December 06, 2017

Horse 2349 - ZB Commodore: Practically Perfect Pallid.

A client of ours who is a car dealer, had to drop off a new ZB Commodore to another dealership on the Northern Beaches. On way through, he visited us to settle his account and as a result, I was able to cadge my way into getting a drive of it.
For reasons to do with secrecy, which I suspect have more to do with saving his bacon more than anything else, I have been requested not to post any photographs on social media of the new ZB Commodore but that doesn't mean that I can't write several hundred words about it.

This particular example which was the base model Evoke, still had more electronic doo-dads than I think is sensible. It has power everything, including windows, remote locking, press button starting and a head up display which is reminiscent of a jet fighter but what this car does well has nothing to do with the trim at all and everything to do with what it's like to sit in.

I have driven the VF, VE, VZ, VT, VS, VN, VL, VK and VC models of the Commodore in the past. When the VB came out in 1978, is was a strange hybrid of the Opel Senator and the Opel Commodore but with the 3.3L in-line 6 under the bonnet. This meant that the space between the A-pillar and C-pillar was practically all Opel and as such, it was ergonomically excellent. The VE and the VF which were the last two to be built in Australia, were entirely developed in Australia, and that meant although they were very well put together they still lacked that final little piece of ergonomic excellence which Opel has been able to replicate for decades.
Everything and I mean everything, is exactly where you expect it to be. Every dial and switch is instantly viewable and comes to hand easily. The seating position, right down to the angles of where your arms end up us bang on perfect and the pedals are perfectly sized and weighted. I found the ZB Commodore to have perfect manners on the road. The steering was weighted nicely and in terms of pitch, roll and yaw, it was polite and predictable.  I have no idea what kind of engine was under the bonnet but there was an adequate amount of power without being obnoxious and the automatic transmission with more speeds than I even can imagine, was completely seamless in its gear changes. I had no idea when it was changing gears and to be perfectly honest, I didn't miss changing them myself.
In short, the ZB Commodore is everything that you would expect from a car which was engineered obsessively by Germans. It upholds the stereotype of Germany's total lack of humour and it does so with ruthless efficiency. And yet, I still wouldn't have one.

The ZB Commodore is perfectly pitched at the European repbox market. The people at Opel, in producing the Insignia B (hence the reason why the model code is ZB, because ZA was Insignia A), have made a thing which is 100% perfectly adequate. This is a car for someone who wants to jump in, drive a thousand miles and instantly forget that they have driven a thousand miles. This is repbox motoring polished to perfection. What the ZB Commodore is, is out-Camrying Camry, out-Mondeoing Mondeo, and even out-3-Seriesing the 3-Series.
The ZB Commodore is practically perfect in every way and perfectly practical. Pallidly so.

I want bonkers.

If this came to deciding what I wanted in the motor pool, the ZB Commodore a lovely way to drown. I would take a Mondeo over the Commodore because the Mondeo has retained a little bit of insanity which it shares with both the Focus and the Fiesta. The ZB Commodore gives you sensible motoring but the Mondeo has remembered that someone who drives a car wants it to be fun. The outgoing VF Commodore retained that sense that you wanted to drive the car on Saturday and Sunday and not just during the working week. The Mondeo practically tempts you to take it out on the B-roads but the ZB Commodore is definitely driven by its purpose and that purpose is to go from point A to point By as efficiently as possible; without deviating and looking at points C, D or M.

The people who sell these things will fill their initial orders because people in Australia have been conditioned for the last 50 years to take part in a holy war. Now that Ford has exited the stage and replaced the top end of that market with the death trap Mustang (which has been lovingly put together by eight year old children with ADHD and riddled with Ritalin) and not replaced the Falcon at all, Holden have decided to chase the Mondeo rather than the Mustang. The ZB Commodore will be bought by people who still buy into the holy war but I can predict that they won't be as willing to by ZC (if Holden ever get it). People may be even tempted into buying a Kia Stinger.

I am not in the market to buy a large family car but if I was, I'd still have the Mondeo over the ZB Commodore. The ZB Commodore is a perfectly sensible, repbox; with all the personality of a repbox.

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