KD’s Top Geary Top Review: Holden Commodore SV6 Sportwagon

In my lifetime, this is possibly quite historic for myself.

I don’t think I will ever drive an Australian built full size car ever again. I mused recently about the changing carscape of Australia and how everything was going either Euro or Japanese, which is a crying shame for a country with such a massive car culture.

It was a great opportunity for me to take the wheel of the last generation Holden Commordore for almost a period of one month in VIC and NSW, so I made sure that I booked the estate version as we had a lot of luggage and the kids as well.

Over 4 weeks I had two versions of the Commodore – the  SV6 Sportwagon and SV6 Sportwagon Black edition (splitream blue). The grin on my face was quite wide. Most folk will think I am nuts, but you don’t get to drive these cars often, and as I said let alone in your lifetime. So I was going to enjoy it. It is not a bad looker, but dare I say that the VE version was just a bit more handsome?

I know that the saloon version of he VF is big, as is the boot. But this estate version of the Commodore is massive. It will swallow three suitcases with ease and we had a Bugaboo carry case (full iof nappies, if you must know) which slotted on top. OK, rear view was a little obscured and thankfully I know my way to CBD from Tullamarine Airport but the capacity is impressive, even more so than my B07 Passat and that can swallow.

The car is started by remote entry – that is to say, the key fob transmits the signal to the car for it to start – no need to stick it in the ignition and works quite well until you realise you have actually no idea where you put your keys.

From an drivers perspective, the dials are clear and climate control in the centre console is all within reach – so no issues. However, the stalks are a bit of a mess.There seems to be far too much going on and it took me ages to get the speedo to read on the info dial in the centre of the dash. I am so used to having it there, but you need a good five mins to figure out what the stalks are doing and if they are doing what you want.

Like most larger cars these days, cruise is standard but this version is just crap. Sometimes there is a lag before the cruise kicks in, it is not easy to regulate and all too often I was switching it off. It is not best placed on the steering wheel and when you are used to having a stalk that does all the functions it is a shame that GMH did not take up this idea. Just annoying. Some Holden drivers will cite that I am talking mumbo jumbo, but having driven various cars of the years, this seems to be one of the worst. Ironically, the previous VX, VY & VE versions of the cruise (from memory) were far better at the job!

So what is it like to drive? For the majority of my driving life, I have only known FWD. Just the way that things are – I have never owned a BMW or a Merc as these are normally native to the rear axle. But the big Aussie motors are. Huge lump and front, with the power being fed to the rear. Aussies love Kilowatts, but roughly speaking the lump produces around 280bhp. The grunt you get is Cheshire Cat grin big. Immense fun – the car simply launches you and before you know it, you are breaking the speed limit. So you need a deft touch with the accelerator, as I found out. I stuck it in reverse and tapped the right pedal with the whole car jumping backwards at speed. Luckily I didn’t hit anything, but it was enough to give you a fright.

The sound of that raspy engine is quite something – something you just don’t get with Euro’s unless you have tuned and got a daft pipe on the end. I had a bit of fun giving it a bit of welly down Hoddle and Hignett Street in Melbourne (sorry VIC Police, but it had to be done and the roads were clear). It is jut pure petrol head fun and gives you a real sense of owning a car that wants to be driven hard at times. Look, it’s not your M4 or a Fezza. If you want total performance then you need a HSV version. But for the normal person who wants just a wee bit of a kick and a hoon, this is a delight. The downside is that in doing so you consume petrol quicker than Usain Bolt…..and filling it up in Aussie is not cheap, especially when 95 Octane is the only choice and there is no E10 or 91 available.

Motorway cruising is fine – I have no complaints at all. It drives well, with no major fuss. When the need comes to overtake a lane hogger, then the V6 comes into life. What I think is a brilliant idea is the blind spot indicator on the won mirrors which light up when a car is by your side. I have to tell you, it saved me a couple of times from causing a prang on the Eastern Fwy. Every car should have this – it is essential, and I wholly commend GMH for adding this safety feature.

I did find the steering a little heavy – in comparison, the Passat is like turning a inflatable ring. Yes, there is PAS, but I would have expected this to be a lot crisper. It was just a bit woolly and not as responsive as I would have liked it to be.

Whilst the cabin space is impressive both at the front and rear, I was less impressed by the fit and finish. OK, this was a hire car, but still, the quality of plastics felt cheap and the thing just didn’t feel well put together. I have seen better models made from LEGO. I was expecting to have electric seat adjustments, which to be fair the drivers seat did, but the tilt was via a handle? WTF??! They couldn’t make it electric at all???

The seats are nothing to ride home about, they look sporty but neglect to keep you tight in, which is surprising. One of the worst aspects of the car is the infotainment system myLink. I mean, it is properly rubbish. 1) it was not intuitive on how to store radio stations (luckily the thing was just tuned to KIIS Melbourne/Sydney more the majority of time
2) The bluetooth would not connect at all. 3) The control on the steering wheel was not friendly. It was really frustrating as there seemed to be a lot that the system was capable of doing, however, it just was not able to do. Annoying to say the least.

I did like my experience with the SV6 over a four week period – the grunt from that V6, the fact that this was a last of a generation really made the experience that bit better. The load space at the back is massive – perfect for family trips. But ultimately the car is flawed. The build quality is average as is the feel of the plastics and material used. There should be more kit for this higher end model, but I have no idea why it is missing.  It just doesn’t feel like a well built car that Australia deserves. It is the last of its kind, never really to be repeated, yet GMH make a go rather than a concerted effort.

It is such a shame. This car should have given the final Australian built Commodore the send off it really warrants, but falls short. No doubt there will be those who will love this car, but after handing it back, I had a bit of an empty feeling – just a bit of an anti-climax. This should have been more.

All I have now are memories – not really of this car but of a BA XR6 Falcon that I drove in Queensland in 2005. That was a beauty and well put together, as well as being a hoot to drive. Although over 10 year ago, the happiness of driving that Aussie icon still remain. That should have applied to my journeys in 2016.



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