2018 Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon Review
Isaac Bober’s 2018 Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The first front-wheel drive Commodore…and with a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine…and it’s smaller than the old Sportwagon, but there’s a lot to like.
2018 Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon
Price $39,490+ORC Warranty seven-years, unlimited kilometres Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol Power 191kW at 5500rpm Torque 350Nm at 3000-4000rpm Transmission nine-speed automatic Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4986mm (L) 1483mm (H) 1596mm (W) 2829mm (WB) Boot Space 560L/1665L Spare Space Saver Fuel Tank 61.7L Thirst 7.6L/100km claimed combined
THE NEW COMMODORE is copping plenty of criticism…and that’s mainly because it’s no longer built here, is deemed to be the cast off from another market, doesn’t offer a V8 and is front drive. There’s more that’s annoyed the Holden faithful but those are probably the key take-outs. The Commodore is no longer a home-grown hero.
Now, before you scroll to the bottom of the article and start slapping out a hate comment, I get all those criticisms. They’re all legit. Nothing can be done about any of that now…unfortunately, if you’re annoyed by the new Commodore, there’s not a lot of choice for something close to the old car. There’s the Kia Stinger but despite what other motoring writers might have written, it’s not really a close alternative to the old Commodore. Moving on.
While some can’t, I’ve got to put the baggage to one side and assess the car in front of me. In some ways, the badge is almost irrelevant, if you get what I mean. For this review, I’m looking at fitment for purpose. Right, now you can start sending the hate comments.
What is the new Commodore?
We’ve dealt with this already in both our first drive of the ZB Commodore and in our recent review of the Calais-V. But, in a nutshell, the new Commodore is an Opel-designed vehicle that Holden took after local manufacturing was cancelled, and badged as a Commodore, and it’s a radical departure from the Commodore’s we’ve come to know.
For a start, it’s now fully-imported, is predominantly a front-driver although we do get an Australia-only variant with a V6 and AWD. It can be had as a lift-back, or wagon and a slightly raised wagon known as a Tourer. There are three engines available, the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol in our RS Sportwagon tester a 3.6-litre V6, and a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel.
As we’ve reported before, the new Commodore has seen Holden cast aside its traditional model strategy, with no Executive, Berlina or SS variants. The new entry-level Liftback fitted with the two-litre engine (with the diesel optional) and called LT. From there, the Liftback moves through the Calais 2.0 and the Calais-V with the V6 engine and all-wheel-drive. But wait, there’s more. There’s also a three-model sportier side to the Liftback line-up, starting with the RS (2.0 and V6 optional) the RSV (V6) and the VXR (range-topping V6).
The Sportwagon starts with the LT version with optional diesel then moves through the RS (2.0) and the RS-V (V6). And the Tourer caps all that off with versions starting with Calais and Calais-V both of which get the V6.
As you can see, our test car, the RS Sportwagon is the mid-spec variant in the Sportwagon range and lists from $39,490+ORC. The same car with a diesel engine adds a $3000 premium. We’ve included the key features below and what the RS variant adds so that you can get a good idea of what the RS offers:
- 2.0-litre turbo engine
- 9-speed automatic transmission
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Auto headlamps with LED Daytime Runnings Lights
- LED tail lights
- Passive Entry and Push-button Start
- Remote Start
- Holden Eye Forward Facing Camera
o Autonomous Emergency Braking
o Lane Keep Assist
o Lane Departure Warning
o Following Distance Indicator
o Forward Collision Alert with Head-Up Warning
- Advanced Park Assist (semi-automatic parking)
- Rear View Camera. Front and Rear Park Assist
- Rain Sensing Wipers
- Holden MyLink Infotainment System with 7-inch high-resolution colour touch-screen display
o Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone projection
o Full iPod integration including Siri Eyes Free
- Cruise Control
- Leather Steering Wheel
- 8-way Power Driver Seat
- 60/40 split-folding rear seats
- Space saver spare wheel
RS features over LT:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Sports body kit
- Sports front seats
- Side Blind Zone Alert
- Rear Cross Traffic Alert
- Leather sport steering wheel
- Rear lip spoiler
- Handsfree power tailgate (Sportwagon only)
As you can see, the RS Sportwagon gets a decent level of equipment with a complete active safety suite, with only key features like the adaptive LED headlights and the 360-degree camera missing from the safety list.
What’s the interior like?
There’s not a huge variation from model to model with the Commodore’s interior and if you look at the equivalent models from Opel and Vauxhall you’ll see that our cars are almost identical inside besides the badges. But, the interior doesn’t exactly scream Holden Commodore, and I haven’t quite determined whether that’s a good or bad thing.
The dashboard is laid out neatly with all the controls easy to read and reach. The quality of the plastics is good with soft-touch stuff in key areas but, as I mentioned in the review of the Calais-V some of the buttons and switches feel a little cheap to look at and touch. But, given the RS has a cloth interior it doesn’t seem like such an issue, if you get what I mean.
The dashboard is dominated by the 7.0-inch infotainment screen and this looks and feels a little too small for the car. There’s no native sat-nav but fortunately Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is offered so you can use your smartphone, but at this price point I’d have expected native navigation. When connecting, if you don’t have the Holden MyLink app enabled and you don’t want to enable it, you’ll have a few extra button presses to connect CarPlay or Android Auto, but connection still only takes seconds.
The front seats are supportive enough and the fact you can manually lengthen the base means those with longer legs will be able to get good under-thigh support, important on longer drives. There’s good adjustment on the front seat (powered front seats are standard across the range) and steering wheel, so getting comfortable behind the wheel, regardless of your height, is easy enough.
In the front of the cabin there are enough cubby holes and storage spaces that you’ll be able to stash your phone and keys, etc without drama. There are twin cupholders in the front and the door bins will just take a 500ml water bottle.
Over in the back of the Commodore is an area where the faithful will, again, take umbrage. See, you used to be able to fit three childseats side by side in the back of a Commodore (well, in VE and VF, anyway). Not anymore. And, even as far as passengers go, the back seat is best only for two adults; the middle seat is a pew without any real shape or support. You could use the seat for a short trip. This means, and you could argue against me, the new Commodore is effectively just a four-seater as far as carrying adults is concerned.
As we’ve reported in previous reviews, the Commodore is smaller than the VF Commodore but it’s bigger than the VT Commodore. If you’re not sat in the middle seat in the back, the RS Sportwagon feels roomy and comfortable with good leg, shoulder and headroom.
For those in the back, there are directional air vents and USB outlets, pouches on the backs of the front seats and the back of the middle seat folds down to offer an armrest with two cupholders.
Over in the boot there’s plenty of room with a good shaped opening and a big wide space offering 560 litres of room up to the top of the back seats and 793 litres if you load it all the way to the roof, which you shouldn’t if you don’t have a barrier fitted. Fold down the 60:40 split-fold rear seats and you get 1665 litres, unlike other models, the RS Sportwagon doesn’t offer a fold function for the rear seats from the boot; you fold the rear seats via levers on the seat shoulders.
The RS Sportwagon offers an automatic tailgate with motion opening; you poke your foot under the rear bumper in the spot indicated by a projected Holden symbol. It works well and the door opens quickly, but I found that using the key fob, which requires a double press to open the boot only works when you’re at the back of the vehicle and only a few feet away from it. And the other quirk, which you can change via the infotainment screen is the default that only one door should unlock on the first key fob press. This isn’t so bad for the driver but if you’ve got kids, like me, then you’ll get annoyed with them yanking on the handle wondering why the door won’t open.
What’s it like on the road?
The RS Sportwagon we tested is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine making 191kW at 5500rpm and 350Nm of torque from 3000-4000rpm. This is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, although this variant misses out on steering-mounted paddles. Fuel consumption is a claimed combined 7.9L/100km for the Sportwagon which is only slightly higher than the RS Liftback at 7.6L/100km. The fuel tank is less than 62 litres (61.7L). In our week of testing we got close to the claimed figure recording 7.9L/100km across a range of mixed driving.
The V6 we tested in the Calais-V might be the hero powerplant but this 2.0L petrol jobbie is the pick…although I say that without having driven the 2.0L turbo-diesel. It’s a fizzy engine that’s eager and fun to drive. From the get-go the thing just feels exuberant and quick; more so than the V6 engine which takes a little while longer to build up a head of steam. The only real downside to the engine is the exhaust note which is raspy and thrashy sounding when you’re giving it a boot full of revs.
The 2.0L engine is well matched to the nine-speed automatic which seamlessly slips from gear to gear and back again when needed. There’s no hunting and there’s none of the occasional baulkiness we found in the Calais-V. Across the Practical Motoring loop, the transmission responded perfectly to the throttle and brake pedal and while there are no paddle shifters, you can slot the gear selector into manual mode if you so choose.
The steering is nice and accurate and feels well suited to the rest of the package with good levels of feedback through the wheel. There’s decent weight, although apparently less than the European models because we don’t have high-speed autobahns.
Holden has gone to great lengths to explain the lengths its engineers went to to tune the steering and suspension to suit Australian conditions; to give the imported Commodore a feeling of suitability for our roads. And the engineers have done a good job. Being lighter than the V6 and with a more zippy feeling engine, the basic MacPherson strut front-end set-up is great. The nose tucks in neatly, refuses to buck away from the corner off mid-corner bumps and with no torque steer if you give it a boot full off throttle from a standing start.
Indeed, the ride across both bitumen and dirt was excellent with noise insulation that betters the likes of Camry, Mazda6 and Ford Mondeo, although there’s a slight knobbliness to the ride at very low speed. No matter the surface, the RS Sportwagon is very quiet, making it easy to communicate to both those in the front and back of the car.
While I liked the all-wheel drive in the Calais-V we recently tested, I personally thought the ride and handling of the RS Sportwagon was better. There was no rain in my time with the RS Sportwagon but I thought its dry road and dirt road grip was impressive with a well calibrated traction and stability control systems that don’t so much act like a kill switch but more like a guiding hand.
What about safety?
There’s less of an argument to be made about the five-star rating for the 2.0-litre Commodores, as this is, bar the steering wheel being on the wrong side, the same car that was crash tested by EuroNCAP. It was the application of the same five-star rating, without testing, on the V6 AWD variant that seems controversial.
So, the ZB Commodore gets a five-star ANCAP rating as well as autonomous braking, an active bonnet, lane keeping assist (which isn’t the best system we’ve sampled), forward collision alert, reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors and semi-autonomous parking assist, rain-sensing wipers, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.
So, what do we think?
Okay, the Holden faithful might not warm to the ZB Commodore and those that would are more likely to be drawn towards an SUV. So, the new Commodore will struggle to sell anywhere near the falling sales of its predecessor, but Holden knows that. Moving on. Looked at as a feature-rich machine, the new Commodore has a lot going for it. It’s good to drive, good to look at, comfortable inside with plenty of features for the money. There really is a lot to like about it.