural road where white crosses mark out loved ones whose lives were lost in crashes.
Adaptive Cruise Control means we don’t have to constantly look at the dash to monitor speed and can instead keep an eye out for roadside fruit stalls to stock up on avocados and other treats from the Bay of Plenty orchards.
The one thing that keeps us puzzled for an extraordinary amount of time is figuring out how to open the liftback boot. (Push the remote key twice and then push the Holden badge on the car’s boot). Hence the reason our bags stay on the back seat.
By the time we reach the Mount, we feel totally at ease with this easy drive. The 8-way Power Adjustable Drivers Seat means we can tailor it to our preferences and 360-degree cameras make parking a cinch and luckily parking is free in harbourside Tauranga later on Saturdays and all day Sunday.
We wander past cafes and bars, pop over to Bethlehem and then have a meal at an Indian cafe near our B&B. (So delicious I’m loathe to share its name but email me if you must.)
Next day we catch up with a Papamoa-based cousin and walk the length of the beach, have lunch at Harbourside, and then reluctantly point the car towards Auckland for the drive back.
We put off the final destination a little by deviating along the coastline road hugging the Firth of Thames through Miranda and Kaiaua before heading inland to Clevedon. The route is perfect for appreciating how well this car corners, brakes and accelerates.
And then it’s back to the motorway to Auckland to return the car to its owners. And you what’s is amazing after all those kilometres?
We still have half a tank of diesel left. That goes to show the Commodore is easy on the eye and on the wallet.