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2020 Holden Commodore Holden axes Icons; soldiers on with SUVs

November marked the lowest monthly sales of the iconic Commodore since Holden debuted the nameplate back in 1978 and now the Aussie brand has turned its back on the beloved family saloon. The 2018 update that brought GM’s Opel Insignia into the country resplendent with the iconic nameplate was one of the nails in the coffin, but the Aussie consumer’s demand for SUVs was likely the last.

With the announcement of the death of both Commodore and Astra nameplates comes a push for family safety. Holden claims the decision is down to a “safety first” approach, with customers prioritising occupancy safety with autonomous tech and in-car entertainment, but we know they’re also being lured in by larger and more secure SUVs. 

Holden claims that now they have their “best portfolio ever”; it’s made up of ring-ins from GM worldwide like big Acadia SUV, rather disappointing Trax and the Colorado ute, the brand’s current best-seller.

We remember outcries in 2017 when Holden was looking to the European arm of GM to find a replacement for the big sedan, but the truth is the original VB Commodore of 1978 was based on an Opel Rekord, a car that broke in half under Aussie testing.

Thanks to the failures in development, the VB was almost entirely reengineered to the point where it was made from just 35% Opel parts. This was the beginning of the Commodore’s hallmark comfort, space and dependability. 

Importantly the Commodore was always a good car to hustle, by the end of Australian manufacturing the VF’s chassis tuning was suitably impressive, the way it ate up sharp back road bumps and could still perform well on tracks (in SS form) was a major pulling card, and we’ll never forget the brutish V8 soundtrack.

2016 Holden Commodore SS-V Redline Review - Chasing Cars

Lukewarm critical reception of the ZB Commodore was certainly part of the end, the car was an impressive steer helped no doubt by its Australian specific suspension tune, but it lacked rear wheel-drive hooliganism of the VF and had entered a marketplace falling out of love with the big sedan. 

It’s not just Holden seeing this trend, at the recent Honda Accord launch we heard executives saying they were targeting meagre sales numbers, the Japanese giant happy to sell just 150 units of the Accord per year.

Yet the Astra was also a car that did well for many years, with no signs of small-car sales halting like big sedans did, perhaps it’s that Holden has lost consumer confidence.

2018 Holden Commodore LT white front

From a brand with two regular top-ten selling models in 2005 to one that in November of 2019 squeezed just one car in the top-twenty list and failed to feature in the top-ten sales, Holden is a brand in crisis.

So while we’re looking back fondly on the years of V8 super-sedans and happily reminiscing about long summer days in the backseats of Commodore wagons, it seems a shame that the Australian Icon went from strength to struggle in such a short period.

People are working at Holden now who know how to make a car work for Australian conditions, we really hope those skills get put to use in their SUV line-up for 2020.

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2020 Lexus ES F Sport red rear end Feisty-looking Lexus ES 300h F Sport coming to Australia

The range of Lexus ES hybrid sedans offered in Australia will be expanded in October with the addition of a sporty-looking F Sport grade, rounding out the ES 300h range locally to three variants.

Complementing the existing entry-level Luxury and top-line Sports Luxury grades, the F Sport will be positioned both as a new middle tier for this range of large sedans, and as the most driver-focussed of the lineup.

The F Sport’s debut comes as part of the arrival of a 2020 model year update for the Lexus ES lineup, which will see all three variants fitted with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring for the first time.

2020 Lexus ES F Sport cobalt driving

The F Sport will retain the same four-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain as the other seventh-generation ES sedans on sale in Australia. Badged ES 300h, the trio pair a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated engine with two hybrid motors to produce 160kW of power. Combined torque is not stated.

While the Australian-spec ES F Sport does not pick up the V6 petrol engine offered in the United States, there are mechanical changes in the form of the addition of standard adaptive variable dampers to the F Sport grade, along with the figment larger 19-inch wheels.

Outside, more assertive styling on F Sport cars includes a jet black mesh grille and the unique availability of an exclusive Cobalt Mica grey exterior colour.

2020 Lexus ES F Sport red leather

The interior colour choices on the ES 300h F Sport include a bold Flare Red option and more understated black hide. The F Sport also picks up a unique design on the ES’s eight-inch digital driver display, plus a smattering of F motifs throughout.

The addition of smartphone mirroring tech for the ES lineup will arrive around the same time as the facelifted Lexus RX SUV, which also gains CarPlay and Android Auto. Unlike the RX, however, the ES does not gain a touchscreen at this time, with infotainment still to be controlled through the Lexus Remote Touch interface.

Pricing has not yet been revealed for the ES 300h F Sport – or indeed the range of revised ES 300h sedans for the 2020 model year.

2020 Lexus ES F Sport cobalt driving

With the F Sport parachuting in as the middle tier between today’s ES 300h Luxury ($59,888, $67,279 driveaway) and the flagship Sports Luxury ($74,888, $83,819 driveaway), an educated guess would place the F Sport’s list price somewhere between $65,000 and $70,000.

Standard equipment on the ES lineup will continue to include navigation, DAB radio, front-door keyless entry and start, a sunroof, 10-way power adjustable heated front seats, auto lights and wipers, and dual-zone climate control. All ES grades are also fitted with autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist.

The ES 300h F Sport will add the aforementioned styling changes and adaptive variable dampers, plus safety tech previously reserved for the Sports Luxury — blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and a 360-degree camera. Additional F Sport equipment additions include cooled front seats and memory for the driver’s seat and steering wheel adjustments.

Pricing for the 2020 Lexus ES range is slated to be announced next month. Lexus are operating a platform for customers to register interest now.

2020 Lexus ES F Sport blue driving
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