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VE engineering – in a nutshell

Testing, testing: VE Commodore heat abuse testing at Phillip Island.

Holden calls its billion-dollar VE Commodore its "most navel-gazed car of all time"

Holden logo27 Jul 2006


GM HOLDEN executive director of engineering Tony Hyde has revealed that the company built 199 VE Commodore prototypes – with some costing $650,000 each.

"VE is the best engineered, best tested, best validated, best executed and most refined car we’ve done, and the results reflect that.

"We had to build a Commodore which could be considered for any market around the world," he said.

The development program involved over 1000 engineers and technicians working over five years, conducting 3.4 million validation kilometres of testing.

Around $470 million alone was spent on the short-wheelbase VE Commodore, with $235 million more believed to have been earmarked for the WL long-wheelbase Statesman and Caprice.

This contrasts to the $265-270 million invested in 1997’s VT sedan and wagon.

Larger all round, the VE sedan is 18mm longer, 57mm wider and 20mm higher than the VZ equivalent, with a wheelbase that’s 126mm longer.

13 center imageLeft: VE chassis testing in the Northern Territory (top) Altitude testing in Victoria (middle) and heat testing in the Northern Territory (bottom). Engine-bay packaging problems forced the battery into the boot, but partly thanks to four-link bootlid hinges, there is now 31 litres more luggage space inside.

A new front-end module, consisting of the headlights, horns and airbag sensors among other items, was devised for the VE.

It is built in-house, allows for easy walk-through access on the assembly line (also solving workplace ergonomic issues), and can have its individual items easily replaced.

From 1690kg to 1825kg, the VE is around 100kg heavier than the VZ equivalents, but the overall fuel economy figures are about a 0.5 per cent improvement over the outgoing Commodore range.

Comparing individual VE versus VZ components for weight, the body-in-white is up 70kg heavier due to larger and more complex front rails, plus increased B-pillar, rocker and skirt crash performance capabilities.

Chassis weight increases 33kg, mostly as a result of the much more sophisticated rear suspension assembly, although the larger brakes, wheels and tyres, as well as the stability control equipment, also contribute.

So does the "python-esque" wiring harnesses needed for what Mr Hyde calls "the all-round good stuff" in the car (weighing 10kg more than VZ).

The VE’s "exteriors" (front-end module, wheelhouse liners) and "closures" (doors) are 6kg and 5kg heavier respectively.

Interestingly, the VE interior is 16kg lighter, thanks to savings in the instrument panel assembly and underbody sound deadeners.

Nevertheless, these individual weight gains, amounting to 124kg, generally exceed the VE’s total mass difference over the VZ.

Reasons given are the employment of high-strength ‘advanced’ steel (making up 81 per cent of the steel used, where previously only 23 per cent was used – and that was just ‘medium’ strength), composite spare wheel tub, tailor-welded blanks and space-saver spare, among other things.

The VE Commodore also has a completely redesigned heater, ventilation and air-conditioner unit, which works far more efficiently and effectively over a wider range of temperatures (rated from minus 20 degrees Celsius to 50 degrees Celsius) than before.

Other new-to-Commodore items include the implementation of central and roof display units for entertainment, comfort and information systems, including Bluetooth connectivity.

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