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Holden’s new 3.0-litre V6 ‘better all round’

Fuel leader: Holden's Commodore is the first locally-made car to gain direct injection, which GM calls SIDI.

Lean direct-injection Commodore V6 punches above its weight while saving fuel

4 Aug 2009

HOLDEN’S new direct-injection 3.0-litre V6 will match the performance of the current 3.6-litre Alloytec V6 while delivering improved drivability, more refinement and fuel savings of up to 12 per cent, a Holden powertrain senior manager told GoAuto at today’s announcement of the new Commodore V6 range.

Production of the new lean 3.0-litre engine, which will make the Commodore the most fuel-efficient six-cylinder car made in Australia, has already begun, with cars to arrive in showrooms next month.

Combined with a standard GM-sourced six-speed automatic transmission and new low-rolling-resistance tyres, the engine will help the Commodore Omega and Berlina to achieve an official fuel economy average of 9.3 litres per 100km, undercutting the Ford Falcon and Toyota Aurion by 0.6L/100km.

Holden announced it would introduce two new Melbourne-made V6 engines using Spark Ignition Direct Injection (SIDI) technology – the entry-level 3.0-litre and a new premium 3.6-litre V6. Both run on regular 91 RON unleaded petrol.

GM Holden chairman and managing director Mark Reuss said Holden’s smaller engine was arriving now and not in two years’ time – an apparent reference to Ford Australia’s announcement last month of a four-cylinder Falcon to be introduced in 2011.

“We heard what the Australian car-buying public has said to us, we heard what the government wanted – cleaner, more efficient vehicles,” he said.

“We invested in our future and delivered that fantastic news that we have today – not two years from now, not six months – next month.”

13 center imageLeft: Holden's Mark Reuss and industry minister Kim Carr with Holden's new 3.0-litre V6. Below: The 2010 Holden Commodore Omega.

It is the Commodore’s first 3.0-litre engine since the Nissan-sourced inline six of the VL series in 1980s.

The new V6 is 10kg lighter than the 3.6 it replaces, and was developed by General Motors in the US where it is already serving in the Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Equinox.

The new Euro IV emissions-compliant 3.0-litre Commodore engine produces 190kW at 6700rpm and 290Nm of torque from 2900rpm. Previously, the base 3.6-litre Commodore engine produced 180kW and 330Nm.

This compares to the Ford Falcon’s 195kW/391Nm and the Toyota Aurion’s 200kW/336Nm. The new lean 3.0 V6 will be fitted to the entry level Omega and Berlina sedan and Sportwagon, while the base Commodore Ute and LPG models will continue to run the non-direct-injection Alloytec V6 and ageing four-speed automatic.

Prices for the Omega and Berlina will rise $700, pushing the entry-level Omega sedan within a whisker of the $40,000 mark with an official sticker price of $39,990, plus dealer delivery and statutory charges.

Holden’s new direct-injection 3.6-litre V6 is the most powerful naturally aspirated six-cylinder to be fitted to an Australian-made car with 210kW of power at 6400rpm. The torque rating of 350Nm outguns the Aurion but falls 41Nm short of the Falcon’s 391Nm.

The 3.6-litre SIDI V6 was introduced for the Cadillac CTS in 2007, and has since been fitted to a range of vehicles, including the Cadillac STS and Camaro coupe.

Standard fit to SV6 sedan, wagon and ute, Calais sedan and wagon, Statesman and Caprice, the 3.6 SIDI engine delivers vastly improved performance as well as fuel economy gains ranging from seven per cent to 13 per cent. Prices will remain the same.

The SV6 sedan will achieve an official fuel consumption figure of 10.2L/100km, down from 11L/100km, while SV6 Ute consumption drops from 11.6L/100km to 10.1L/100km.

Impressively, long-wheelbase Statesman and Caprice V6 variants now achieve 10.3L/100km, down from 11.5L/100km.

None of the Holden models that benefit from the mechanical upgrade will be given any form of exterior facelift at this stage, although Mr Reuss said one was in the pipeline for the Commodore. He would not be drawn on a timeframe.

“This car needs to be freshened on a cycle that our market and our customers tell us it needs to be,” he said.

“The next design you see won’t be that far off. It will be very, very nice. I’m excited about it.” While Mr Reuss previously said the fuel economy of the Commodore could be improved with a range of measures including some aluminium panels, which he claimed were affordable, no such changes have been made to the car at this stage. GoAuto understands these changes are likely when the car is given the exterior facelift.

Mr Reuss said Holden would heavily promote the efficiency of its new 3.0-litre V6 entry-level engine and was confident it would be able to win over fleets, including those of business and government that have introduced ‘no six-cylinder’ policies.

“We are blowing those (existing) paradigms away,” he said. “We are changing all those paradigms. We are going to educate everyone on how we are doing that, whether it is real fuel economy, CO2 and operating costs or alternative fuels.” Mr Reuss even went so far as to suggest he would personally contact fleet managers to have them reconsider bans on six-cylinder engines.

“Because of those policies that are based on the past versus real fuel economy and running costs, we have got a very aggressive marketing strategy including myself personally visiting the fleet managers and all of our senior staff at Holden sitting down with each of the major fleets across the country with our sales and service staff to go through the real operating costs of what our new V6s are going to have,” he said.

Mr Reuss said Holden was not currently interested in following Ford Australia’s example by introducing a four-cylinder engine for its large car, but said the company would do so if customers wanted it.

“The market would tell us that, but at this time our plans are built around this plant, this V6 that is the most advanced in the world, I believe, made right out of here,” he said.

Mr Reuss said Holden was aiming to “out-engineer the competition”.

“Dropping cylinders would be the last resort because people still like the power, the performance, the towing – all of those things that we get in Australia with this engine and this car,” he said.

Mr Reuss said the flexibility of Holden’s Port Melbourne engine plant, which produces a 2.8-litre turbo V6, as well as a naturally aspirated 3.0, 3.2 and 3.6-litre V6 engines for export to South America, Sweden, Germany, South Korea and Germany, meant the company could respond quickly to customer needs.

He said the new 3.0-litre V6 would provide the answer for Australian families who wanted a six-cylinder car but shied away from the fuel costs associated with them.

“Families are not getting any smaller. This country is not getting any smaller. People want the freedom to travel in comfort. However, they need the fuel efficiency of a much smaller vehicle,” he said.

GM Holden powertrain lead executive Martyn Cray described the new-generation direct-injection engines as “the single most important engine change in the history of Australia’s favourite car”.

Mr Cray told GoAuto the engine’s performance would not disappoint customers.

“With acceleration, it is a match with the current car,” he said. “In terms of driveability, I have driven the car and I think it is a better car to drive.” The introduction of the new V6 engines has not attracted any funding from the federal government’s Green Car Innovation Fund, but federal industry minister Senator Kim Carr attended today’s announcement.

He said the introduction of the new, leaner Holden engines proved the Australian industry was changing with the times.

“I have enormous faith in the Australian automotive industry’s ability to evolve to meet new challenges and to renew itself and today’s announcement confirms that faith,” Senator Carr said.

“We wanted to see Australian-made cars that are easier on the environment and easier on the hip pocket and this project delivers in spades.” GM says 10 per cent of cars it will produce in 2010 will be fitted with direct-injection technology.

In the US, GM has a direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 194kW and 353Nm. This engine was introduced in 2006 in the Saturn Solstice and Sky, the Chevrolet Cobalt SS and HHR SS as well as the low-volume Australian Elfin T5.

GM has also just introduced a naturally aspirated 2.4-litre 134kW/232Nm four-cylinder engine with direct injection for selected mid-sized sedans and SUVs.

The Holden announcement comes less than a fortnight after Ford Australia outlined its engine future that includes the addition of a four-cylinder turbocharged engine for Falcon, a hi-tech dedicated LPG version of the I6 engine for Falcon and a diesel V6 for the Territory SUV.

Its EcoBoost four-cylinder engine is at the centre of the new plan, with Ford Australia confident of fuel savings of between 15 and 20 per cent when it is introduced in 2011.

The 2.0-litre engine, developed by Ford in the US, uses a turbocharger and direct injection.

It produces a minimum of 170kW of power and 325Nm of torque, according to details revealed by Ford last month. That is a step below the current Australian naturally aspirated I6 output of 195kW and 391Nm.

Interestingly, Ford US said the new EcoBoost four-cylinder engine would match the performance of a ‘high tech’ 3.0-litre V6 engine while bettering its fuel consumption. Although it stopped short of referring specifically to the new GM V6, there was little doubt what Ford was using for comparison.

Thanks to its turbocharger, the EcoBoost four produces maximum torque from 1500rpm all the way through to 5500rpm.

The Ford and Holden announcements come after Toyota last month rolled out an update of its locally produced Camry four-cylinder that is now 11 per cent more efficient.

While it retains the same 2.4-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder, a raft of modifications mean it now has an official average fuel consumption figure of 8.8L/100km, making it the most fuel efficient locally produced vehicle.

A locally produced petrol-electric hybrid version of the Camry four-cylinder will be introduced next February and its fuel economy figure is expected to come in around the 7.0L/100km mark.

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