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ZB Commodore: VXR tuned for Aussie tastes

Six pack: Holden engineers have helped shape the V6-powered VXR performance variant.

Holden Commodore VXR gets local input, turbo-diesel to be the efficiency leader

25 Aug 2017

HOLDEN says it has had a hand in ensuring the V6 tune for the Commodore VXR performance variant will appeal to Australian buyers, while the turbo-diesel models will be a toe in the water exercise for the car-maker.

The ZB Commodore will hit Australian shores as the first imported car to carry the famed nameplate in February next year with a range that includes liftback, Sportwagon and high-riding Tourer body styles, as well as a number of ‘Sport’ and ‘Comfort’ variants powered by a 3.6-litre V6 and a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol and turbo-diesel engines.

Details of the VXR were revealed last month with Holden confirming the sporty variant – that effectively replaces both the SV6 and SS in the Commodore – will be powered by a 235kW/381Nm version of the naturally aspirated 3.6-litre V6, paired with a new nine-speed automatic transmission and advanced all-wheel-drive system with torque vectoring and twin-clutch differential.

The VXR has an additional 5kW and 11Nm over other V6-powered ZB Commodore variants, and while Holden is yet to reveal the official 0-100km/h figure, it will be be in the low-6.0 second bracket.

Speaking with GoAuto at the Commodore development drive this week, Holden engineering group manager of vehicle development Jeremy Tassone said the local engineering team has regularly provided feedback to the engineers at Opel headquarters in Germany in a bid to tailor the ride and handling for Australian conditions.

“They have taken the steering calibration and adapted it to be specific to that vehicle (VXR),” he said at Holden’s Lang Lang Proving Ground. “The suspension, we have given them feedback.”

Mr Tassone said his colleague, Holden lead development engineer for Commodore David Johnson, has spent a lot of time with the Opel Performance Centre (OPC) engineers in the development stages of the ZB Commodore – and the Opel Insignia on which it is based – providing input rather than making any physical or mechanical changes at Holden’s engineering centre.

Mr Tassone reiterated Opel vice-president of design Mark Adams’ comments from this year’s Geneva motor show that a turbocharged version of the V6 was highly unlikely.

“The reality is there is no packaging space for the twin-turbo V6 in this car,” he said.

However, he did not rule out the possibility of squeezing more power out of the 3.6-litre bent-six engine down the track.

“Could the car handle more horsepower? Yeah it could. Does it need it? It’s arguable. I think what we have got is great, I am rapt with that. If we had more horsepower I wouldn’t knock it back.”

Holden offered up V6 and four-cylinder turbo-petrol versions of the Commodore for the drive day at Lang Lang, but the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel was not available to sample.

Mr Tassone said the 125kW oil-burner – which is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission instead of the nine-speed units in the V6 and 2.0-litre petrol – will appeal to buyers looking to save a bit of money at the fuel pump.

“It’s a ripper. What it is is a real economy player for those people that want to do high mileage. It is a really efficient package. But it has got great driveability. It is not a sportscar, it is aimed more at the efficient side rather than the sporty side.”

Mr Tassone said that it is likely to hold particular appeal in regional and rural Australia, where diesel passenger cars are popular for their long driving range.

He added that the diesel powertrain is an extra offering for buyers that have never had the option of a diesel-powered Commodore in the past, and said that some European companies offer a diesel engine as the sole powertrain for some flagship variants.

“It is an additional offering, almost like a toe in the water thing. Australians haven’t really adopted the diesel (passenger car), except in the European models, but that’s more about the model line-up. People are buying the top-spec (variant) of the vehicle which comes with a diesel, rather than people specifically wanting the diesel.”

Diesel passenger-car sales in Australia have dropped by double figures so far this year, with 11,036 sales to the end of July, making up just 4.1 per cent of the total 266,059 units shifted.

Oil-burners are much more popular among SUV buyers, with 83,395 sales so far this year representing a 30.8 per cent share of the 270,477 total SUV sales.

On the European fuel cycle, the Opel Insignia 2.0-litre turbo-diesel has a combined consumption figure of 5.3-6.3 litres per 100km.

While the turbo-diesel powertrain will be offered in liftback and Sportwagon guise, the high-riding Tourer – which will go head to head with the likes of the Subaru Outback and Volkswagen Passat Alltrack – will only be offered in petrol V6 AWD guise.

Of the ZB Commodore’s rivals in the mid-size and large segments, the Ford Mondeo, Hyundai i40, VW Passat, Mazda6, Subaru Outback, Skoda Octavia and Superb and the Peugeot 508 are available with a diesel engine.

Opel and Holden are yet to confirm a hybrid powertrain option for the Insignia/Commodore, despite rumours swirling around its existence.

Holden director of communications Sean Poppitt said the company would consider introducing it to Australia, if it was given the green light globally, but only if it made financial sense to do so.

“We wouldn’t rule anything out at this point. But nothing to say beyond that.

But we are not ruling anything out at this point,” he said.

“We don’t want to get ahead of what may or may not happen. It has got to make brand sense, it has got to make financial sense, and sometimes the brand outweighs the financials. Sometimes it is the other way around. For now we need to get the core volume selling models and the reshaping of the nameplate right first and foremost and we can see what else we can build from it.”

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