I had some furniture to move, and my mother is still rocking the same old wagon she had when I was in primary school, so I borrowed it. The plan was to hitch up a trailer, but it turns out the car’s so damn big we didn’t even need to.

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And it really is big. The thing feels like a bus. Every glance in the mirror reminds you, the back window feels like it’s a kilometer away. Reversing it feels like an ordeal. But in reality, it’s exactly what so many Australians drive every day.

What is it?

The car is a Toyota Lexcen which is a badge-engineered Holden Commodore. VXi is the top Lexcen trim (hence the “wood trim” in the interior). The Holden badge on the boot lid is from a truck rear-ending the car when it was parked. Guess the only replacement boot door they could find was a Holden one and they couldn’t be arsed rebadging it. This is also why the paint on the back of the car is much better than anywhere else.

Condition

The car is getting pretty rough. The cruise control no longer works, the digital display for the trip meter is missing some features. The paint is cracked, the interior is peeling. The car’s seen some shit, it’s got 434,000kms. The moon is 384,000km away.

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And yes, the muffler fell off. I was carrying some furniture and a big mirror in the back so I was taking it pretty easy, but the silly thing just couldn’t hang on any longer. One of the rubber hangars let go and the whole thing dragged on the road for a while before coming off completely. I thought I’d lost a tyre or something before I saw it, could be worse. Unfortunately it now sounds horrible, as the remains of the exhaust are now rattling against part of the chassis.

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Those dope as rims have been on it since we got it around 2000.

Driving

I’ve driven this car a bunch when I was learning to drive, but doing it now is a whole different thing. Compared to my MR2 and my girlfriend’s Lancer, both relatively light and responsive, it just feels soggy. It’s sluggish despite having a bigger engine than even my Z (ecotec 3.8) and it feels like all the controls have a couple of seconds delay before they do anything. Except the steering which is overassisted to the point of ridiculousness. Accelerating out of a roundabout involves pressing your right foot, which elicits a loud and tired drone from the engine, and just waiting until the car to reach speed so you can silence the noise. A far cry from the series of brisk shifts I’m used to.

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On the far side of the dash there’s a little TOYOTA logo. I love how keen they are to remind you that this is a Toyota product...even though it isn’t.

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Edit: I was helping some friends working on the Holden equivalent of this, a VS Commodore, and I discovered the purpose of that boastful Toyota badge. On the Holden it says “Commodore”! It wasn’t Toyota bragging, it was Holden’s bragging that left Toyota with a hole in the dash to fill. The more you know.

Other than this the Commodore is eerily similar. There are some really weird differences though, like how this has its fancy-pants climate control system which means you get blanked-out buttons where the Holden’s HVAC used to be. Great job on that one Toyota.

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