by Daniel DeGasperi

The Holden VF Commodore will get redesigned automatic transmissions to address criticism of the current model, and a faster steering rack ratio to compensate for electric steering limitations.

Holden engineering group manager for energy mass and drive quality, Jeremy Tassone, confessed that the company has previously “chased low CO2 outputs” at the expense of driveability, particularly with the 3.0-litre V6 VE Commodore.

Although Tassone confirmed that the VF Commodore would continue with 3.0- and 3.6-litre V6 engines, the six-speed automatic transmission they mate with will be comprehensively overhauled. He says Holden is aware the current automatic doesn’t suit the engine’s torque characteristics – the 290Nm 3.0-litre pushing the 1690kg VE Omega hands it an inferior torque-to-weight ratio than the 3.0-litre VL Executive from 1986.

Where the outgoing automatic transmission, in its regular drive mode, assumes the tallest gear possible when the throttle is lifted, the new automatic will feature new intuition and what Holden calls Performance Mode Lift Foot (PMLF).

New sensors detect if the Commodore is travelling uphill, and will pick up lower gears earlier and hold onto them longer, to prevent the driver from needing to use more throttle. By holding onto gears, it keeps the engine in the thick of its power and torque band, and reduces the amount of transmission ‘hunting’ – by Holden’s own admission, a problem with the outgoing VE Commodore.

Tassone says using this ‘hold’ approach to transmission shifting often results in inferior official ADR combined consumption figures, but significantly better real-world driveability and economy.

“We’ve learned out lesson,” promises the engineer.

PMLF, which made its debut on the US-made Cadillac ATS, is incorporated into a new Sport mode for the VF Commodore, which will downshift automatically when braking for a corner, and hold onto lower gears when the throttle is lifted after powering out of a corner.

Sport mode, with PMLF, will be standard on all VF Commodore models, including the as-yet unnamed base model.

Holden has also faced tuning challenges with its electro-mechanical power steering system for the VF Commodore. It is the first time ever the Commodore will switch from using a motor-driven hydraulic power steering pump to a fuel-saving electric-assist system.

“We didn’t make the decision,” says specialist development engineer, Michael Barber. “We didn’t want electric steering…”

Barber says that it is impossible to emulate the steering ‘feel’ of the outgoing VE Commodore – a car renowned for its steering system – but promises that the electro-mechanical steering in the VF Commodore will be an excellent system.

“We’ve quickened the rack for a start,” confirmed Barber.

Along with a smaller-diameter steering wheel, a faster steering rack ratio means faster response to smaller inputs, and less turns between left- and right-lock, both intended to make the car feel more agile.

Barber says he learned the algorithms for tuning electro-mechanical steering while working for General Motors in the US in 2002. While tuning for weight, resistance and ‘feel’ is all down to software changes, he believes the electric motor hardware also needs to be up to the task of keeping up with fast changes of steering direction.

Electro-mechanical power steering is guaranteed to help reduce fuel consumption for the forthcoming Holden VF Commodore, which is also expected to be 50-70kg lighter than the outgoing model.

Read CarAdvice’s comprehensive Holden VF Commodore coverage.

  • bob

    a new transmission will not compensate for the worst V6 available on the market (gutless 3.0l SIDI hauling a car weighing nearly 1.7 tonne). Holden needs to ditch the 3.0L and put the current 3.6 SIDI in the base model commodore, then put a modified 3.6 such as the one used in the Cadillac XTS that makes 227kw so the SV6 has an edge of the entry model. 

    • Zaccy16

      exactly! the engine was more of a problem than the tranny but still they will be behind ford in that respect anyway, the 6 speed zf in the falcon and territory is far superior

    • Just saying

      Agreed, Holden needed to step up with the drivetrain in this model. The 3.0l V6 performs like a sloth. A revised gearbox won’t help performance much at all. The engine is what needs revision the most.

      • Daniel D

        They can update the V8 to the same as the export Chev S while they are at it too. 

        Holden is doing themselves no favours with carrying over VE drivetrains without a proper update.

      • Khj

         It runs to 100kmh in 8.7 secs and goes on to 228kmh, MORE than adequate for normal driving. Plus if people feel the 3.0 is not adequate, they have a 3.6 and 6.0 as well.

    • Nathan

      Why on Earth would they need to do that when the only people that they sell these to are company fleets and grandpars?

      • The Dude

        Because they don’t only sell to “company fleets and grandpars” that’s why.

    • MisterZed

      A 3.0L V6 is more power than the majority of sedans on the market, most of which (90%+) are 4-cylinder. Look at the power/weight ratio of a typical 2.4L-2.5L 4-cylinder car like a Camry.

      • Guest

         The sad thing is a Camry has easily beaten me off the mark in a VE Omega

    • DoubleBlue

       Any updates to the Commode trans. still wont bring it any closer to Falcon’s ZF auto.
      On another, C.A are you the NEW advertising agency for Holden.
      Give-us-a-break-mate…… please.

      • Sam

        You clearly don’t understand how important this car is to keeping an entire industry alive. 

        • DoubleBlue

           There’s more than just “this car” that’s needed to keep “an entire industry alive”. Sam. Dig ya head out of the sand, mate.

          • Sam

            Yep, you don’t understand

          • Daniel D

            You don’t get it.

          • LC

            This car is the make-or-break vehicle for the Aussie car industry. The fate of the VF will decide if they close-up shop in 2017. And not just Holden, but Toyota and Ford too.

            If the VF fails, the car industry of this country will fall. And that will take the best part of a million jobs (not just the plant workers, but the people making the parts, the dealerships, the people who feed and provide groceries for the factory workers, the list goes on and on) with it, not to mention the fate of 4 very safe Labor seats will be in question, one of which is Gillard’s.

      • gtrxuone

        Are you for real.Ca has a prefernce for foreign made cars.There Vw fanboys like you.

    • MildCam

      The LFX 3.6 is already in the Commodore

    • LC

       For city driving, it’s just fine. And if it’s not good enough for you, you can always buy one with a 3.6 V6 or a 6.0 V8.

  • Henry Toussaint

    When will they release images of the Caprice?

    • Alfred


      • DoubleBlue

         Hey that was good.

    • Zaccy16

      the caprice is going to look like the size of a limo because the base commodore on the side view already looks very long!

      • Sam

        Wow, your logic is infallible.

      • LC

         Then again, hasn’t the Caprice (and the Fairlane too) always looked like that?

  • 42 = The Answer

    This sounds familiar!………. INVECS?!

    • Bradley Geeves

      Or more specifically, INVECS II. Still shifting my Magna auto like a bawss since ’96

  • Dirk

    “Quicker steering”… Hmmm… why does that remind me of the Falcon’s steering?

    • Just saying

      You said the “F” word. Now you’ve gone and done it Dirk. Hahaha. Wait for it………….

  • Car Fanatic

    Mister Zed, the current 4 cylinder Mazda 6 almost matches this 3.0 commodore for torque to weight. Based on that I’d buy either a Petrol Mazda 6 or a Diesel based car for the extra torque. Commodore is already languishing in seventh spot. You watch it eventually drop out of the top ten.

    • davie

      Having driven the latest 2013 model 6. It can certainly move when needed. The auto in the 6 apparently has a lock up mode for every single gear.

      Also there is a switch on the accelerator pedal which you can hear click when you push the pedal to the floor. That seems to activate some sort of super kickdown mode in the auto – it drops about 3 gears and takes off like a rocket.

    • LC

      “Commodore is already languishing in seventh spot.”

      I’m looking at the sales chart up the page…it says you’re off by 3 places.

  • dima

    why they would continue with that engine is beyond me! do what ford tried to do and put a 4 cylinder turbo in the front. only reason this didnt work is because for dont know how to market a product.
    And what ever happened to those VE mules with the diesel engines? holden need to pull their heads out and start engineering the cars properly one thing having a good design, another world class drivetrain. Put the two together and you will be on a winner. eg golf gti, 2L turbo with dsg has won drivetrain of the year on multiple occasions.

    • Dennis

      Holden build a 4 Cylinder Car already… There is no need for a 4 Cylinder Commodore….

      • dima

        are you sure about that? this is where the problem lies. why not offer a four cylinder in a commodore? why not allow people a choice of what engine they want? move to a more european for of thinking where a plethora of engines are offered in most if not all bodystyles

        • Bradley Geeves

          Camry has that market covered I think.

    • Dave S

      A diesel in a Commodore? It might work but if the base model is around $36k for a Omega or SV6, would people really pay an extra $4000 for a diesel? Would Commodore owners want a diesel clatter coming from their bonnet, when similar money would get them into an LPG (if you want to save money on fuel) or a V8 model (if you are chasing low down torque).

      • dima

        some of the most refined cars are diesels. have you driven a bmw diesel? or mercedes for that matter? you cant tell and the effortless forward surge is incredible. that technology has come a long way from where it was.

        • Wraith

           Apples and oranges really. Do you really think Holden or even GM could afford to put that much into NVH to rival Bmw and Mercedes? Or that GM have diesel engines that advanced to start with? Considering the large car market is dwindling I’m not surprised they haven’t put money into alternatives.

        • pedrosnachos

          No offence but the latest C class diesel sounds like a bucket of bolts. equally the passat and bmw. If you are laying all that cash out i don’t really get why one would go diesel and have to put up with that tractor sound. Its just not premium.
          Diesel would be great for an omega as its not really a luxury car – more a car of function (getting from A to B etc).
          The nicest mercedes are petrol
          Petrol will always be premium

  • Billrogers37

    Electric/Manual steering costs the owner a bucket load when they need repairing.
    Any they do on other vehicles regularly
    “Guaranteed to help fuel saving”
    That can mean .01litre per 100km.
    So how about real information and not political speak

    • Bradley Geeves

      Just thinking back to all of the Commodores driving around with those ‘noisy’ power steering pumps. 1000’s of those failed needing replacing. This can only be a good thing. Everybody hates the Prius for good reason but it’s electric steering doesn’t fail.