Holden Commodore SV6 Sportwagon Z Series 2013 Review

Holden Commodore SV6 Sportwagon Z Series 2013 Review

This is a car which is having its lunch partly eaten by SUVs and not really for any good reason. Recently Holden and Ford announced they would be phasing out their most popular large passengers cars in 2016: the Commodore and Falcon will be retired (at least in the form we know them).

Having spent a fairly enjoyable week with the Commodore, it irks me that one of the main reasons that it’s not selling so well any more is that

mums want SUVs because they consider them ‘safer’ for kids and because twice a year they might have to fit an unwieldy object in the boot (but, it’s not always the case that an SUV is best, which we’ll see in a minute).

The fact that SUVs universally handle much worse than cars giving more likelihood of not evading an obstacle doesn’t enter into the equation. Other reasons are that people are moving to smaller, more economical cars. For that, Holden has to shoulder some of the blame along with every other manufacturer.

Thirty years ago, cars were tiny, not very powerful, and prone to crumple if you hit so much as a large rodent. Medium-sized cars these days are, in fact, larger than large cars of the 1980s, and even though we are doing our best to keep up with the upsizing effort by downing litres of soft drinks and kilograms of fried chicken, there’s a practical limit where you can’t make a large saloon any larger (or any more practical). Every manufacturer has done this – just look at how a Honda Civic has grown in its lifetime!

A perfectly good car will be lost to the annals of time so I’d better get on and tell you how it was the drive. Pretty good is the answer. There’s a 3.6-litre SIDI direct injection V6 that lays down 210kW and 350Nm through a six-speed auto with Active Select directly to the rear wheels.

If you can resist the temptation to plant your foot to the floor, Holden reckons you’ll get 9.8l/100km in combined urban/extra urban driving. If you do plant your foot you’ll find that this Commodore feels slightly more stable at the rear and seems to bite into the tarmac more effectively, even when accelerating while cornering. This will be partly due to the sports suspension and 19-inch alloys that wear 245/40R19 tyres, and partly that it comes with the usual safety and grip enhancing electronics – traction control, Electronic Stability Control, ABS and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. Six airbags helps complete the five-star crash test rating.

The Z Series wears some mean grey alloys that are perfect in their simplicity for the sleek body. At the front the SV6 Sportwagon is typically aggressive with its flared arches and unfussy, bold lines. Recessed fog lamps and air intakes do at the front what the chrome exhaust tips do on the back: tell you it’s got some grunt.

Sit in the driver’s seat and you get the feeling that you’re right in the belly of the car with the high shoulder line. There’s still the horrible handbrake lever that fits flush with the central console, and a few cheaper-feeling plastics, but in general the cabin is well designed. The steering wheel features some buttons and dials for adjusting volume, trip computer, answering the phone and selecting the navigation, but it doesn’t do this as well as some competing models.

The main focus is around the combined Holden-iQ entertainment and navigation touchscreen. The supported media includes USB input (including iPod integration) and Bluetooth audio streaming (along with phone integration).

The phone system supposedly syncs contacts, but I couldn’t get this to work with my iPhone 5. This would be a useful feature, allowing you to make calls to your contacts without touching the phone.

The navigation system is a little clunky to use at first, but OK once you know your way around.

The screen also displays the image from the reversing camera. There are guidelines in the image, but they don’t respond to steering inputs.

Rear seat passengers will be very pleased with the amount of legroom. The seats all round offer good comfort levels, too. If you fold the rear seats down you’ll get 2000 litres of boot space; leave them up and you get 895. If you buy a 7-seater Colorado 7 SUV and fold the seats down it only gives you 1830 litres and with the third row of seats up you get 878 – who says that SUVs are always bigger and more convenient for boot space? It’ll also tow up to 2100kg, but that doesn’t match an SUV’s usual 3000-3500kg range.

Anyway, not many of us tow anything, let alone something that’s two tonnes. This large station wagon might be being phased out in a couple of years, but it’s not because it’s a bad car. Market perception has left us wanting ‘Americanisation’ in terms of the size of vehicles. Holden even markets its Captiva 7 as having a ‘high driving position’ that ‘puts you in control’. Talk about helping to dig your own grave!

Overall, I like the rear wheel drive, high power format. The six-cylinder engine has just enough rortiness to keep you enthusiastic and it looks mean. A few minor interior gripes didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of the car.

Price: $57,890


  • Looks great and drives well
  • Practical load space
  • Lots of rear legroom


  • Slightly clunky operating system for sat nav
  • No smart key, and the key doesn’t fold either

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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