Holden station wagons are known to many Kiwis as the quintessential family hauler, which when mentioned can easily trigger nostalgia and stories of camping trips away. Able to accommodate mum, dad the kids and even the dog there has never been any doubt of the Holden wagons practical value. However, times change and now Holden’s large wagon needs to compete not just against other wagons but also SUVs and crossover vehicles. The only way to stay ahead is to retain the traditional practicality while placing extra focus on aesthetics and fuel economy. The VE Series Commodore Sportwagon has done just that and the base-model Omega has an extra weapon — price. After a mid-cycle refresh the new Series II Omega is looking better than ever but can it put a stop to buyers deserting wagons for crossover vehicles. Car and SUV spent a week playing happy families with the latest Omega Sportwagon to find out.
The new Series II upgrades have been particularly kind to the Omega and while it remains the budget model in the Commodore range the once large gap between itself and the other model variants has closed up. Visually, the Omega is looking sharp, the updates have brought subtle changes to the front end including a larger chrome-rimmed grille and new yet familiar-looking headlights. At the rear, changes include chrome detailing and a revised boot lid with integrated aerodynamic spoiler. You can forget any no frills steel wheels as well because the Omega comes sporting a set of 7-spoke 16-inch alloys. While the alloys don’t quite fill the large guards they add largely to the huge improvement in presentation. Overall, the styling is spot on, the Omega exterior offers no clues to its base-model status, it also has some fine detailing like colour coded caps on the side mirrors and black painted dual exhaust tips.
Inside, the updates are even more prevalent with the big news being the inclusion of the Holden-IQ vehicle entertainment system. This new unit is fitted across the entire Commodore range and makes use of a modern 6.5-inch colour touch screen and can connect to an iPod, USB stick and wirelessly to a Bluetooth-capable phone. Satellite navigation and a reversing camera can both be displayed on the screen but are optional extras for the Omega. The touch-screen is housed in a smart new-look centre control stack with large, simply laid out air conditioning switchgear underneath. Elsewhere, the charcoal dashboard is divided by a strip of contrasting silver trim with more silver featuring on the steering wheel and door cards. The instrumentation is well presented and looks great when illuminated in white. Overall quality is mixed, some of the softer plastics are pleasant to the touch but the rubbery steering wheel and loose glove box hatch isn’t so flash. That said, the dashboard is well ordered and doesn’t look or generally feel cut-price.
In terms of standard equipment the Omega does well and many higher-spec features have filtered down including a trip computer with a separate display, cruise control, multifunction steering wheel, rear parking sensors, auto headlights, dual zone air-con, electric driver’s seat, power windows all round and keyless entry.
Interior space is plentiful and the Omega feels huge inside, perhaps even more so than other Commodore models because of the light grey fabric used on the seats and door trims. The front seats are wide, comfortable and offer more leg room than will ever be required. The rear seat has good width for three adults and there’s three points for all passengers. The only small gripes here comes with the back seat headrests not being adjustable. Visibility is also an issue with thick A-pillars creating blind spots for the driver that need to be glanced around. Also the Sportwagon’s high-waisted exterior design and low mounted rear seat means children in the back may struggle to see much out the side windows. The answer may be to keep them in booster seats till they’re twelve years old and worry about the psychological issues you’ve caused, later on.
Cargo capacity is often a major reason for choosing a wagon and the Omega has plenty of space on offer. The hatch needs very little room to open and will gobble up 895-litres of luggage with the rear seat back in place, fold it down and this expands to a massive 2000-litres. If this still isn’t enough the Omega has a 1600kg towing ability.
Sitting under the bonnet on the Omega Sportwagon is Holden’s latest 3.0-litre V6 engine. Codenamed LF1 the motor outputs 190kW of power with 290Nm of torque. It’s a modern bent-six and is equipped with Holden’s Spark Ignition Direct Injection (SIDI) system that directly injects fuel into the combustion chamber. The result is more power from less fuel and it is also Bio-ethanol compatible for the environmentally conscious.
While it’s a strong motor the six pot still needs to be pushed hard to really get high performance from the burly 1766kg Sportwagon. Its true strength lies in its flexibility, having a refined demeanor around town while being very competent on the open road and boasting plenty of mid-range grunt for safe overtaking.
Putting power to the rear treads is a GM-developed six-speed automatic gearbox. It’s a hard working gearbox but performs its duties with little fuss, the ratios are well spaced and there’s a sports mode or a tiptronic manual change option for total control.
The six-speed gearbox, advanced engine and some small aerodynamic tweaks have resulted in a fuel economy figure of 9.3l/100km on the combined cycle. It’s an impressive result for Holden’s large car and with the 71-litre fuel tank the Omega has a long distance range of over 700kms.
Driving dynamics are a strength of the VE Commodore range and the Omega scores fairly well here. The suspension is set quite soft and maintains a comfortable, compliant feel on various surfaces making it ideal for motorway cruising. Get on to the twisty roads and there is some body roll but the Omega has enough grip to feel assured. Push it harder and you will begin to feel the car’s length and weight at the front. But the rack and pinion steering is well weighted and offers good mid-corner feedback. The Omega has a peaceful ride quality with the engine only offering a mellow hum when cruising and little wind or road noise entering the cabin.
For safety the Omega Sportwagon has all the trimmings you’d expect in a family wagon including a six-airbag package, stability and traction control, ABS brakes and electronic brakeforce distribution. These features combined with seatbelt warning systems helped the Omega score a maximum 5-star ANCAP rating.
So what’s the bottom line on the Omega Sportwagon?
The Series II upgrades have been very beneficial for the Omega and it’s no longer a vehicle reserved for budget-conscious fleet buyers and photocopier repair technicians. It’s a comfortable, well-equipped and spacious family hauler with a luggage capacity beyond its sedan siblings. The exterior tweaks have given it a more upmarket look and the interior additions, particularly the Holden-IQ system, have increased functionality. But away from the bells and whistles it is the advanced powertrain with the refinement and fuel economy it brings that has this wagon ahead by a nose from many key competitors. If you want a large wagon and you’re on a budget but don’t want to feel like you’re driving a cheap new car then the Holden Omega Sportwagon has become a machine worth serious consideration.
What we like:
- Strong and economical powertrain
- Interior space and luggage capacity
- Improved interior functionality
- Equipment level
What we don’t like:
- Some interior plastics still feel flimsy
- Thick A-pillars affecting visibility
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
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Holden Omega SII Sportwagon (2011) — Specifications
3.0L 60-degree Double Overhead Cam V6 with 4 valves per cylinder. Twin knock control sensors with individual cylinder adaptive control. On-board diagnostics. Spark Ignition Direct Injection (SIDI)
Capacity (cc) 2986
Compression ratio (:1) 11.7
Power 190kW @ 6700rpm (ECE, kW)
Torque 290Nm @ 2900rpm (ECE, Nm)
6-speed auto with Active Select
Fuel economy (L/100km) 9.3
CO2 210 g/km
Recommended fuel E10, ULP or PULP for slightly higher performance
Fuel tank capacity (L) 71
Dual exhaust outlets
Brakes Four wheel disc. Ventilated discs – front and rear. Twin piston alloy front caliper, single piston alloy rear caliper
Front suspension: Direct acting stabiliser bar. Coil spring
Rear suspension: Multi-Link Independent Rear Suspension (IRS). Coil spring. Stabiliser bar
Variable ratio rack and pinion
Turn circle (kerb to kerb, m) 11.4
Towing capacity (kg)
Maximum towing with automatic transmission: 1600. Holden approved 1200 and 1600 towing equipment is available. See your Holden Dealer for details.
Cargo volume with rear seats folded down (L) 2000.0
Kerb weight (kg) 1766.0
Payload weight (kg) 408.0
Track, front (mm) 1602
Track, rear (mm) 1618
Exterior length dimensions (mm) 4897
Exterior width dimensions, excluding mirrors (mm) 1899
Exterior height dimensions (mm) 1476
Exterior ground clearance dimensions (mm) 110
Interior front leg dimensions (mm) 1071
Interior rear leg dimensions (mm) 1001
Interior front shoulder dimensions (mm) 1501
Interior rear shoulder dimensions (mm) 1499
Interior front head dimensions (mm) 985
Interior rear head dimensions (mm) 965
Interior front hip dimensions (mm) 1439
Interior rear hip dimensions (mm) 1472