VZ Holden Commodore: First Look
By Feann Torr
VZ Holden Commodore - The Calais
(click images for high res versions)
The new SS Commodore gets stylish side vents
The SV8 doesn't get the SS bodykit, but being
almost $10,000 cheaper increases its appeal
SS, SV8 and SV6 get tricky clear lens brake lights
The entry-level VZ Commodore Executive
The VZ Holden Berlina wagon looking sharp
The sporty SV6 is causing plenty of interest
It generates 340Nm of torque @ 3200rpm
Expect it to reach 100km/h in about 8.0 seconds
The WL Caprice - looking better than ever
Pressure sensitive LED brake lights anyone?
Holden's large car has come a long way since the 1997 launch
of the VT, upon which this new VZ is based.
And though there are many detractors who claim the new look
is too subtle, too minimal to warrant an all-new designation,
take a look beyond the revised sheet metal and you'll discover
that this is no mid-life refresh.
While the big 5.7-litre V8 has undergone minor changes to
up the range-topping SS Commodore's peak power to an XR8-rivalling
250kW, it's the new V6 Alloytec engines that have been generating
the most buzz.
Coupled with Holden's new slick shifting 5-speed automatic
gearbox, the high power 190kW 3.6-litre quad-cam motor finally
puts the Commodore on equal footing with the popular BA Falcon,
which has proved to be a hit for Ford.
The scenario wasn't good for Holden when the new 182kW 6-cylinder
Falcon launched in 2002, which made the equivalent 152kW pushrod
V6 in the VY Commodore look very long in the tooth.
But now the Ford vs Holden battle has kicked up a gear as
Holden implements its long-awaited, high revving 3.6-litre
V6 in a smarter-looking package, and together with new features
such as an electronic stability program (ESP), team Holden
is clearly chuffed.
GM Holden chairman and MD, Denny Mooney, said the improvements
made to the 2004 VZ sedan and WL model series at a total development
cost of $189 million represented the most substantial upgrade
since the VT Commodore in 1997.
Holden's commander-in-chief also said that the new Alloytec
V6 powertrains were major contributors and they brought many
"The six-cylinder engine has been the heartbeat of the
Holden brand for more than 50 years, and the launch of a new
generation Holden six has always been a great catalyst for
"Apart from the direct benefits of increased power and
mid-range torque responsiveness, Alloytec VZ and WL models
also bring new electronic systems that offer even more confidence-inspiring
driver control and greater safety," Mr Mooney said.
The new electronic stability system gives Holden a decisive
edge over its main competitor, the Ford Falcon, which only
offers traction control, and no ESP.
In retrospect, such a feature makes a lot of sense in Australia's
most popular type of car - after all they are large, powerful,
rear wheel drive and quite heavy vehicles (1600 - 2000kg),
and this feature will surely rank highly in the minds of new
That said, only V6 models offer the new ESP, as it comes
as part of the Alloytec engine's new software, so V8 drivers
will have to wait until the 6.0-litre Gen IV engine arrives
in time for the Series II VZ.
According to Holden, ESP greatly improves vehicle safety
performance in situations where the driver takes emergency
action to avoid a collision.
It does this by electronically correcting vehicle paths through
brake application to individual wheels and engine torque management.
Holden is so confident of its new safety control system that
it claims it "operates so smoothly that in most situations
the driver will not be aware it has been activated."
We'll have to reserve judgement on the new electronic stability
program until we road test
the new VZ Commodore, so stay tuned for the in-depth reviews.
ESP is specified as standard on VZ Commodore Acclaim, Calais
and Alloytec-powered WL Caprice and Statesman, while the entry-level
Executive misses out, which is a bit of shame considering
it has the capacity to run such a program.
Interestingly however, all Alloytec models with ESP feature
Corner Brake Control as well, which helps to maintain optimum
vehicle stability during heavy braking on curves and corners.
Holden has also included Electronic Brakeforce Distribution
(EBD) on all Alloytec-powered sedans and wagons, and all new
models also benefit from upgraded braking systems with a new
brake booster/master cylinder combination that invokes a very
fast brake pressure response.
Other chassis refinements include changes to the front suspension
rig, which Holden says will help deliver a sharper, more direct
steering response, and all models now feature a new lightweight
power steering pump.
Arguably the most important feature of the new VZ Commodore's
are the new lightweight, all-aluminium 3.6-litre V6's, where
entry-level models now boast 175kW of power.
Belonging to a new family of GM Global V6 engines that incorporate
state-of-the-art features and premium performance characteristics,
the locally produced 6-cylinder powerplants are built at Holden's
$400 million Global V6 plant in Port Melbourne, Victoria.
The Alloytec engines operate with advanced double overhead
camshafts (per cylinder bank) and 4-valves per cylinder, finally
bringing them inline with Ford's 4.0-litre straight six mill.
A combination of high feature technologies allows them to
extract more power from less fuel, with fewer emissions, which
is another aspect that Holden will be pushing.
Thanks to the new 60° cylinder bank configuration, the
balance shafts are no longer needed as was the case with the
3.8-litre Ecotec V6. The new V6 motor gets another boost thanks
to the variable valve timing, which increases power at higher
revs, and reduces fuel consumption at lower revs.
The standard 175kW Alloytec engine gets continuously variable
camshaft phasing for the inlet camshafts only, while the more
powerful Alloytec190 benefits from continuously variable camshaft
phasing for both inlet and exhaust camshafts, and a variable intake manifold also
contributes to peak power. Click here for the specs.
Reiterating the benefits of the new V6 engines, Denny Mooney
said that they are "... the culmination of years of intensive
development by Holden engineers who are quite rightly recognised
within the GM organisation as world-class in rear wheel drive
"The high-feature Alloytec V6 will help us maintain
the momentum we need to remain competitive in domestic and
export markets and reactive to our customers' needs,"
Mr Mooney concluded.
Holden is also introducing a new model designation with the
VZ Commodore, called the SV6.
It will replace the Commodore S and is priced at $38,990
for both the 6-speed manual and new 5-speed automatic.
The SV6 sports the 190kW Alloytec engine and will go head-to-head
with one of Ford's best-performing models, the nat atmo XR6,
which boasts 182kW of power and 380Nm of torque.
In what appears to be a direct response to the XR6's success,
the SV6 gets attractive 17-inch alloy wheels, a deep bodykit
and a rear spoiler, and together with sports suspension
While the XR6 has some 40 extra Newton metres over the brand-spanking
SV6, the Holden tips the scales @ 1592kg, while the torquey
XR6 weighs 1672kg.
All told, it should be a very close fight indeed, as it's
good to see that Holden can finally offer a well-priced, high-powered
V6 sports sedan.
As far as transmissions go, VZ and WL models powered by the
Alloytec 190 will be offered with a slick-shifting new five-speed
automatic transmission with 'Active Select' paddle-shifters
on the steering wheel, for those who want to change gears
like Mark Webber.
Furthermore, a new premium application six-speed manual transmission
is available as an option on the sports performance Commodore
VZ models powered by the 175kW Alloytec engine makes use
of the old four-speed automatic transmission that powered
VT-VY models, but has been comprehensively upgraded to provide
much smoother shifts and less painful kickbacks.
The 5.7-litre V8 engine isn't forgotten either, and gets
improvements to throttle control, engine calibration, induction
and exhaust that helps bring increased power and torque outputs
for Commodore SS, SV8 and Caprice.
These models now produce 250kW of power @ 5600rpm (up by
5kW) and 470Nm of torque @ 4800rpm (up 5Nm).
The Statesman V8 increases peak figures to 245kW (a rise
of 10kW) and 465Nm and V8 Calais and Berlina figures are unchanged
@ 235kW and 460Nm.
In addition to all the mechanical changes, Holden has also
revised the Commodore's styling to better integrate it into
the global General Motors family.
Take a look at the image where the grilles of the new Australian-built
SS Commodore and the British-built Vectra are compared (pictured),
and you'll see some distinct similarities.
put, the VZ Commodore is the stepping stone for Holden's VE
Commodore in 2006, which has a good chance of being exported
to Europe, and will integrate even more closely with GM's
worldwide design philosophy.
Looking at the new VZ models - including Commodore, Calais
and Berlina - it's fair to say that the new look and feel
has been focussed on the front end (hence the profusion of
The new styling, which includes changes to the grilles (with
a single sports bar, a la Vectra), a larger front air
dam, textured mesh inserts, a more compact headlamp design,
larger Holden Lion symbol and a powerful new bonnet combine
to give the VZ a much bolder and more sophisticated look.
Calais, Berlina and Commodore SS are gifted with xenon headlamps,
while at the rear, things haven't changed an awful lot across
New brake light covers for the entry-level Executive add
a touch more style than the outgoing lenses too, and seeing
as the Executive model sells more than any other Commodore
variant, it makes sense to give it a good re-jigging, and
the 175kW V6 will please many, particularly fleet buyers as
it should help keep the resale price from dropping as much
as in the past.
The tuned and tinkered sports models (SV6, SV8 and SS) get
a new brake light design, with three circular lamps covered
by a transparent lens, giving the rear end a much-needed visual
boost. Up front, the SV6 and SS get aggressively styled bodykits,
complete with deep front bumpers and enlarged air dams, side
The SS Commodore also gets the fancy engine bay ducts or
'fender vents' as Holden terms them, while the rear bumper
and boot has been retained from the VY model.Here's the
The new Caprice and Statesman have also seen revisions, and
the Caprice in particular looks even more aggressive and athletic
than ever what with new 6-spoke 17-inch wheels.
It also now offers the benefits of a tyre pressure monitoring
system and ultrasonic Front Park Assist.
New LED tail lamps give the Statesman and Caprice long wheel-base
models a more luxury vibe, and are accented by silver highlights
and chrome surrounds, while the Caprice has a new front facia
with enlarged lower air dam and dominant hexagonal mesh insert,
new rocker skirts and bolder rear end.
The Statesman also gets a new grille with vertical chrome
highlights, new alloy wheels and is now specified with leather
trim as standard.
Holden has also spent some cash on fine tuning interiors,
but generally speaking it's likely that only enthusiasts will
spot the interior differences.
They include new trim fabrics and patterns, a revised centre
stack design with storage compartment (only on Berlina and
Calais) and a new tonal beige background for Calais, which
now comes with leather trim as standard.
The launch of the upgraded VZ Commodore and WL Caprice and
Statesman model series puts Holden back in the drivers seat
after fighting Ford with one arm tied behind its back.
Thanks to the new new look and the all-new 3.6-litre V6 engines,
it now has a solid foundation to build upon.
More than anything else we're keen as mustard to put the
182kW Ford Falcon XR6 up against the 190kW Holden Commodore
SV6 to see who reigns supreme in the under $40k sports sedan
With the advent of the VZ Commodore, the odds are now more
even than they've ever been in the Ford vs Holden automotive
war, and at the end of a long hard day, it's the consumer
who wins out, with two large cars to choose from sporting
modern powertrains, modern styling and a plethora of user-friendly
Australia's most popular and best selling car has just been
improved in some very impressive respects, and we'll have
hands-on impressions and head-to-head comparos with Ford's
Falcon in the coming months, and also a VY vs VZ Commodore
comparo, so stay tuned.
Power: 190kW @ 6500rpm
Power: 175kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 340Nm @ 3200rpm
Torque: 320Nm @ 2800rpm
Configuration: 3.6-litre, 60-degree DOHC V6
Pressure-actuated piston-cooling oil jets
Extended-life sparkplugs, coolant, accessory belts
Cartridge-style, top-access oil filter
Teflon crankshaft oil seal
Wide-range oxygen sensors (Alloytec 190)
Executive Sedan V6 Automatic
Executive Wagon V6 Automatic
(Price shown includes air conditioning, a $2250 option)
Acclaim Sedan V6 Automatic
Acclaim Wagon V6 Automatic
SV6 Sedan V6 Manual
SV6 Sedan V6 Automatic
SV8 Sedan V8 Manual
SV8 Sedan V8 Automatic
SS Sedan V8 Manual
SS Sedan V8 Automatic
Berlina Sedan V6 Automatic
Berlina Sedan V8 Automatic
Berlina Wagon V6 Automatic
Berlina Wagon V8 Automatic
Calais Sedan V6 Automatic
Calais Sedan V8 Automatic
Statesman Sedan V6 Automatic
Statesman Sedan V8 Automatic
Caprice Sedan V6
Caprice Sedan V8 Automatic
Executive Air conditioning: $2,250
Executive Air conditioning, side impact airbags: $2,770
SV8 Side impact airbags, four power windows: $1,140
SV6 Side impact airbags, Anthracite leather trim: $2,570
SS Leather trim in Anthracite, Red Hot or Bermuda, Single
zone electronic climate control, Dash-mounted cupholders:
Berlina Leather trim: $2,050
Country pack: $330
LPG - V6 auto Executive (+ HBD fitment cost of $2,090):
Six stacker CD: $595
Rear park assist (sedans only): $495
Metallic paint: $315
Level ride suspension (Statesman): $495
Holden By Design - Selected Options
Roof mounted DVD player
Blue Tooth phone kit
Sports profiled leather-covered steering wheel
Leather-covered handbrake and auto/manual shifter
Lower body kits
Stainless steel sill plates
Satin chrome interior door handles
Wagon cargo safety barrier
Country roo bar