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New Holden Commodore unveiled

Holden finally took the covers off the new Commodore at a media preview in Melbourne this morning.

It was a launch so big Holden even flew-in mystery driver The Stig from Top Gear – race driver Ben Collins – to help unveil the new Commodore to dealers at a secret meeting last Thursday. Today, it’s the public’s turn to see it.

The new “world-class” Holden Commodore has arrived – and it is the most technically-advanced car ever designed, engineered and built in Australia. Holden finally took the covers off the new Commodore at a media preview in Melbourne this morning before it goes on sale in June.

It has been seven years since the last new Commodore – the longest gap in the model’s 35-year history – and it will be the last of its type. When this VF Commodore bows out in 2016 it will be replaced by a large front-drive sedan based on new global underpinnings that will be adapted for local conditions.

Holden showed only the luxury Calais version of the new Commodore range today – the fleet models will be unveiled in the coming months – as the company tries to win back buyers with technology.

To combat the perception that the Commodore is too big to park in some cities, every new Commodore will come with a self-parking system – sensors in the bumpers measure the size of a parking space and guide the car into position. The driver only needs to select reverse and apply the brakes.

The new Commodore will also be available with technology that alerts drivers if they are about to crash into the car in front in stop-start traffic, wander from their lane without indicating, or if there is a vehicle in their “blindspot” (the view over the shoulder not covered by the side mirrors).

Top-line Commodore models will also have a heads-up display that reflects the vehicle’s speed and other key information in the driver’s line of sight, similar to that used on BMWs. The internet music service Pandora – and its talkback equivalent Stitcher – will also be available.

“No other car created in Australia is as technologically advanced, and we’re very proud,” said Holden chairman and managing director, Mike Devereux. “Our aim … was to create a car that challenged some of the broader perceptions people have about the traditional Australian-made large car. It will offer levels of quality and sophistication to rival some of the best cars in the world.”

Holden is confident it will get a sales boost with the new model but stopped short of saying whether the new Commodore would ever reclaim its status as Australia’s top-selling car, after losing the crown it held for 15 years in 2011 to the Mazda3.

“We’re back, better than ever, it’s game on,” Devereux said. “I think this [Commodore] is going to change people minds about what we can do in this country. Australians should say ‘look at what we can do, look at how good we can be, we do punch above our weight, big time’.”

But, Devereux said, the Commodore would never again reach its all-time high sales set in the late 1990s. “The time for any one vehicle … to sell one tenth the cars in any country is an illogical assumption to make. No model of anybody selling any car in this country will [do that]. The market is so fragmented now.”

At its peak in 1998 Holden sold more than 94,000 Commodores (in a year Australians bought 807,000 new cars). Last year Holden sold just 30,000 Commodores, its lowest tally ever, despite a record 1.1 million new-car sales.

“Every feature that we could cram into this car, and frankly every feature that you can find on any car, is in this one,” Devereux said. “If you’re going to sell a car in San Francisco and in Sydney, or and in Miami and in Melbourne, it has to be world class. This is a no-excuses car.”

Holden will keep the performance V8 SS Commodore under wraps for one more week. Holden’s North American counterpart Chevrolet will unveil that car at Daytona Speed Week next weekend, where the Commodore will also make its debut as a Nascar before being sold as a Chevrolet SS from November.

“[VF Commodore] will also be exported to the USA for GM’s biggest brand, Chevrolet,” Devereux said. “But you’re going to have to wait [to see it].” In the meantime, News Limited has created a computer-enhanced illustration of what it will look like.

The ‘new’ VF Commodore is in fact a redesign of the VE Commodore released in 2006; the company could not justify investing in an all-new model in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis and with sales of large-cars falling to record lows. Instead, it invested heavily in technology.

The front and rear appearance have changed – and the interior is completely new, with a much more upmarket appeal – but the core of the car (the doors, roof and body) are the same as before.

The new Commodore is a little bit longer than the last one because the designers stretched the edge of the boot and rear bumper for better aerodynamic efficiency at freeway speeds.

It looks wider because the headlights have been moved outboard slightly – and the front fenders are not as pronounced – but the new Commodore is the same width as the last. Even the side mirrors and exterior door handles are the same.

The V6 and V8 engines are carried over from before but the new model is expected to be about 10 per cent more fuel efficient due to the use of weight-saving aluminium in the bonnet, boot and underbody, said to trim 40kg from the car’s overall mass.

The flagship Holden Caprice will get the Commodore’s new interior but only a mild external makeover. The fleet versions of the new Commodore – and the wagon and ute – are due to be unveiled closer to the June on-sale date.

The new Holden VF Commodore:

What's new:
Self-parking technology on all models
Forward collision warning in low-speed traffic
Lane-departure warning
Blind-spot alert
Heads-up display
Internet music radio service Pandora
Large infotainment touch screen
Sensor key with push button start
Electronic park brake
Two 12V power sockets instead of one
Cruise control switch moves to the steering wheel
Other menu controls move to the indicator/wiper stalks
Aluminium boot, bonnet and underpinnings
About 40kg less weight overall

What's not:
Sedan body, doors and glass
External door handles
Side mirrors
Centre console lid
V6 and V8 engines (but they are 10 per cent more efficient)
The rear ends of the wagon and ute are unchanged
Caprice limousine only gets a mild makeover but new interior

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling