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Revealed: Holden confirms ‘Opel Commodore’

In disguise: Holden engineers put a camouflaged prototype of the next-generation Commodore through its paces at the Lang Lang proving ground in Victoria.

Holden lays bare its Insignia-based 2018 Commodore to be imported from Germany


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26 Oct 2016

IT’S official – Holden’s new-generation imported 2018 Commodore will be a clone of Opel’s new Insignia, armed with hi-tech features that General Motors’ Australian arm hopes will win over rusted-on fans of traditional homegrown Aussie large cars.

No, the German-built car will not have rear-wheel drive, a V8, manual transmission, generous shoulder room or even a sedan variant, but Holden is banking on features such as cutting-edge all-wheel drive, adaptive suspension and nine-speed automatic transmission to win a new generation of buyers.

Between 200kg and 300kg lighter and slightly smaller in most dimensions than the current Commodore, the new version – tentatively dubbed NG, for New Generation – sits on General Motors’ latest E2 front-wheel-drive platform that is expected to contribute to major gains in fuel economy.

While the new Insignia will go on sale in Europe about the middle of 2017 after being launched at next year’s Geneva motor show, the Commodore version – sharing its entire exterior design bar the badges with its Opel and Vauxhall counterparts – will land in Australian showrooms in February 2018, about four months after the final Australian-built Commodore rolls from the Elizabeth production line in South Australia to end almost seven decades of “Australia’s Own Car”.

Holden this week gave Australian journalists unprecedented, world-first access to the next Commodore at its Lang Lang proving ground in Gippsland, south-east of Melbourne, where two prototypes are already being put through development hoops in parallel with the main engineering effort by GM Europe in Germany.

Breaking with decades of tradition, the next Commodore will dispense with the four-door design and come in two five-door body styles – a liftback hatch, tentatively called Sportback, and Sportwagon.

At launch, three engine choices will be offered – a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol, 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder diesel (a first for Commodore), and a normally aspirated 3.6-litre petrol V6.

While the four-cylinder cars will come only in front-wheel-drive form, the V6 will be offered exclusively with a ground-breaking all-wheel-drive system with a twin-clutch rear differential for optimal torque split.

Commodore buyers have Holden to thank for the V6, as it insisted the bigger engine be included in the new-model program.

The engine is a development of the current Commodore V6, but will make 20kW more power and 20Nm more torque than the existing 3.6-litre V6, at 230kW and 370Nm.

More interestingly, the engine includes General Motors’ fuel-saving ‘Active Fuel Management’ system, cutting fuel delivery to two cylinders when cruising. This has been a feature of Holden’s big V8s for some years, but is a first on a V6.

Also new to the new Insignia-Commodore is a GM-sourced nine-speed automatic transmission, replacing the six-speed unit of the current VFII. This transmission will be standard across the range. Like V8 power, the six-speed manual has been dropped.

The combination of revised V6, nine-speed auto transmission, all-wheel drive and lightweight body is tipped to propel the flagship Commodore from zero to 100km/h in less than six seconds.

Surprisingly, no turbocharged V6 will be available at launch – even the current Insignia has one – but Holden hinted it will have further powertrain options available at a later date.

These options could include hybrid, although no one is saying at this stage.

Holden admits that the next Commodore is unlikely to be the standout sales leader its locally built version was, but rather one of about four new-generation imported Holden models that will vie for the title of the lion brand’ s best-selling vehicle.

Others include the new Astra that is about to lob in Australia, the recently updated Colorado ute and the Equinox SUV that will replace the ageing Captiva next year.

Holden sales and marketing executive director Peter Keley – who had his first drive of the new model just before journalists were unleashed on the new Commodore on Monday – told GoAuto that he expected current Holden owners to make up the biggest part of the potential buyer base for the new car.

However, because of the hi-tech, European sophistication of the latest model, Holden also expects the new NG Commodore to draw buyers from European brands such as BMW and Volkswagen, as well as Ford with its Mondeo and Toyota with the Camry.

Mr Keley said that because Holden was still about 18 months from launch, the marketing pitch was yet to be decided.

“The underlying theme will be around ‘The Smarter Commodore’ – the technology of the vehicle, the efficiency of the vehicle,” he said.

“This is the right car for the times.” Mr Keley acknowledged that sales of the current Insignia in Australia had been small compared with Commodore, but said the Insignia was brought in to highlight new-model activity at Holden and to try to push aside the perceptions held by some that Holden was closing.

“It was also on the showroom floor competing against the similar-sized locally produced Commodore,” he said.

“Now we will have a singular focus – this is the new Commodore – and it will be given the full treatment from a marketing and investment point of view to ensure it lives up to our expectations.” So far this year, just 221 Insignias have been sold in Australia, compared with 19,541 Commodores.

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