Holden Commodore RS-V Sportwagon: On the wagon
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Considering the uproar the new-generation Commodore range has unleashed, I think it’s appropriate I preface this with a disclaimer: I’m a longtime Holden fan.
My first car was a Commodore and first job out of college was with the Australian company. I have spent more money than I’d like to admit on owning, tinkering with and fuelling my passion for Aussie-built, rear-wheel drive V8 awesomeness. At least, that’s how I justified it.
Yet as an ex-employee and multiple owner I was left dumbfounded as to how I should approach this new German-built, Australian-tuned ZB Commodore.
But there’s only one thing any motoring journo should do when handed the keys to a new model — go and drive the wheels off it.
It’s worth noting two things that were always clear about the new ZB: there was never going to be a V8 and there was always going to be a front-wheel drive, four-cylinder version.
That’s because the new Commodore was destined to be built on a new global GM platform. Once upon a time there were even plans to build it in Australia, but we all know how that went.
Thankfully, my first ZB experience would not be in a FWD diesel — which admittedly is a car we quite like at Driven. My first taste of ZBness was in the form of the RS-V Sportwagon.
Priced from $58,990, the RS-V is available as a five-door liftback sedan or Sportwagon. It sits slap bang in the middle of the ZB range, above the LT and RS and below the Sportier VXR and luxury-oriented Calais-V.
Manawatu / Wanganui | Palmerston North
$1,774.62 p/w $7,098.46 p/m
Manawatu / Wanganui | Palmerston North
$467.79 p/w $1,871.17 p/m
It’s the first Commodore in the revamped range to be fitted with a 3.6-litre naturally aspirated V6 engine producing 235kW of power at 6800rpm and 381Nm of torque at 5200rpm.
The engine delivers its power smoothly, with plenty of low-down torque to get up and going. Paired with a nine-speed automatic gearbox, the RS-V is just as happy in the city as it is on the open motorway.
On paper the engine appears a worthy replacement to the previous VF SV6 range with a newer design and identical capacity producing more power and pull. But, working from the bottom up, the RS-V is also the first model you’ll find with an all-new Twinster adaptive AWD system.
Twinster refers to the twin-clutch setup in the rear that can individually control torque delivery to both rear wheels.
Although the new driveline setup is controversial among red-blooded Holden fans, it was Holden Australia that convinced GM to include both a V6 engine and all-wheel drive in the next-gen model line-up. It knew customers on both sides of the Ditch wanted a car that could perform when the road gets twisty.
Performance credentials are helped with a new HiPer strut front suspension design and a five-link in the rear. The suspension hardware is unique to the Australasian market, with struts and shocks designed specifically to ensure the new ZB is the most planted Commodore ever.
Whether you’re driving on country backroads or in the middle of a city, the RS-V is without doubt the most connected Commodore I’ve driven. You’re able to push the nose of the car into corners as the smart AWD system ensures the rear will follow.
The calibration of the steering and general road feel was a pleasant surprise, with Holden’s Aussie engineers managing to tune the ZB to feel confident and comfortable on the road.
The RS-V also rides on new Continental tyres with bigger sidewalls than older V6-powered VF models that further help to absorb bumps.
The interior shows signs of Holden Australia’s five-year ZB development programme.The seating position and ergonomics are classic Commodore. The seats are well bolstered, adjustable enough for the whole family and provide the right amount of comfort for long journeys.
For seasoned Commodore drivers, the European influences in the ZB’s cabin are easy to spot. Much of the switchgear is shared with the Astra and other global GM vehicles.
The rear row provides ample leg and head room for all occupants, and is one of the few cars that can seat three well-built adults without crushing everyone’s shoulders.
With the back seats up there’s an impressive 793 litres of boot space, and when the seats are dropped, it reveals 1665 litres — more than enough for any family.
But one area where the ZB is unquestionably better is the extensive list of safety and up-to-date features that are standard across the range. A 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, auto emergency braking, hands-free power tailgate and even wireless phone charging makes its way into the Commodore for the first time.
An 8-inch touchscreen display houses all drive and infotainment settings and comes standard with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
With a improved and modern feature set, it’s difficult to argue that the RS-V isn’t anything but a capable and accommodating station wagon.
Is it a classic Commodore, though? For me, the answer is yes.
It may not be built in Australia, but Holden’s engineers have done a stellar job developing a car that will feel modern and familiar to Commodore fans.
Holden Commodore RS-V Sportwagon
Price: From $58,990
Pro: Undoubtedly the most advanced Commodore ever, retains the comfort and feel all Commodores should have.
Con: Does it really need to be AWD? With this chassis, a FWD diesel could be the best ZB available.