The origins of the Holden Commodore will have come full circle when the new model arrives early in 2018 to replace the tried-and-trusted Australian hero.
The next-generation Commodore is based on the German-built Opel Insignia – the first Commodore of 1978 was based on an Opel sedan, too, called the Opel Rekord. It would replace the bigger Kingswood. The oil price shocks of the mid-1970s hastened the change.
Back then the donor Rekord was a city-slicker of sorts and the first test cars sent to Australia in the mid-1970s quickly wound up wounded after a day in harsh conditions.
Holden engineers added some toughness before adding the Commodore badge. Engineers are doing the same thing with the upcoming new Commodore. The Opel donor car might have been designed and engineered in Germany, but it is still a city-slicker.
Holden trotted out camouflaged versions (pictured on this page) of the 2018 model at its test track near Melbourne the other day. Both were largely unfinished – even interior bits and pieces were hidden from view – but Holden wanted to give motoring writers a taste of what’s to come.
More to the point, Holden wants as much ink as it can get that Commodore is here to stay, that the badge will be alive and well after production of the current Commodore ceases when Holden shuts down its plant in Adelaide next year.
So what are some of the differences between the current VF Commodore and the fifth-generation new one?
• New Commodore is smaller, narrower, with not as much passenger room. Also it is a liftback, not a sedan. Holden says a liftback has more boot space and, once the back seats are folded flat, massive cargo space.
• New Commodore offers front drive and all-wheel drive – buyers wanting rear-drive will have to hang on to the existing model.
• New Commodore gets the choice of four cylinder petrol or diesel engines driving the front wheels, or a V6 driving all four. There is no V8 – buyers wanting one will have to hang on to the existing variants.
• New Commodore won’t have a boosted go-faster version of the 230kW/370Nm V6 – Holden says there is not enough room for a turbocharger under the bonnet.
• New Commodore is up to 300kg lighter than the current model. The weight loss will improve fuel use, in turn cutting exhaust emissions.
• New Commodore gets a nine-speed gearbox. Why? To help performance through the gears in the lighter car. Although gears 7,8,9 are unlikely to get much use away from the open road. The current Commodore has six gears.
The question Holden has often asked itself is this: has the Australian-built Commodore become so much of Downunder folklore that people will want to hang on to it?
The current VF model is a crackerjack car, the best Commodore yet. It will continue to be built for another year. Could it have been a swansong model, a salute to many years of Aussie engineering excellence?
Holden has said Commodore had to move with the times. But did the new car have to have the old, much loved badge? However good it might be, chockablock with driver assistance aids and such, it will never be a Holden Commodore.