German Holden Commodore has landed...what do you reckon?
HOLDEN is daring diehard rev heads to test drive its new German-made Commodore - the first in 40 years without a V8 - before switching allegiances.
The all-new Commodore goes on sale today with a choice of four-cylinder or V6 petrol power, or a four-cylinder diesel.
It's due in showrooms later this month priced from $35,990 drive-away to in excess of $55,000.
In the final year of production V8s accounted for more than half of Commodore sales, and more than a third of sales over the life of the car.
And sales of the Ford Mustang hit a record high last year as Ford Falcon buyers updated their V8s.
Holden admits it will not sell the German Commodore in the same high numbers as the locally made Commodore - which went out of production last October - but it believes traditional buyers will change their minds after a test drive.
The new Commodore is smaller than before and competes with mid size sedans such as the Toyota Camry, Mazda6 and Hyundai Sonata, among others.
"We know it won't sell in the same numbers (as the locally made Commodore) because the market has changed, but we believe it will appeal to traditional buyers as well as those who may have never considered a Holden," says Holden boss Mark Bernhard.
"There's no V8 ... we're not hiding from any of that. But (the new Commodore) has been engineered … for Australian drivers and Australian conditions," he said.
"There are plenty of strong opinions out there on how this car is going to perform. I challenge any of our heartland customers to drive the car and then have an opinion."
The Holden boss said the company is "not focused" on making the Commodore a Top 10 seller, even though it previously held the Number One spot for 15 years in a row, from 1996 to 2010.
The lack of a locally-made Commodore has already put a dent on Holden sales.
Figures released this week show Holden sales in January were down by a staggering 22 per cent, and the brand was within just 100 sales of being overtaken by Ford.
"January has been a slow start because we haven't had Commodore to sell," said Mr Bernhard.
What the new Commodore lacks in V8 grunt, Holden hopes to compensate with technology.
The most expensive models of the new range come with antidazzle high beams - each with 16 individual LEDs - that mask oncoming traffic but still illuminate the road around other cars.
It's also the first Commodore with cooled and heated seats, with the option of a massage function.
Both the four cylinder and V6 petrol engines come with a nine-speed auto, for faster acceleration and better fuel economy at freeway speeds.
There will be at least one V8 version of the new Commodore. Changes to V8 Supercar motorsport rules mean allow Holden to fit a V8 under the bonnet of its race cars.
Plans for a twin-turbo V6 for motorsport use have been put on hold after development delays.
Holden says there are no plans to fit a twin-turbo V6 for the road-going Commodore because the car has not been designed to accommodate such an engine.
While the new Commodore is made in Germany, Holden has been finetuning the steering and suspension on local roads - and also testing AM radio reception in remote country areas - for the past 18 months, in the lead up to this week's launch.
Last week Australian crash test authorities issued the new Commodore a five star safety rating based on overseas tests of a left-hand-drive example powered by a small 1.6-litre turbo diesel engine.
The Commodore equipped with the larger and heavier V6 all-wheel-drive hardware - which may perform differently in a crash - was not tested, but was awarded five stars based on internal data supplied to authorities by Holden.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling