Holden VF Commodore: exterior design overview

With the Holden VF Commodore exterior design “sculptural” has replaced “geometrical” as the design team set out to replace the previous car’s blocky appearance with a more curvature look. Two looks have been created – VF Luxury and VF Sport, with the latter under embargo until 12am Friday.
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“Back in VE days, the surface language trend was sheer geometrical,” tells exterior chief designer Richard Ferlazzo (below).

“These days things have evolved, and we see a lot more sculptural elements and sinewy detail in all cars.

“That’s great because it works well with what we already had. With such good bones, all we needed to do was enhance the original car.”

Speaking about the design philosophy behind the VF Commodore, Ferlazzo cites the belief that “[large sedans] don’t need to be all things to all men anymore … so [it’s] afforded us the luxury of pushing this thing [VF] more upmarket as an aspirational car.”

The only common parts the VF Commodore shares with the outgoing VE are the door skins, roof and window glass, although Ferlazzo adds that “we did need to modify the doors with new passive-entry door handles, but the form shape is the same..”

The bonnet and bootlid are stamped in aluminium to reduce weight.

Ferlazzo points to the “nice power bulge in the centre” of the new bonnet, and the “sweeping line that comes off the A-pillar to come towards the new ‘majestic’ grille…”

With raised eyebrows over the chrome elements on the Calais V-Series model, Ferlazzo clarifies that “if it [chrome] is tastefully applied, the sculptural elements… it looks very rich. That’s what we tried to do with this car.”

“Headlamps are another element of recent technologies…” the design chief adds.

“Details of grilles and lamps and pieces of jewellery in themselves harks back to the earlier days before they were hiding all the optics … when the inside was just so interesting to look at”.

The wheelarch flares have been shaved to get the Commodore’s relatively poor aerodynamics number down to further assist with Holden’s fuel economy targets.

“[There is] a smoother transition into the wheelarches … creating the illusion of it blending in,” says Ferlazzo.

“At VE time we wanted a muscular [wheelarch] look, now we’re going for sculptural.”

Although the door skins are unchanged, new front guards with a longer vertical ‘kink’ reminsicent of that shown on the Coupe 60 concept – “Coupe 60 and VF were being designed at the same time,” hints Ferlazzo – makes the side of the VF Commodore looks different to the VE.

“The way the fender vent went before, it didn’t whip around in a sharp fashion.

“The fender is all new and we’ve highlighted the fender vent … we’ve added a little bit more embellishment with the bright detailing, and the side repeater lamp remains in that location.

“The way we’ve incorporated this, even if we haven’t changed the form of the doors, gives an illusion of [change]…”

Although the one-piece side body stamp has been changed to accept the lower bootlid deck, the rear window glass remains the same, and Ferlazzo confesses that he would have liked a “faster” roofline to blend into the lower, more curvaceous rear end.

“[With VE] we had these geometric [rear] lamps in the corners, now we have these sweeping lamps that come into the decklid,” says Ferlazzo. “One piece aluminium bootlid, aero ducktails, [and] we’ve removed the licence plate graphic from the bootlid to down below and that gives an entirely different look…

“So we’ve got the illusion of the width, and the perfect proportions of the car – long, low and wide.”

Ferlazzo insists he did not set out to “intentionally” look smaller than VE, but “fresher, sleeker and more sculptural.”

“But we didn’t want to make it look larger, of course,” he jokes.

Aerodynamics performance also played on the designers minds, perhaps more than at any time in the Commodore’s history. In addition to shaving the wheelarches, a ducktail lip spoiler, sharper edges of the tailight plastic covers, and a rear bumper that tucks under the rear wheelarches are all crucial moves to achieving a “much lower” aerodynamics Cd rating, which was always a VE sore point.

“Any aero guy will tell you that towards the back of the car you need crisp edges…” tells the design chief.

“We knew it back in the VT days, but the trend wasn’t for that at the time, we had a soft rounded look…

“If you have a target for aero, you either find it in other areas, or you incorporate them all. You incorporate them all, and you’re probably not going to like the look.

“So it’s just a balance between all the aero enablers and the styling trends and the freshness that we can all accept.”

Holden will lift the embargo on the second VF Commodore ‘face’, the SS variant, at 12am Friday February 15