When CarAdvice saw outgoing Holden chairman and managing director Mark Reuss pull the covers off the new Commodore at the Holden Engine operations plant in Melbourne’s Fishermans Bend this morning we were hard pressed to notice the difference.
Perhaps a small embellishment on the centre grille and a slightly different lower radiator opening on the Omega sedan and, of course, SIDI badges on the front guards, were the only clues to what lay beneath.
It’s in the engine bay that the major changes lie, with the introduction from September of 3.0-litre and 3.6-litre Spark Ignition Direct Injection (SIDI) V6 engines, coupled to six-speed automatic transmissions.
The new Model Year 10 (MY10) cars will offer virtually unchanged pricing from the current cars, with only the Omega and Berlina models receiving a $700 increase to the recommended retail price.
The Commodore Omega uses just 9.3 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres in the official ADR81/02 test, an improvement of up to 13 per cent over current models, which makes it more efficient than some major four-cylinder competitors.
Mr Reuss said that at 9.3 litres, a motorist travelling 20,000 kilometres could save $325 at a current indicative price of $1.25 a litre for 91RON fuel.
He said that travel would also produce 600 kilograms less carbon emissions. A fleet user travelling 40,000 kilometres could save $650 and 1.3 tonnes of CO2.
Mr Reuss said that Holden had driven the new 3.0-litre car from Melbourne to Sydney on one tank of fuel and had actually averaged 7.4L/100km during the trip.
He also said this would be achieved through the use of SIDI, which he described as state-of-the-art technology, and a first for an Australian built car.
Mr Reuss said Holden had concentrated on the powertrain revisions rather than trying to produce a redesigned Commodore.
Defending the current design as still highly desirable, despite being three years old, he said a revamped Commodore would happen but added "I'm not about to tell you when."
Mr Reuss said there would be continual revisions to the Commodore to constantly make it better.
The all-new 3.0-litre engine, the smallest Commodore engine offered to buyers in more than 20 years, and the familiar 3.6-litre displacement will be offered, depending on model.
The changes will be effective across the petrol sedan and Sportwagon range, as well as the SV6 Ute and the Statesman and Caprice long-wheelbase variants.
The engines are the centrepieces of a model year upgrade with fuel efficiency, lower running costs and consumer requirements firmly in mind.
Along with the new engines will come the new six-speed transmission, which will be sourced from two GM plants overseas, and weight savings, including 10 kilograms that has been pared from the engine, plus low rolling resistance tyres.
Mr Reuss said the introduction of the new engine technology would help Commodore to extend its 13-year reign as Australia’s favourite car.
“People are telling us they want lower operating costs while keeping the flexibility of the Commodore’s size, so that is exactly what we are offering,” Mr Reuss said.
“Direct injection technology is a major step forward for the Australian car industry. It places a more refined Commodore amongst four cylinder competitors while delivering the space and flexibility, which Australian car buyers clearly want.
“Australians and Australian families aren’t getting any smaller, distances aren’t getting any closer but customer expectations in terms of fuel efficiency and environmental impacts are changing fast.
“Holden understands that and this new technology is our response. It exploits the technology potential of an advanced, all-alloy engine made right here in Australia and makes it available to Australian car buyers,” Mr Reuss said.
Both V6 engines will be produced at Holden’s Fisherman’s Bend plant and shipped to the assembly plant at Elizabeth in South Australia.
The 3.6-litre SIDI engine improves fuel economy in the premium models from seven to 13 per cent. Calais boasts a 12 per cent improvement with fuel economy dropping from 11.2 to 9.9L/100km on the ADR81/02 test cycle.
In contrast to their more frugal nature the engines will boast a power increase. The 3.0-litre has increased output of 190kW from the 175kW of the previous engine, while the 3.6-litre is up from 195kW to 210kW.
In other guises this engine makes up to 225kW but it is possible that Holden decided to detune the engine to ensure that P-plate drivers were not excluded from using the vehicle.
For nomenclature enthusiasts we can tell you that the 3.0-litre V6 is called LF1 and the 3.6-litre LLT, while the six-speed automatic is codenamed 6L50.
At the announcement this morning the Federal Minister for industry and innovation, Senator Kim Carr, came out in defence of the Australian large car.
"People want a car that can hold the kids and the shopping at the same time," Senator Carr said, adding; "They want economy but they want power."
He said the Australian automotive industry was grappling with very tough times by getting smarter and more sustainable, but could not be expected to turn green overnight, especially in a recession.
“However, these are very significant gains and they are being achieved by redesigning and rethinking existing technologies. It enables us to reduce the carbon footprint right here right now," Senator Carr said.
While the 3.0-litre V6 is very obviously aimed at the business end of the car sales market, many fleets now have rules only allowing four-cylinder cars.
Mr Reuss said he and his sales team would be spending a lot of time with government and business fleet buyers to explain to them the whole-of life cost benefits of considering the new fuel efficient Commodore.
Senator Carr also defended the Commodore saying that he would be encouraging government to put a consideration for buying Australian first, where possible.
Commodore remains Australia’s top selling sedan, but has been under increasing pressure from Mazda3 and the Toyota Corolla as private buyers, in particular, move to smaller cars.
Holden has also become locked into a fuel efficiency race with its major rivals.
Toyota recently announced new efficiency figures for its four-cylinder Camry, and plans to build a Camry hybrid next year, while Ford has announced that it will fit the highly fuel efficient EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder to the Falcon from 2011.