The Holden Commodore was always about power and a little bit prestige. It was first seen here in 1978, truly a child of the OPEC Oil Embargo and skyrocketing fuel prices, yet still equipped with larger i6, V6, and V8 engines. While the first-generation Commodore did suffer from fit and finish problems, overall it was praised for its refined handling and ride quality.
The midsize Holden Commodore was originally released as a front-engine, rear-wheel drive, four-door sedan, but eventually grew to include a five-door wagon. In the mid-1990s, there was even a two-door utility vehicle, which has come back a couple times over the years.
Until 2005, Commodore had always been built on platforms made by Opel, using engines developed by Holden and General Motors, and for a few years, by Nissan. When the fourth-generation Holden Commodore was revealed in 2006, it was on a platform wholly designed here in Australia, which continues to this day.
Today's Commodore is probably more about power than ever before, especially the sport models, which offer big engines and aggressive styling, perhaps the perfect Aussie muscle car. In fact, Wheels Magazine has given Holden Commodore the Car of the Year Award five times since 1978.
The scaled-down 3.0L V6 engine, available since 2006, has made a great spot in Commodore's range, especially considering its 9.3L/100km fuel consumption. Producing 190kW and 290Nm, the 3.0L, paired with a 4-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission, doesn't give as much off the line. Where the S – or Omega, depending on which year – suffers is in fuel economy, since the 3.0L is a little underpowered and ends up using more fuel to get where you're going than, say, the older 3.8L V6.
The 3.6L V6 offers more torque at 325Nm, making it a little better off the line, but slightly less in the power department at 175kW. The 3.6L is a little thirstier than its 3.8L older brother, consuming about 11.1L/100km. Still, this is the most popular mid-range engine in the Commodore range. The 3.6L was available in both petrol and LPG versions.
From 2002 to 2005, the 5.7L V8 produced 235kW and 465 Nm of torque, delivering big-engine power with small-engine fuel consumption, around 10.7L/100km. In 2006, though, the 5.7L was replaced with a bigger 6.0L V8, 270kW worth of power. The Commodore SS and SS-V using this engine typically consumed just under 15.0L/100km.
As the years went on, of course, body and engine got bigger, which also tended to put off Commodore lovers who could no longer afford the iconic standard. The Commodore S, or Omega, was the answer to this problem, still offering great Commodore looks without the huge engine, and therefore, the bigger price tag. The Commodore S was equipped with a 3.0L V6 and available with a 4-speed automatic and a 6-speed manual. As befitting an economy model, the interior materials and suspension were toned down from the sport model, but still fairly competent, if a little heavy in the front end.
The SportWagon is what you are looking for if a 4x4 isn't your cup of tea. Equipped with a slightly larger body style, the SportWagon offers a little more in cargo capacity, but at the sacrifice of rearward visibility. Still, like the other Commodore variations, and unlike 4x4s, the SportWagon drives and handles just as well as the sporty SS.
The Commodore SS though is where all the options come in. Powered by a 5.7L or 6.0L V8 and driven by a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission, available electronic stability control, with 18-inch or 19-inch alloy wheels on the ground. Exterior looks are rounded out by a rear spoiler and front air dam, and the interior comes with an LCD display in the centre console, power locks and windows, cruise control, and climate control.
The locally manufactured Ford Falcon has, since the beginning, been one of Commodore's main competitors and was originally the best-selling vehicle in Australia until 1986, when Commodore took the top spot in the nation. With increasing fuel prices and the sheer number of fuel-efficient midsize vehicles on the market, Commodore's sales lead had been shrinking since 1996, finally to be supplanted by the Mazda 3 in 2011. Still, for over 15 years, Commodore was Australia's best-selling vehicle.
Modern competition still includes the Ford Falcon, which is also available in the same market segments as the Commodore. In the case of the Commodore SS especially, the Falcon XR6 Turbo has everything you'd want in a performance sedan. The XR8 doesn't have quite the attitude we expect in this class but is still fairly capable at highway driving.
Toyota Aurion usually ends up being more expensive than a Commodore, but then, with Toyota's smooth 6-speed automatic transmission and front wheel drive, it is extremely durable and fuel efficient. Some say the Aurion is lacklustre and doesn't display the same attitude and aggressive stance as the Commodore.
Mitsubishi 380 is a very economical vehicle, both in overall price and fuel economy but doesn't hold its value very well. If you're looking for something you can trade in later, then the Commodore is where you want to put your money. On the other hand, if you plan on running your 380 into the ground, it'll last a long time.