Exposed: Are you ready for the new Commodore?

The next generation Commodore has been spotted testing in Europe. We asked MotoringNetwork’s new recruit, internationally-recognised Kiwi auto illustrator Josh Byrnes, to strip away the camo.


HERE’S the vehicle that keeps the Commodore nameplate alive and Holden competitive as a passenger car provider once the VFII ends production in just over a year from now.

Conjecture about what this is has long been settled: You’re looking at what will also be the new Opel Insignia (and also a Buick in some markets). Compared to today’s Insignia, the new car will grow in every dimension, with overall length around that of the current Commodore.

Of course, so much else has changed. The car seen testing on the streets of Europe ends Holden’s run with rear-drive and V8 engines – Insignia will continue in four-wheel-drive as we see it now, but also provide in front-drive. The top powerplant will be a turbocharged V6 with maybe 300kW; there are also four-cylinder petrol and, yes, that long-awaited Commodore first, a diesel. Whether the latter becomes available behind the Holden badge is a matter of some conjecture. Those engines sit across the engine bay, rather than north-south as in every Commodore we’ve known.

More change? Well, in Europe, the second-generation Opel Insignia will be initially available as a five-door hatch, as has been seen in testing and is also produced in its final form here. A wagon variant is expected to follow a few months later, with the sedan body style expected to be discontinued.

Given the limitations of the architecture and the slow extinction of V8 engines, performance models are expected to feature a turbocharged V6 with around 300kW of power and will be paired with an all-wheel-drive setup.

Mainstream variants will be powered by turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines.

Anyway, that’s all familiar news. What’s new is the look: Something that GM isn’t ready to officially show us yet.

That’s where Josh Byrnes enters the frame. He’s one of those guys whose work supposedly frustrates (but secretly fascinates) car brands: A specialist artist who can see behind the camo and the false panels to render an accurate digital rendering of what we can expect to see in the New Zealand market immediately after VFII ends production in October 2017, thus curtailing all Holden car-making in Australia.

Josh is a huge talent; inspired by a Jaguar chief designer’s feedback about his artistic ability, this Manawatu bloke is making a good name for himself by providing realistic and usually highly-accurate ‘photo-like’ renderings of the cars in our future. His full biographical details are in the ‘about us’ section.

So, as his first assignment for MotoringNetwork, we pointed him to latest international images of the Insignia/Commodore test mule and left him to it. Here’s his view:


Before a new car is released to the buying public, manufacturers carry out validation tests on public roads. This means development prototypes can be snapped by eagle-eyed photographers, which carmakers hate - to combat this, test mules are often plastered with visually-deceiving spy shot patterns and false panels.

So how does one unravel the styling mysteries under the disguise? Well that's where I come in; based at an secret skunkworks within the thriving metropolis of Palmerston North, I've developed a knack for deciphering the camouflage and illustrating how the final product will look prior to its official unveiling.

Using Holden's next generation Commodore as an example, the process starts by looking at spy shot imagery of Opel's upcoming 2017 Insignia mid-size offering - the basis for the next Commodore. Every design detail within the image is examined to see what parts are the real deal and which aspects are just false panels and cladding. 

Further research is undertaken to understand what powertrains, platform, technology and variants the car will have. In Holden’s case, Australian production of the Commodore will cease in 2017, which means it will migrate onto GM’s E2XX front-drive (and AWD capable), mid-size platform. Sadly, it loses those rear-wheel-drive proportions of the departing VF2 - and equally as devastating, the end of the Commodore V8.

Moving forward, the new global Commodore could see the introduction of an lift-back variant in addition to the sedan and wagon. Propulsion will be taken care of by an frugal 2.0-litre turbocharged four, whilst those wanting more performance could have the option an Opel OPC-derived, turbo V6 with AWD.

Armed with that information, a clearer picture emerges upon which I can commence the illustration. Using lighting tricks and digital enhancement tools, my first objective is to work out the body lines and shapes. Shut-lines (the leading edge where doors, trim and panels intersect) are vital to getting the look correct - these can determine everything from headlight shape to roofline silhouette.

However there can be areas of a test mule disguised so well that it’s hard to gauge the design. This part of the process is what I call ‘filling in the gaps’. Using information gathered about manufacturer design trends, I can render in the most likely look. For example, the rear quarter windows of Holden’s test mule are completely covered - yet I know design DNA will be shared with GM’s latest offerings which almost have a BMW-ish hofmeister kink at the rear.

Once happy with the design and angle of the artwork, I’ll digitally render in the bodywork and details. Then my own background photography is added for an distinctly New Zealand-based vibe, and ground reflections are included for a natural look. Any interesting curves or design features are then enhancing by tweaking contrast levels and background blur is added for depth perception.

Yet after all is done and dusted; the most rewarding aspect is seeing the real thing upon its official reveal and comparing it to my pre-emptive artwork. So, the next time you see a digital render of an unreleased, upcoming new vehicle; just remember that sneak preview of Holden’s next Commodore and that Kiwi connection.