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Exclusive: Holden’s final hurrah

Power plus: Holden’s final locally developed Commodore, the VF Series II, is being put through its paces ahead of showroom roll-out later this year.

Last but fast Aussie Holden Commodore under development with 6.2-litre V8

5 May 2015

HERE is the car that Holden fans have been simultaneously looking forward to and dreading – the last-ever locally developed, locally manufactured Commodore.

Seen here in Commodore SS guise under secret shakedown testing by Holden engineers, the Commodore VF Series II is due in showrooms towards the end of this year when it will carry General Motors’ Australian manufacturing operation to its scheduled closure in 2017, thus bringing down the curtain on almost seven decades of true-blue Holden large cars.

But it will not be just any Commodore, with Holden planning to surge to the finish line with a sports variant that will be the most powerful mass-produced large car in Holden history.

At least one version of the Commodore SS is believed to be in line for a thumping 300kW-plus 6.2-litre LS3 V8 in place of the current model’s 270kW 6.0-litre V8.

At minimum, GoAuto expects the hand-me-down Corvette V8 destined for the Commodore to have at least 310kW of power – the same output as the LS3 engine fitted to the Australian-built, Commodore-based Chevrolet SS sold in North America.

It is also possible the Commodore will get more – perhaps the 317kW/550Nm version of the LS3 previously fitted to the Holden Special Vehicles ClubSport sedan and Maloo ute before these vehicles moved up to 325kW and 550Nm in the latest iteration of the HSV Gen-F.

Either way, the Commodore is set to get a V8 power increase of at least 15 per cent under a move designed to ensure the last locally built Commodore goes off with a bang in the showrooms.

Holden is not ruling out the move, with senior manager of product communications Kate Lonsdale saying: “Holden is committed to ensuring Commodore remains relevant to the market until 2017 and for many years after.” The power of the upcoming SS is a far cry from the 186kW produced by the 5.3-litre Holden Monaro GTS 327 in 1968, when Holden introduced V8s to its range in response to Ford’s GT Falcon of the same era.

Despite a slide in Australian large-car sales over the past decade or more, the percentage of V8 sales has been growing, now accounting for a third of Commodore sales.

The rival Ford Falcon is also experiencing a bent-eight renaissance. The Blue Oval brand last year reintroduced the Falcon XR8 with a 335kW/570Nm ‘Miami’ supercharged 5.0-litre V8, creating such customer demand that it had to increase production for this variant while other versions floundered.

It remains to be seen if Holden’s Commodore SS LS3 engine matches the sheer mumbo of the blown Ford unit, but it is expected to create a similar buyer rush for what many will see as an instant icon and collector’s item.

Certainly, it will be the last rear-wheel-drive Australian-made Holden-badged V8 sports sedan, although Holden is on record as saying it will have an imported V8 sportscar in future. The new-generation Camaro to be revealed soon is a likely contender.

According to our sources, the Commodore SS gets an HSV-style bi-modal exhaust that opens up the pipes under heavy throttle for thunderous performance.

To go with the power, the VF Series II SS gets Brembo brakes all round, and – if the test cars are any guide – new black-painted alloy wheels that appear to fill out the wheelarches more than before, perhaps indicating HSV-sized 20-inch rims.

The related 2016-model-year Chevrolet SS might also be in for a power boost as it also is being put through the engineering mill side by side with Commodore at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground in Victoria.

While the current Chevrolet SS employs the same-sized alloys as the Commodore’s top-of-the-line SS V Redline – 19-inch diameter, 8.5 inches wide at the front and 9.0 inches wide at the back – the Chevrolet SS snapped in our spy shots appears to have the same fat wheels as the upcoming LS3-equipped Commodore.

This could mean that more power is in order for the Chev export version too.

As our pictures show, the engineering ‘mules’ have been camouflaged to cover cosmetic changes to the front, but judging from the shapes under the bagging of the Commodore, little will change from the VF’s twin-port fascia with its hexagonal lower air opening.

The grille inserts are expected to get a new design that looks similar to the black plastic pattern of the just-released, born-again Holden Astra’s grille.

But more intriguing is that Holden has gone to the trouble of disguising the bonnet of both the Commodore SS and Chev SS – unusual in a mid-model facelift when such sheetmetal rarely changes.

This might be to hide what appears to be Buick-style ‘ventiports’ in the bonnet, just forward of the A-pillars (see separate story).

At the back, masking tape hides the badges that we assume are ‘SS’ on the right of the bootlid and, perhaps, ‘Series II’ to the left.

As always, the new Commodore Series II will be sold in both V6 and V8 variants, with little or no change expected to the V6 line-up that currently includes the base 185kW 3.0-litre Evoke and 210kW 3.6-litre SV6.

Both of these V6 cars are powered by the Port Melbourne-made SIDI (Spark Ignition, Direct Injection) engine that will go out of production when the Australian manufacturing operations close towards the end of 2017.

The imported LS3 V8 is expected to be shipped from Canada alongside the similar but more powerful engines for HSV’s range.

Holden will have no problems switching over to the new V8 when the Series II goes into production later this year, as LS3 engines for HSV models are already fitted to the engine bays of its Commodore-based sports sedans at Holden’s Elizabeth plant in South Australia, alongside the 6.0-litre units for standard Commodore SSs.

Notwithstanding the switch to LS3 power in the Commodore, HSV’s models will retain a power and torque advantage, topped by the 430kW/740Nm supercharged GTS that remains the lion brand’s king of the mountain.

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