Car Review: 2017 Holden Astra RS.

Holden’s move to bring in its range of vehicles from Europe has already paid off with the fully European sourced Astra. With an all turbocharged engine range, the 2017 Astra family, which starts at $23990 driveaway, offers power, performance, and plenty of tech, as A Wheel Thing drives the 2017 Holden Astra 1.6L RS manual.It’s the 1.6L four here, with an immensely handy 280 torques between 1650 to 3500 revs and rolls off to the 147 kW peak output at 5500. So far it’s a numbers game, including six, six being how many forward ratios in the manual transmission supplied. It’s a delight, this transmission, with a beautifully progressive clutch pedal and a pickup point that feels natural. The gear selector is also well weighted, with no indecision in the close throw and tautly sprung lever. Reverse is across to the left and up, easily selected by a pistol grip trigger on the selecter’s front. It’s a delightfully refined package, one worth investigating, and a prime reason why we should move away from automatics as our primary transmission. Economy? A Wheel Thing finished on a sub 7.0L per 100L of 95 RON from the 48 litre tank.It’s a sweet looking machine too. A sharp yet slimline nose, with striking silver accents, rolls into a steeply raked front window, with good side vision before finishing with a somewhat odd looking C pillar design incorporating a pyramidical motif. There’s a black sheet between this and the roofline and there’s further eyeball catching with the deep scallops in the doors. Beautifully styled tail lights finish off what really is a handsome vehicle.  Inside you’ll find a well sculpted office. There’s piano black highlights that contrast with charcoal grey black plastic and cloth trim on the seats in a checkerboard pattern. The dash design itself is organic, flowing, and evokes the design ethos of higher end luxury cars. The pews front and rear are wonderfully supportive and have just the right amount of give and bolstering. Rear seat passengers get enough leg room for comfort also and there’s no problem with head room for front or rear with 1003 mm and 971 mm respectively. The driver and passenger do not get electric seats, though, however there is DAB for the high quality audio system that’s part of the GM family’s MyLink set. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility along with streaming apps. For those that like to carry kids and shopping, there’s 360L pf cargo space with the seats folded up, cupholders front and rear, USB charger point, seatback pockets, and door pockets as well.The driver and passenger do not get electric seats, though as they’re reserved for the RS-V, however there is DAB for the high quality audio system that’s part of the GM family’s MyLink set. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility along with streaming apps and the leather clad tiller has audio and cruise controls that are pure GM in their ease of use. For those that like to carry kids and shopping, there’s 360L pf cargo space with the seats folded up, cupholders front and rear, USB charger point, seatback pockets, and door pockets as well.It’s its road manners and driveability where the Astra RS really shines. The six speed manual is fluid, smooth, and completely complements the torque delivery of the 1.6L powerplant. What makes the Astra RS a delight to drive is the beautifully balanced suspension. It really is one of the best ride packages you’ll find. Period. The suppleness of the suspension is deft in its ability to change with road surface changes, whilst it firms up to provide a sporting feel when required. Rubber is from France, with lightning bolt 17 inch alloys wrapped in Michelin 225/45 tyres.From smooth freeway surfaces such as those found in western Sydney where some areas have been freshly resurfaced, to gravelled and rutted entrance roads, the Astra RS feels comfortable and poised across these and every surface in between. Thrown into off camber turns the hatch sits flat and under control and rarely does the rear end feel as if it’s not attached to the front. The steering itself is weighted just so, with a fine balance of effort versus connection to the front. There’s a bare hint of understeer being a front wheel drive car and while hint ar torque steer when the go pedal is given a hard push from standstill.Holden will give you a three year or one hundred thousand kilometre warranty, which, given the levels of warranty offered by others is starting to look a little dated. However they do offer Lifetime Capped Price Servicing plus you can take the car for a twenty four hour test drive to make up your own mind. Yes, you’ll find driver aids on board and the RS gets Automatic Emergency Braking in the suite of aids.

At The End Of The Drive.

The RS Astra, priced in the mid twenty thousand dollar range, is perhaps one of the most complete packages you can buy as a driver’s car. A torquey engine, a slick manual transmission, a comfortable office and with enough tech on board for emjoyment and safety, plus a beautifully tuned chassis add up to provide one of the most pleasureable drive experiences available. And that price makes it a competitive package in regards to value as well. Go here to check it out plus look at the new sedan: 2017 Holden Astra hatch range

Car Review: 2017 Holden Trax LS

Holden has a history of importing small cars for SUV style duties. Suzuki gave us the Drover, Isuzu the Jackeroo and a jacked up Barina became the Trax. A refresh to the car has been performed, with noticeable changes inside and out. The 2017 Holden Trax LS spends a week in the urban jungle.Up front is the 1.4L turbo four that once resided in the Cruze. In that car, even with an auto, it was lively, peppy, zippy. Not so in the LS auto. Holden have released the LS with the 1.8L engine and manual or the turbo four and auto only. Even with 200 torques at 1850 rpm it’s pulling close to 1400 kilos and felt as if the gear ratios were holding the little SUV back. When punched hard and under way, the performance characteristics did change…having said that, the auto had an unusual and odd whine, one not out of place in a manual transmission that wasn’t calibrated correctly.The turbo four drinks 95 RON as its preferred tipple and will do so at 6.9L per 100 km (quoted,combined) from a tank weighing in at 53 litres. That’s pretty much on the money in the week A Wheel Thing had the petite LS Trax however that’s the combined figure. Given this kind of car will be in short distance, stop start, style of travel, figure on something closer to 8.0L/100 km.

Ride quality is a mixed bag in the front wheel drive only Trax LS with a even and smooth feeling on freshly laid roads morphing into unsure and tentative on broken and rutted surfaces. There was even occasional mild bump steer and an odd sensation of the front MacPherson strut suspension’s settings not balancing the compound crank axle rear. Driving over the mildly broken surfaces of some local roads would have the front gently absorbing the irregularities and the rear would feel less tied down. All in all, just not a balanced mix. Handling was also a mixed bag with a numbness either side of centre of the tiller, a feeling of twitchiness in the communication from the steering wheel, and just hints of understeer from the Continental 205/70/16 rubber when pushed.

The brakes were the same odd mix, with nothing but pedal pressure for what felt like an inch before a gentle bite, a too gentle bite at that. In order to get any sense of stopping power a harder shove was required and there was no sense of progression, rather a change from soft to grab hard, a most disconcerting sensation in high traffic. That’s perhaps due to the drum rears, not discs. It’s also apparently fitted with HSA, or Hill Start Assist, however even gentle slopes such as those found in undergroup car parks had the car rolling back once the foot was off the brake.

The transmission in the LS Turbo is, as mentioned, a six speed auto. It is fitted with a manual override, accessible via a simple toggle switch on the selector. This was invaluable in the climb up Sydney’s Old Bathurst Road, just west of Penrith, at the base of the Blue Mountains. In traffic, rather than the indecisive self selector, by using the manual it would more than happily crawl/walk/run uphill depending on the traffic gaps. It was quicker in changing gears doing this and came in handly also in overtaking.Brownie points, also, for the interior of the Trax. It’s an office come boys club in that it’s a comfortable place to be yet efficient in design and layout. It’s a traditional key in the right hand side of the column, standard GM switchgear, all blended into a smooth, flowing, organically styled dash with the pews comfy and providing plenty of lateral support. There’s the MyLink system on board and housed in a seven inch touchscreen which includes phone projection which is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the LS misses out on DAB as the entry level model in the three model range. There’s an LCD screen in the dash binnacle which also houses analogue dials, appropriate for an entry level vehicle.There’s also Bluetooth streaming, USB and Auxiliary inputs but the death of the car-based CD player was also on show, with no slot to slip the silver disc in. A point off, though, for the design of the tiller, as the centrepoint is above the horizontal centreline which makes for an uncomfortable 11 and 1 hand position. Storage wise you’re looked after with a tray under the passenger seat, door pockets, good sized cup holders and sunglasses holder.There’s good rear legroom at 908 mm, headroom at 985 mm, and shoulder room is good for two adults at 1340 mm. This is inside a petite 4257 mm overall length yet packing a 2555 mm wheelbase. This means the corners are pushed out into the pumped out guards and sees the otherwise somewhat dumpy looking five door seem a touch larger than what the dimensions suggest. The height has a bit to do with it, being an inch shy of 1700 mm.Otherwise, you’re looking at a redeveloped nose, bringing the Trax into line looks wise with the Colorado and Captiva, with the flattened six sided lower air intake under the single bar upper. There’s LED driving lights but no halogens in the lower quarters. The rear is less made over, with the family resemblance to big sibling Captiva perhaps more slightly enhanced and hides a 356/785 litre cargo capacity accessed by an easy to open and lift tailgate. Naturally there’s a camera for reversing and it provides a crisp and clear picture on the screen.There’s six airbags, the now mandatory safety aids under the skin, pretensioning seatbelts, collapsible pedals, plus Holden’s standard three year or one hundred thousand kilometre warranty. Reverse sensors partner with the aforementioned camera to complete the package. At the time of writing, the first four services will cost you $229 each at intervals of one-year or 15,000km, a fair ask for peace of mind and for budget conscious buyers.

At The End Of The Drive.
The LS Trax with turbo four and six speed auto was, at best, competent in this particular vehicle. Performance was somewhat lacklustre until pushed and that transmission whine was a worry. It does though look smooth and organic inside and offers enough usable room for four adults. At around $25K driveaway it’s not a budget breaker either however. For details and to book a test drive to make up your own mind, go here:2017 Holden Trax range

Holden and HSV’s Final Hurrah: 2017 Range Released.

As Toyota recently confirmed their date for shutdown, Holden’s moving towards their end of manufacturing as well and has released information about the final cars available. There’s been some additions of features, changes in price and deletion of options. Here’s how it looks for the final locally made Holdens.Colours: there’s three new additions, with Light My Fire (orange), Spitfire Green, and Son of a Gun Grey, with the nomenclature harking back to the way colours were named in the 1970s. Metallic paints are listed as a $550 option.

Transmissions: as part of the rationalisation of the range, the venerable six speed manual transmission is virtually extinct, being available only with the V8 sedans and utes. All other cars are available with just the six speed auto.Range: Holden has dropped the SS-V, but has stayed with the SS-V Redline, whilst the Calais Sportwagon has also been dropped. This has the range sitting thus: Evoke sedan/wagon/ute; SV6 sedan/wagon/ute; SS sedan (with manual and auto)/wagon (auto only)/utes (both transmissions); SS-V redline (same structure as SS); Calais sedan (V6 auto only); Calais V (V6 and V8, auto only, sedan and wagon), and the final Caprice (V8 & auto).Features: SV6 gets satnav and HUD (Head Up Display) as standard and will have 18 inch black wheels. The SS will get the same except for 19 inch wheels. SS-V gets more of the black out treatment (grille, fender vents, mirror surrounds, instrument panel & steering wheel, and DRL surrounds), plus “V” embossed sill plates with the ute gaining a blacked out “sports bar”. The Caprice V gets the leather wrapped steerer from the SS-V

Pricing:

2017 Holden Commodore RRPs

Evoke
Sedan AT $35,490
Sportwagon AT $37,490
Ute AT $33,490

SV6
Sedan AT $40,490
Sportwagon AT $42,490
Ute AT $37,190

SS
Sedan MT $47,490
Sedan AT $49,690
Sportwagon AT $51,690
Ute MT $43,990
Ute AT $46,190

SS-V Redline
Sedan MT $54,990
Sedan AT $57,190
Sportwagon AT $59,190
Ute MT $52,490
Ute AT $54,690

Calais
Sedan V6 AT $42,540

Calais V
Sedan V6 AT $48,750
Sedan V8 AT $56,750
Sportwagon V6 AT $50,750
Sportwagon V8 AT $58,750

Caprice V
LWB Sedan V8 AT $61,490

HSV has also released details of their final made in Australia cars, including the GTSR W1, complete with 474 kW and a massive 815 Nm of torque. Just 300 will be made and will cost an eyewatering $169990. The range will consist of the ClubSport R8 LSA, the wagon version, the Maloo R8 LSA, Senator Signature and GTS. The latter will have the 435 kW/740 Nm alloy V8 with the others being powered by the slightly detuned 410 kW/691 Nm version.The bi-modal exhaust has been given a different opening point, lower in the rev range, and all models receive toque vectoring, utilising the braking system. Outside there’s been a refreshment, with different front and rear treatments, new bonnet vents, a new range of alloys, rerated suspension and “Thirty Years” badging, to commemorate the beginning of HSV in 1987. All cars will have the Tremc six speed manual as standard and will offer the GM 6L90E six speed auto and paddle shifters as a $2500 option. AP Racing will continue to offer their 390 mm/372 mm disc brakes as an option, with a price of $3495, with the GTS having them as standard.

The Maloo kickstarts the pricing, with $79990 for the manual and $82480 for the auto. The ClubSport sedan is $82990 and $85490, with the Tourer rolling in at $88990 and $91490. The Senator Signature is $95990 for both transmission options, and the GTS is manual only at $98990. All prices are plus on road costs.

 

2017 Holden Colorado LTZ: A Wheel Thing Car Review.

As Holden, the Australian arm of global giant General Motors, winds down in respect to local manufacturing, there’ll be a simultaneous increase in the vehicles being sourced from outside the island continent. The Colorado,  a name with a definitive nod to the Americas, is and has been for some years, one of those vehicles. There’s a three model range, built around the cab chassis, space cab and crew cab, with various trim levels and a mix of two and four wheel drive.A Wheel Thing normally spends a week with a car, however due to the Christmas break for 2016, had the Holden Colorado LTZ with 2.8L Duramax diesel for just under three. This included a return trip to the cheese capital of south eastern Australia, Bega, via both the coastal and inland routes.

Immediately noticeable is the sheer size of the Colorado; at five point three metres long, it offers plenty of leg room for humans in both front and rear cabin sections (1072 mm front, 872 mm in the rear) thanks to a huge 3096 mm wheelbase and 1800 mm overall height, enough shoulder room for three adults in reasonable comfort in the rear with 1472 mm, and a good sized tray complete with a simple to operate tonneau cover. The test car was coated in dirt and scratch highlighting metallic black.A redesigned front end graces the 2017 spec models, removing the droopy eye look that tied the Colorado to the Malibu and, to a lesser extent, the Commodore. A smaller headlight cluster raises the nose visually, with the heavier two bar grille also replaced with a simpler, slimmer, and more elegant design. Slimline LED daytime running lights complete the picture. From the rear and in profile, there’s little to differentiate between this and the previous, excepting the sensors front and rear.Inside, it’s a mix of standard Holden switchgear, reasonably comfortable seats (the powered fronts could use more side support and can be optioned for heating in the LTZ but, stupidly, not cooling), some questionable locations for a couple of essential pull tabs, an eight inch MyLink touchscreen (models below have seven inches) of good design with Android and Apple Carplay, a multifunction monochrome driver’s display, and, surprisingly, a forward collision alert system. Holden’s website says there’s DAB fitted as well. Rear seat passengers get their own 12V socket and you can count on Bluetooth streaming for sounds.Up front is the Isuzu sourced 2.8 litre Duramax diesel, coupled to a wide ratio six speed auto and electronic four wheel drive system. That’s operated via a centre console mounted dial. When bolted to the auto, there’s a peak torque figure of 500. That’s reduced to 440 Nm when the six speed manual is added in and both figures come in at just 2000 rpm. Peak power is a healthy 147 kilowatts and that’s at 3600 revs. After something close to 1700 kilometres of driving, the economy was 8.8 litres of dinosaur juice being consumed for every 100 kilometres covered, with Holden quoting one litre below that for the combined cycle from the 76 litre tank. That’s some good figures to look at, given the 2100+ kg weight of the LTZ before you insert people and cargo.

The engine itself, in highway cruise mode, was barely audible, with a light throttle bringing in a light chatter. Under acceleration from stand still, or for overtaking, then that chatter became a cacophony. Those wide ratios don’t make for easy overtaking quickly, with the long sweeping or straight country highway sections needing a fair measure of forward planning. If you’re towing (up to 3500 kilos) or have loaded the tray (1000 kilograms), you can expect more load noise and, naturally, a higher consumption figure

Adding to the occasional pucker factor of passing was the lack of real brake feel. There’s discs up front, drums at the rear, and a pedal that failed to instill confidence due to the lack of bite and comparative need for long travel. The all surface tyres, with a high sidewall, were grippy enough on dry tarmac and wet river sand, but also didn’t feel confident on wet tarmac, particularly in one emergency stop situation.The Colorado was taken through a short stretch of river to test both the four wheel drive and the wading depth capability of 600 mm. With a simple wrist flick, the dial is moved from 2WD to 4WD, and it’s noticeable in the drive train immediately. Eased into the softer shore sand than then gently but consistently run, the two combined to cover the twenty or so metres easily, with the 28 and 22 degree approach and departure angles allowing ease of entry and exit.

Match this up against a vastly improved ride quality, however, and the Colorado delights. Gone is the twitchy, jiggly ride, replaced by a firmer yet still compliant handling package, thanks to re-rated leaf springs at the rear and a nicely tuned double wishbone front. The 265/60/18 rubber from Bridgestone adds to the comfortable flow the vehicle has. Yes, it’s a touch floaty over the rear yet even that was easily controlled thanks to the addition of luggage. On the sweeping curves of the highway south of Narooma, and on the picturesque Snowy Mountains Highway, this extra stability became evident and allowed for more finesse to be applied to the driving style. On downhill runs, a system called Grade Braking comes into play, dropping the gearbox down a ratio or two, and it becomes a fine mix between the foot playing the brake pedal and accelerator.

Handling is predictable, with a well weighted steering set up. Although somewhat vague on centre, it does tighten up considerably and provides good feedback to the driver. It’s not a system that likes being hustled though, preferring the driver to communicate  a direction change gently but will begrudgingly accede to a sudden change of direction request. Once you’ve had some time behind the wheel, you’ll get a feel for how the system responds to your input and will be able to judge for yourself just how communicative it can be when required. Turning circle is a smaller than expected 12.3 metres. Acceleration is the same. Although there’s more than an abundance of torque, the ratios in the ‘box don’t translate to rapidity off the line, but will give some urge mid range at highway speeds. Ideal for long overtakes on a country road, for example.Naturally you’ll get Holden’s standard three year/100,000 kilometre warranty, plus lifetime capped servicing, 12 months roadside assist and Holden’s new 24 Hour test service when you’re in the market for a new car such as the Colorado.

At The End Of The Drive.
The Colorado has tough competition in the form of Ranger, Navara, Triton, and Toyota’s seemingly unstoppable HiLux. However there’s a good price in place, with just $50490 for the LTZ. Looks are well and truly in the eye of the beholder and the 2017 Colorado’s facelift brings it back into play over the previous model, in the opinion of A Wheel Thing. The onboard range of features and tech, the carlike ride quality, and the roomy interior bring the vehicle well and truly into the ring. The Colorado is now a stand-up contender in the family four door ute stakes.

Go here for further information on the 2017 Holden Colorado range

2016 Holden Insignia VXR: A Wheel Thing Car Review.

Holden’s manufacturing will cease in 2017 and to ease into the transition period Holden will increase the number of cars it will import. One of those is a true bahn stormer, the potent and stylish (Opel) Holden Insignia VXR V6 turbo, released in 2015.

It’s an eyecatcher, the Insignia VXR. Lithe, curvy, assertive, bigger than it looks at 4830 mm in length, with flanks that have a distinctive scallop and with the test colour coated in a metallic grey-green, it would reflect light at different angles. There’s huge 20 inch diameter grey painted alloys wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero rubber that provide superglue road holding and an outstanding all wheel drive system that transfers torque on demand to where it’s needed and a sophisticated electronic limited slip diff at the rear. All of these are mated to a sensational twin scroll turbo V6. It’s “just” 2.8L in capacity however delivers 239 kilowatts and an outstanding 435 torques. Both come at 5250 but the engine delivers somewhere around 90 percent of that peak from around 2000. It’s tractable, flexible, unbelievably potent and sees triple digits from a standing start in under six seconds.Adding to the firepower is the three mode drive system. You can choose from Touring, Sports, or VXR. Think a small ham and pineapple pizza, a large Supreme, and a family meal with free drinks and delivery thrown in. Touring has a slightly softer ride quality although you’re not left in any doubts as to the potential underneath. Sports firms up the FlexRide suspension and changes the settings in the gearbox, holding gears a little longer and allowing the driver to further explore the ability of the engine. Even the steering firms up, feeling tighter and requiring more effort to move the wheel.

Under normal driving the transmission is fluid if sometimes reticent to change when you feel it should. Stoke the fire and it becomes a totally different beast. Crisp, sharp changes are on tap, matching the rasp from the exhaust as the electronic tacho rises and falls in unison. Select Sport or VXR and the eight inch LCD screen also changes, offering up a range of information and a somewhat gimmicky looking g-force display. You do, though, get a screen where that is minimised and housed inside a silver themed speedomoeter. It’s visually impressive and sharp looking.Inside the Insignia is a welcoming and snug set of seats for the driver and front passenger. You have to lower yourself down into them but once in they’re supportive and wrap around the body. The rear seats are less so and are somewhat compromised in regards to leg room. Thankfully, Opel has fitted the seats with eight way power adjustment and both heating and venting, a godsend in Sydney’s late year variable weather. There’s some chromed trim in the front, which does add some visual class but unfortunately also reflected sunlight directly into the driver’s eyes.The dash design itself mirrors that found in Jaguar, with a swooping curve from door to door and around the base of the windscreen. The door grabhandles mirror that design, to a point, but feel somewhat too far back in the door ergonomically. The tiller has a chunky feel to it, with a soft touch texture and houses all of the now commonplace controls, plus has a pair of paddles fitted to the rear. Sadly, the texture here is of a lesser quality than the rest of the cabin. Also a touch questionable is the touch required to adjust the aircon temperature, requiring sometimes a stab or three in order for a finger to register, meaning the eyes aren’t focused on the road. The General’s MyLink system is on board, with DAB radio (bliss) and housed in a clean and uncluttered console. There’s Pandora and phone projection via Apple CarPlay. The voice command system makes for a high technology presence and for safer driving.When the Insignia VXR is on the road and everything is warmed up and ready to play, one can be assured assured that a most excellent driving experience is waiting to be delivered. Rolling acceleration is stupendous, ride quality of the 2737 mm wheelbase only jiggly on the most unsettled of surfaces such as the gravel ring road surrounding Sydney Motorsport Park, belying the 35 series profile of the tyres. Otherwise it’s well damped, following undulations and curves as if glued to the road and imparting a feeling of real confidence as you punch out of corners. All this while the electronics work faithfully and unnoticed in the background. What isn’t unnoticed is that powerplant and exhaust. Built in Australia, there’s a leonine roar when pushed, a rumble with a fine metallic edge on idle. You’ll pay at the pump though, with a 70 litre tank only swallowing 98 RON and consumption equivalent to a dockside pub full of workers after Friday knockoff.

To back up the performance capability, there’s Brembo brakes up front and vented & drilled discs brakes. The brakes will haul up the 1800 kilo machine time and again but there’s just a tad too much dead pedal to start with and lacks real feedback. There’s collision avoidance radar, blind spot warnings, adaptive cruise control plus auto emergency braking. Up front, there’s the standard LED driving lights but you’ll get adaptive lighting that adjusts to your speed plus auto high beam on and off. Holden offers a standard three year or 100,000 kilometre warranty plus Lifetime Capped Price Servicing to boot. Speaking of boots, there’s a capcious 500 litres available behind the 60/40 splitfold seats. To put that into perspective, that’s more than the Commodore.At The End Of The Drive.
The Holden Insignia VXR is a rare beast in that it’s a performance sedan, a big car, not a V8, offers outstanding grip levels and a beautiful ride, all wrapped in a pretty and stylish body. It’s also a car that seems to have slipped under the radar of buyers, with a low recognition level shown by the amount of swivelling heads on pedestrians. Priced at not much over $50K, it’s a hidden performance bargain and one that would be even more enjoyable if the Insignia was found to be sans a couple of hundred kilos. There’s a high level of tech onboard, unusual at the price point as well, but the real attraction for a driver that thrives on sheer back bending ability is that firecracker engine up front.
For a comprehensive look at the Holden Insignia VXR, go here: Holden Insignia Information

Car Review: 2015 Holden Commodore SV6 Sportwagon

With the Holden Commodore effectively the only local car Holden has built for some time (Cruze is a world car, not locally designed), the major changes the car has experienced have come at seemingly ever increasing gaps. Much like the HJ to HZ Kingswoods, changes were cosmetic or unseen, being located under the skin.

It’s much the same with the VY and VZ to VE, with noticeable but not massive external changes but the move to VF models was more radical and almost a nod back to the original VB Commodore. The VB featured long horizontal tail lights, a design that stayed through to the VL. The VF moved away from an almost triangular look, a look that started with the VY, going back to a set of elongated horizontal lights. The front end underwent a slightly less radical change, with the headlight surround changed to a more “eagle eye” look and the lower front bumper given deeper and more inset vents housing the LED driving lights.2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagonfront profileBut all the way through, there was a wagon. The ute didn’t arrive until the VN model, however there was always the option of a wagon. With the recently released VF series 2, there’s been the same incremental changes from the VF, with subtle, almost unnoticeable changes unless you look hard. 2015 <strong><em>Holden Commodore SV6</em></strong> wagon tail lightThe Sportwagon’s tail lights are perhaps the biggest external change, with a more strongly defined design to the housing whilst when lit look more like the neon light style favoured strongly by some other brands including Kia. The front bar has also been given a subtle restyle, with the lower air intake widened and the corners indented. Stand away and you’ll miss the changes.2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon head lightUnder the lightweight aluminuim bonnet (which noticeably flapped around) beats Holden’s heart. There’s a muscly 3.6L twin cam alloy engine, which has a nice touch of rort when punched hard. It’s a willing revver, spinning easily around to the redline, throwing out 350 Nm of torque at 2800 rpm on the way to 210 kilowatts at a stratospheric 6700 revs. 2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon engineTo put that torque figure into perspective, however, most modern two litre engines with a turbo will twist out the same. Consumption is quoted as 9.0L of 91 RON per 100 kilometres from the 71 litre tank although Holden does say better distance per litre may be achieved from 95 and 98. Send it along a straight freeway and the six speed auto will settle in at just over 2000 revs, dropping that fuel consumption (from the average) to around the 8.3L mark if pedalled gently. Sitting just under the peak torque figure, it allows the Sportwagon to get some serious mid range acceleration when asked. It’s a superb highway cruiser, with minimal road noise intruding into the cabin and that ride has the passengers feeling as if they’re isolated from the outside.

The interior also has received a mild workover but you’d have to be an “anorak” to notice; there’s slightly different looking dials in the dash, but the centre monochrome screen remains. 2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon night dash2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon dashThere’s the same faux carbon fibre trim, the same oddly located fabric strip in the seats, the same touchscreen as the VF and the same acres of space inside the Sportwagon. 895L of cargo space greet the driver and there’s 2000 with rear seats laid flat.2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon cargo

Back outside, there’s some new alloys to wrap tyres with, with five spoked eighteens clad in 245/45 Bridgestone Potenza rubber. Being the tyres they are, along with the continual refinement of the suspension, there’s a brilliant ride and fantastic handling. Hit a bump and there’s minimal rebound. Punt it hard into a roundabout and there’s minimal roll and the nose goes where the steering wheel says, with the faintest hint of understeer.2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon wheel2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon rear profile

Being a wagon, there’s a touch more weight over the rear axle, but there’s no way of telling from the front right seat. It’s light, nimble, responsive, and highly unlikely to go Porsche by swinging the tail out. In fact, it’s one of the best handling cars one is likely to find on the road. Rebound is minimal yet there’s no hard bumps, with suspension nicely dialled in to provide a firm ride yet offer compliance enough to iron out the road to flatness. 2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon rear seats2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon front seatsThere’s a 2915 mm wheelbase coupled with a 1592/1608 mm track front to rear helping with that stability. Those numbers offer leg room of 1074 mm for the front and 1009 mm for the rear, allowing for plenty of long distance driving comfort.2015 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon rear light

The Wrap.
Wagons are not a dying breed, thankfully. But the Commodore Sportwagon is, with around 18 months worth (at the time of writing) of manufacturing left. We can only imagine what the next model, and beyond, would have been like but, as it is, this model will be seen as the best of the last. Much like Ford sold out Sprint models and the forthcoming cessation of the Aurion and Camry locally as well, the final models will be a great swansong.

Head here for more info: 2016 Holden Commodore SV6 wagon

 

 

Car Review: 2015 Holden Astra VXR Coupe

With Holden due to source more cars from Opel than ever before, they’re telling us via a solid marketing campaign. One of the nameplates we’ve had and that has returned in force is Astra. A Wheel Thing sampled the latest Astra VXR six speed manual, a model due to be completly revamped for late 2016 or early 2017.2015 Holden Astra VXR engineIt’s a stylish looking beast, with the test vehicle clad in a flat, not metallic, red and riding on 20 inch alloys. The two doors, framed at the top in chrome,  open wide and allow access to a surprisingly capacious rear seat and cargo section. In profile it’s amost a continuous curve, with the roof coppinga  discrete spolier and the front a sharpish, almost rakish look.2015 Holden Astra VXR front
Under the long bonnet lies Opel’s 2.0L turbo four, one with punch and verve, mated to a six speed manual, the car’s Achille’s heel. There’s a hefty 206 kilowatts on tap at 5300 revs but more impressive is the mesa flast torque delivery between 2450 to 5000. Besting most two litres by fifty torques, Sir will enjoy 400 of them across that range. It makes for immense mid range go and flexibility aplenty on the freeway.

Need to overtake? Depending on where you are, it’s either a measure of flexing the right foot just a bit more or dropping back a cog or two and launching the rocket. There’s a buzz from the front, not unpleasantly so, and a soul bending surge as the speedo does silly things. The seats (which have air powered bolsters, by the way), sigh gently as they support the driver’s mass being pushed into them.

Left leg goes in,, left leg goes out and in between the lever is moved, the revs drop and the turbo spins idly for a moment (turbo lag is noticeable only at low speeds and off boost) before huffing and puffing again. It’s flexible, usable, enjoyable to drive, but…

Downside? Always one, minimum. The tank is small, almost too small at 56 litres (with a preferred taste of 98 RON, ta very much) to provide a sense of true comfort. Although the VXR isn’t excessively thirsty, at around 9.0L/100 km average, in city use the figures rise well above 10.0L/100 km. Holden quotes a combined cyle of 8.0L/100 km, which in the most ideal of ideal worlds would provide 700 kilometres of travel….

Although the shift is light it also lacks precision. The gate movement is sloppy, loose (and yet only around 9000 kays on the odometer), at odds with the well weighted clutch pedal, the lightning fast response of the engine to throttle and the wondrous brakes. Fast changes are nigh impossible without repeat practice and the possibility of finding the slot you don’t want is high.

These are the brakes that should be standard in the Ford Everest and Ranger; sensitive enough to tell you when the pad is just nipping the disc, the progressive bite as they compress and the feel of the pedal as it latches on as soon as you touch it and tightens up in the travel. Superb. Or, in a word, Brembo.

What isn’t superb is the woefully out of date centre stack design. The updated version can’t come quick enough to dispatch those buttons and dials to the bin of history. See the picture to gauge for yourself. At least the surround looks nice.2015 Holden Astra VXR consoleApart from the console, there’s not much else to worry about; hugely confortable and supportive seats (three settings for heat, great for a cold day but no cooling on hot ones) with the front section of the squab adjustable for extra under thigh support, wide opening doors (remember, only two of ’em) to access the back seat and yes, there is leg room, rather than feeling as if one must be a contortionist by nature. Boot size is a decent 380L. There’s the General’s MyLink satnav infotainment system to play with, suitably aluminised trim on the centre console and subtle lighting at the base of the console stack.2015 Holden Astra VXR cabinThe audio system was beyond superb in such a small car. Complete with a sensitive DAB tuner, the clarity of the sound, the range and depth was simply brilliant and a real punch to the low end notes. It’s backed out by the hands free Bluetooth system, audio streaming and Apple’s Siri EyesFree. You’ll also get rain sensing wipers, Hill Start Assist, curtain airbags and tyre pressure monitoring at each corner.2015 Holden Astra VXR dashIt’s nice to have a luxury feel inside but what if the ride is bad enough that it dulls the presentation? Thankfully the VXR’s ride is surprisingly compliant, even with the 20 inch alloys and licorice thin rubber (245/35 Michelin Pilot Super Sport) with a massive, for the size of the VXR, wheelbase of 2695 mm, helping to soak up the smaller ripples. Size is just 4466 mm overall, making both ride and internal space (rear legroom is 870 mm) so much more impressive.2015 Holden Astra VXR wheelIt’s a cozy ride on the flat and dispatches any minor irregularities to the bin. Go slow over shopping centre speedbumps and that’s where the sports suspension settings make themselves known, with spine and teeth receiving a belting. Point it at some corners and tightening radius turns, there’s barely a hint of roll and you can feel the chassis readying itself to be punted hard….the response? More please. It’s the auto equivalent of trim, taut, terrific as the initial give (and there’s enough to be surprisingly comfortable) turns up the harden up factor, keeping the VXR level all the way through. It also means dive and squat (acceleration and braking) is almost negligible. You can thank something Opel calls HiPerStrut technology.2015 Holden Astra VXR rearThe Wrap.
It’s roomier than expected, handles as if it’s superglued to velcro and has a wonderful engine. But it’s undertanked and had a substandard gear change mechanism, possibly a couple of things people consider to be pretty damned important. It’s a delight to sit in, bar the dog’s breakfast console, looks pretty enough still (the new model looks sensational) and from $39990 driveaway (at the time of writing) is incredible value for the performance.
Check with your Holden dealer (or your Opel/Vauxhall etc dealer overseas) for warranty and service conditions. Online brochure available here: Astra brochure2015 Holden Astra VXR profile