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HSV mulls alternative engines for hot Cruze

Hot stuff: A digital image of how the HSV version of Holden's Cruze might look.

Opel’s 213kW Focus fighter might provide engine option for HSV’s crazy Cruze

HSV logo28 Sep 2010

By RON HAMMERTON

HOLDEN Special Vehicles is examining “a couple” of powertrain options for its proposed hot Cruze, one of which might be a blazing 213kW turbocharged four-cylinder from the Opel stable that would take the fight up to Ford’s potent Focus RS and Subaru WRX.

The new locally developed car, based on the Australian-designed Holden Cruze hatch that is set to roll off the Adelaide production line in the second half of next year, might also find fresh export customers for HSV, which is set to expand exports of its Commodore-based E Series V8 range later this year to markets such as Singapore.

20 center imageFrom top: Chevrolet Cruze Hatch, Opel GTC Paris concept, Ford Focus RS.

HSV previously sold a rebadged version of the imported Opel/Vauxhall Astra VRX, which packed 177kW of power and 320Nm of torque, driving through the front wheels.

But with Opel likely to sell its own range of products in Australia under Holden’s GM Premium Brands division in the future, HSV is looking to widen its reach and export potential with its own hot hatch in league with GM Holden.

Speaking with GoAuto at last week’s E Series 3 launch in Victoria, HSV managing director Phil Harding reconfirmed that HSV was looking at developing a performance Cruze to give it a second string to its bow under the E Series.

“I am not saying we are doing it, but we are looking at it,” he said. “We would be silly if we didn’t.”

Mr Harding said the proposed model would have to fit with HSV’s brand and its three pillars – performance, driving pleasure and style.

“I am not going to screw with the brand by getting it wrong,” he said.

Asked if HSV would consider an Opel OPC powertrain for the car, Mr Harding said: “We are looking at a couple of options.”

Opel this week revealed that its Paris motor show concept, called the GTC Paris, is powered by a “state of the art” 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder engine with direct injection producing 213kW.

The engine uses double camshaft phasing and twin balance shafts, and drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox and a sophisticated limited-slip differential that Opel says controls traction without limiting the torque.

This turbo engine is set to go head-to-head in Europe with the Focus RS that has just been launched in Australia with a Volvo-sourced 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo engine producing 224kW and 440Nm.

The Opel GTC Paris three-door hatch is expected to morph into the next Opel Astra OPC/Vauxhall VRX for launch in late 2011.

As the Astra and Cruze both share General Motors’ Delta II platform, transplanting such an engine into the Holden-made Cruze should not be too difficult.

However, bigger question marks remain over the ability of the Cruze to cope with such high power outputs, especially if the local hatch retains the relatively basic torsion beam rear suspension.

By contrast, the Ford Focus RS uses Ford’s ‘Control Blade’ independent rear suspension.

Like the Cruze, the Focus RS puts its power to the road only through the front wheels. And, like Ford, HSV (and Opel) will need to come up with a front-end design to neutralise torque-steer.

Ford’s solution is a patented two-piece steering knuckle – called RevoKnuckle – working in tandem with a sophisticated front differential.

According to European reports, Opel looked at fitting a V6 engine – probably a version of the Holden-made 2.8-litre turbo V6 that powers both the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia and Saab 9-5 – in the next Astra flagship before deciding to go with the lighter four-cylinder option.

If Opel has dispensed with that idea, it is unlikely that HSV would press ahead with a V6 option, although it would save logistics by sourcing the engine locally from Holden’s Port Melbourne factory.

Other options might include an engine development partnership with Chevrolet, which is just launching Cruze in the United States.

Such a development might open doors for HSV to share the development of the sports body treatment and suspension modifications for the Cruze, which is Chevrolet’s global small car across Asia, North America and Europe, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

In Australia, Holden was the ‘home room’ for the development of the hatch version, which will follow the sedan into production at Elizabeth, north of Adelaide. A wagon is also expected.

GM is saying it has no plans to introduce the Cruze hatch to the US market, but with the new-generation Focus set to come on stream in North America in a little over 12 months, the Aussie five-door Cruze with a hot hero model could be just the tonic to give the Cruze new legs.

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