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New Commodore Evoke Review Photo:
 
 
Tim O'Brien | May, 30 2013 | 6 Comments

COMMODORE EVOKE REVIEW

  • What’s hot: Superior ride and handling, quality feel and high-end features at an unexpected price
  • What’s not: Curious ‘soft panel’ dashboard trim, external styling carryovers
  • X-Factor: The quality, capability and economy to bring buyers back to the traditional Australian family car

Price: $34,990 plus on-roads
Engine/trans: 185kW/290Nm 3.0 litre SIDI DOHC V6/six-speed auto
Fuel economy listed: 8.3 l/100km | tested: 8.5 l/100km

 

OVERVIEW

Did ever a car hit the Australian market with such weight of expectation as the new VF Commodore?

Perhaps not since the HQ, or maybe the first Opel Rekord-based Commodore, has this market so eagerly anticipated the arrival of the ‘new baby’ from one of our own.

And one, like the Chev Camaro and Pontiac G8, that carries the flag for Australian engineering and automotive design capability.

Sampling nearly all across the new Commodore range in a long looping run through (appropriately) the Monaro High Plains in Southern NSW, left us in no doubt of the quality and capability of this car and the depth of its engineering.

World-class? Inside, outside, underneath, everywhere you care to look.

And the biggest surprise is that it comes at a price that has it lying right across the better medium sedan and SUV sectors.

With the Evoke, the entry model to the range, there's electric power steering and ‘park assist’ self-parking, with rear-view camera and front and rear sensors, with IsoFix child-seat attachments, electric park-brake, trailer sway control, Bluetooth and audio streaming, eight-inch touchscreen and voice recognition control, among a raft of technologies.

And this, all this, for less than $35k?

Still not satisfied? Add then the refinement, on-road ease and balance of a limousine, the effortlessness of a 3.0 litre V6, but with the thirst of a medium segment four-cylinder.

This car, at this price, with these features and capabilities simply demands the attention of buyers. It’s as if Holden decided to slam down a challenge to the market to end all argument.

Any buyer spending five minutes behind the wheel of the Evoke would have to seriously question why they would want to spend more money on a lesser imported SUV or medium sedan competitor.

Andrew Holmes, project engineering manager, told TMR, “We learned a lot from the Camaro project, and we put it back into the VF.” It shows; we think the new VF Commodore will change a lot of minds.

Don’t even think of buying anything else till you have a look.

 

INTERIOR

Quality: It’s the classy ambience of the interior, the feel of the controls, the soft-touch surfaces and stylish implementation that puts the VF in a wholly different league to the outgoing VE.

That’s not to damn it with faint praise: this is a classy interior full-stop. Besides a cohesive and inviting feel, there are so many features on offer that it looks not at all like an entry-spec model.

It’s only the soft fabric panel on the dash (suede further up the range) and the curious curved line it creates, that jars with these eyes. I can’t work out why it’s there.

The rim to the composite steering wheel also has a rubbery feel to it. It’s nicely styled though, with all functions at the thumb-tips and is sized just-right.

Comfort: The fabric seat trims are nothing to write home about. They’re ok, not great, and one of the few clues that this is the entry model to the range.

But the generously-sized seats look good, and are well-shaped and comfortable. Importantly, they offer lots of height adjustment for shorter drivers, giving a good view across the bonnet.

The reach and rake adjustable wheel also makes it easy getting set into a relaxed driving position.

Rear seat passengers are spoiled for room, and, though lacking some of the shaping of the Calais and sports models, the seats offer a wide squab and armchair under-thigh support.

Equipment: Forget that this is a large car; is there any car at this price which offers the same level of high-end technologies and features?

Take that as a question on notice. For the avoidance of doubt, here is the list of key features and technologies (this is why it earns our 4.5 star interior rating).

The Evoke comes, as standard, with dual-zone climate control, electric power steering (EPS), auto park assist (radar-guided self-parking), rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, electric park brake, hill-hold control and hill-start assist, trailer sway control, IsoFix child seat anchorages, remote vehicle start (auto only) and projector headlights.

The ace though is the communication platform.

The eight-inch multi-function touch-screen display, besides containing vehicle and trip information, is the key to Holden’s MyLink infotainment system.

It comes with embedded apps including Pandora and Stitcher SmartRadio and provides touch-screen and voice-control access for playlists, artists, albums, songs and genres. It also features a CD/MP3 player, iPod integration, USB and aux-in jack, and Bluetooth with audio streaming.

Standard on the Evoke and across the range, it communicates with a welcome Aussie accent, and comes with ‘grace-notes’ technology that understands Australian slang (it understood ‘The oils’ but was flummoxed by ‘Acker-dacker’).

Storage: It’s a Commodore; that means a huge boot. Deep and wide, it offers 495 litres of storage.

The lightweight aluminium boot panel lifts easily and sits vertically for easy access and the boot space is clear of hanging hinges - the hinge mechanism wholly contained in the channels.

It also offers 1200kg braked towing capacity.

 

ON THE ROAD

Driveability: The engine is familiar. There are some driveline and exhaust changes and peak torque is harnessed a little better, but it’s essentially the same all-alloy 3.0 litre SIDI V6 that sat under the bonnet of the VE.

In the VF, it outputs a healthy 185kW and 290Nm of torque.

The big change for driveability however, and what makes it feel so different, is the way it’s silenced under acceleration and on-road. The VE could sound a little breathless and coarse when revving hard, but it sounds a totally different beast in the VF.

In normal driving, it can barely be heard, and only when stretched beyond 5000rpm does it make its presence felt. And then it’s not unpleasant.

At high speeds, just a rounded hum reminds you it’s there.

And, as is well known with the Commodore, there is ample power for swift secure overtaking or effortlessly flattening hills on a long country run.

No SUV anywhere near this price offers the same loping ability to easily swallow long, long Australian highways.

It’s perfectly mated to the six-speed auto; in normal mode it quickly adapts to the driving style and conditions. Flick it across into ‘sport’ and it holds gears longer and changes down pre-emptively into corners, or can be rowed along using the centre shift (pull for upshifts, push for down).

Refinement: Besides the more obvious styling changes, it’s in refinement where the VF Evoke stands head and shoulders above its price-point competitors.

On road, you can compare this car favourably to an Audi A6 for the ‘cocooned’ refined feel, and the absence of noise and harshness when at the wheel.

Even at high speed, road roar is barely intrusive, broken bitumen is dispatched without jarring or thumping and there is just a feather whisper of wind around the base of the a-pillar and wing-mirrors.

Thanks to its smaller wheels, the Evoke is in fact quieter than the Calais – itself quiet – and there is no problem holding quiet conversation.

You’ll have no trouble stepping from this car relaxed after a long day at the wheel.

Suspension: Front and back, the suspension geometry has been completely redesigned. It’s lighter – the front assembly is now aluminium, as are many of the suspension components.

The ride is slightly firmer, but more attuned to the contours of the road. The result is superior control, a more alive feel at highway speeds, and flatter better-balanced cornering.

Also adding to the alive feel is the brand spanking new electric power steering (EPS). It too is one of the better ones you’ll encounter.

Set up on the Evoke in a standard ‘Touring’ mode, it provides the characteristics of a variable hydraulic system with a linear and progressive feel when cornering. Even in Touring tune, the Evoke points in eagerly and is a fun steer round a winding road.

Importantly, unlike some electric systems, it provides a sense of the road when in the straight ahead, and doesn’t feel as if it’s pushing against a detent when moved those few degrees left and right.

Braking: Across the range the braking feel at the pedal and sense of engagement with the brakes has been greatly improved. The Evoke gets 298mm rear discs and 302mm up front.

On a swift run down from the high plains on a long winding descent, there was no sign of fade nor loss of pedal feel. There is also, of course, ABS and a suite of modern technologies sitting below the pedal.

 

SAFETY

ANCAP RATING: 5-Stars

Safety features: The Evoke comes with six airbags (including thorax and pelvis side-impact protection), electronic stability control, ABS and traction control, and the new ‘Auto Park Assist’ system.

It also features ultra high strength steel in the A-pillar and safety cell sections, adjustable head restraints, and pedestrian protection with the deformable aluminium bonnet.

Blind-spot alert and reverse traffic alert can be added as optional extras.

There's also automatic-release electric park brake, hill hold control, hill start assist, trailer sway control and IsoFix child seat anchor points.

In the development of the safety systems in the VE, Holden conducted 70 crash tests involving 49 handmade prototype cars at a cost of around $350k each.

“It’s the safest commodore ever built. We’ve taken what VE had and improved it further,” Holden safety integration manager Steve Curtis said.

 

HOW IT COMPARES

VW Passat 118TSI DSG sedan ($38,990): Against the price of the Holden, the Passat now doesn’t get a look in.

Stylish coachwork and an interior of understated elegance, but far slower, harsher on-road ride, less well-equipped, and no match for Commodore’s robustness, reliability and long life. (see Passat reviews)

Honda Accord VTi-S ($33,990): Vastly improved, certainly robust, but just 2.4 litres and five-speed auto under the bonnet, and lacking any clear ‘points win’ in any area over the new Commodore.

Equipping an Accord to the same level as the ‘standard fare’ Evoke will also push its price right out of this league. (see Accord reviews)

Mazda6 Sport Sedan SkyActiv 2.5 ($33,460): For winning style, features, resale and on-road elan, Mazda’s seemly 6 is good buying. But at this price you only get four cylinders and 138kW.

It lacks the refinement of the Commodore on-road, is outgunned comprehensively for power, and beaten for interior space and high-end technologies. (see Mazda6 reviews)

Ford Falcon XT ($37,235): Until the past month, Falcon could lay claim to the best chassis, suspension and on-road handling of Australian family sedans.

It’s to be retired in 2016, but don’t let that put you off, this is a very good car – particularly the EcoBoost and XR models.

Although offering a classy double wishbone suspension, super ride and enticing engines, the Falcon XT is pretty basic and is now marooned at a price and feature disadvantage by the technology-laden new Commodore.

 

OVERALL VERDICT

The score for the Evoke is a reflection of price against package. It is astonishingly well-equipped.

If there was ever a time to buy an Australian-made car, it’s now.

Not because the new Commodore Evoke is Australian-made, but because, at its price, it is simply a superior car.

Don’t bother ticking any expensive options list; straight off the floor the Evoke offers more capability and superior features than any of its eyeball-to-eyeball logical competitors.

For loping comfort on the road, it’s a match for vastly more expensive imported cars. Ditto for refinement and handling.

As Holden engineer Andrew Holmes said, “This (the VF) is a no excuses car; one that can hold its own on a world stage, and bring people back to Holden.”

No excuses, no beg-pardons. Holden has hatched something very special with the VF Commodore.

It is, simply, a very fine car. If you haven’t before considered a Commodore, this one will change your mind.


 

PRICING (Excludes on-road costs)

NOTE: Across the Commodore range, selecting the Sportwagon body style adds $2000 including GST (auto transmission only), while optioning an automatic transmission in sports models adds $2200 including GST. Prestige paint adds $550 including GST.

Recommended retail prices, comparing new VF to VE, excluding dealer delivery and government charges:

Model

VE

VF pricing

Rollback

Evoke (auto only)

$39,990 (Omega)

$34,990

- $5,000

SV6 (manual)

$42,790

$35,990

-$6,800

SS (manual)

$47,790

$41,990

-$5,800

SS-V (manual)

$55,290

$45,490

-$9,800

SS-V Redline (manual)

$57,790

$51,490

-$6,300

Calais (auto only)

$48,290

$39,990

-$8,300

Calais V V6 (auto only)

$56,790

$46,990

-$9,800

Calais V V8 (auto only)

$61,990

$52,990

-$9,000

 

Options

Evoke

  • Blind Spot Alert / Reverse Traffic Alert - $350
  • Satellite Navigation - $750 (Available September 2013)

SV6

  • Satellite Navigation - $750
  • Sunroof (Sedan only) - $1,990
  • Rear wing spoiler (Sedan only) - $500
  • Leather Appointed seats - $1500

SS

  • Satellite Navigation - $750
  • Sunroof (Sedan only) - $1990
  • Rear wing spoiler (Sedan only) - $500

SS-V

  • Sunroof & Bose® Audio Package (Sedan only) - $2490
  • Rear wing spoiler (Sedan only) - $500

SS-V Redline

  • Rear wing spoiler (Sedan only) - $500

Calais

  • Satellite Navigation - $750

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

 
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