End of the Lion: our family farewell to the Holden brand
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Holden will no longer be a new-car brand by the end of this year, which is significant and sad no matter which way you look at it.
So many New Zealanders have so many Holden memories. But for a proper farewell we thought we’d create a few more by taking one last Holden road test vehicle, an Acadia LTZ-V, and sharing it around the wider DRIVEN and NZME team.
Why Acadia? Because it’s the outgoing flagship of the Holden brand, the most high-tech vehicle ever to wear the iconic Lion badge – and an SUV, proof positive that the brand’s “big six” family-car offerings were indeed responding to changing customer tastes.
Sam Wallace, Coast FM/DRIVEN ambassador
To quote Six60, I had the Holden Acadia and it was a reminder: “don’t forget your roots my friend”. That’s exactly what Holden did.
The Acadia never felt like a Holden to me; and it shouldn’t, because it’s made by GMC. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good SUV: seven seats with loads of room. But I disliked the way the seat vibrated my nether regions when I went to close to a parked car or obstacle. I hated the way it was front-drive in 2WD mode.
Imagine if the Holden I was driving took cues from Holden’s heritage. Imagine if it was an SUV that had a giant 6.2-litre V8, and an even hotter HSV-tuned version. It’d rival the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, or Mercedes-AMG GLC 63. It would be one of the most desirable cars on the market.
While I was driving the Acadia, all I could think about was what could have been. To me, it’s a sad sendoff to a brand that has provided so many incredible memories to so many families and generations.
Matthew Hansen, DRIVEN senior multimedia journalist
In the same way that our societies worship imperfect larrikins, Australians and NZers have embraced a car company that made cars lacking in refinement but oozing unique ocker charm.
The Acadia is the car in Holden's curtain-call line-up that still embodies this stuff best. Yes, even though it's made a long, long way from Australia.
Flaws are aplenty, like the trim around the wireless charging pad that looks like it was cut by a five-year-old in the middle of an earthquake. Our AA DRIVEN NZCOTY car last year had a door handle coming off. And every Acadia we've ever seen seems to emit a rattle from the B-pillar.
But it's also big and brash — up there with the most spacious and comfortable and likeable seven-seaters in class. Cars with this kind of old-school charm are a dying breed. Raise your beers and your pies to a legend.
Toni Street, Coast FM
I don't have a close-to-the-heart connection with Holden, but we loved our Acadia. It was such a great family car, with so much room for everything in the boot.
I'll never forget our family trip to Whangamata last summer; I was staggered that we managed to fit all of our suitcases and bodyboards in. I've also never seen a car with so many cup holders. It’s those little things I'll miss.
Andrew Sluys, DRIVEN digital writer
I love Holden V8s. The Acadia isn’t one, but the 3.6-litre V6 is a good all-rounder and has plenty of power on tap at any given time.
Inside, the Acadia’s American roots are made obvious by the plethora of occupant space, and the cushy leather interior.
If the Acadia is an accurate representation of what Holden once was, I can’t help but feel I missed out on something great.
Jase Reeves, Coast FM
I’ve owned several Holdens, including a beautiful gold HQ Kingswood, a brown HZ Kingswood, a V8 Calais, an Adventra (which wasn’t as bad as the reviews at the time) and even a much-maligned Camira (which was as bad as the reviews).
There’ll always be a certain fondness for Holdens. Loads of Kiwis had one in the family growing up. We remember the BBQs, the sports trips, the beach, the road trips and maybe the trailer or caravan being hauled behind.
In the Acadia, I took a moment to appreciate how far the Holden brand had come: bells, whistles, chimes, cameras and gadgets galore.
One thing I couldn’t get used to was the vibration warning system from the driver’s seat. It was loud and unnerving.
But what a car/truck! For old time’s sake, I slid the window down and rested my right arm while I drove. It felt good. Until the seat buzzed me.
Natasha Callister, head of DRIVEN
The Acadia seems big - really big. Picking the vehicle up from the Auckland CBD work carpark probably exacerbated that impression with hazards, cams, and safety vibrations in full swing as I weaved through the narrow concrete maze.
On the positive side, I love how the side mirrors auto adjust when you’re reversing so you can see the kerb. No additional effort or thought required.
Another great feature for any parent juggling kids, groceries and work laptops is the handy feature which prompts you to “check the back seat”. It’s activated if you park up and the vehicle has sensed weight on the rear seats.
To me, the Acadia is about lifestyle fit. If you’ve got a large family and want to hit the rural or open roads, it’s a comfortable beast with all the mod-cons and plenty of grunt. But if you commute to the city… maybe stick to parking on the street.
Dean Evans, DRIVEN editor
Others may not have been as impressed, but I was pleased to see the Acadia as a top 10 finalist in the 2019 AA DRIVEN NZ Car of the Year awards.
For a big, brash American SUV, it’s remarkably well suited to NZ, and I’d honestly put it on my family wagon short-list: the size and appeal of the clever second-row seat that flips forward with a child’s booster seat ISOFIX-attached, combined with the V6 grunt and feature-packed cabin makes it all quite appealing for our three-kid family needs.
Then it put a sting it my tail, as I got to spend the final night with our red LTZ-V. Proximity key in pocket, I ventured to the DRIVEN carpark to find, as luck would have it, a flat tyre.
So on with the smaller diameter space-saver spare to spend a slightly awkward final 24 hours like a dog with a sore leg, a quarter of a tank to remind me how good it is, before finally handing over the limping SUV to faithful Holden NZ PR man Ed Finn.
I’ve since forgotten the flat, but remember the Acadia with fondness. And grabbed a snapshot with my 1yo boy who will never know what a “new Holden” is.
As for Holden itself, I’m saddened when any icon is lost, but I don’t personally have any great affinity with the Holden brand, so I’ll keep this brief.
The 1986 HDT Bathurst/Brock car is one of my favourite liveries, and I’d happily own a VL Brock Commodore (SS Group A with a Polariser), or even a VL Calais, but I didn’t grow up with any specific Holden brand loyalty; our family never owned a Holden so we didn’t really bond with the brand (or Ford for that matter).
I do however fondly remember driving a VY Commodore SS to set the around-Australia record (15,000km in 6.5 days) back in 2004, and winning a motorsport stage in a standard HSV VXR/Astra against a field of turbo rally/racecars. It’s these memories - and the Holden friendships - that I’ll associate with and miss most.