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by Daniel DeGasperi

The NASCAR racer heavily based on the 2013 Holden Commodore has been unveiled in Las Vegas. Chevrolet took the wraps off its 2013 contender, which closely resembles the Chevrolet SS sedan, a re-badged version of next year’s locally made VF large car.

It’s our first look at the styling cues of the overhauled VF, the biggest change to Commodore design and engineering in seven years. The styling of the NASCAR racer, though, suggests CarAdvice’s artist impression (below) published in August is remarkably close to what the production SS will look like.

Although ironic that the styling for the locally designed and built Commodore is first previewed in Las Vegas (unveiled at 5am AEST this morning), it reflects General Motors’ plan to sell the Commodore in the United States as the Chevrolet SS – a high-end, V8-engined performance sedan – from late 2013.

 

According to a Holden spokesperson, the changes between the NASCAR racer/SS and the VF Commodore “are lightly cosmetic … they’re [VF and SS] built on the same set of parts”. The styling of the NASCAR racer is said to follow the Holden VF Commodore in the same way a current V8 Supercar looks like the VE Commodore.

Compared with the outgoing VE, the Chevy shows a vertically-smaller but wider grille opening with square cross-hatch inserts. Styling focus moves to the larger, lower air intake aperture flanked by LED driving lights on each side. The longer headlights are more curvature in appearance than today’s VE, and are pulled further back towards the slimmer wheel-arches – to improve aerodynamic performance, Holden engineers requested trimming the bulging front arches of today’s VE.

At the rear, the tail-lights are also more curvaceous, vaguely Cruze sedan-like the way the lights meld from the back of the rear quarter panel into the bootlid. It would be the first time since the 1997 VT that rear lights have shared space on the bootlid, and the first time since the 1986 VL-generation that the numberplate surround has been positioned on the lower bar – that is, of course, if the 2013 Holden Commodore follows the Chevrolet racer here. The integrated split-twin exhausts will feature, although the bootlid leaves a taxi-advertising-like blank canvas to be filled by the production model.

A statement released by Chevrolet today confirms that “the [production] Chevrolet SS will be a derivative of the award-winning global rear-wheel-drive architecture that spawns performance vehicles like Chevrolet Camaro and Holden’s upcoming VF Commodore. The limited production version of the Chevrolet SS will be a 2014 model and will arrive in dealer showrooms in late 2013. It is the first time in 17 years that Chevrolet will offer a rear-wheel-drive sedan for sale in the United States.”

Ex-Holden Chairman and Managing Director, and current GM North America President, Mark Reuss (above, with US vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, Jim Campbell, on right) used the NASCAR announcement to reaffirm his enthusiasm towards adding a Commodore-based performance sedan to the Chevrolet lineup.

“With the SS, Chevrolet is delivering a true rear-wheel-drive NASCAR race car that is very closely linked to the performance sedan that will be available for sale, ensuring that our most loyal enthusiasts will have the opportunity to experience the same thrill every day on the open road that our race car drivers enjoy on the track on race day.

“The Chevrolet SS also demonstrates how we are able to leverage our global product portfolio to deliver a unique performance experience.

“The specialised development and testing work done for the race car will certainly benefit the entire Chevrolet product lineup.”

Reuss is a supporter of General Motors’ Australian design and engineering arm, having headed the Holden brand here from 2008 to 2009.

Although Chevrolet hasn’t offered a rear-wheel-drive sedan in the United States since 1996, when the Impala was first dropped from the line-up, the resurrection of the SS [Super Sport] badge came with the return of the fifth-generation Camaro in 2010. The SS was first used by Chevrolet as an optional package on the 1961 Impala. The Impala sedan returned to the Chevrolet line-up at the turn of the millennium, but utilised front wheel drive.

The unveiling of the Chevrolet NASCAR racer will be followed in February by the release of the production Holden VF Commodore and its Chevrolet SS twin. While the SS isn’t expected to go on-sale in North America until October, the VF will be on-sale here in April. The first production vehicles are expected to run down the Elizabeth, South Australia, manufacturing line after the Christmas shut-down period, during which the plant will be re-tooled to accommodate the new VF and SS. After almost seven years, production of the VE Commodore will cease in March.