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Walkinshaw monsters the VF Commodore

Beer budget: The W310 kit for Holden’s 6.0-litre V8 engined SS Commodore ups performance to 310kW of power and a HSV-beating 580Nm of torque – even before a supercharger is strapped on.

Performance kit ups Holden’s Commodore to 310kW and Walkinshaw is not standing still

15 Jul 2013

THERE’S something a little bit different about Walkinshaw Performance. Just ask the aftermarket tuning group’s general manager of marketing and communications, Tom Reynolds.

There has to be. Its staple for the last eight years, the Holden Commodore, is running out of time in its current form, and the bolt-on, go-fast accessories developer will have to start thinking afresh about what it does next.

“If the VF turns out to be the swan song for the Commodore, it's going to be a great, proud way to go,” Mr Reynolds told GoAuto after announcing the first of its performance upgrade packs for the V8-engined versions of Holden’s heavily revised, once-proud large family car.

“We've been moving into different products for different makes and different models, but Commodore is the car that built our reputation and it's been terrific for us.”

Walkinshaw Performance faces losing its hold on the large, rear-drive Commodore when the current Zeta-based car reaches the end of its viable production life somewhere in the next three years.

Holden has already revealed it is working on the next-generation Commodore range – which will potentially see the nameplate adopt a front-drive layout – but according to Mr Reynolds, Walkinshaw won’t be taking the slow lane.

“Our recent history points to what we're doing,” he said. “We've done an upgraded turbo kit for the (Holden) Cruze – we took that from 90 kilowatts for the standard kit for the older 1.4-litre, and we got it out to 180kW.

“Expect a lot more of that – we're going to do a lot more with Cruze.

“Expect a lot of performance and styling upgrades for Captiva, and we're also looking at other brands,” Mr Reynolds said.

“We're already offering stuff for the Ford Kuga, we ran the RenaultSport program in Targa Tasmania – built their race cars and maintained them – so we've already diversified.”

In the meantime, Walkinshaw has released its most powerful performance upgrade kit for the recently launched VF Commodore, boasting a champagne level of welly under the bonnet for what amounts to a beer budget.

It has announced a $6495 kit that increases the V8-engined Commodore’s performance to a healthy 310kW – that’s double the performance of previous power packs and only 7kW shy of the output of a base-model HSV ClubSport.

The kit is an important way for Walkinshaw to connect with buyers. Mr Reynolds said the company had fallen into the trap of building show cars with every conceivable option fitted, creating a car costing $25,000 more than a standard Commodore.

“A lot of people said to us they wouldn’t pay an extra $25,000 over a Commodore, so we saw it was important to have a kit to give buyers something to build on.

“They can do the kit, and then do the brakes, the suspension ... anything they want, we can do.”

It’s cheap horsepower, too, because by the time you add the “W310” kit, as it is known, to the $44,190, 6.0-litre V8-engined Commodore SS, it will still cost less than the $60,990 base-model 6.2-litre V8-engined HSV.

The kit, which includes ceramic exhaust headers with a bimodal stainless steel exhaust system, a high-flow catalytic converter, cold-air intake and a tweak to the engine’s computer, ups the Commodore SS’s performance from its default serve of 270kW and 517Nm to 310kW and a HSV-beating 580Nm.

13 center imageFrom top: Walkinshaw rocker covers and cold-air intake, carbon-fibre bonnet and boot spoiler.

At the moment, the only way you’ll better that torque figure is by paying $92,990 for the supercharged GTS – the most powerful car ever built in Australia when it arrives late next month – that spits out 430kW of power and 740Nm of torque. Other HSVs only deliver between 550-570Nm.

However, don’t draw any parallels between Walkinshaw and its factory-based partner, Holden Special Vehicles, or suggest that Walkinshaw’s big numbers are squarely aimed at undermining HSV.

“While we're a sister company to HSV, we work on our programs and they work on theirs, so we're not designed around undermining anything to do with HSV at all,” Mr Reynolds said.

"I also hasten to add that we are yet to release our products for HSV, so to say if you want to get that same torque you've got to spend $92,000 (for the HSV GTS) isn't necessarily going to mean there's no new product from Walkinshaw (to fill that gap)."According to Mr Reynolds, Walkinshaw Performance was working through a “program of things” that were not compatible in the swap from the VE to the VF Commodore, including new ways of feeding air into the naturally aspirated 6.0-litre V8 to extract even more performance.

He said the aftermarket industry – worth $11 billion last year according to the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association – was a lucrative business that would only get bigger.

“It's a natural progression … we know people are interested in modifying their cars more than ever before and we also knew that the VF would be a car that a lot of people would immediately take to, that they would want to make modifications to,” he said.

“We've always been about servicing a need in the industry. The numbers are great, we're very happy with that.

“We have spent a considerable amount on research and development so it kind of galls me when people say 'oh, but you cost more than the competition', but we spend more than the competition and we also offer a driveline warranty.”

Mr Reynolds said the driveline warranty – along with the fact that Walkinshaw Performance took over the remaining new-car warranty as well as its own warranty on branded parts, was what helped set his business apart from the others.

He also said Walkinshaw would not go down the path of other aftermarket tuners in offering even more straightline performance at the cost of handling.

“Our thing is all about drivability, which is why you're not seeing us tick things as high as some of our competitors,” he said.

He said a range of other VF Commodore add-ons was just around the corner.

“The W310 kit is our opening salvo.”

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