_THE _ official launch date of the new VF Commodore may be six months away but Holden lifted the veil on its new large car last week.
It was a move forced on the Australian car maker to allow its GM stablemate, Chevrolet, to reveal its new Commodore-based top-of-the-range Chevy SS in the US yesterday.
With a new-look front and rear as well as an all-new interior and a significant step up in the technology offered across the range, Holden has declared it the most sophisticated and technologically advanced car to be built in Australia.
And along with its premium look and feel, for the first time the large sedan has been aimed at retail buyers - a further sign of how much its fleet sales have dropped off in recent years.
Holden boss Mike Devereux said the VF was a car that deserved to be given a chance by Australian car buyers.
"We've always had a good- looking car that has performed well but what is different about today's vehicle is the sophistication, the technology and the refinement that makes this a no-excuses, world-class vehicle," he said.
"Australians need to give this car a chance because, frankly, it shows what you can do in this country. There is nothing that you would want to put in that car that is not in the car, nothing.
"Every feature that is available on European luxury cars is on that car.
"Does that mean that we have kind of changed our perception about what a Commodore is? Is it a little more up-scale and a cut above what it was before? Absolutely.
"But the market has also fragmented greatly over the past decade or so into little sub-segments so that the job of the large car is different in terms of having to cover a whole lot of different tastes.
"We can now target those people who love this type of car."
Holden said the new large sedan would also be the most fuel-efficient it had built.
While it is yet to reveal the official fuel consumption, or any other information regarding power trains or details of the car, it is believed the most economical model will be up to 1.5L/100km, more efficient than the current VE that uses 8.9L/100km.
Some of this reduction will be made by the introduction of aluminium panels (another first for an Australian-built car), improved aerodynamics and the introduction of electric power steering.
- THE EXTERIOR *
While the VF has quite a different look to the car it will replace, changes were made only to the front and rear.
The roof, doors - though they do have new door handles that change the appearance of the door - and middle section of the sedan remain unchanged.
And most of the changes were a consequence of having to improve the car's pedestrian impact protection to meet stricter regulations.
To create a bigger gap between the engine and bonnet, and consequently soften the blow if it hits a pedestrian, the nose of the car has been lifted 40mm.
This has enabled the designers to build in what they call a "subtle power bulge" and create a more sculpted-looking bonnet.
The height of the rear end was also lifted to ensure the design proportions of the car were maintained.
The front and rear edges of the car have also been softened by rounding off some of the sharp edges of the VE. It is also wider, to give the car a more planted look.
The prominent wheel arches, which were such a strong design feature of the VE, have been replaced by more subtle guards, which Holden says helps give the sedan a more sophisticated look as well as contributing to its improved aerodynamics.
Each model will have slight styling variations so they are easily distinguished, but Holden has not yet released full details of those differences.
- THE INTERIOR *
It is inside the car that Holden Commodore fans will notice the biggest change.
The modular design of the VE dashboard has been replaced by a single piece that has not only reduces the complexity of the design but gives the interior a more sophisticated, premium feel.
The introduction of materials such as suede, used in the insert to give the car a softer, lighter look, and the re-introduction of chrome highlights contribute to the up-market look.
There's an eight-inch touch- screen colour monitor, push- button start and ice-blue ambient lighting in the centre console. All this is expected to be standard across the range and is part of a much larger technology story.
And, as with the exterior, many of the harder edges have been replaced with sweeping lines which not only give the impression of more space but give the Commodore a more modern feel.
As with the VE, the VF will be offered with three trim levels - entry-level, sport luxury and luxury sport. The entry level model will have a white backlight while the sport luxury will be blue and luxury sport red.
In the SS models the sport decals will be far more subtle than in the past, in keeping with the car's more sophisticated, premium feel.
The 2013 version also does away with some of the features that have been criticised in its predecessor. The most significant of these is the awkward-looking and hard-to-operate park brake lever. This has been replaced by an electric park brake.
And, after years of criticism, the electric window buttons have finally been moved from the centre console back to the door armrests.
This is not only an ergonomic improvement but the removal of the park brake and window switches from the centre console have enabled designers to fit two cupholders into the centre console.
Other notable changes include moving the boot release lever from the glovebox to the driver's door and the cruise control set-up from a stalk to the steering wheel.
- THE TECHNOLOGY *
Holden has equipped its new Commodore with a suite of smart technologies in an attempt to attract families back to its large sedan.
Many of the devices are firsts for locally produced cars.
The technologies include head-up display, automatic park assist (which will parallel or 90deg. park the car unaided) and one of the most advanced infotainment systems available.
And while Holden is not yet ready to reveal just what technology will be available in each model variant, Mr Devereux indicated that the park assist would be available across the range.
Other features on offer will include lane departure warning, forward collision alert, blind-spot alert and reverse traffic alert that warns the driver of passing traffic when reversing out of a parking spot.
The most impressive of these is the head-up display, a feature which until now has been available only at the prestige end of the car market.
But Holden said it was able to add the feature - which projects information such as speed and satellite navigation directions on to the windscreen directly in front of the driver - through its access to GM's parts bin.
Head-up display eliminates the need for the driver to take their eyes off the road to check these details and, after driving a few cars with this technology, it should be the next safety feature that filters down into all mainstream vehicles.
The new Commodore also gets the latest version of GM's MyLink telematics and infotainment system. Centred around a new eight-inch colour touch screen, the system will include access to apps like Stitcher and Pandora, as well as internet radio.
Consumers will need to provide the streaming bandwidth via their own smartphone data plans.It also includes full iPhone and iPod compatibility, as well as the latest Bluetooth connectivity.