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Detailed: Holden’s hand in ‘NG’ Commodore

Getting a grip: The next Commodore will get all-wheel traction via a world-first torque vectoring system that employs two rear clutches in place of a conventional differential.

Next-gen Holden Commodore gets some local input to ease the switch to import

26 Oct 2016

HOLDEN has revealed that its product planners, designers and engineers have been working for five years alongside their European counterparts on the development of the next-generation ‘NG’ Commodore to maximise its appeal for Australian customers.

Although General Motors Europe in Germany is the “homeroom” for the new Opel-Vauxhall Insignia and its Holden Commodore spin-off, the Australian team has been up to its elbows in the project to ensure the first imported Commodore – and the first to be based on a front-wheel-drive platform – will meet the high expectations of Aussie buyers when it arrives in February 2018 to replace the local hero.

Melbourne-based GM Design Australia crafted two clay replicas of the new model to aid its input, while Holden engineers have joined their European counterparts on test drives in Europe, including hot laps of the legendary Nurburgring where the handling is being honed.

Since August, two prototypes have also been at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground in Victoria where Holden chassis engineers are working on tuning the flagship all-wheel-drive V6 variant for Australian sensibilities.

While the Insignia and its Buick counterpart, the Regal, are important for GM in Europe, the UK, North America and China, the stakes for Holden are relatively higher, as the Commodore has been its sales leader by a country mile since it was introduced in 1978.

Holden says it was instrumental in ensuring a V6 was included in the program, as a four-cylinder-only Commodore would not cut it. As one Holden executive put it, Holden “has form” on that front, having introduced the lacklustre Starfire four-cylinder engine – dubbed “Misfire” by its critics – in early Commodores in the 1980s.

As expected, no V8 will be included, although Holden continues to insist it has a V8 sportscar in the wings to cater for its legions of bent-eight enthusiasts at some point.

The Insignia-based Commodore will sit on GM’s new E2 architecture that underpins a wide spread of GM mid-size and large front- and all-wheel-drive cars, including the latest Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse.

Using weight-reducing construction techniques employing high-strength steel, the vehicle is said to be between 200kg and 300kg lighter than the current rear-wheel-drive VFII Commodore that will go out of production towards the end of 2017.

This is said to contribute to gains in both performance and fuel economy.

Instead of a traditional notchback sedan, the mainstream Commodore (and Insignia) will be a liftback hatch, with a sloping rear profile and a big glass hatch supported by hydraulic struts. All sheetmetal will be common across the Opel, Vauxhall and Holden variants, which will also include a Sportwagon.

Because the Commodore will be based on the European car, it will be smaller in most dimensions than the current homegrown version – shorter by 74mm (4899mm), narrower by 36mm (1863mm) and sitting on a wheelbase shorter by 86mm (2829mm).

Overall height increases by 3mm, to 1474mm, but because of the sloping roofline, rear-seat headroom drops 13mm, to 952mm.

Perhaps more concerning for large-car buyers is that the interior shoulder room is down by 58mm, to 1444mm, meaning that designers have narrowed the centre console to move the front seats inboard to maintain front-seat personal space.

The back-seat shoulder room, however, is noticeably more squeezy for three adults, but knee room remains the same at a handy 85mm.

For the first time, Commodore will get a diesel option via a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder. Although no power, performance or fuel economy figures have been given for this variant, it is expected to easily take the mantle of the most fuel-efficient Commodore ever offered.

Despite Holden’s misadventures with the 1980s “Misfire” engine, four-cylinder petrol power is back in the form of a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine. Again, no figures have been revealed, but expect this variant to be the Camry beater, and – like the diesel – available only in front-wheel-drive format.

The normally aspirated 230kW/370Nm 3.6-litre V6 gets Active Fuel Management technology that saves fuel by switching off one cylinder in each engine bank under cruise conditions.

This V6 will represent the Commodore flagship powertrain at launch, with drive going to all four wheels via a Holden-first nine-speed automatic transmission and adaptive all-wheel-drive system.

The latter gets a world-first torque vectoring system that uses two rear-axle clutches – similar to automatic transmission clutches – instead of a differential to direct the drive to the appropriate wheel.

In cruise conditions, the power goes to the front wheels, but up to 50 per cent can go to the rears. In practice, engineers have seen more than 80 per cent go to a single wheel when the other three lose traction.

Full LED headlights are the latest iteration of the matrix system – a further development of the lights on the upcoming Astra – that work fully automatically to turn off certain LEDs to prevent oncoming motorists from being blinded while maximising light spread and reach.

Adaptive suspension is also promised for high-end models, but details on that are in short supply. Likewise, a full complement of active safety features is also promised, but Holden is holding details to a later date.

Holden has revealed that, like all its latest models, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity will be standard, along with an 8.0-inch screen and head-up display.

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