Drama in VF looks and launch

ROB MAETZIG
Last updated 08:09 13/02/2013
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Holden VF Commodore

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The sequence of events at last Friday's media reveal of the VF Commodore was a little unusual - perhaps even unfortunate.

GM-Holden had put journalists through a very thorough security screening that had required documents to be signed promising meeting a Sunday embargo on stories about the new car, and tape to be put over the cameras in all cellphones and i-Pads.

All this meant there was an air of anticipation when GM-H managing director Mike Devereux said a few words before staff slid the covers off a pre-production Calais V version of the new car. It's essentially a substantial facelift of the current VE.

But then, later in the day, Devereux did a strange thing - he instantly removed the VF from the media limelight by announcing that GM had begun working on creation of a brand-new Commodore that will be built at Adelaide and launched in 2016.

Naturally, the attending reporters went nuts over the announcement, which really was big news because it put paid to growing speculation that this VF Commodore would be the last.

They surrounded Devereux and bombarded him with questions about the next-generation Commodore, all of which the amiable American refused to answer, claiming that the day was all about the VF.

But by then, the damage had been done, and the VF sat there almost alone and ignored as the media concentrated on the real news story of the day, which certainly wasn't that the current Commodore was being facelifted - but that development of a brand- new model had been confirmed.

Later in the day, Devereux circulated a message to all GM-H staff explaining that his announcement had been a strategic move designed to stop the speculation about the future of Commodore.

He added there would be no more information on the new car made public at this very early stage. But already his short announcement has resulted in all sorts of speculation. Will it be front-drive? What engines? Which vehicle platform?

And all of this has removed attention from the VF, which is due to be launched in Australia and New Zealand mid-year and which will also be exported to USA badged as a Chevrolet SS.

That's a pity, because the VF is a really good facelift. While the car's underpinnings are unchanged, and the bodyshell from the A-pillar and the C-pillar is essentially the same as before, the nose and tail are totally different. The front features a bonnet that has no less than six creases to provide a performance- oriented look, and the rear looks more streamlined than before.

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The whole point of this cosmetic exercise, explained Holden's director of design Andrew Smith, was to give the Commodore more visual drama.

The interior has undergone major change, too. The T-shape design of the dash and centre console has gone, replaced by a beautifully flowing dashboard with a big new infotainment touch screen. And - hallelujah! - the electric window controls have been relocated from the centre console to the doors, and that awful finger-catching handbrake has been replaced by a new electronic version.

When the VF does arrive, it will lay claim to being the most technologically advanced car yet developed in Australia.

Key features will include Automatic Park Assist, which will effectively allow the Commodore to automatically park itself into either parallel or 90-degree parks; Reverse Traffic Alert, which will warn of vehicles passing when the driver is backing out of a parking space; Blind Spot Alert; Forward Collision Alert; Lane Departure Warning; and even a Head-Up Display, which will project information such as vehicle speed onto the windscreen.

The VF will also get the latest version of Holden's very good MyLink infotainment system, and keyless entry and start.

This car will also be more fuel- efficient than the current VE Commodore. Thanks in part to an Australian Federal Government grant of A$39.8 million through its Green Car Innovation Fund, some of the bodyshell panelling will be aluminium to help make the vehicle lighter, and it will have electric power steer.

"Our aim with the new VF Commodore was to create a car that challenged some of the broader perceptions people have about the traditional Australian- made large car," said Devereux.

"When it goes on sale, it will offer levels of quality and sophistication to rival some of the best cars in the world."

All this indicates that when the VF does enter the New Zealand market, the model range is likely to be smaller than it is now. During Friday's media conference, Andrew Smith said the market has changed to the extent that the traditional rear-wheel-drive large car is no longer the jack-of-all- trades that it used to have to be, because other vehicles such as SUVs have moved into the mix.

"From a design point of view, we see that as an advantage, because it has allowed us to concentrate on simply taking a very good car and making it better. With the VF, it has allowed us to develop the car in two flavours - sport-luxury, and luxury-sport."

It may be then that the VF Commodore selection may comprise not much more than the Calais-V as the luxury-sport model, and a new version of the SS-V as the sport-luxury version.

As for the rest - Omega, Berlina, wagon, ute, LPG, and even four- cylinders - we're going to have to just wait and see.

- Taranaki Daily News

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