1998 Holden Commodore Executive 3.8 V6 from Australia and New Zealand
Very comfortable, good handling, but thirsty family car
Steering rack replaced at 41k, because it was leaking fluid.
Engine rear main oil seal replaced at 51k, because it was leaking.
Power steering pump replaced at 67k, because it was leaking.
New rubber seals along the waistline of several doors replaced, because they were splitting.
We bought our 1998 VT Executive sedan at an auction when it was 1 year old and had done 41,000 km.
Safety had been a major criteria in the choice of a vehicle, and at the time there were not that many with dual airbags and ABS brakes for around the $20k.
Admittedly, it has no head rests for the rear passengers, but the raised areas on the parcel shelf behind the outside seats did seem to offer some protection, apart from making the parcel shelf look a lot more interesting.
Our home work was a little lacking, because it was only later that we discovered that it was an ex-police car. Not necessarily the most desirable government department to buy a car from, but I have since decided that they get the best cars with their Police Pack option. Apart from the extra airbag and ABS brakes, you get a sports suspension and limited slip differential. The other little extras like passenger lumbar support, map reading lights, digital speedo read out on the computer display and sump guard don't go astray either.
The sports suspension is a bit too firm around town, but at speed the ride is fine and it corners very nicely. And the limited slip diff gets a fair bit of exercise with just normal driving. I also like the way the auto can be flicked straight back to second gear without having to press the button and risk getting first, but it is hard to believe that there is no dashboard indication of the gear in use.
I like the VT styling. The panel fit on most of the car was OK, although it wasn't hard to do a better job than the factory at aligning the boot and the bonnet. It is curious that they had trouble making a fuel filler cap to match the body contours.
I like the interior, although the panel fit around the dashboard and front doors is a little casual. They also did not give much thought to the design of the boot lid, allowing water to be trapped in the lower trim panel and drip into the boot when it is opened.
The car is hot in summer, but it is not alone in having steeply raked front and rear windows and expansive dark dashboards that soak up the sun. Even with the air conditioning on, you get the occasional waft of hot air in your face.
There are a few creaks in the centre console, but pretty minor really.
I don't like the 13.4 lt/100 km (21 mpg) we get around town, although it does a fair bit of short running. The best we have had on a long run was 8.2 lt/100 km (34.4 mpg). The oil gets changed every 6 months (~7,000 km) and does not need topping up between changes, which is comforting.
If we had bought the car new (~$35k), I think the depreciation would be very hard to accept. Having the steering rack, rear main engine oil seal and power steering pump replaced would also have been very disappointing if it had occurred outside the warranty period.
In comparison, the need for new rubber seals along the waistline of several doors was trivial.
At one stage I thought it needed new front wheel bearings, but it turned out to be the original Dunlop Le Mans A4s that were causing the noise.
No complaints about the local Holden dealer - very professional, but of course that brings with it commensurate charges. They did recommend skimming the front discs to remove minor grooves when the front pads were last replaced (which would have meant new discs, because they would then have been less than the required thickness) which I declined. The brakes work fine and I have never found minor grooves to be a problem. At 87k the discs on all wheels are below the specified thickness, but I will wait for the pads to wear out before I do anything about it.
I have been doing the routine servicing with no problems except for replacing the fuel filter - very sneaky little connectors that required making a special tool from a Biro cap following the instructions from the Gregory's service manual. Getting the door trim off to replace a speaker grille damaged by the cops was made a lot easier thanks to tips online, which meant that I did not have to destroy the orange snipper button.
On of the more disturbing incidents with the car, was the dreadful smell it suddenly developed last summer. Smelt like a cat had urinated in the car. The car's ex-police heritage was called into question, but thorough sniffing revealed it was coming from the ventilation ducts. Switching on the air conditioning seemed to provide some relief, but it did not take too much asking around to discover we had the dreaded sick car syndrome. It seems that the moist environment in the air-conditioner heat exchanger is conducive to the development of a thriving community of fungi and goodness knows what else, that gives off a foul odour when they are disturbed. Not restricted to Holdens, although our Honda Civic had given no trouble over 18 years. A dose of disinfectant was called for, but switching off the air conditioner a mile or so before home to help it dry out, and occasionally running the heater on hot (on recirculate, with the fan switched off so you don't cook) has kept the problem at bay. You do occasionally wonder what you are breathing in, however.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know
Review Date: 3rd February, 2003
You say it's bad your 3.8 Litre automatic Commodore does 13.4L/100 km (21 mpg)? I had a Toyota Supra that only had a 2.8 Litre engine and it constantly did around 12-14L/100km. and that was with hardly using the Air Con! Use the Air Con and consumption went up to 18L/100km!
Plus it was a manual. And on top of that I drove the car like Miss Daisy...