Holden’s New 2013 VF Commodore: The Hits And Misses

Barry Park | Feb 11, 2013

Overhauled interior brings big gains, but a few small steps backwards.


Forget the exterior of the significantly redesigned Holden VF Commodore. When you’re stuck in traffic, it’s the inside where you will spend most of your time casting a critical eye over things.

In designing the new car, Holden took a huge amount of feedback from customers both here in Australia and overseas, and has used it to give the new Commodore’s interior a complete overhaul. It is almost unrecognisable when placed alongside the old one.

Here’s the best, and worst, of the changes.

UPDATE - MAY 2013: Pricing and photos for the new VF Commodore have been released. Click here.


SPLIT PERSONALITY

Holden has now split the Commodore between two model types: one called “sports luxury”, and the other knoVF as “luxury sports”.

The new VF Calais V falls into the “sports luxury” category, and has a more refined look than what its sports-focussed siblings - and the Chevrolet SS - are expected to wear.

SEAT OF POWER

2013 holden vf calais v 10

The frame used for the driver’s seat is an all-new design borrowed from GM’s global parts bin. However, the bits that cover the frames are made locally by Futuris.

Holden basically has two seat types available - a comfort-oriented “luxury” set-up and a heavily bolstered “sport” one - and can play around with foam densities to get different feels.

The carmaker can also chop and change parts, such as fitting a sports seatback to a luxury squab as it has in this Calais to give the “luxury sport” illusion. Headrests are now integrated into the seatback rather than sitting on top of them.

RIGHT WHEEL

If the tiller of the new Commodore looks smaller than previous generations, that’s because it is. Sports models will get a steering wheel with a squared-off bottom, while the more pedestrian ones will get a rounded wheel.

The new, 7mm smaller wheel fits a lot better in the hand thanks to big revisions to the 'handshake' part of the wheel, where you grab it in the 2:00 and 10:00 o’clock positions.

This means the Commodore should steer a lot differently than the car it replaces, and more so when you consider the car swaps its old hydraulic power steering unit for an electrically-assisted one.

JUST CRUISY

Loan your Commodore to a Holden Cruze owner (or even owners of a Holden Colorado or Barina) and they will be right at home behind the wheel.

Headlight controls, indicator and wiper arms, the instrument binnacle and even the steering wheel controls now all wear the GM corporate face.

A big plus is that the indicator stalk now controls the information displayed on the small colour screen in between the instrument dials (which flick with a playful Subaru-esque sweep once the ignition is turned on), and cruse control functions are moved to a more logical place on the steering wheel.

PADDLE SHIFT

The new VF Commodore is “enabled” for steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, but Holden won’t reveal any details yet on which vehicles will have them.

All we know is that the mainly cosmetic Red Series is set to continue with the new model, and that they may be bundled in the expansion pack.

WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY

2013 holden vf calais v 09d

Huzzah! After years of obstinance, Holden has finally moved all the car’s window controls to the driver’s door armrest.

Again, feedback from customers both within and outside Australia was the driving force behind this change.

Holden admits that this change has gone against the VF Commodore’s strict weight loss program, adding weight compared with the former model’s centrally mounted system, but it is a clear win for buyers.

The once centrally mounted central locking button have moved up beside the Opel Insignia-look door latches.

OLD IS NEW

There are only two carry-over bits between the VE Commodore’s interior, and this one.

The first is the lid over the centre console storage bin (it still doesn’t slide forward to cover the cupholders like the first-generation Calais’s did), and the other is the rear-seat air vents off the back of the console.

SAFE AND SOUND

We counted eight airbags in the new Calais, including front driver and passenger, seat side, curtain and rear. Asking around, it looks as though the big count will be standard across the Commodore range.

The big box sitting in behind the rear-vision mirror houses a forward-looking camera that feeds into the driver collision alert system that, while it won’t stop the car automatically, will warn the driver if there’s danger of a prang.

DON’T HAVE A COW, MAN

Order the leather seats in a new Commodore, and instead you will get a mix of real and artificial cowhide.

You’ll still sit on leather, but the seat sides, backs and headrests will be the synthetic stuff. (Not an uncommon trick these days, though. - Ed)

COLOUR CODES

The Calais now comes with what is called “ice blue” ambient lighting that shows small puddles of light in places such as the small-item storage cubby hole at the front of the centre console, and inside the new, rather inadequate-looking door-pulls that replace the old handle door skins.

Sporty models stick with the red ambient lighting theme, while the more pedestrian models continue with the white lighting that replaced the old gungy green with the introduction of the VE Series II.

The Calais will also have two contrasting interior trims: light and dark. This car has the beige synthetic suede fitted to the dash and doors, but there is an all-black option available if buyers prefer a more stately look.

The big, bold swathes of contrasting seat colour on the VE have been replaced with a subtle stripe. Contrast stitching is now grey rather than red.

HEADS UP

Continuing with its brief of making the VF Commodore the most technically advanced Australian-made car, there’s now the option of a head-up display.

The display appears to float half way doVF the bonnet in front of the driver, with a changeable display that will also show things such as turn-by-turn navigation. One interesting display we saw was cornering G-forces.

MEDIA MOGUL

Holden developed the iQ system for the mid-life update of the VE Commodore, and the word at the time was that it would evolve into a sophisticated infotainment system for GM’s premium brands. With the arrival of the VF Commodore, we bid it a fond farewell.

Now, we get MyLink, an adaption of the system rolled out in the Holden Barina earlier this year that piggybacks off your mobile phone connection to stream radio and music off the internet.

The Commodore system will include the same smartphone-style apps, and will allow limited control over the phone from the steering wheel’s audio buttons.

Accessing the infotainment system is via a big eight-inch colour touchscreen mounted high on the dash.

The idea is that MyLink will eventually roll out with smartphone-based apps that will allow you to do things like check the fuel level or unlock the car without using the keys.

Oh, and if you want a DVD player, it will cost you extra. The default setting is a CD player only.

NEAT AS A BUTTON

Holden has cleaned up the number of buttons around the cabin. The count is definitely down, but again we’re going to have to wait for the full-bloVF engineering briefing to find out just how different it is.

Holden looked briefly at replacing traditional buttons for a Volt-style touch surface, but it was deemed a wrong fit for the car.

The buttons for the multimedia screen are laid forward to provide a handy finger rest, as well as make use of the normally wasted step back form the centre console’s face to the screen.

TEMPERATURE RISING

Notice there’s a big step in between the multimedia controls and the climate control system? This is a deliberate ploy to separate the two and avoid the confusion generated in the VE Commodore.

Another neat advance is that the independent dual-zone climate control temperatures are displayed inside the dials rather than just popping up temporarily in an illogical place like they did in the VE.

GIVE ME A BRAKE

2013 holden vf calais v 09c

An electric park brake is now standard across the Commodore range.

Gone is the old Saab-style finger pincher, and removing it has cleared up heaps of real estate in the space between the driver and front-seat passenger.

Where the VE Commodore lacked decent small-item storage, the VF Commodore has it in spades.

Cup holders are now larger and conform to international standards, and tapered so that they will hold a conically shaped cup securely.

The front door bins are now a lot smaller because a radio speaker is now integrated into the lower part of the door, eating into real estate. You won’t get a drink bottle in them.

WOOD YOU?

One of the burning questions designers faced with the VF Calais is whether wood trim would continue to be an option.

While dropping it was discussed, in the end the natural timber look was considered an important fit for the luxury look and feel of the car.

An announcement is yet to be made over which wood trims will be available when the car goes on sale.

BLING BLING

Two types of chrome-look detailing is used in the VF Calais. There’s a soft brushed-look chrome used in larger areas, and the really shiny stuff is used to outline parts of the dash.

The Calais hasn’t quite caught up with the LED era yet, as the low-power light sources cost about $1 each to meet GM’s strict specifications on their performance.

Instead, you’ll notice the main interior lights have hot-burning incandescent globes in their place.

FLAT-PACK FLOP

The new Calais has a fixed rear seatback that only has a ski port poking through the centre of the rear seat. We asked why, and apparently it is all to do with Holden’s lightweighting strategy for the long-wheelbase WN.

We have to wait for a more detailed engineering briefing shortly before the Commodore’s official June launch to find out more detail.

MORE: VF Commodore Pricing Announced
MORE: HSV Gen-F Pricing Announced
MORE: Unveiled: VF Calais V | Commodore SS | VF Ute | WN Caprice
MORE: HSV Gen-F range revealed

Filed under: Featured, Holden, petrol, commodore, holden commodore, rwd, sedan, News, holden vf commodore, vf commodore, family, large, Advice, special-featured, 6cyl, 2013 Holden Commodore, 2013my, 2014 holden commodore

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  • Len says,
    1 year ago
    We rented a car in the us with the same operating system/ touch screen computer. I dare say that people will figure out a way to connect xm satellite radio capability
    • richard says,
      1 year ago
      1 like
      Which xm satellite would it connect to?
      • FrugalOne says,
        1 year ago
        1 like
        Which xm satellite would it connect to?



        The one in USA when he drives it across the Pacific Ocean rolleyes
  • Dave says,
    1 year ago
    7 likes
    Should not have changed the rear design. Looks like
    Toyota. Very bad look. Does not look Holden.
    rolleyes
    • Chris says,
      1 year ago
      7 likes
      I agree. at first glance I thought it was a camry.sad
    • paul says,
      1 year ago
      2 likes
      Nah it looks more like the mitsi 380
    • touche says,
      1 year ago
      2 likes
      Yeah, interior/exterior doesn't look a hoon's car anymore - big loss.
    • Lindsay says,
      1 year ago
      1 like
      I think Mazda's going to want its boodlid back
    • Nicolas says,
      1 year ago
      1 like
      Agree with u mate...it just makes the VE design more appealing now .
  • Brett says,
    1 year ago
    3 likes
    I actually think the rear end in particular is a huge improvement on the current model.

    The VE design is looking fat, tired and dated. I really like the look of this design refresh and i will be interested to see how the Reps Car version (Omega) looks. This will be the model we will see the most of on the road and traditionally has been the least stylish.
    • Nicolas says,
      1 year ago
      3 likes
      Mate with due respect what are you talking about? The VE design design looking fat, etc...? The VE commodore especially the the 2009 -2012 SV6 , SS look really sporty and really turn heads around i can tell you.they really embrace the concept of muscle and aggressive look that make other cars look weak( im sure many holden fans will agree with me) is this what you are jealous about? lol . No offence. The VE had its own concept and is still appealing ive got a SV6 myself one and it still looks impressive.. anyway the VF is a new concept by holden a tactical move to encourage potential Holden buyers to shift to the commodore market instead of a cruze for example which is still a good car no mistake about it. If you have a look at the back of the VF its got a similar particular shape close to the Cruze . The VF is not so sporty and muscle looking Compared to the VE but will impress with its interior and technology.. The VF is turning a new page in holden history..Take it or leave it...Long life Holden!
      • Brett says,
        1 year ago
        2 likes
        Firstly i am entitled to my opinion and i stand by the fact that the current VE is looking bloated, especially when comparing it to the shape of the VF.

        Of course you are going to consider the SV6 as looking impressive if own one, but you haven't even seen the S range in the VF yet so you don't know that it wont look aggressive.

        As for the new Commodore looking like the Cruze at the rear, it doesn't look anything like it. If you want to see a car with a very similar rear end, have a look at a few pics of the Volkswagen Passat.

        Anyway, i'm looking forward to the next reveal in the VF range.
  • Sam says,
    1 year ago
    Any word on the new Ute?
    • FrugalOne says,
      1 year ago
      Any word on the new Ute?


      WITH A 3-SEATER-BENCH-SEAT please, like FALCON

  • laurie says,
    1 year ago
    1 like
    Holden finally gives us what many have been giving for years self parking,blind spot,rear camera,etc dry
  • Luke says,
    1 year ago
    It looks absolutely stunning, great job Holden
    • FrugalOne says,
      1 year ago
      1 like
      It looks absolutely stunning, great job Holden


      Lets not get to ambitious!

      Its not Pinninfarina, its nothing leading edge, i dont think it even looks as good as a tarted Falcon
  • Ken says,
    1 year ago
    3 likes
    It needs fold down rear seats. I can't take home a 55 inch flat screen TV or ikea shelves. My hatchback can carry this but a Commodore sedan can't. It forces you to buy the Sportwagon.
  • steve says,
    1 year ago
    1 like
    rear looks like a Camry,front reminds me of the out date falcon, this is designed to appeal to the females who wont buy it as it is to large they like corrolla's, Holden should go back to manly styling IE VE as they have now lost their only buyers with this design
  • Sean says,
    1 year ago
    Well blow me doVF - Holden has turned the VE into a rather handsome car. I still wouldn't ever oVF one though.
    • FrugalOne says,
      1 year ago
      Well blow me doVF - Holden has turned the VE into a rather handsome car. I still wouldn't ever oVF one though.


      Yeap, thats what Holden cannot change, making-the-public-buy-it

      Its simply fat too expensive, to be a player you need $29,990 driveaway as a loaded vehicle

      $40k is nowhere, not where the volume of the public buying are

      • Jangles says,
        1 year ago
        You're on drugs! What car on the market gives you kit like this for $29,990? Seriously you're kidding yourself, go buy a great wall!
  • Nik says,
    1 year ago
    4 likes
    What have Holden done! It's a motoring Frankenstein! Disastrous! The front end of A Toyota aurion, the rear end of Mazda 6, the interior dash of a Nissan Altima or old maxima! Common Holden your about as Aussie with this new commodore as much as the American Anthem is American! ( British ) haha there goes commodore down the tube!
  • Paul says,
    1 year ago
    Front looks good cant wait to see the SS model. VF supercar is good indication as to what it will look like. Not big fan of the BT50 looking rear lights and the entertainment system looks very Cruze like. Love the look of those seats look very comfy. Wouldnt mind seeing what the SS ute looks like.
  • abdoll says,
    1 year ago
    doe's VF have 3 doors sedan?dry
  • Sam says,
    1 year ago
    3 likes
    What a joke, Holden havent had an original design thought ever. The overall thing from in front is a dead set copy of the G6E, and the back it a straight rip off of the Aurion? Typical Holden, still playing catch up. How does this car still sell, too many Aussie bogans. The Aurion and Falcon are far better made, designed, powerful and actually make their own designs- not copy others. Joke.
  • Zak says,
    1 year ago
    2 likes
    The car looks like Aurion but still looks great to me. Interior looks premium. Cant wait to see what Caprice has got? Why not to have start-stop function to save fuel, like many other cars have these days.
  • francis richer says,
    1 year ago
    1 like
    biggrinNeed anyone say more.Thank you Holden, there is a God.
    • Norm says,
      1 year ago
      smileWell I think it looks great. An Australian car that I would buy
  • Steve says,
    1 year ago
    1 like
    As a ford fan and an owner of a rare GT Falcon I have to admit that the new VF Commodore is a massive improvement from the VE. The biggest improvement is the interior which Holden have got wrong for years. Can't say I'm a fan of the rear end and the front end looks like an overgrown cruise. Overall nice car Holden. Still wouldn't buy one. Why spend that much money on a Commodore, Falcon or Aurion when you can buy a 4x4 dual cab or a more fuel efficient Korean/Japanese car. People who buy commodore, Falcon and Aurion are wasting there good hard earned money. Say hello to the last Aussie commodore made. Not long to go. We will miss them but we will also move on quickly.
  • Sibella says,
    1 year ago
    1 like
    Very ugly. The current shape and interior was beautiful. Now looks like jap crap.
  • Daniel says,
    1 year ago
    1 like
    Its a great step forward, but I really wish SS owners had the choice of the blue interior lighting, instead of the red they keep insisting on using in the car for that trim level.
  • Alex says,
    1 year ago
    A pig with lip stick & a new dress. Alot of gizmo's that other makers had models ago.
    The big question is ? Whats new on the power train side ? No new hi-tec V6 ? No hi-tec turbo diesel ? Or V8 ? So it lost 40 kilos in weight but the engines don't give good fuel economy. Mike Devraux the yank sales man is selling ice to the Eskimos but now with chocolate ontop.

    Ace 350
  • Ken Dadsey says,
    1 year ago
    Looks magnificent, will it be equipped with DAB+ Digital AM radio?
  • Phil says,
    1 year ago
    Doing long distance driving I have owned 4 Commodores now and am looking at a new car - have to say I am rather skeptical about the VF being a 'world class car' but will give it a lookover.
    There are many areas where Holden (and Ford) are flawed - rough, noisy and uneconomical engines, transmission noises, excessive wind noise around pillars and door frames, poor dust sealing and so it goes on.
    No mention yet or engines - will there be a diesel?
    Will there be a decent transmission? Will it have digital radio or will it just be full of high tech crap that most people don't need!
    I am happy to support local industry and will give the VF a chance, but if as I suspect it will still have lots of flaws and I will therefore be buying european
  • Positive Spin says,
    1 year ago
    2 likes
    Alex, the pig analogy is oh so 1990's, tired, old, predictable. Open your mind to 270kw, smooth as silk power, great handling, extreme comfort and you will have imagined my VE SSV. If all you really care about is your image then you will never be able to understand.
    • Netbear says,
      1 year ago
      What's with the strip down the middle of the VF seats ?

      That will really annoy my ass !

      The VF also looks too much like everything else out there.

      I have a VE Calais V V8 and a VE II Omega Sportwagon (work car) I love the Calais V V8, the power, the ride, the handling. The seats could be better bolstered like an SS though. The VE II Omega Sportwagon on the other hand is noisy, rough and very underpowered.

      Not being ungrateful for the Sportwagon Just My 2 cents worth !

      I also had a BF II work car a while back, plenty of torque, but overall the worth car I have ever driven !
  • Jess says,
    9 months ago
    1 like
    I have owned my Vf Ss for 4 weeks tomorrow !! 6 speed manual and I just love it!! Holden you have done it again..I can't even compare it with my Ve...in any way!! Thankyou for this lovely step up Holden smile I am so inlove with my Vf Ss!!
    • OzBoy08 says,
      8 months ago
      Am about to go and buy a new VF Calais V6. Must say I was impressed with the test drive. However, I must also confess to being a bit concerned about the wind noise coming from the driver's side A-Pillar. Why is it that my current Toyota Aurion Presara has no wind noise but this will be the second Holden I will own that has that noise. Why can't Holden get rid of that ? It is a world class car being let down by a third world problem that Holden doesn't know how to fix.
  • Marty says,
    5 months ago
    Hmmmm 270KW 6L

    now in theory thats as powerful as a 4pot camry!
    Maths!
    Holden 45KW per Litre! BOOOOO!!!
    Toyota Camry 55KW per Litre
    Toyota MarkX (RWD sedan) 67KW per Litre

    Holden = Epic fail!
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