First drive: Holden ZB Commodore VXR on home soil
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The future is here for Holden New Zealand with the official reveal of the all-new ZB Commodore line-up.
Holden is offering three body configurations, on sale now, priced from $45,990 ($4000 less than the entry model it replaces) for the LT liftback and topping off at $65,990 for the Calais V tourer, which has a higher ride height than the rest.
Revealed to the New Zealand media this week, the new generation ZB is a rebadged Opel Insignia, after production finished last year in Australia of the Commodore.
Holden New Zealand and GM Holden Australia are using products from General Motors’ global fleet to expand its line-up, with the ZB Commodore one of 24 all-new models to the be on sale by 2020. The 2018 Commodore line-up configuration includes liftbacks (replacing the sedan), sportswagon and a tourer.
Powertrains include a 2-litre turbo petrol and diesel front wheel drives; and a 3.6-litre, V6 petrol all-wheel-drive. The petrols are paired with nine-speed automatics and the diesel gets an eight-speed.
The 2-litre petrol has 191Kw of power and 350Nm of torque, going from 0-100km/h in 7.0seconds. The 3.6-litre produces 230kW of power and 370Nm of torque plus a state-of-the art AWD system.
“This new model, the fifth generation to wear the famous Commodore nomenclature, sets a new level for a world-class motoring experience,” said Holden NZ’s marketing general manager, Marnie Samphier.
“The brief to GM’s designers and engineers was simple: create a beautiful car that gives us major enhancements in fuel economy, safety, functionality and technology. They responded and the result is the most advanced Commodore.”
Auckland | Mount Wellington
$103.26 p/w $413.02 p/m
Holden knew it had to win over the public with the new non-Aussie Commodore and appease the purist who feared the end was nigh when Holden announced no more rear-wheel-drive V8s.
So two hand-built Insignias arrived at the company’s Melbourne HQ two years ago before heading to the company’s proving ground at Lang Lang, southern Victoria.
There, the team of engineers set about transforming the European Insignia into an Aussie “true blue” product. It wiped away the delicate suspension that was ideal for smooth German roads, and instead calibrated the newly minted Commodore for tough Australia and NZ bitumen.
The team decided that although the yielding steering was okay for autobahns, it needed a more sporty feel to handle frequent bumps on our road surfaces, plus hills and windy country routes.
The new Commodores have been specked up with autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, forward collision alert, blind side alert, rear cross traffic alert and advanced park assist. It also has next-generation adaptive LED matrix headlights plus 360-degree camera.
The new nine-speed transmission has had its shift timing and refinement polished. Inside, the seats, dash components, cabin surfaces and carpets are stylish and road noise levels have been reduced from the prototype we drove in Australia last year.
It’s a good-looking vehicle inside and out, with a more refined appearance thanks to the curves of the liftback and detailed lights.
The Commodore gets all the safety features and infotainment system found in premium European brands, with Apple CarPlay connectivity.
The next-generation Commodore has had new dampers, calibrated suspension and more responsive steering, thanks to the Aussies.
Holden Australia lead development engineer for the Commodore programme, Dr David Johnson, was in New Zealand for the launch of the new model and provided insight into the work undertaken by the team in Melbourne.
“In New Zealand and Australia we like cars to feel more connected to the road and more engaging to drive, compared with European preferences. It’s all about road feel and steering,” he said.
“Our engineers developed an Australasian steering and suspension tune that works unique Holden hardware in the shape of struts and shocks to make sure the new Commodore feels as planted as ever.
“The adaptive Twinster AWD system gives Commodore traction to a level it’s never had before. In the wet, it sticks to the road like glue — and in the dry, it feels like it’s running on rails which is great for giving drivers confidence that when they turn the wheel, they know exactly where the car will go and what it will do.”
That work certainly paid off.
Driven tested the VXR 3.6-litre ahead of the media launch and the result is impressive, thanks to the handling and performance from this vehicle.
It’s a dynamic ride in sport mode, with the steering wheel firmer and gears held longer.
We drove to Outram outside of Dunedin and the superb George King Memorial Drive. It skirts past paddocks before dipping down sharply into a valley and looping back out.
The road is a test for any vehicle due to the sharp turns, narrow blind corners and steep incline and declines. But the durability of the AWD system, added with the V6 power, saw the VXR seamlessly manoeuvred at speed over the range, with impressive top-end power that meant there was more grunt if needed.
With the rural road barely used, it was safe to push the performance of the vehicle unlike our road test around Lang Lang last year. There, with a newly adjusted 80km/h speed limit, the ZB Commodore barely made a dent to the car’s performance.
Heading back to Dunedin, I swapped out of the VXR and into the base model 2-litre turbo diesel. Although it misses the interior top-spec packages such as heated and ventilated seats, it a solid performer with quiet engine noise and plenty of pep.
Holden says that it will evaluate it in the future as diesel sales for cars are on the decline, but it would be more than suitable as a fleet vehicle.
Holden Commodore VXR
Engine/gearbox: 3.6-litre, V6, nine speed auto
Pro: Handling superb, great looking
Con: Sloping roof in rear