Worth migrating to Oz if this is the mainstream family sedan. It is a bargain. And if you hold on Vauxhall is brining the V8 versions to Blighty in 2007.
31 July 2006

What is it? The new four-door saloon from Holden. European Car firms don’t make cars like the new Commodore any more. Remember the Vauxhall Omega and Ford Scorpio? Once popular, these large, rear-drive sedans from high-volume manufacturers were eventually overwhelmed by the consumer shift to prestige brands. But not in Australia, where the Commodore and Ford’s alternative, the Falcon, are still best sellers. What’s it like? Although it is essential for the Commodore to remain affordable, the benchmarks for the all-new fourth-generation model have been set as the previous-generation BMW 528i for dynamics and Audi A6 for quality. New multi-link rear suspension – similar in concept to that on the Cadillac CTS, but with integrated spring/damper units – replaces a semi-trailing arm system. The steering rack has been moved ahead of the axle line and the MacPherson strut at the front has become a multi-link strut. Body stiffness is up by almost 50 per cent; one-piece body side pressings have been adopted and the fuel tank has moved from under the boot to ahead of the rear axles. Across a seven-tier model range, priced from just £14,965 to £23,850 for lucky Australians, the VE runs two revised 3.6-litre quad-cam V6s, the Melbourne-built Global V6 used in other guises in various Saabs, Vauxhalls and Alfa Romeos. Omega and Berlina models run the 235bhp variant with an ancient four-speed automatic ’box, whereas the SV6, SS and Calais models run the higher-revving 260bhp unit, mated to a five-speed automatic. Sitting above the V6 range is GM’s 6.0-litre V8, which pumps out 362bhp and 391lb ft with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic ’box. Take note: in 2007 Vauxhall wants to import both the V8-powered SS V and the HSV; the latter has more than 400bhp. The wheelbase grows a massive 126mm to 2915mm, although overall length is up only 18mm to 4894mm, and the tracks have been pushed out by 33mm at the front and 41mm at the rear. Buyers have the choice of anything from 16in to 19in wheels, depending upon the model, which fill flared front arches. On Australian roads, the Omega steers and rides better than a current 530i. The handling, too, is just right; a confidence-inspiring blend of linear turn-in, genuine steering feel, plenty of grip and predictability, combined with a ride that soaks up the worst bumps and remains controlled. The stiffer sports suspension works on the SS, but is too firm for the Calais. Once, Australia’s domestic cars trailed the world for refinement. Go beyond the Omega’s whiney low-speed engine noise and limitations of the four-speed automatic and this is a sophisticated, no-compromise range. Considering the price, it’s a remarkable achievement. Should I buy one? If you live in Australia, absolutely: the new Commodore is a bargain. Unfortunately for the Brits, the whole range is not heading to the UK. Still, although it could almost be worth emigrating for, the UK will get the V8 models sometime in 2007. Peter Robinson

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