It’s funny how history has a habit of repeating itself.
Back in 1978 Holden dropped the much-loved locally made Kingswood for an Opel, adapted to suit Australia.
Badged a Commodore its production lasted 40 years until the General shut its factory doors in October 2017, leaving the proving ground for product testing.
Now in 2018 the big local car has been replaced by another Opel but this time, the badge lives on in the Commodore VXR.
My introduction to the all-new Commodore was the top-dog $55,990 VXR that replaces the sportiest of the old breed, the brawny SS-V Redline.
Gone is the rear-drive sedan, V8 bellow and tyre-shredding performance.
In its place is a 3.6-litre 235kW-381Nm naturally aspirated V6 bolted to a nine-speed auto that powers all four wheels and slung under a five-door liftback body.
It’s a dramatic shift for the Commodore nameplate and like a rookie player wearing a legend’s jumper, it’s taking some getting used to. In fact, it’s worse than that because after ‘goosing’ many Commodore and HSV drivers, the VXR remained invisible to them.
But on the bright side, the V6 is much more polished than its predecessor and loves to rev, with its own distinctive bark.
With nine cogs in the auto gearbox, (with paddle shifts), not only are the shifts silky smooth, its electronics knows when you are gassing it, shoving the brake pedal and has you in the right gear for all occasions.
The Nurburgring racetrack with its 192 corners is where Opel honed the VXR chassis, followed by 200,000kms of local testing and the suspension delivers a blend of suppleness and sportiness.
Although the Commodore VXR can be hustled confidentially through corners, its light, quick steering lacks the ultimate levels of feedback of the SS-V Redline bruiser.
The adaptive Twinster all-wheel-drive system with torque vectoring and a twin-clutch diff efficiently puts every kilowatt to the ground and its clever software sends the power to whichever end or wheels can best use it.
Within the Flexride suspension, Tour mode is the default setting, Sport mode ramps up the steering, engine and transmission while backing off the stability control and there is VXRmode as well. It’s hard to tell the difference between Tour and Sport modes but easy when VXRis selected. It notches up the intensity of everything considerably but does so without compromising its ride quality. Impressive.
Visually separating the Commodore VXR from the rest of the range is a sports body kit, striking 20-inch alloy wheels on low-profile tyres and red Brembo brake calipers, plus VXR badging.
Inside are ventilated black leather sports front seats with contrasting white stitching, the driver’s seat copping adjustable side bolsters and a massage function. Throughout are soft-touch surfaces and polished black trim.
There is also a head-up display and an 8.0-inch infotainment touch-screen with satnav, Bluetooth Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and a sunroof.
As the top line model, the Commodore VXR gets a swag of standard kit including adaptive cruise control, LED headlights, a 360-degree camera, wireless phone charging, digital radio, auto high-beam, heated seats in both rows and a powerful BOSE sound system.
Also included are autonomous emergency braking, forward collision alert, lane keep assist and lane departure warning, plus side blind zone alert and rear cross-traffic alert.
At a glance, the Commodore VXR looks like a mid-size lift back but it’s actually just 50mm shorter than its local predecessor. Inside it is narrower but there is plenty of legroom, however, rear headroom is a bit tight. The boot is big and the rear pew is a split-fold setup.
Rear visibility is not a patch on the local VF, and the high hip line means a smaller side glass area too.
A new look for a new era is what the imported Commodore delivers. Gone is the primal V8 and in every way the all-wheel-drive V6 VXR exudes its European roots, being a refined lift-back with a balance of luxury and sportiness.
For more information on the Commodore VXR head to Holden.