Tony O'Kane | Sep 27, 2010

buick lacrosse spy photos melbourne fwd holden commodore 02

Unconfirmed reports out of the US this week suggest that Holden is set to move to a front-wheel-drive platform for its next-generation Commodore, with the locally-developed Zeta platform to be dumped in favour of GM’s Epsilon II platform.

That doesn’t mean RWD is off the cards altogether, though. According to US magazine Motor Trend, which penned the report, a replacement for the RWD Zeta platform is currently in the works and is forecast to underpin a range of new GM vehicles.

A high-end Cadillac luxury sedan, a “cushier” Buick and a Chevrolet-badged sports sedan may ride atop the new Zeta architecture, with the long wheelbase Holden Caprice and “more premium” Commodore models to retain a RWD layout too.

The report adds that low-end Commodores models such as the Omega and Berlina may disappear altogether, with an Epsilon-based front-driver taking over as Holden’s budget mid-to-large size sedan.

Lending credence to Motor Trend’s report is the appearance of a left-hand drive Buick LaCrosse test mule on Melbourne’s streets. Spotted recently by our spy photographers, the Epsilon II-based Lacrosse was undergoing on-road trials but did not appear to have any obvious test equipment inside its cabin.

The US-market LaCrosse shares its platform with the Opel Insignia, which may also arrive on Australian shores in the near future.

However, unlike the Insignia, the LaCrosse is powered by the same LF1 3.0 and LLT 3.6 litre V6 engines as the Commodore, giving it a power and parts compatibility advantage over the Opel. A 136kW 2.4 litre Ecotec inline four is also offered in the base-grade LaCrosse CX.

The LaCrosse CXS model shown here has the more powerful 210kW 3.6 litre V6 and drives the front wheels, however an AWD drivetrain is available with the 190kW 3.0 litre V6. All LaCrosse models feature a six-speed tiptronic automatic, with no manual transmission offered.

In terms of interior size, the LaCrosse bridges the gap between the Commodore and the unpopular Epica. Its interior boasts a more luxurious design than both, though.

Would the LaCrosse (or any other Epsilon II-based GM product) make an adequate replacement for lower-grade Commodores? Will fleet and private buyers care (or even notice) the switch to front-wheel drive?

Future versions of Holden's sports-oriented Commodores could stay RWD even if the basic range goes FWD.
Future versions of Holden's sports-oriented Commodores could stay RWD even if the basic range goes FWD.

If Motor Trend is correct and both premium and sporting Commodore models remain RWD, then it appears Australia’s motoring public may be able to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Budget-conscious Holden customers will have a high-grade mid-sizer instead of the universally disliked Epica, and buyers needing more space or wanting a more involving drive will have a range of RWD sedans and wagons at their disposal.

If, that is, the rumours turn out to be true.

In response to Motor Trend's report, Holden's Senior Product Communications Manager Jonathan Rose told TMR that RWD will remain a part of the Commodore's identity for the forseeable future:

"RWD development is in Holden's DNA and we are focussed on developing more fuel and powertrain alternatives than any other time in the company's history," Rose said.

"We are developing future versions of the Commodore and continue to focus on working with other parts of GM for export opportunities for locally developed products.

"The fact that Commodore has been Australia’s best-selling car for the past 14 years highlights that there remains strong demand for RWD vehicles."

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