THE HOLDEN COMMODORE SV6 SPORTWAGON IS A SLOWLY FADING REMINDER OF THE CLASSIC AUSTRALIAN FAMILY-CAR - SIX CYLINDERS UP FRONT, LOTS OF SPACE OUT BACK AND A RUGGED, DURABLE CHARM.
Priced from $41,490 plus on-road costs, the SV6 Sportwagon (as tested here) adds to the base Evoke with 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights and part-leather seats, as well as a 3.6-litre rather than 3.0-litre V6.
The SV6 is aimed at providing a richer feel than the fleet model, yet it continues to be attractively priced against both smaller, imported competitors and increasingly popular SUVs.
Vehicle Style: Large wagon
Price: $41,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 210kW/350Nm 3.6 V6 petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.3 l/100km | tested: 11.8 l/100km
A supersized V8 engine may be the sizzling star of the VF Series II range, but the V6 still brings home the bacon by snaring 65 percent of total sales.
The SV6 also secures the largest share of any Holden Commodore available. The sedan is more popular than the Sportwagon, but it’s the big-bummed version that now scores fresh LED tail-lights.
Although sales may be a fraction of what they once were, the Commodore continues to clobber every similarly-priced rival, including the best-selling SUV in the market, the Mazda CX-5. In fact, only three (small) passenger cars have eclipsed the large Holden’s sales this year.
- Standard equipment: cruise control, power windows and mirrors, keyless auto-entry, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, auto headlights
- Infotainment: 8.0in touchscreen with USB/AUX inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and Pandora and Stitcher apps connectivity
- Cargo volume: 895 litres (2000L back seat folded)
There remains no beating a Holden Commodore for size and space for the price. With the VF generation the list extends to standard technology as well.
The SV6 boasts superbly comfy front seats ahead of a generous rear bench with acres of stretch-out space. The clever Sportwagon tailgate – which extends deep into the roofline for easy loading of tall items – reveals a huge space that will fit the largest of family holiday paraphernalia.
As standard, the Commodore can detect parallel or perpendicular parking spots and automatically steer itself into the space. It’s a handy feature for a 4.9-metre-long wagon, as are the front and rear parking-sensors.
The SV6 also adds a reverse traffic alert (which detects oncoming cars when backing out, which is helpful if parked cars block the line of sight) and a blind-spot monitor. New to the model for the VF Series II update is standard keyless auto-entry.
The 8.0-inch colour touchscreen is a benchmark for high-resolution brightness and ergonomic usability, and the inclusion of Pandora and Stitcher internet music app connectivity is likewise impressive. Satellite navigation is, however, optional.
Some of the VF cabin’s hard plastics are less agreeable when pricing begins with a ‘5’ as with the Commodore SS V Redline and Calais V, however the Commodore SV6 feels cohesive for the price.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 210kW/350Nm 3.6 V6 petrol
- Transmission: Six speed automatic, RWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
- Brakes: ventilated front and rear discs
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering, 11.4m turning circle
- Towing capacity: 1200kg (unbraked), 2100kg (braked)
Before the VF Series II arrived, the question was whether you’d choose the V6 or spend a $6200 premium for a V8 performance boost.
The difference between SV6 and SS now extends to $7200, and the brash, anti-economy personality of the new 6.2-litre contrasts with a 3.6-litre that is both potent and refined.
It has become more than just a matter of straight-line speed.
The Australian-made V6 has been massaged over the years, and it is now a surprisingly sweet performer.
Responsive and revvy when pressed, it teams with a six-speed automatic that is a real asset. The gearbox is intelligent enough to slink engine revs down to an efficient 1200rpm when cruising, yet it quickly responds and hold gears in response to the throttle.
However, in an age of downsized turbo four-cylinder engines with similar outputs (a Skoda Octavia RS wagon’s 2.0-litre makes an identical 350Nm of torque), the V6 isn’t the most economical engine.
Around town we saw as high as 16.0 litres per 100 kilometres, though a freeway and country run lowered this to 11.8 l/100km.
The drivetrain gels nicely with FE2 sports suspension that is slightly firm but never comes close to being edgy or harsh. The SV6 Sportwagon feels buttoned down if given a bit of a shakeout on a winding road, yet it also breathes over a bumpy road.
Choosing the Commodore Evoke or Calais on FE1 suspension only brings a subtle change – they are slightly plusher, floatier.
The VF Series II introduces revised electro-mechanical steering for the sports models. Increased weight results in a slight artificial resistance around town compared with its slick predecessor, but accuracy and directness at speed remain impressive.
The V6 is lighter over the nose than the V8, which requires extra patience in keen driving when turning in to a corner. The Commodore isn’t what you’d call agile, but the rear-wheel-drive chassis remains beautifully balanced and composed.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 35.06 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Six airbags including dual-front, front-side and full-length curtain, ABS, ESC, auto park assist, front and rear parking sensors, reverse-view camera, reverse traffic alert and blind-spot monitor.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
A duo of Fords to think about – traditional Falcon as a sports-six sedan, or efficient diesel Mondeo wagon – go along with smaller options: the Mazda6 Touring, a fine non-sporty alternative, and the agile Skoda Octavia RS.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Many buyers will choose a super-sized but under-specced large SUV for around $42,000. Others may consider the racy little Skoda Octavia or classy compact Mazda6 – both of which are great options.
Arguably, however, the Holden Commodore SV6 delivers the finest combination of large SUV-rivalling space and practicality, and the performance and dynamics expected of a sporty sedan or wagon.
Its 'average' fuel economy is also partially offset by cheap servicing (just $239 for the first four annual or 15,000km check ups and $299 for the following three).
While the loud and proud V8 hogs the VF Series II Commodore limelight, the V6 continues as the quietly impressive and deservedly popular alternative.
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