Speaking with Australian journalists at the Frankfurt motor show, General Motors International president Stefan Jacoby said Commodore fans needed to accept that “the world is changing”, “the eight-cylinder period is coming to an end”, and that Holden “cannot be the same any more because the brand would die”.
Emphasising the need for Australia’s iconic large car to follow the global trend of engine downsizing, Jacoby pointed to the rise of three-cylinder engines across the industry, highlighting BMW in particular, which will soon introduce the first ever three-cylinder 3 Series to Australia.
“These kind of traditional powertrains (V8s), I know they are very attractive and very charming and I like the sound of a V8 as well so that has a charming character, but the times are honestly over,” Jacoby said.
“If you walk around here you will see that more or less all manufacturers have three-cylinders, even BMW has three-cylinders, and this is rapidly changing in the industry.
“And surprisingly the acceptance, even in North America, is changing, and they understand that they can have even better performance with a three-cylinder than with conventional four-cylinders.”
Holden’s German sister brand Opel unveiled its new Astra hatchback in Frankfurt yesterday, which will be offered in Europe with a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine (above).
Opel is currently developing its next-generation Insignia medium/large car – the model widely tipped to become the next Commodore when production of the current Australian-made car winds up at the end of 2017 – and there’s a chance the tiny triple could also find its way under that car’s bonnet in some markets.
Such an engine won’t be offered in a Holden large car, however, with Jacoby pausing and squirming a little when asked by CarAdvice if he could ever imagine a world with a three-cylinder Holden Commodore
“That’s a tough question. I think the three-cylinder engine will be limited to the C-segment vehicles (small cars), and very much limited also to more urban commuting, so I would not say that the three-cylinder is at this point appropriate for the Australian market.”
But it seems almost certain the 2018 Holden Commodore will be available with the smallest engine ever offered in the nameplate’s then-40-year history.
The new Astra is coming to Australia in the second half of next year with two turbocharged, direct-injection four-cylinder petrol engines – a brand-new 1.4-litre with 114kW and 240Nm (above), and a revised 1.6-litre with 147kW and 300Nm – and Jacoby believes either would satisfy the Commodore brief.
“The 1.4-litre four-cylinder and the 1.6-litre four-cylinder – both turbo-injected – these are engines which will truly fulfil the expectations in Australia.”
While the engines' power and torque may be uprated for use in larger applications, even in its current state the new Astra's 1.6-litre turbo has more torque than the Commodore's entry-level 3.0-litre V6 (300Nm versus 290Nm).
Both engines more compact than the smallest engine ever fitted to a Commodore: the 1.9-litre four-cylinder Starfire that powered the VC and VH models (and VK in New Zealand).
Far from turning its back on performance models, however, Holden is expected to offer a turbocharged (potentially twin-turbocharged) six-cylinder version of its next-generation Commodore, likely with all-wheel-drive, and Jacoby says “technically [it’s] definitely possible” to make such a car as affordable and fast as the current $44,490 Commodore SS that accelerates to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds.
Holden is also committed to bringing a rear-wheel-drive sports car to Australia after the local factories close their doors, and Jacoby this week gave the best indication yet that the V8-powered Chevrolet Corvette would be that car.