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Complexity kills Holden Commodore 2.0T AWD

On tour: Holden wanted V6 in its new Commodore, even if it meant missing out on AWD versions of the four-cylinder powertrains available in Insignia.

Holden prioritises V6 over four-cylinder AWD in Commodore engineering program

Holden logo8 Feb 2018

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

HOLDEN has revealed that it had to forgo all-wheel-drive versions of the 2.0-litre turbo petrol and diesel powertrains available in the Opel Insignia if it wanted to include V6 power in its new ZB Commodore.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the first front-drive Commodore near Melbourne this week, Holden vehicle development manager Jeremy Tassone admitted that Holden management was not willing to bet that traditional Commodore buyers would be happy to give up six-cylinder driveability in their full-sized family cars for the greater efficiency of downsized four-cylinder turbo alternatives.

“There was no way we weren’t going to fight for the V6 AWD,” he said. “But there are areas where you have to prioritise your needs over your wants … and great as it would have been, the four-cylinder AWDs didn’t make it (into Commodore).”

With the uncertainly surrounding how the Commodore will perform sales-wise now that it is not built in Australia, is not rear-wheel drive and does not offer a V8 option, Holden did not want to further change what has been a successful recipe for the company since 1978 – or challenge traditional buyer perceptions – by following Opel’s lead with an all-four-cylinder proposition.

“Commodore buyers expect a V6,” Mr Tassone added. According to Holden lead vehicle dynamics engineer Rob Trubiani, limited resources were a factor in the decision to limit what was available in the ZB Commodore.

“The complexity of having to introduce (four-cylinder cars with all-wheel drive) was not possible at this point,” he said.

Maximising V6 uptake was also said to be the thinking behind the raised Tourer crossover’s limited powertrain specification, since it is currently only available in V6-petrol and AWD Calais and Calais V guises.

While acknowledging that key rivals such as the Subaru Outback and Volkswagen Passat Alltrack have fuel economy benefits as a result of offering downsized and/or turbo four-cylinder engines in both petrol and diesel options, the performance image of the 3.6-litre V6 is a unique opportunity for Holden.

“We will wait and see how demand is for that before making any changes,” the spokesperson said. “We do see having a V6 AWD as a point of difference compared to the Outback and Passat … and some buyers will really respond to that.” It is understood that the process of adding AWD to the four-cylinder Commodores won’t be too difficult, particularly if the market reacts against the V6s.

Describing as having “Rob, Jeremy and the rest of the engineering team’s fingertips all over this car”, Holden chairman and managing director Mark Bernhard said that no matter how physically different an imported Commodore was to its locally-made predecessor, market success or failure depends on how well the vehicle met traditional buyer expectations.

This was especially so once prospective buyers took the time to get behind the wheel of the ZB newcomer and as good as the 2.0-litre turbo FWDs are, six-cylinder availability is core to what makes a great Australian family car for many customers.

“The nameplate synonymous with our heartland is Commodore,” he said. “Few cars stir the emotion Commodore does. Any car company around the world would love that passion. Now it’s not a rear-wheel drive – it comes with FWD or AWD – it’s not a V8 – it’s a V6 and an outstanding 2.0-litre turbo with a diesel option – we’re not running from any of that.

“But what this vehicle is, it is a Commodore: space, performance, technology, sophistication, exceptional driving performance, for Australian drivers and Australian conditions, honed by our globally talented team.

“Our heartland customers are going to be key to the future success of our brand … we want to keep those loyal customers, and we also want to attract more customers to the brand.”

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