Holden has unveiled the VF Commodore, lifting the lid on what is surely one of the most extensive facelifts ever of an Australian-built car.
Externally, only the doors, roof and glasshouse carry over. The remaining sheetmetal is all-new, including a weight-saving aluminium bonnet and bootlid.
It’s a more organic design than before, and although the front still has some resemblance to the VE, the rear is worlds apart.
But inside is where the greatest differences lie.
Virtually everything is new. In fact, only the rear of the centre console (including the storage box lid) carries over.
The interior styling has been completely changed. It’s now more in line with GM’s global range, and the centre stack in particular has a very Opel-ish feel.
In the Calais V configuration of the pre-production car revealed today, It looks and feels premium.
Seats are new with improved cushioning and materials, plus there’s a more upmarket feel in the trim - which now includes more leather and a suede-like material on the dash and door trims.
Crucially, most of our gripes with the VE’s interior have been dealt with.
Gone is the parking brake handle that always threatened to pinch your fingers. In its place is an electronic parking brake that takes up much less room on the centre console.
The window and mirror switches have moved from the centre console to the driver’s door, freeing up yet more space, and the A-pillar trims have been re-profiled to enhance forward vision.
Cruise control butttons have finally made their way onto the face of the steering wheel, decluttering the indicator stalk. The remote boot release has also been moved from the glovebox to the driver’s door.
That annoyingly reflective trim strip that runs across the bottom of the VE’s instrument cluster has also been deleted, replaced by a whole new cluster whose deep binnacles eliminate the chance of any unwanted reflections.
The cheap-feeling centre console lid is still there however, and the rear seat backs still don’t fold down, with only the middle section being able to articulate forward.
From the leather-upholstered driver’s seat - offering good support and comfort - this feels like a dramatically different car with a sense of quality apparent throughout.
The diameter of the steering wheel has shrunk, going from 377mm down to 370mm. The rim is nicely sculpted to fit the driver’s hands, and the wheel doesn’t feel as truck-like as before - which should bode well for the impending SS version.
The layout of controls is more logical here, and the relocation of the window, mirror and cruise controls is most definitely welcome.
There are other more subtle touches which also enhance usability, like the digital temperature displays within the rotary climate control dials.
Almost all key touch-points are nicely trimmed, and the completely new dash design is a much nicer thing to lay your eyes on.
There’s satin-finish chrome bordering the centre stack and brighter chrome strips running underneath the dark timber dash trim.
The part-leather, part-suede panel ahead of the front passenger looks great, and in the show car is coloured light grey (or light titanium, as Holden prefers to call it).
The Calais V show car unveiled today has an overall light interior colour scheme, however a darker scheme with black leather upholstery will also be available.
Holden bills the VF Commodore as the most technologically-advanced car ever created in Australia and, in terms of standard equipment, it's not wrong.
All models will get an Auto Park Assist feature, which can autonomously steer the car into either a parallel or 90-degree parking spot.
On the Calais at least, features like keyless entry and start will be standard, as will a head-up display, blind spot monitor, forward collision alert and lane departure warning.
A Reverse Traffic Alert will also be offered, which uses the rear-facing camera to warn of crossing vehicles while reversing.
Electric power steering will be standard on the Commodore, which should provide a marginal improvement to fuel economy.
The latest version of GM’s MyLink infotainment system will be offered too, which, among the usual audio/nav functions, is able to play music via Pandora by using the driver’s mobile phone data connection.
MyLink will also feature other ‘Apps’, and is designed to be expandable as new apps become available.
The Commodore used to be the staple of Aussie motorists, but times have changed.
It’s clear that larger sedans have fallen out of favour with Australian families, so Holden is moving to take its Commodore upmarket in order to chase a different demographic.
“Our aim with the new VF Commodore was to create a car that challenged some of the broader perceptions people have about the traditional Australian-made large car," Holden Managing Director Mike Devereux said.
“When it goes on sale, it will offer levels of quality and sophistication to rival some of the best cars in the world."
“We have created a car that not only serves the loyal buyers who continue to make Commodore one of the most popular cars in Australia, but also a new breed of discerning customer who wants higher levels of luxury and technology in their car.”
Will car buyers be able to see cars like the Calais as a viable option to entry-level German sedans?
Time behind the wheel will tell the full story, but for now, our first experience of the VF Calais gives us hope that the quintessential Australian large car still has some life left in it.
The VF Commodore range will launch nationally towards the end of the second quarter this year.
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