Source: Peter Robinson - Car and Driver
Chevrolet’s marketing gang would love nothing more than to acquire bragging rights to this heroic sports sedan. Too bad, because while GM’s Australian outpost is celebrating the arrival of the new Holden Commodore VE, the bow-tie division near Detroit must cool its heels for a few more years. The Commodore has vast implications for GM globally. It’s the first production car based on the corporation’s rear-drive architecture that has been developed by Holden in Australia and is scheduled to be adopted across the GM board under the Zeta name.
Zeta is the platform that will underpin a raft of future Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Buick models, including the recently approved next-generation Camaro coupe and convertible (due in late 2008 or early 2009) and possibly even a rear-wheel-drive Impala by the end of the decade. GM also confirmed that the upcoming Camaro will be built in Canada at the plant that builds the Buick LaCrosse and Pontiac Grand Prix.
In Australia, the Commodore VE lineup starts at about $26,500 U.S. for a 241-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 sedan with a four-speed automatic. All Commodores share handsome yet aggressive styling, with bulging front-wheel arches that are more prominent than an M5’s. Mike Simcoe, the former design director for the Holden brand, established the Commodore’s striking proportions early on by stretching the previous-generation Commodore’s wheelbase 5.0 inches to 114.8 and trimming the overhangs.
It’s the $34,000 VE SS and $39,500 VE SSV that captured our attention and instantly rendered the Chevrolet Impala SS even more obsolete. Power comes from the Gen IV 6.0-liter V-8 making 362 horsepower and mated to a six-speed automatic or manual transmission. Weight distribution comes in at a balanced 50/50. The platform gets a strut-type front suspension and a multilink rear similar to the setup on the Cadillac CTS and STS. If the Pontiac GTO (based on the previous Commodore architecture) was vaguely raw, the new SS delivers true refinement in a package that is poised, responsive, incredibly stable, and quick. We expect the quarter-mile to fall in about 13.8 seconds and a 0-to-60 sprint to take a tad over five flat.
Steering responses are crisp and consistent, light but communicative; the grip from the specially developed 19-inch Bridgestone tires is inspired. The confidence-boosting handling is nearly neutral, and the ride is firm, with enough compliance to soak up irregular Australian blacktop. The cabin is modern, and the seats are supportive.
Rebadged as a Chevrolet, the hot Commodore would make one brilliant Impala SS. Driving expectations for the upcoming Camaro just went to the redline.
Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
Base price (Australia): $34,000–$39,500
Engine type: pushrod 16-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 364 cu in, 5967cc
Power (SAE net): 362 bhp @ 5700 rpm
Transmissions: 6-speed automatic, 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 114.8 in
Length/width/height: 192.7/74.8/58.1 in
Curb weight: 3900 lb
Performance ratings (mfr’s est):
Zero to 62 mph: 5.4 sec
Top speed (governor limited): 155 mph
Projected fuel economy (mfr’s est):
EPA city driving: 15 mpg
EPA highway driving: 24 mpg