THE name might be familiar, but the 2018 Holden Commodore will be as foreign to the name plate’s history as the factory in which it will be built.
The next-generation Commodore will be built in Germany on GM’s E2XX platform, and based around a European engineered and designed Opel Insignia mid-size car. The idea of a European model replacing the Aussie built version isn’t a new one: the first signs that the next Commodore would not have ground-up local design and development emerged in early 2014 as Holden started planning its replacement for the current car’s Zeta-based, Aussie engineered and developed global rear-drive platform.
It’s also the first time the Commodore will have the option of a diesel engine under its bonnet. There was one developed by former GM engine subsidiary VM Motori that was planned for the Holden VE Commodore, but dumped early in the development program as the noise, vibration and harshness of the 3.0-litre V6 was considered too far from the traditional Commodore buyers’ tastes.
There’s more than just the introduction of a diesel engine that Commodore buyers will need to get their heads around. The sedan shape remains for the next-generation car, but instead of a traditional bootlid the new Commodore gains a hatchback that puts it on the same playing field as the Skoda Superb. We can also expect a “Sportback” wagon version of the new Commodore featuring a powered tailgate, and potentially a jacked-up, all-wheel-drive SUV-style five-door that hasn’t been part of the Commodore-badged range since the VZ-based Adventra. That last one may yet be replaced with an all-new, high-riding SUV spun off the same E2XX platform.
Base models will use either a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol or diesel engine – the first time the Commodore has gone four-pot since the 1980s-era VC/VH Commodore.
It will also be the first time in 40 years that Holden will shift from the front-engine, rear-drive formula that has served the Commodore so well. The Insignia-based Commodore will keep its engine up front, but will instead drive the front wheels across most of its variants, with top-spec cars fitted with a 230kW/370Nm 3.6-litre V6 featuring all-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The all-wheel-drive system, called “Twinster”, replaces a traditional differential with a pair of clutches that splits drive between the rear wheels according to demand. It works up to a maximum split of 50/50.
The new, lighter Commodore will have a smaller footprint than the one it replaces, the first time in the name plate’s almost 40-year history that the family hauler has shrunk – only slightly – in size. It sits on an 86mm shorter wheelbase, and inside a body that’s 36mm narrower and 74mm shorter in overall length than the car it will replace.
The downward shift in dimensions also apply to the inside where the new Commodore has 58mm less shoulder room, 44mm less hip room and – thanks to its sweeping roofline to accommodate the liftback – 13mm less headroom in the rear seat.
The new Commodore also makes the technology leap in terms of fuel savings on V6-engined models with cylinder deactivation, and in terms of driver assist systems. For starters, it will add the option of LED matrix headlights that push the envelope in terms of lighting technology. It will get a switchable drive mode that allows the driver to flick between Standard, Tour and Sport modes, changing the way the throttle and gearbox respond to driver inputs. Adaptive suspension – so far only a feature on high-priced HSV-fettled versions of the Commodore – will provide a better connection between car and driver, and torque vectoring will help it carve corners like a pro.
But the new Commodore is also expected to take a great step forward in terms of active safety systems, making the current car look a bit, well, archaic. A forward-facing camera-based system should recognise speed signs, keep the new Commodore in its lane and even steer it back in if the driver starts to wander out of it, autonomous emergency braking that works at up to 80km/h and will replace the warning system used on the current car, and a surround camera system that keeps an electronic eye on objects around the car. Adaptive cruise control will help the new Commodore keep a set distance from the vehicle in front.
The new Commodore is expected to stick to the self-parking technology adapted to the current-generation Commodore, and include a speed limit function for the cruise control for the first time.
In terms of comfort, Holden should have plenty of options to choose from. That includes heated seats, adjustable side bolsters that hug the driver and front-seat passenger in, and even a massage function – a feature fitted to versions of the current Commodore sold overseas, but never offered here in Australia. It will also add active noise cancellation to make the cabin more hushed, and will carry over the head-up display option offered on the current car.
Despite what you’ve read so far, the next-generation Holden commodore will speak ‘Strayan, even if underneath there is a slight German accent. Holden engineers have been embedded at Opel all through the development phase of what will underpin the 2018 Commodore, and our recent drive of a development mule shows the car is being honed so that it is less lederhosen and more Stubbies by the time it goes on sale alongside run-out stock of the old car.
The new Commodore is still more than a year away from replacing the last of the Aussie-made namesakes. Jumping to a global platform opens up a world of opportunity unavailable to the anachronistic, orphaned rear-drive platform that became a victim of global forces.
It will be a changed car for a changing world.