There could be fire­works when a Yank meets a Ger­man si­b­ling on Aus­tralian roads

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News - STU­ART MARTIN stu­art.martin@cars­

Big­ger than a Cruze, slightly smaller than a Com­modore, Holden’s Mal­ibu will take on GM cousin, Opel’s In­signia

THE stage is set for a si­b­ling spat be­tween the Opel In­signia and the Holden Mal­ibu.

The Aus­tralian arm ofGM has a hand­ful of Mal­ibu medium sedans now on the road for lo­cal sus­pen­sion and steer­ing cal­i­bra­tion in the leadup to sell­ing here next year.

Holden says its engi­neer­ing team will fi­nesse the lo­cal Mal­ibu chas­sis as well as com­plet­ing cal­i­bra­tion work on the trans­mis­sion for the Aus­tralian and over­seas mar­kets, some­thing the Mel­bourne team has done for nu­mer­ous glob­alGMprod­ucts in the past.

‘‘ The sus­pen­sion and steer­ing tune is for us in Aus­tralia only. The trans­mis­sion cal­i­bra­tion is be­ing used else­where,’’ says Holden spokes­woman Kate Lons­dale. ‘‘ We tend to do unique sus­pen­sion work. Some of the dy­nam­ics and han­dling are for the lo­cal mar­ket.

‘‘ It’s go­ing to com­pete in a quite dif­fer­ent mar­ket seg­ment (to the In­signia).’’

The two cars are sim­i­lar in size but they will be quite dif­fer­ent of­fer­ings, she says.

The de­vel­op­ment work on the Mal­ibu— expected to go on sale in the mid­dle of next year and seen as a di­rect com­peti­tor for the Toy­ota Camry and Honda Ac­cord Euro— is be­ing done at the com­pany’s Lang Lang prov­ing ground and on pub­lic roads in Vic­to­ria.

Holden in­te­gra­tion and safety di­rec­tor Ian But­ler says the lo­cal tai­lor­ing-to-taste of the Mal­ibu by Holden’s en­gi­neers was of con­sid­er­able ben­e­fit.

‘‘ Our en­gi­neers have paid close at­ten­tion to the ve­hi­cle’s driv­ing dy­nam­ics, ride and han­dling, sus­pen­sion and com­fort so Mal­ibu will be sure to meet the dis­cern­ing needs of driv­ers in this com­pet­i­tive seg­ment,’’ he says.

‘‘ This is a fan­tas­tic global car but of course we want it (to go) on sale with plenty of Holden in­put to en­sure it suits Aus­tralia’s unique and var­ied road con­di­tions.’’

The Mal­ibu is seen by many as more of a threat to Com­modore, be­ing just 38mm shorter over­all, 45mm nar­rower but with a 177mm shorter wheel­base. It is al­ready on sale in the US with a petrol-elec­tric mild-hy­brid ver­sion and sev­eral four-cylin­der op­tions.

The US-built medium sedan is part of Holden’s 2012 ‘‘ prod­uct re­nais­sance’’, which in­cludes the new Colorado, the ded­i­cated LPG Com­modore and Volt elec­tric range­ex­ten­der ve­hi­cle.

Opel’s Michelle Lang says the In­signia chas­sis car­ries over its Euro­pean sus­pen­sion and steer­ing tune, which will ap­peal to Aus­tralian driver tastes.

‘‘ We are tak­ing the Eurospec sus­pen­sion . . . stan­dard and op­tional fea­tures will be as per our (lo­cal) re­quire­ments,’’ she says.

‘‘ We’re not pre­mium, we’re high-qual­ity Ger­man en­gi­neered and de­signed.

‘‘ The In­signia will be a highly spec­i­fied ve­hi­cle.’’

Looka­like: Holden Mal­ibu is a very close cousin to Opel In­signia

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