Golden says it’s out to add excitement to practicality in the next generation of its Commodore wagon
The Commodore wagon has traditionally been a workhorse, oriented more to business use than as a stylish family car.
That will change with the new wagon, set to debut next year, which Holden says will be sportier and greener.
The intention is to provide an affordable alternative to European wagons like those built by Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
It has given a clear indication of how the VE wagon will look with the Sportwagon concept car. The concept is said to be virtually a production-ready prototype, and some Australian pundits are suggesting the only change that will come with the production car will be to fit smaller wheels – the concept is on 20-inchers.
The Sportwagon concept has a rakish profile, picks up styling cues from the VE Commodore sedan, and has an engine that can run on a high ethanol/petrol blend.
Holden boss, Chris Gubbey, says the VE Sportwagon puts “excitement back into practicality,” calling it “a car for families with a ‘get-up-and-go’ attitude”.
He didn’t stop there with the superlatives, saying the wagon turns “practi-cal into practi-cool”.
Gubbey says the Sportwagon is a glimpse of the VE wagon that is scheduled to go on sale in the first half of 2008.
Unlike previous Commodore wagons, the VE Sportwagon isn’t being built on the long-wheelbase platform, but has the shorter VE sedan wheelbase.
Some sources are suggesting that approach has been taken to ensure the wagon has agile handling similar to the benchmark set by the VE sedan.
To increase the wagon’s practicality, the tailgate hinge is positioned well forward into the roofline, creating a more vertical opening movement for the tailgate and reducing opening space required around the car.
A higher cargo floor makes loading easier and a flexible cargo cover provides extra security for items stored in the back.
The Sportwagon is a five-seater and has a 60/40 split-golding rear seatback to increase cargo area.
The Sportwagon range is likely to mirror the VE sedan line-up, with entry level, sports and luxury models, including a Calais V-Series.
Engines will include standard and high output versions of the 3.6-litre V6, along with the 6.0-litre V8.
It’ll get the nod from Land Transport New Zealand because ESP stability control will be standard on all models.
The concept wagon, shown at last month’s Sydney Motor Show ran a 6.0-litre V8 with Active Fuel Management (AFM) and E85 flex-fuel capability.
Active Fuel Management is a system which switches off several cylinders when the car is cruising or under light load.
A similar system has been used by Cadillac in the United States and is in V8 versions of the American-designed and built Chrysler 300C, a Commodore rival.
Holden says the system improves fuel economy, a claim borne out in our experience of the Chrysler sedan.
We achieved more than 33mpg on a long open-road trip while still averaging more than 90kmh.
The effectiveness of the system was shown by read-outs from the 300C’s onboard computer.
On the climb out of Wairakei on the trip north from Taupo, the Chrysler was drinking fuel at the rate of 20mpg with all eight cylinders firing.
On the light-throttle run down the other side of the hill, running as a four, it was sipping 40mpg.
The system makes a mockery of the current vogue, in green and government circles, of bashing as gas-guzzlers, all V8 or V6-engined large cars. Our regular 1800cc automatic Japanese sedan can only just match the Chrysler’s figures on a similar open-road trip.
Holden’s ethanol blend V8 in the Sportwagon concept car runs the same spark ignition, with fuelling matched to the same equivalence ratio as the current production V8 engine.
Holden says it has been designed to match the power and torque outputs of its petrol equivalent.
Gubbey says that showcasing an E85 fuel system in the Sportwagon “makes a powerful statement about Holden and GM’s commitment to developing alternative energy sources that reduce our dependence on petroleum-based products.
“It also demonstrates that drivers of alternative fuel vehicles don’t have to sacrifice performance.”
Holden’s VE sedans are E10 compatible.