Commodore: German breeding, Aussie twang

Holden has begun its campaign to convince the next Commodore, though German-designed and built, is still an Aussie at heart.

PERCEPTION of a radical restyling and also whether a nine-speed automatic is going to be too much for New Zealand driving conditions are the basis of initial reaction to the next generation Commodore.

Confirmation that the car will be significantly based on – and built alongside - an incoming large Opel, the next generation Insignia, came from Holden today when it released some detail and images of a heavily cloaked liftback example undergoing test in Australia.

Since then chat rooms, Facebook and comments sections of some motoring sites here and across the Tasman have been running hot with talk, much apparently from a crowd the brand is keen not to alienate – existing Commodore owners.

While it contends that all conversation – good or bad – about the new model is unlikely to harm Commodore’s social stature or sales standing, Holden New Zealand has confirmed it intends to keep a close watch on all sentiment about the new car and its genetic association.

“Absolutely. We always keep across our own Facebook and comments sections on other stories,” said Holden New Zealand corporate affairs manager Ed Finn.

The brand is prepared to take the good with the bad, but so far there hasn’t been anything that might cause concern.

Finn’s own sightings today suggest the main point of conversation appears to be about the car’s styling – even though it is still heavily disguised and will likely remain that way until at least the donor Opel makes its Europe market debut.

That’s not too long to wait: Insignia is apparently going to be unveiled in December then will debut formally at the Geneva motor show that opens on the last day of next February. The car goes on sale in mid-2017, meaning at least half a year’s advance over Commodore.

Here at MotoringNetwork, we think the photos now provided by Holden confirm the accuracy of the sneak-peek rendering created by internationally-recognised auto illustrator Josh Byrnes, published back in July and shown again below.

“It’s interesting that some of the comments have been about the styling but it is heavily camouflaged – so it’s a little bit impossible for people to accurately describe what the vehicle looks like when it’s still some months from reveal.”

However, MotoringNetwork has also spotted plenty of chat about the model’s only known transmission, a nine-speed automatic, much of it questioning if a gearbox with that many forward cogs in necessary for New Zealand.

Alerted to this, Finn was quickly on the defence, saying: “The beauty with this particular gearbox is that the ninth speed does get used even at around 100kmh, so it is perfect for our driving conditions.”

He agreed that wasn’t the case with all nine-speeds, but assured this one was not – despite its sourcing – specifically geared or tuned for autobahns and high speed running. “The nine speed will (also) certainly aid fuel efficiency in New Zealand.”

Discussion about the merits of the first Commodore in the nameplate’s 40-year history not to be built in Australia is unlikely to stop with these subjects.

Despite Holden already working to reassure that it has kept a hand on the model’s development, a car that shares its E2 platform, body shape and architecture, mechanicals and many, many aspects with the Opel is set to bring more differences than similarities to what we have now.

No sedan, no V8, no rear-drive, no manual transmission are key changes.

Some dimensional downsizing also appears likely as result of it taking the same formats as the Insigna.

That means a hatch and a wagon – respectively to be called Sportback and Sportswagon -  a V6 petrol flagship engine and 2.0-litre four-cylinders - one in petrol, the other diesel - four-wheel-drive and that advanced transmission.

One surprise is that the V6 is not, as expected, a twin-turbo mill but instead is a reworked 230kW/330Nm naturally-aspirated V6 with cylinder deactivation. Although it is suggesting a 0-100kmh sprint of under six seconds, there’s already some doubt that it will be enough of a rocketship to keep sweet with those fans who presently enjoy driving the SS and SS-V Redline V8s.

Finn says the twin-turbo engine simply was not a potential. “It was simply not possible to engineer that  .. the packaging does not allow for that engine.”

Finn says creating the next Commodore as a co-share with Insignia was a logical step for Holden. “It enables us to deliver the most technologically-advanced Commodore ever. There’s a lot of advantages with using this particular platform and partnering with Opel on this car.”

As to whether it will now run risk of being considered more a German import than a pukka Aussie product, he replied: “The team in Australia over the past five years have had a huge amount of input in respect to the chassis development of the vehicle. I don’t have a particular percentage of that input, but it has been significant.”

The Opel and Holden models share an adaptive all-wheel-drive with torque-vectoring (from the same provider that sorted this for the Ford Focus RS) and a twin-clutch rear differential. Holden has also engaged on calibrating the steering and has dibs on sorting the adaptive suspension for local conditions.

However, that effort seems to restrict purely to the V6. Although some Australian engineers are involved with sorting the four-cylinder models, Holden has acknowledged the job is being led by Opel, with chassis work undertaken at the Nurburgring.

The next car is expected to deliver boast a significant improvement in interior quality. Equipment also improves. The human machine interface (HMI) includes eight-inch configurable LCD instruments, colour multi-function head-up display and a new large-screen central infotainment system that incorporates both Apple Car Play and Android Auto integration.

Safety equipment, both active and passive, also takes a leap forward with claimed segment and Holden firsts.