HOLDEN HAS TODAY REVEALED its first major mechanical update for the VE Commodore and WM Statesman range at a press conference this morning at its Port Melbourne engine assembly plant.
The current 3.6 litre V6 engine has been succeeded by two new engines: one a 3.0 litre direct-injected V6 and the other a 3.6 litre V6, also with direct injection.
A new six-speed automatic transmission is now standard across the Commodore, Statesman and Caprice range, replacing the current four and five-speed auto gearboxes.
The new engines will be phased in from September, and production of the updated Commodore is already underway at Holden's Elizabeth assembly line in South Australia.
The 3.0 litre V6 will be the standard engine in the Commodore Omega and Berlina, with the Calais, Statesman, Caprice and SV6 (below) receiving the new direct-injected 3.6 litre engine.
Although Holden has given its base-model engine a significant drop in displacement, power output has not suffered greatly. The 3.0 litre V6 develops 190kW thanks to the more efficient direct-injection technology (SIDI in Holden parlance), just 5kW shy of the outgoing port-injected 3.6 litre.
Fuel economy has also improved markedly. The 3.0 litre powerplant uses 12 percent less fuel than the current 3.6 litre, consuming just 9.3 litres per 100km.
The 3.0l V6 brings with it a slight weight saving as well, weighing around 10kg less than the 3.6 litre engine it replaces.
The new 3.6 litre SIDI V6 is also notable for being the most powerful Australian designed and built naturally-aspirated six-cylinder engine, its 210kW power output placing it 15kW higher than the current 3.6 litre V6.
Fuel economy, like the 3.0 litre unit, is also impressive. The upcoming 3.6 litre SIDI Calais consumes 9.9 l/100km compared to the 11.2 l/100km rating of the current model.
Holden claims the new fuel efficiency improvements unlocked by the adoption of direct injection allows the base model Commodore Omega to be driven from Melbourne to Sydney on one tank of regular unleaded petrol. Carbon dioxide emissions are also reduced by 600kg per year thanks to the SIDI system.
Holden also estimates that the new powerplant can return a $325 saving in yearly fuel costs compared to the current 3.6l-equipped Commodore, given an annual travel distance of 20,000km and a petrol price of $1.25 a litre.
LPG Commodore variants also benefit from Holden's mechanical overhaul of the model range, gaining 6 percent greater fuel efficiency.
Significantly, most models in the Commodore/Statesman range will not change in price, despite the newer, more efficient engine technology that's soon to be on offer.
When probed about the prospect of developing a four-cylinder Commodore to rival Ford's recently-announced four-cylinder Falcon, Holden's outgoing managing director and chairman Mark Reuss said that "dropping cylinders would be the last resort" in the company's search for greater fuel economy.
Mr Reuss also confirmed that the 2.8 litre V6 currently built at the Port Melbourne facility was not considered for the Commodore due to the 3.0 litre's better power characteristics.
Besides the addition of new SIDI and Ecoline badging, the VE range remains cosmetically unchanged. A styling update is in the works, but Mr Reuss refused to divulge exactly when the facelifted model will be rolled out.
Reuss also confirmed that the locally-built Delta-platformed Holden is still on track for production, despite Ford recently abandoning its own plans for a locally-produced four-cylinder Focus.