The covers are finally off. This is the 2018 Holden Commodore VXR – the SS-replacing sports trim that will sit at the apex of the first fully-imported Commodore range. Arriving alongside the rest of the NG Commodore range in early 2018 – and with enormous shoes to fill – the 3.6-litre V6 VXR will fight an uphill battle to convert today’s fast Commodore fans. But, according to Holden, direct comparisons with the outgoing, 6.2-litre VF II Commodore SS miss the point, with lead dynamics engineer Rob Trubiani telling media the VXR “offers a different execution of performance” to the SS, but that it “is a more than worthy successor.”
With a six-cylinder engine producing 235kW of power and 381Nm of torque, the VXR makes about a fifth less power and a third less torque than the mammoth SS’s outputs of 304kW and 570Nm from the 16-valve pushrod LS3 V8 that sat underneath the VF’s stubbier front end. As you’d expect, though, the NG VXR will be lighter than the VF II – probably around 75 kilograms less, though detailed specifications are still to be released.
But the apparent performance deficit tells only some of the VXR story. The NG Commodore, which is a rebadged and locally adapted version of the German-made Opel Insignia B, is front-wheel-drive. But the VXR adds a Twinster all-wheel-drive system into the mix, which will push as much power to the ground as possible while significantly boosting the Commodore’s dynamic nous in low-grip situations.
A nine-speed torque converter automatic will be the only gearbox, sending drive through the Twinster all-wheel-drive system shared with the new Commodore Tourer, a raised off-roading wagon version of the incoming NG Commodore Sportwagon. The VXR, though, will only be available in the new liftback form factor.
The Twinster all-wheel-drive system is very similar to that used in the Ford Focus RS and Range Rover Evoque. The Twinster’s headline feature is its use of real torque vectoring: twin clutches on the rear differential precisely distribute torque to the outside wheel while cornering to actively produce additional yaw. That’s in contrast to more common torque vectoring by braking systems, like Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control, which brake the inside wheel to recreate a similar yawing effect.
However, the Twinster is not a permanent all-wheel-drive system. Similarly to Audi products using Ingolstadt’s new Quattro ultra system, when the rear wheels are not needed, they are near-instantenously disconnected from the driveline in order to save fuel.
The VXR’s 235kW V6 is the most powerful engine currently slated for the all-new Commodore. Lesser models will be available with a trio of 2.0-litre turbo engines – two petrols and a diesel – while the Tourer will get also feature the 3.6-litre.
A V8 will definitely not a make a return due to emissions regulations and the lack of a requisite appetite in the European markets this car was essentially designed for. Oddly, a turbocharged V6 is also not currently on the horizon – a pretty baffling state of affairs due to the existence of a 2.8-litre turbo V6 in Opel’s stable. That’s the engine that powered the NG Commodore VXR’s predecessor, the Insignia VXR, a car that was offered on-and-off in Australia for the past half decade.
While the bulk of development on the VXR has been conducted by Opel at the brand’s Nürburgring testing facilities in Germany, Holden have “been involved in the development of this car from the beginning”, says Trubiani. More than 100,000km of real-life testing has been conducted here in Australia at Holden’s proving grounds in Lang Lang, Victoria.
That work continues, with Trubiani conceding that chassis development on the car is not complete, with the bulk of remaining development being conducted at the Nürburging, Germany’s most notorious race track.
Holden’s Australian engineering work has influenced a number of characteristics of the NG Commodore and this VXR. They include the suspension setup, the adaptive dampers – a first for Commodore – the steering feel and the transmission.
Even the availability of a 3.6-litre V6 as the performance engine is a decision that Holden strongly fought for. The VXR’s equivalent in Europe and America will be receiving a turbo four-cylinder.
Three drive modes alter the hardness of the VXR’s sports suspension, and sharpen the steering, gear shifts and the dampers.
Aside from the bulkier powerplant, VXRs will be identifiable by their more muscular interpretation of the NG Commodore’s sleek aesthetic. 20-inch wheels will be standard, as will Brembo brakes sitting behind them. A large rear lip spoiler, prominent twin exhaust pipes, more aggressive front and rear fascias and matrix LED headlights will cap off the look that will be presented in at least two brighter colours – blue and orange, seen here.
A full suite of adaptive safety technologies will be available, including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active cruise control, lane keep assist, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. A heads-up display will be fitted to the VXR – and so will a 360-degree parking camera.
The next Commodore will be launched towards the end of 2017 with the first deliveries taking place early next year.
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