Road Impressions

Opel Commodore

Last September General Motors Ltd. reintroduced the famous Commodore name into their Opel range on a 2.5-litre six-cylinder four door saloon which is intended to slip in between the 2-litre Rekord and the 3-litre Senator and Monza. Three years had elapsed since they had dropped the previous Commodore model, and as the writer had used a 1975 GSE coupe with its 2.8-litre Bosch K-Jetronic injected engine for editorial purposes for more than two years, it was with much interest that we examined the latest Commodore saloon. The machine we tried was the Commodore Berlina which, in the words of Opel’s press department, “is designed to meet the needs of junior management who have to work within a price limit”. Inclusive of car tax and VAT its price tag works out at £8,120.35p which means that it is almost £1,000 less expensive than the CD 2.5S Berlina which is aimed at more senior executives and, consequently, offers a fuller specification which includes electrically operated windows, front fog lamps, central locking, sliding roof and suchlike.

Outwardly, the new Commodore presents an interesting amalgamation of Opel styles, merging the smart frontal appearance of the Senator with the compact body shell of the Rekord. Our test car was fitted with a four speed manual gearbox, although a three speed automatic and (unusually in this day and age) a four speed manual with overdrive is also offered as an alternative. The overall impression exuded by “our” Commodore was that of a solid and accommodating medium sized saloon, offering adequate performance and more than respectable handling without adding up to a tremendously exciting package for the enthusiastic driver. The iron block, alloy head 2,490 c.c. engine has a bore and stroke of 87 mm. x 69.8 mm. and develops a smooth 115 b.h.p. (DIN) at 5,200 r.p.m., hardly endowing the Commodore with lightning acceleration; 0-60 m.p.h. in just over 12 seconds isn’t really sufficient to shake off a tenaciously driven Alfa Sud, but that’s not really being fair to the Commodore’s concept or character; it’s not a car to be whirled round country lanes with great abandon, although it does cover the ground on secondary roads with surprising ease and fleetness of foot.

The driving position we found to be particularly comfortable, especially the relationship between the pedals, steering wheel and pleasant four speed gearchange. The rev. counter facing the driver has an orange line at 5,750 r.p.m. and a red line at 6,500 r.p.m., and is smooth enough to about 4,500 r.p.m. beyond which point it not only gets a bit rough but also feels a trifle breathless. It will run up to a top speed of around 105 m.p.h. at which point it is stable and pleasantly free from tiring wind noise, but it’s a car which requires a firm, not competitive, approach to being driven. The gear change isn’t exactly ponderous — in fact it’s quite precise in terms of its selection, but it isn’t to be hurried in the manner of some Ford boxes, say. The clutch takes up smoothly and the dual circuit, servo-assisted front disc/rear drum displayed no indications of fade during the Commodore’s spell with us.

Power steering and handling are very respectable indeed and the car can be thrown around. In fact I don’t suppose for a moment that any self-respecting Commodore owner will exploit this side of the car’s character to its full, but it really is a most reassuring car feeling nicely neutral until you really push hard and then a gentle feeling of understeer makes itself felt. If you try to find out what this Commodore really behaves like when pushed to the “ragged edge”, there is still no unruly response. The tail breaks away as the inside rear wheel loses adhesion, but there isn’t sufficient power being developed for you to get into any real trouble!

The suspension is by means of MacPherson struts and coil springs at the front and a live rear axle with four link arms, anti-roll bar and coil springs. The ride is firm without being harsh, except on the roughest roads, the Commodore riding on 6J pressed steel wheels shod with Michelin 195/70 XVS radial rubber.

Internally, this Opel is nicely trimmed and comfortable without being sumptuous. The seats are trimmed in a tasteful velour upholstery, offering reasonable comfort and support although very tall people will find there is not quite the range of adjustment they might like. Laminated windscreen, heated rear screen and tinted glass all round come as standard equipment and the very full instrumentation, displayed under a non-reflective sloping glass cover, include rev. counter, speedometer, oil pressure gauge, voltmeter and odometer with trip. There is a quartz clock and the windscreen wipers have two speeds plus an intermittent wipe action. Heating and ventilation operates on the mixed-air principle through six individually adjustable outlets on the fascia panel and others directed at the footwell, the system enabling the air within the car to be changed three times a minute.

The fuel consumption recorded by this stylish, smart Opel averaged out at just over 36 m.p.g. and no oil was used during its 900 mile stint at Standard House. Unlikely to appeal to enthusiasts with any sporting pretensions, the Commodore 2.5S Berlina will be well received by professional people who wish to travel in undramatic comfort without breaking the bank when it comes to purchase price. — A.H.