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First look: Holden’s Yankee Commodore gets bow tie

Another attempt: The Australian-built, Commodore-based Chevrolet SS Performance makes its debut at Daytona, three years after the Pontiac G8 was killed off.

Chev’s Aussie-made SS sports sedan lines up on the US sales grid at Daytona


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17 Feb 2013

HOLDEN’S best-selling locally made large car, the Holden Commodore, is back from the dead in the world’s second-biggest motor market, reborn as the Chevrolet SS four-door muscle car for North America, where it becomes the top-selling General Motors brand’s first showroom rear-drive V8 sedan since 1996.

Like a proud parent, former Holden chairman and managing director Mark Reuss – the man who championed the return stateside of the Commodore after the previous export model died with Pontiac in the global financial crisis – presided over the formal reveal of the V8-powered sedan in Florida overnight in his current role as General Motors North America president.

Now bearing Chevrolet’s ‘bow tie’ badge, the left-hand-drive model is closely based on the new VF Commodore SS V, the performance flagship of the 2013 Commodore range that goes into Australian showrooms in June.

“The Chevrolet brand was largely built on the strength of rear-drive performance sedans, yet it's been 17 years since we've offered one,” Mr Reuss said at Daytona International Raceway – a NASCAR track owned and operated by a company of which his father, former GM president Lloyd Reuss, is a director.

“The all-new Chevrolet SS fills that void and fills it better than any other vehicle in the brand’s rich history.

“The comfort, convenience, spaciousness and V8 power make the SS a total performance package unlike any other on the road today.” The Chevrolet SS – SS stands for super sport – is powered by GM’s 310kW/560Nm LS3 V8, a member of the current Gen IV V8 family used in the superseded Corvette and Holden Special Vehicles Commodores.

Chevrolet points out that the engine develops more power than the 5.5-litre V8 in the SS’s NASCAR race version that makes its debut at Daytona next weekend.

It is unclear if the LS3 engine will translate into the Commodore SS V, which uses the 270kW/530Nm 6.0-litre V8 in the current manual model (260kW with auto).

Holden is yet to disclose its powertrain options, but Chevrolet will dispense with the six-speed manual gearbox, going exclusively with the six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel paddle shifts in manual mode.

“With an aggressive 3.27 final-drive ratio, the Chevrolet SS accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in about five seconds – making it one of the quickest sedans on the market,” it says.

Like Holden’s VF, the SS gets new electric-assisted power steering and Brembo brakes with 355mm front rotors and two-piece, four-piston front callipers.

Dual exhausts poke from the black rear diffuser in place of the quad pipes shown on the Commodore SS V ‘show car’ on Friday.

And, unlike the 20-inch alloy wheels shown on the Commodore SS-V, the SS gets 19-inch wheels but in different widths on the front and back – 8.5 inch with 245/40ZR19 tyres on the front and 9.0 inch with 275/35ZR19 tyres on the rear.

It also gets the VF’s aluminium boot and bonnet, 30 per cent lighter than the steel of the VE Holden, which Chevrolet says results in “a near 50/50 weight distribution, and a low centre of gravity”.

GM global programs executive chief engineer David Leone said Chevrolet’s goal was to create a car that delivered incredible grip and handling balance in cornering, while still being comfortable to drive on the road.

“The perfect weight balance and lower centre of gravity were a big part of that goal because it enabled the team to tune for a more comfortable highway ride without sacrificing handling or driver confidence while cornering at the limits,” said Mr Leone.

The Chev SS gets the same electronic gadgetry as the Commodore, including forward collision alert, rear traffic alert, lane departure warning, blind spot warning and automated parking.

Inside, the SS gets leather trim with contrast stitching on more sporty seats than those shown in the SS V, along with SS logos and eight-way electric driver’s seat adjustment.

Holden’s Australian production line already makes the only other vehicle currently exported to the US, the small-volume Chevrolet Caprice PPV police car based on Holden’s long-wheelbase WM Caprice.

Technically, the Caprice PPV was Chevrolet’s first rear-drive sedan since 1996 when the Impala rear-driver died, but it is not available to private buyers.

The Chev SS will be built by Holden alongside the Caprice and Commdore in Adelaide and shipped to the US for a fourth-quarter launch this year.

Like the Commodore, the Chevrolet SS has been released well ahead of its on-sale date to accommodate the debut of the racing version that, in the case of the American car, will be in NASCAR’s Daytona 500 next week.

In Australia, the Commodore SS V is the basis of the styling for Holden V8 Supercars that hit the track for the first time in an open test day at Sydney’s Eastern Creek yesterday.

Mr Reuss oversaw some of the early development of the new Commodore when he was based in Australia, before his tenure was cut short by panicked GM bosses who whisked him back to Detroit to help the ailing automotive giant through restructure after the GFC.

American-born Mr Reuss, whose father Lloyd was GM president in the early 1990s, was at the Holden helm when GM axed Holden’s Pontiac G8 export program in April 2009 – a move that helped to drive Holden to the brink of financial disaster as its American parent slid into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Mr Reuss was forced to go cap in hand to the Australian government to seek a $200 million line of credit, but nevertheless pressed on with the introduction of the Cruze small car into Holden’s Elizabeth plant while continuing development of the VF Commodore.

The Chevrolet SS is Holden’s third attempt at exporting a short-wheelbase performance car to North America, starting with the Monaro-based, Pontiac-badged GTO between 2004 and 2006, followed by the VE Commodore sedan-based Pontiac G8 from 2008 to 2009.

The Chevrolet SS Performance is also expected to be shipped to the Middle East with other Holden models in a renewed export drive that is also expected to include South Africa, where Holden currently sells small numbers of Holden Utes.

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