Holden’s high iQ

The new Com­modore is now even more ap­peal­ing, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

THERE is more to the lat­est Com­modore than bio-ethanol in the tank. You have to dig a bit, but when you do the de­tail of the VE Se­ries II emerges and the car is con­firmed as a worth­while im­prove­ment.

The cabin is now lighter and nicer, with the ex­cel­lent Holden iQ sys­tem, there is some mi­nor cos­metic tweak­ing, some im­prove­ments to drive­abil­ity and re­fine­ment, and there is the Red­line punch at the top end.

A first look at the VEII is not par­tic­u­larly in­spir­ing, but when you drive the range you can see and feel the sort of work that makes any car more en­joy­able.

There is also the prom­ise of im­proved econ­omy when run­ning on un­leaded fuel.

GM Holden de­nies it has gone soft on the VEII by avoid­ing costly sheet-metal changes, and also trum­pets its lead­er­ship on E85 fuel and a part­ner­ship with Cal­tex, which should bring the fuel to most Aus­tralians from next year.

Holden chair­man Mike Dev­ereux says: ‘‘This is a typ­i­cal four-year update. You don’t nor­mally touch the sheet metal at this stage.

‘‘We’re very proud and happy of the work we’ve done. The E85 pro­gram was not cheap.’’

The devel­op­ment work has al­ready paid off with 600 Com­modore ex­ports to Brazil, and a 1500-2000 a year con­tin­u­ing link, and Dev­ereux says bio-ethanol will bring fleet buy­ers to the car as well as de­liv­er­ing a cus­tomer ben­e­fit.

We’re very proud and happy of the work we’ve done. The E85 pro­gram was not cheap.

But he’s quiet on the ac­tual drop in econ­omy and cruis­ing range, which is about 25 per cent on E85.

‘‘Our cus­tomers have been telling us they want to see our mod­els re­freshed with greater func­tion­al­ity. We have lis­tened and re­sponded in a way that con­tin­ues to po­si­tion Com­modore as the smart choice for Aus­tralian mo­torists,’’ Dev­ereux says.

Value

NO ONE can com­plain about a ma­jor up­grade with a zero price rise.

Holden has de­lib­er­ately held the price line with the VEII as it pushes the value bonus in the car, start­ing with the iQ sys­tem.

It’s even held the Red­line Se­ries pack­age at a rea­son­able $2500, which is good value just for the up­graded Brembo brakes, which fast driv­ers have al­ways wanted for their 6-litre V8s.

Technology

THE E85 en­gine work is much more than just switch­ing to a dif­fer­ent pump at the petrol sta­tion.

There are sen­sors and fuel lines, dif­fer­ent en­gine com­po­nents and the huge work on tun­ing and dura­bil­ity test­ing.

Holden ad­mits its 3-litre six and 6-litre V8 lose about 25 per cent on econ­omy and range— the 3.6 does not go E85 un­til next year — but says bio-ethanol has more punch in ev­ery litre and that means im­proved torque in the rev range of ev­ery­day driv­ing.

The un­leaded ef­fort yields a V6 econ­omy boost of 2.8 per cent with 6.0 per cent on the V8, us­ing ev­ery­thing from plas­tic aero pan­els un­der the car to a new boot lid with a small spoiler, a clutched air­con­di­tion­ing com­pres­sor and a re­duc­tion in en­gine idle speed on the 3.6 V6.

In­side the technology is all about Holden iQ It in­cor­po­rates ev­ery­thing from sat­nav with real-time traf­fic alerts — free for the life of the ve­hi­cle, though own­ers will pay for up­dated maps — to a hard-drive sound sys­tem that can rip-and-store up to 15 CDs.

It’s a touch­screen sys­tem that is also linked to Blue­tooth and steps up for SS/Calais/Caprice with voice guid­ance, in­tu­itive con­trols and a live speed limit alert sys­tem.

De­sign

HOLDEN fans will no­tice the changes to the ex­te­rior, but the VEII blends into traf­fic, un­less the car is painted in this year’s hero colour, an elec­tric yel­low called Haz­ard.

The de­tail runs to a new front fas­cia, grille and head­lamps, but the only sheet-metal change is the new boot. All mod­els above the Ber­lina get new al­loys.

It’s a dif­fer­ent story in­side. Though the cheapie win­dow switches sur­vive in the con­sole, the cen­tre area of the dash is all new.

The iQ sys­tem sits higher than the pre­vi­ous sound sys­tems, the air­con­di­tion­ing con­trols are new, there are lighter colours and the gen­eral ef­fect is more open and mod­ern.

Safety

THERE’S noth­ing to re­port, but that’s fine be­cause the Com­modore is al­ready a five-star ANCAP win­ner.

Big changes will not hap­pen un­til the next to­tal over­haul of the car be­cause Volvo-style pre­dic­tive safety sys­tems will need a com­plete wiring and com­puter up­grade.

Driv­ing

HOLDEN fills all the tanks at the VEII press pre­view with E85, not that any­one can tell.

Per­haps there is a lit­tle more mid-range punch around town and for over­tak­ing, but it would take a back-to-back run to con­firm it. And there is no chance on this day in and around Ade­laide.

The big tick goes to the dash changes and the iQ sys­tem, which is ex­actly the sort of thing that will bring or­di­nary Aussies into Holden show­rooms.

And then the E85 — with the prom­ise of a

Fron­trun­ner: the Com­modore VE Se­ries II, in­clud­ing the SSV sedan (above), has a new fas­cia, grille and head­lamps, but the only sheet-metal change is the new boot.

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