Mike Simcoe: Now VIce President of GM Global Design. Australia leads in design again. Thanks Mike

Mike Simcoe

 

MICHAEL SIMCOE

BIOGRAPHY

On 7 April 2016 Michael Simcoe was named vice president, GM Global Design, effective 1 May 2016 replacing Ed Welburn who will retire as of 1 July 2016.

Simcoe was previously vice president, Design, for GM International (GMI), since 5 March 2014. His design leadership responsibilities included GM’s production and advanced studios in Korea, Australia and India. He was also Holden brand champion.

Simcoe began his career at GM Holden as a designer in 1983. He had subsequent appointments as a senior designer (1985) and chief designer (1987), becoming involved in every major vehicle design program that GM Holden had undertaken.

In 1995, Simcoe became director of Design for GM Asia Pacific and was responsible for the management of collaborative projects with GM alliance partners such as Daewoo, Suzuki, Fuji Heavy Industries and Isuzu. Following that, he was appointed director of Design at GM Holden in 2001 where he oversaw the genesis of the highly successful Holden VT Commodore and WH Statesman/Caprice model ranges, creating the “flexible architecture” concept that delivered nine variants and subsequently the VE Commodore.

He began to serve as GM’s executive director of Asia Pacific Design in 2003. Simcoe led the design strategy and oversaw day-to-day design operations in the region. He also set up the new GM Korea Design Operations.

The following year, he was appointed executive director of North American Exterior Design. Simcoe was named brand champion for Chevrolet in addition to his other responsibilities in 2009. Spearheading all exterior design in North America, he led the design development of a long list of GM products, including the GMC Terrain, Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Camaro and Equinox, and Cadillac CTS sedan, wagon and coupe.

Prior to taking on his present post, Simcoe was executive director of GMI Design since 2011. He focused on further developing and growing GM Global Design operations in Korea and Australia.

Simcoe holds an Associate Diploma of Art Industrial Design from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

MICHAEL SIMCOE

TIMELINE & ACHIEVEMENTS

1983 Joined GM Holden Design

1985 Senior Designer, GM Holden

1987 Chief Designer, GM Holden

1990 Senior Designer, Advanced Production Studios, GMNA

1992 Chief Designer, GM Holden

1995 Director of Design, GM Asia Pacific

1998 Holden Commodore Coupe concept

2001 Holden Monaro

VT Commodore and WH Statesman / Caprice

2003 Executive Director Asia Pacific Design

Led the development of the new GM Korea Design Operations

2004 Executive Director of North America Exterior Design

2006 Holden VE Commodore / WM Caprice

2008 Cadillac CTS

2009 Chevrolet Brand Champion

2010 GMC Terrain

Buick LaCrosse

Chevrolet Camaro

Chevrolet Equinox

2011 Executive Director of GMI Design

2014 Vice President, GM International Design

Holden Brand Champion

2015 Chevrolet Bolt concept

Buick Avenir concept

Chevrolet Spark

2016 Chevrolet Bolt

Chevrolet Beat Activ and Essentia

Chevrolet Colorado Xtreme and Trailblazer Premier

AUSTRALIAN BUILT SHOW VEHICLES HINT AT EXCITING NEW DIRECTION FOR TRUCK AND SUV MARKET

 

 

Chevrolet Colorado Xtreme and Trailblazer Premier_s

Colorado Xtreme and TrailBlazer Premier revealed in Bangkok

Vehicles designed and built at Holden’s GM Australia Design Centre in Port Melbourne

Today at the 37th Bangkok International Motor Show, Chevrolet Thailand has taken the covers off two exciting new, Australian designed and built show vehicles, Colorado Xtreme and Trailblazer Premier. The vehicles, which explore two very different directions for the popular truck and SUV, give customers a strong hint at Chevrolet and Holden’s future design direction.

Holden Chairman and Managing Director, Mark Bernhard said the show vehicles were an exciting exploration into the distinct character of each vehicle, created to gauge interest and receive invaluable Chevrolet Colorado Xtreme_sfeedback from customers.

“The Colorado Xtreme and Trailblazer Premier show vehicles were created with the intent of injecting excitement and passion into the critical light commercial and SUV segments, while reinforcing Holden and Chevrolet’s commitment to exciting design and listening to customer feedback,” said Mr. Bernhard.

“It’s especially exciting that our GM Australia design team were able to lead this project, working in collaboration with GM Brazil and GM Thailand.

“We have a world class design team based in Port Melbourne, who continually impress the world with stunning concepts such as the 2015 North American Concept Car of the Year, Buick Avenir, the recently revealed, Australian built, Opel GT and now the Colorado Xtreme and Trailblazer Premier show vehicles.”

Demonstrating the platform’s significant potential and versatility, the two multi-faceted vehicles showcase two very distinct personalities offering customers unlimited possibilities.

Speaking from the Bangkok International Motor Show, Vice President of GM International Sales, Marketing & Aftersales, Mike Devereux, said the show cars were proof that General Motors was constantly exploring how its brands respond to maturing markets.

“We want to continue to lead the charge in these segments in this region and we think these two vehicles are clear demonstrations of that,” Mr. Devereux said.

“The Colorado Xtreme is the ultimate tough American truck that Chevrolet is famous for all over the world. With an integrated accessory range ensuring our customers can customize their truck to the most challenging environment. It is an off-road vehicle that not only looks tough but can absolutely tackle any challenge thrown its way.

“And while the Trailblazer Premier remains just as capable for the adventurous family, it explores a different side of its persona. It responds directly to the growing desire for a more luxurious and sophisticated SUV, one that boasts premium appointments inside and out.”

In collaboration with GM Brazil and GM Thailand, Australian designers were able to leverage Chevrolet’s long history of designing tough, durable and serious off-road vehicles, which embody the best of American automobile ingenuity.

Vice President of GMI Design, Michael Simcoe, explained show cars were created for numerous reasons, some look years into the future, some are pure expressions of creativity and others, like these, push the boundaries within reality.

“We’re calling on Chevrolet’s rich history and know-how to demonstrate our leadership in these segments and announcing where we hope to take these exciting vehicles in the near future,” Mr. Simcoe said.

“Our focus here was about pushing these vehicles in two completely different directions, ensuring they are standalone vehicles in their own right.

“It is great to have the opportunity to showcase design possibilities today that could be developed and seen in the cars and trucks of tomorrow.”

COLORADO XTREME

Colorado Xtreme delivers on its promise to go anywhere and do anything via an integrated accessory range offering customers the perfect way to tailor their vehicles to meet specific needs.

Dramatic engine hood scoops, side plates on the sports bar as well as a Safari Bar dials up the truck’s capability while ensuring it looks purposeful, capable and tough.

“This truck is in direct response to consumer’s desire to personalize their vehicles,” Mr. Simcoe said.

“Not only does this integrated accessory range looks fantastic but our priority was to ensure they were, first and foremost, practical and useful additions that were perfect additions to the vehicle.

“Inspiration for the truck came from many sources, in particularly we looked at the US market where Chevrolet leads the way as far as truck design. By looking at the Xtreme it’s clear that the North American market influenced many of the styling cues. The end result is a serious pick up with no compromise.”

The Xtreme’s stunning matte orange hero color, “Furness”, gives the vehicle a unique and exciting persona, clearly differentiating it from its SUV sibling. The orange perfectly complementing the black, powered effect of the accents and accessories to give it an extreme graphic.

Xtreme’s ruggedness continues inside with new auxiliary gauges and accessories such as a passenger grab handle on the side of the instrument panel and the inclusion of an inclinometer. Coupled with an innovative use of color, materials and texture, passengers remain safe and comfortable on those serious off road adventures.

No detail has gone unnoticed with the Xtreme boasting 18 inch full mud terrain tires, as well as technology at your fingertips. An eight inch color touch screen and the latest MyLink system equipped with the latest Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto connectivity technology, are designed to support the customers’ active lifestyle.

Highlights include:

 Custom exterior paint – “Furnace”

 Front Safari Bar with integrated LED bar & winch

 Rear step with integrated corner step and tow bar

 Large fender flares to compliment off-road tire package

 18 inch all terrain tires with custom bead locks

 Integrated hood vent

 Unique designed snorkel

 Sports bar with styled in-fill panel

 Integrated spoiler, CHMSL and whip antenna

 Roof basket with integrated LED light bar

 Custom tub liner:

o Adjustable tie down tracks, extended to lift gate

o Integrated spare wheel mount and tool holders

o Custom spare wheel T-nut

 Integrated Newton cap

 New interior theme

 8 inch color touch screen equipped with the latest MyLink system

 Integrated instrument panel handle bar

 Integrated Pitch & Roll meter

 Premium leather / fabric seat

 Floor mat that compliment seat trim

 High lift suspension

 Roll Bar

 Graphics pack

 Emergency retrieval kit

TRAILBLAZER PREMIER

The Trailblazer Premier is an SUV designed for families who love to escape off the beaten track but in the comfort of luxurious sophistication. With premium appointments this SUV is just as comfortable doing the school pick-up as it is tackling harsh and rugged terrain.

“The brief was simple, we wanted to dial up the refinement to make sure the vehicle was as luxurious as it was capable,” Mr. Simcoe said “Like every Chevrolet, the vehicle has head-turning good looks with striking Chevy DNA and global appeal.

“This show car is a result of strong collaboration to ensure we understood the demands of each market. Our research tells us customers, particularly in the Thai market, appreciate luxury, upmarket finishes and sophisticated detail. So our focus has been on ensuring we enrich the driver and passenger experience.

“Unlike the Colorado Xtreme, which is loud and tough, the Trailblazer Premier is subtle and softer in terms of color and materials, emphasized with the use of bright chrome and premium materials such as Australian timber which was hand-picked and crafted.”

With driver and passenger comfort at the forefront, the interior of the Trailblazer Premier ensures the trim and execution was taken to the next level. The unique use of colors, textures and materials create a premium feel not usually found in the segment.

New trim techniques and processes such as the bespoke piping on the seat trims and the handmade netting on the back of the driver and front passenger seats all add to the tailored and premium feel of the vehicle.

The silvery blue exterior color, “Velocity”, features smoky oil blue undertones, finished with a high gloss clear coat to give it an ultra-sleek and rich finished, particularly when paired up against bright chrome exterior décor accents.

Technology and connectivity remains critical, with both vehicles boasting a contemporary infotainment panel which houses the latest MyLink technology. The latest infotainment system allows customers to remain fully connected with access to a world of applications with the touch of a button or voice command.

Highlights include:

 Custom exterior paint – “Velocity”

 22 inch wheel & tires

 Rear spoiler

 Rear fascia protector

 Integrated side step with bright chrome molding.

 New interior theme

 8 inch color touch screen equipped with the latest MyLink system

 Premium leather seat with handmade netting

 Wood door applique with steel inserts

 Two tone instrument panel inserts with detailed stitch

 Chrome details

 Matching floor mats that compliment seat & instrument panel insert detailed stitch

About GM Australia Design

GM Australia Design is one of the most advanced automotive studios in the world, the largest in Australia, and one of the two design studios in the GM world with the in-house capability to fabricate a fully functioning Concept Car.

The 140 person strong design team plays a vital role as a genuinely innovative and creative contributor to major General Motors vehicle design programs

New Micro Car is a Spark-le in Holden’s Eye

MY16 Spark_F3Q3_Static model

MY16 Spark_R3Q_DynamicSpark Lang Lang PG small (1)

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MY16 Spark_Interior_straight

Spark Lang Lang PG large (2)Spark Lang Lang PG large (4)

Spark Lang Lang PG large (5)

 

 

Yes yes yes oh YES: handling, Apple Carplay, engaging drive

Oh dear me no: uninspiring exterior, lack of support for larger drivers, 5 speed not 6 speed manual

Exciting, clever, spacious and fast, are words never spoken about micro-cars. In fact, I’d go one further and say the outgoing Spark was appalling.

The first few years of its miserable existence were spent with a manual gearbox most of its target group didn’t know how to use. The interior was nasty with cheap poorly designed plakky parts. The performance could most kindly be described as meagre and the comfort was, well, absent. Similarly, the exterior styling was slab-like and dull with a faint hint of last century lingering about the build quality. The less said about it the better. The words “Out damn spot”, come to mind.

Europeans have known the advantages of small and micro cars for decades. The formula is simple: small exterior, small engine, small fuel bill and small purchase price, inexpensive, but not cheap. Australia just doesn’t get it.

Spark Lang Lang PG large (1)

So, to the new car:

The exterior isn’t as different from the old car as I would like, but then there isn’t much metal to work with. Chief designer, Mike Simcoe, described the character lines as providing shadows and points of interest. He also explained that designing a new headlight costs a million bucks, per headlight (“that’s expensive to replace”, I quipped). This explains why there isn’t a different face for each and every market, and the Spark has a similar feeling to the rest of the Holden range. The body coloured bar across the middle of the grille makes the lower section look a bit heavy, and the top section a trifle insignificant. Holden have made a decent fist of the headlights which have a sculptural hi-tech look. They have internal features which add interest even when not illuminated.

There are 2 models, LS and LT. The LS has either a 5 speed (yes 5 speed) manual or a CVT. The LT comes in CVT only, and scores a nice set of alloys. The standard steel wheels and hubcaps on the LS look a bit low-rent for my liking. Holden says the side profile has a hint of coupe with the rear doors having concealed door handles. 4 doors appeal to the “millennial” target market. Yes, I hadn’t heard the term millennial either. I’m told by Holden marketing that it is those born after Gen Y, and shortly before 2000. The age range tops out at around 26-ish. Holden says coupes, IE 3 door hatches, don’t sell well. I’m learning new things all the time it seems.

Inside:

Holden made much of their infotainment system which features Apple Car Play. You plug your Iphone into it and many of the features are mirrored on the screen including maps, music, messages etc. It will allow MY16 Spark_Apple Carplaysome 3rd party apps like Spotify to stream music through the internet. Carplay allows Siri to connect the driver to the car, and the car to the world. That’s an awful lot of connecting. For example, if you want the car to take you home, you press the voice button, and ask Siri. Siri will open “Maps” and bobs-your-uncle, the map pops up on the screen and the directions begin.

You swipe the screen like you do your phone, which allows you treat the car exactly like you treat your phone. There is no need to pair your phone as the system is wired only. Because you have to be physically plugged in, security isn’t a problem. Once plugged in, there is a little shelf under the console for your phone. They’ve thought of everything.

The one small fly in the ointment is Siri’s need to be connected to the network. No network, no Siri. That means no streaming music, no texts, no maps and no voice system. Other than that, it’s happy days. Oh, and it also works with other mobile OS systems.

The cabin is reasonable quality for an entry level car. It seats 4 in relative comfort, 5 if you’re all midgets. The small boot easily passes the “2 small bags“test”. Holden claims Spark will “reset the benchmark” Spark Lang Lang PG small (2)which seems a bit boasty-pants to me. It is good, sure, but the seats squabs are a bit small and don’t provide enough support for a taller occupant. Having said that, it is a city car and will be used for city travel. The execs said “we don’t want the car to be a reason you don’t do something” meaning apart from carrying something that won’t fit into it, you can do everything else.

The dash is neat and uses GM’s “double cockpit” design. There are two lines scooping in to the middle from each side of the car. The console centre stack has A/C controls, a vent, and some auxiliary buttons for the largest-in-class 7” LCD screen. There are 3 A/C knobs, and buttons for on/off, home, phone answer, and back and forward. That’s it, unless you want to count the hazard flashers. Both models get power windows and mirrors, and the LT adds reverse camera and rear parking assist, keyless smart start, and white interior highlights which may well get interchangeable panels later.

This brings us to the drive. I was excited, not because we were going to drive the Spark, but because we were going to drive the Spark at Lang Lang. Lang Lang is a speck of dust about an hour and a half south-east of Melbourne and is the site of Holden’s famous top-secret test facility. It is like Fight Club and you can’t talk about it. It is called The Proving Ground. Holden is so potty about secrecy, that our phones, cameras, and tablets had tape placed over the camera lenses. The Proving Ground, or PG for short, is where every Holden since Captain Cook has been developed and tested. There are a series of tracks, roads, obstacles, and terrains which simulate some of the worst terrain Australia can produce. It is so punishing, that some components are tested to destruction. Many of the tracks and roads have been used in Holden ads. A recent one had Commodores being filmed on the famous circular banked track.

The banked track is one of the few places in the country where you can start your car, put it in gear and glue your Manalo to the Axminster and leave it there until you run out of fuel. There are no corners, no bends, no straights, no traffic and no obstacles apart from the odd roo. Roos will play havoc with your paintwork so our minders did their best to keep the fauna out of harms way.

We didn’t get to use the banked track but we did get to use the skid pan, a gravel road, and a simulated country road. I want to go into this in some detail to show how brilliant the Spark really was. I told Holden’s Sean Poppitt that taking us to Lang Lang in Sparks was insane. “You’ll be right” he said. Those words were no comfort, none whatever.

Let me set the scene:

Melbourne is moody weather-wise, everyone knows that. Our drive day was positively uncooperative. Victoria sulked soporifically the whole day, making the roads treacherously moist.

Our first task was on the skid pan. We were to do a slalom, in reverse, with our mirrors taped over. After a few practice runs, we tackled a timed round. It was a doddle. I was surprised at how easy it was given I had never done it before.

Spark Lang Lang PG large (3)Next was the gravel road. This saw us tackle another slalom, a 180° handbrake turn, then the slalom back to where we started. Again, after only the briefest of briefings, we were like old-hands. Here we were, in a tiny city car, flinging it around a track like it was a toy. We had experts on board of course, but it was what we call in the industry, a hoot. No Sparks were harmed in the writing of this story.

Finally, a a circuit of hills, dips, corners, straights and a hairpin on the slipperiest tarmac I’ve ever encountered. Victoria hasn’t had a lot of rain and is horribly brown. This means the road hasn’t had a proper rinse to take away buildup. These conditions would rarely be met outside Lang Lang PG, but the Spark was an absolute champ. Despite a few tail waggles, there were no incidents.

The 90-minute road loop through Victorian countryside cemented my opinion of the new Spark. You expect me to say it was a dreary miserable box of mediocrity, but not a bit of it. The mini Holden performed flawlessly. Every claim made at the presentation the evening before turned out to be true. The nightmare of the old model faded to be filled with fun and enthusiasm. It was comfortable and quiet and handled my co-driver’s unbridled passion. He was quite a bit more eager than my good self, but even thehumble CVT did very well. The CVT is behaves like a normal CVT until high speed, hard acceleration, or sports performance is needed. It then adopts a “stepped” profile sounding more like a normal auto transmission.

But, it isn’t all good news. The manual is a 5 speed, a cog short of the industry standard of 6.

Then there is the price. The LS manual has an acceptable RRP of $13,990, but the CVT is $15,690. The CVT-only LT is a rather startling $18,990. You’ll need to add on roads which will make the top model around 20 grand drive away. For $20,000 you have options such as: Elantra SE auto, Lancer Sport CF auto, Fiat 500 Pop auto, Ford EcoSport Ambiente auto, and VW Polo Comfortline auto to name but a few (source: carsales.com.au new car search correct at the time of writing).

Spark Lang Lang PG large (6)

Conclusion:

I like Spark a lot. I like it as much as I loathed its predecessor. I liked the lively steering, sharp brakes and large-car ride which was smooth even in CVT form. It is small, so is easy to use in the city. The fuel figures of 5.2 manual, and 5.5 L/100k for the CVT is respectable. For some obscure reason the CVT has the same 73kw of the manual, but has at 128Nm vs 124Nm for the manual. We did ask why this was. The answer was to do with the way the transmissions handle torque etc. I was only 4Nm and sounded odd, but there it is.

It is a micro car best suited to smaller people for whom it would be a perfect fit.

Would I buy 1? Yes, but only after test driving other brands, keeping an eye on value for money.

price: $13,990 – $18,990

Engine: 4cyl  VVT, 1.4L, all aluminium,  73kw, 128Nm (cvt) or 124Nm (manual), Euro 6

weight: KGs: 969 LS manual, 990 LS CVT, 1004 LT CVT

Econ L/100k: 5.2 LS manual, 5.5 LS CVT, 5.5 LT CVT

HSV Gen Gen F-2 R8 Clubsport: The working man’s hammer.

GEN-F2 ClubSport R8 LSA Hero - 1 GayCarBoys

 

GEN-F2 ClubSport R8 LSA - Centre Console Detail Shot GayCarBoysGEN-F2 ClubSport R8 LSA - Front 3-4 GayCarBoys

GEN-F2 ClubSport R8 LSA - Front GayCarBoysGEN-F2 ClubSport R8 LSA - LSA Badge Detail  GayCarBoys

GEN-F2 ClubSport R8 LSA - Rear 3-4 GayCarBoysGEN-F2 ClubSport R8 LSA Front Cover GayCarBoys

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It’s big, it’s bold, it’s fast, but most importantly, it’s Australian. The HSV R8 Clubsport is the last in a long line of V8 Australian made muscle cars. It’s a final hurrah for the go-quick Commodore and so it is with a slightly sad heart that we report on the latest HSV offering.

Apart from some minor cosmetic changes, the big news in HSV is the arrival of GM’s supercharged 6.2L LSA V8. The gloom dissipates the second you lay eyes on the handsome metalwork. It has lost none of the urgency and glamour of the Gen F. I’ve always thought the headlights were slightly disappointing. They don’t quite feel as cutting edge as the rest of the car. As part of the overall design scheme it works OK, I guess, but for me it never looked quite right.

The LSA V8 is a huge step up in power and torque over the previous model. There is a mountainous 400kw (up from 340kw), and an even more insane 430kw for the GTS at around 95 grand. It seems like only yesterday that Holden special vehicles boasted around 200kw and we thought that to be almost stratospheric. Even the base model SSV Commodore now has 304kw. One wonders how GM only managed 260kw out of the only 6.0L power plant in the auto model.

While the R8 is based on Commodore, HSV bases the Grange on Holden’s Caprice. HSV sell a mere 50 Granges a year and the business case for shoehorning the LSA into it didn’t add up. It means the hot limo keeps the 340kw unit. While it’s no slug, I can’t think who would buy it after laying eyes on the R8 or GTS. I wonder if maybe the big daddy has had its day as it feels as though HSV more or less gave up on it.

The LSA V8 has 400kw/671Nm and brings with it the LSA rear module which includes rear suspension changes. To get the most out of our time with the R8, we did a bit of highway work, the usual mountain passes, and the ubiquitous city work. We even managed a school run to the whoops and cooees of savvy 9 year olds whose dads drive Audis and Mercs. Before you ask, no we didn’t do a track circuit. Although it would have made for a fabulous day, we know most buyers will never go near a track. About 60% of HSVs sold are automatic so, ‘nuff said.

Most of the week was done in Sport Mode which puts the Magnetic Ride Control (if fitted) and Electric Power Steering into sport mode, and opens the bi-modal exhaust so you hear a bit more rumble at idle. OK, it was entirely to enjoy the visceral rumble at the traffic lights. It’s enough to set off the more sensitive alarms of nearby Japanese sardine tins.

The GEN F-2 is definitely the last HSV Commodore, but HSV won’t be drawn on future models. Will there be an HSV after Commodore/Caprice cease to be? There may be a clue. The wonderful LSA can also be heard rumbling through the back streets of L.A. in the Chevy Camaro ZL1 and Cadillac’s stunning CTS-V sedan. It begs the question: might we see either of those cars landing on OZ shores sometime? The industry has been awash with gossip since Holden revealed the cessation of manufacture shortly after the Abbott government came to power. I asked HSV’s marketing and planning General Manager, Damon Paull, whether HSV might do some hot versions of GM’s Euro or American cars for our market, but he wouldn’t be drawn on the matter. I guess we just have to wait and see. If we hear any gossip, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Back to the R8:

To look at, you’ll notice a few trim modifications, but apart from the LSA badge, most would have trouble picking the difference between Gen F and Gen F-2.

Inside is the same story. Luckily the cabin was already a glorious place to be, so it was not a disappointment. In the 15 years since HSV was created, many models have passed through their portals but the Gen F-2 is the best yet.

The 0-100 time of 4.6 seconds is quite brisk, but for a car of this price, is utterly amazing. We recently spent a few days in BMW’s $322,000 i8 whose 0-100 time is 4.4 seconds. So, to go 0.2 seconds quicker you’ll need an extra $250,000, yes really. Even Nissan’s Porsche-beating GT-R costs an eye watering $172,000.

If there is a downside, it is the fuel consumption which can be ferocious if you decide to use the accelerator. While no one buying a 6.2L performance saloon is going to expect diesel economy, we got a hefty 20L/100k by being fairly gentle with the acceleration. We managed around 10L/100k on the highway and did about 300k all up. I can’t imagine what a track day would do to that figure.

The driving modes have 3 positions with a 4th being added for the range topping GTS. Normal mode is the most comfortable way to drive around. Sport mode changes the steering and ride, performance mode puts stability and traction control in to competition mode and turns on the torque vectoring. The car then senses understeer and brakes the outside rear wheel while adding power to the opposite wheel. The GTS adds a track mode which stiffens the suspension to tackle track work. In the hands of a V8 supercar driver, the R8 would be a weapon.

We however, opted for a gentler ride, which is how we think most buyers will use their R8. We liked the extra weight in the steering offered by Sport Mode, and the louder exhaust at idle was just a pleasant extra, well actuall,y we did it for the exhaust and happened to like the steering. The 6 speed auto is what 60% of people will opt for and although it is supremely smooth, feels like it cuts a substantial amount of fun from your daily commute. The HSV manual is easy to use and for me is the only choice for such a brilliant engine, albeit a pushrod one. Note to self: sample a GTS.

The drive:

The country roads presented opportunities to enjoy the refined nature of the handling as well as the spirited American engine. Like Australia, America is big, very big. There, like here, a road trip is a basic human right so a large GT saloon with a big powerful engine is practically custom made for it. Because there are places where the distances between towns can be measured in hundreds of kilometres, you must be comfortable, and the R8 was extremely comfortable. You can feel like you’re in a comfy lounge room if that’s the mood you’re in. Then, by twiddling a knob, be transported in an instant into the middle of a raging storm with a soundtrack straight from Valhalla.

The response in corners is helped by the quick steering and vast reserves of torque. Even in the tightest turns the body roll is so minimal that the tyres rarely complain. One wonders how far you’d need to push to make them scream without being on a track in race mode. No, we didn’t try.

6-Piston Brake Package Detail Shot GayCarBoysGEN-F2 - Interior Detail Shot GayCarBoys

On the highway the auto will have the V8 spinning at a lazy 1500rpm but the fuel is still being sucked down at an Olympic rate. The thing is, you just don’t care because the ride is sublime and the handling brilliant.

Even on our base R8 there are driver aids like: blind spot warning, lane departure warning, heads up display, automated parking, forward collision alert, Satnav, smart entry/start with remote start/stop, reversing camera with cross traffic alert, hill hold and rain sensing wipers.

Most driver aids worked brilliantly but the remote start/stop was tricky. We got it to work several times but the buttons on the key fob seemed a little moody at times. Similarly, the rain sensing wipers had trouble with light rain and we never found a setting that seemed completely happy.

Unusually for a Commodore the auto climate control didn’t seem to cope. I found myself using it on manual by turning the temperature right down and using the fan control to vary the air flow. I like a very cold cabin so perhaps it was just me.

Conclusion:

GEN-F2 ClubSport R8 Tourer - Centre Console Detail - 2 GayCarBoysThe HSV Gen F-2 R8 is a mouthful to say but very easy to drive. It’s youthful and mature at the same time. If all you want is the glamour, R8 has that in spades but if you want dash for your cash the R8 has 4 aces. It is smooth and elegant, or mad and exciting, but it’s the driver who decides. It’s hard to think of a muscle-match for the money, and none will beat the R8 as a daily driver. There is no compromise to be made. The cabin is easy to enter and exit and a very comfortable place to be in-between. There is plenty of room inside and killer looks outside. These are matched to an engine with an irresistible note, so I just can’t think of a car I’d rather drive for the price. You’ll remember we drove Ford’s XR8 which also has a supercharged V8. It too is gorgeous outside. But, and the buts are huge, I could not get comfortable. The driver’s seat was too high and the cabin positively archaic. The plastic was cheap and the design old fashioned, but the drive was brilliant. With the R8, the feel was like that of a comfortable shoe with no compromise needed. The seats were supportive and firm yet comfortable and relaxing. The cabin has a top quality feel loaded with the familiar gadgets we can’t do without. It isn’t cutting edge by any means but it is huge fun.

The resulting vehicle is one you’d need a reason not to buy unless you’re wealthy enough to afford a GT-R or a Porsche. Sure there were a few little niggles but none were deal breakers. Surely an auto dimming rearview mirror isn’t too much to ask?

Would I buy one? Absolutely, however I’d try and gather together a few extra shekels for the GTS.

Price: R8 $80,990 (man) $83,490(auto) plus onroads

*range includes: Tourer (wagon) $85990 auto only, GTS sedan – $95,990 (man) $98,490 (auto)

Engine: GM LSA, Supercharged pushrod V8, 400kw/671Nm (430kw/720Nm GTS)

0-100: 4.6 sec (12.7 seconds 0-400m)

Holden VFII SSV Redline: Fast and Furious

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Holden SSV LS3 Holden SSV Redline VFII Gaycarboys (3)Holden SSV LS3 Holden SSV Redline VFII Gaycarboys (4)

Holden SSV LS3 Holden SSV Redline VFII Gaycarboys (6)Holden SSV LS3 Holden SSV Redline VFII Gaycarboys (7)

We bathed in the awesomeness of a V8 Holden on many occasions. The MY16 range features the brilliant LS3 engine from the Corvette. The 304kw/570Nm V8 does around 4.9 to 100kph which isn’t bad for a sedan that can take 5 blokes in style. The LS3 badge on the grille and the louvered bonnet is the giveaway Holden SSV LS3 Holden SSV Redline VFII Gaycarboys (5)to the VFII V8.

My one complaint has always been the subdued exhaust in the sedan. The auto version scarcely rates a glance in city traffic. If I’m spending that much on petrol I demand to be noticed god damnit. so the bi-modal exhaust is loud loud loud. Harley riders eat your hearts out.

The suspension feels more connected to the road too. As you turn, you can feel the road under you and you know exactly where the wheels are. You can feel everything through the seat of your pants without being jarred. Whilst it is lovely to be insulated from the nastiness masquerading as highway tarmac, good old fashioned motoring means a sense of driving rather than merely being a passenger. Commodore was always a great drive, but the VFII is possibly the best car ever built here. Show me another V8 for under a sixty grand (apart from the Falcon of course). The manual SSV Redline at $59,122 drive-away is astounding value with the 6 speed auto at $61.432 not far behind. The SSV feels like a go-cart to drive. It sticks to the road in a way the previous model didn’t quite manage, as good as it was. You’ll remember I was slightly disappointed in the Lowndes special edition. It didn’t feel “special” enough and had a mere 260kw from a 6 litre V8. How does GM get that little an amount of oomph from a 6.0Litre lump? Whilst that might have been OK 4 or 5 years ago, it lagged sadly behind the 335kw supercharged XR8 Falcon we drove a few months ago. The Falcon is gorgeous on the outside but slightly tragic on the inside, whereas Commodore feels classy.

Along with this serious horse power comes serious fuel usage. The second your loafer goes anywhere near the Axminster, your fuel figures go sub-Antarctic. This is only a concern is you’re paying to the petrol from your own pocket. Such is rarely the case as V8 drivers often find a way to deduct the cost on their tax returns. A thrifty pointer to be sure.

Once upon a time there was no question that Australian built cars lagged very far behind the world in both build and design. They were course and common, and felt like a poverty stricken village idiot cousin compared to posh well-made Euros. But, consider this; to get the same thing from BMW, Mercedes or Audi Holden SSV LS3 Holden SSV Redline VFII Gaycarboys (8)you’re going to need many more shekels, in fact twice as many at least. Sure, you get a much nicer interiors and many posh inclusions but the options lists on Europeans will make your nose bleed. I am sure that there are Audi RS drivers fairly gnashing their teeth when, at flat strap, they’re overtaken by a humble Commodore as if they’re standing still.

The VFII interior has little change from the VF but the Redline gets nifty gadgets like the fab HUD (heads up display) which is a pop-up glass panel fighter-jet-style. The Bi-modal exhaust previously seen in the hot HSV’s puts in a welcome appearance. You find yourself putting your foot down in almost any gear to open the gates of hell. If you enjoy being the centre of attention, the most glorious roar from the chrome-tipped pipes out back will do the job.

More fun cannot be had for this money although a Scooby comes close.

My idea of perfection is an SSV Redline in manual. White or red are the preferred colours.

Here is the full list of goodies straight from the horse’s mouth:

New Features to Commodore VFII Range

SV6

  • Passive entry / Passive start
  • New front fascia and grille
  • New 18 inch alloy wheels
  • New LED tail lamp (Sportwagon only)

SS

  • 6.2 litre LS3 V8 engine
  • Bi-modal exhaust and mechanical sound enhancer
  • Passive entry / Passive start
  • New front fascia and grille
  • Hood vents
  • New 18 inch alloy wheels
  • New LED tail lamp (Sportwagon only)
  • Performance brake option

SSV

  • 6.2 litre LS3 V8 engine
  • Bi-modal exhaust and mechanical sound enhancer
  • New front fascia and grille
  • Hood vents
  • Colour Head Up Display
  • New 19 inch alloy wheels
  • Clear lens on tail lamps (sedan only)
  • New LED tail lamp (Sportwagon only)
  • Performance brake option

SSV Redline

  • 6.2 litre LS3 V8 engine
  • Bi-modal exhaust and mechanical sound enhancer
  • Rear Brembo brakes
  • New front fascia and grille
  • Hood vents
  • Clear lens on tail lamps (sedan only)
  • New 20 inch forged wheel option
  • New LED tail lamp (Sportwagon only)

Calais

  • Heated front seats (with Easy Exit driver seat and memory)
  • 8 way power passenger seat
  • New 18 inch alloy wheels
  • Clear lens on tail lamps (sedan only)
  • New decklid lettering
  • New LED tail lamp (Sportwagon only)

Calais V

  • Optional 6.2 litre LS3 V8 engine
    • with bi-modal exhaust and mechanical sound enhancer
    • Limited Slip Differential
  • New 19 inch alloy wheels
  • Clear lens on tail lamps (sedan only)
  • New decklid lettering
  • New LED tail lamp (Sportwagon only)
  • Performance brake option (V8 models only)
  • Easy Exit driver seat

Caprice V

  • 6.2 litre LS3 V8 engine
  • Lip spoiler
  • New 19 inch alloy wheels
  • Single exhaust tips
  • Performance brake option
  • Easy Exit driver seat

Colour Range

  • Slipstream Blue* (NEW) – available on all models (except Caprice V)
  • Empire Bronze* (NEW) – available on Evoke, Calais, Calais V and Caprice V only
  • Phantom Black*
  • Nitrate Silver*
  • Prussian Steel Grey*
  • Jungle Green* – available on sports models only
  • Some Like It Hot Red*
  • Heron White
  • Red Hot
  • Regal Peacock Green*

*premium paint – $550 option (except on Caprice V – no charge)

Holden VFII Ute makes public debut at famous Deniliquin Ute Muster

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  • Holden reveals most powerful Commodore Ute ever built at the 17th annual Deniliquin Ute Muster
  • VFII Ute V8 now boasts new 6.2-litre LS3 engine
  • Bi-modal exhaust and mechanical sound enhancer standard on all V8 sports models
  • Fans given opportunity to experience virtual reality test drive of Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground with three-time Bathurst 1000 champion Garth Tander at the wheel

Holden has revealed the most powerful Commodore Ute ever, VFII, for the first time at the legendary Deniliquin Ute Muster.

The public debut of the VFII was reserved for Holden fans at the Ute Muster with the VFII Ute joining its sedan and wagon siblings with the introduction of a new 6.2-litre LS3 engine.  The new V8 engine is capable of delivering a staggering 304kW of power and 570Nm of torque, and producing a 0-100km/h sprint time of just 4.9 seconds, making it the quickest Commodore Ute in history.

Working in harmony with VFII’s new 6.2-litre engine, Holden engineers have spent countless hours developing VFII Ute’s new and unique sound character.  Using a newly introduced bi-modal exhaust, a patent pending Holden designed “Baillie Tip” and a mechanical sound enhancer, the sound package combines to ensure you are likely to hear the car before you see it. 

Holden’s track focused, top of the range, SSV Redline VFII Ute builds on the performance of its LS3 V8 engine, introducing Brembo brakes on all four wheels ensuring exceptional and consistent braking performance when pushed to the limits on the track.

Rounding off the upgrades to VFII, Holden designers have introduced functional design changes in the form of front fascia ducts and hood vents, allowing for aerodynamic benefits and increased engine cooling respectively, as well as a range of new wheel designs.

Holden’s Lead Dynamics Engineer, Rob Trubiani, said the entire team was incredibly proud of what they had achieved and was looking forward to the public’s reaction. 

“This has been an especially exciting project as we’ve wanted this engine in this vehicle for some time now so it’s great that it’s finally here and it certainly won’t disappoint,” said Mr. Trubiani.

“It’s a perfect demonstration of how Holden understands the unique needs of Australian ute drivers who want a functional car for the week but with the added performance and character for an engaging weekend drive.

“The Deniliquin Ute Muster is an ideal place for VFII to make its public debut.  The people that attend this event are fans of the car and the brand and we want to show them that they’re important to us.”

In addition to the technical changes, Commodore VFII Ute also boasts the exceptional refinement and handling that Holden has become famous for thanks to extensive tuning work done at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground and test rides across Victoria. 

Holden’s Chief Engineer, Andrew Holmes, said the years of hard work developing VFII ensure it is a thrilling and engaging ride, and a fitting car to be launched to the 20,000 strong Deniliquin crowd first.

“We’ve been working on this car for a while now and are excited to see it make its debut at Deni. The new 6.2-litre LS3 engine, combined with its unique sound character makes an already thrilling sports vehicle, even more special,” said Mr. Holmes.

“We have tested the Ute alongside sedan and wagon, completing in the region of 250,000kms of development driving and can say this is absolutely the best car we have ever engineered and we know our customers will enjoy driving VFII as much as we enjoyed creating it.”

In addition to the VFII Ute reveal, Holden will invite fans to experience a virtual reality tour of the top secret Lang Lang proving ground with three-time Bathurst 1000 champion, Garth Tander, in the driver’s seat.  Powered by Oculus Rift technology, the drive takes in numerous parts of the test facility whilst allowing fans to still enjoy the entertainment on show at the Ute Muster.

Commodore VFII goes on sale in October with demand for the unbridled V8 variant expected to be extremely strong.  Customers wishing to register their interests can do so at their local Holden dealer or via the Holden website.

New Features to Commodore VFII Ute Range

SV6

  • Passive entry / Passive start
  • New front fascia and grille
  • New 18 inch alloy wheels

SS (above SV6)

  • 6.2 litre LS3 V8 engine
  • Bi-modal exhaust with mechanical sound enhancer
  • Passive entry / Passive start
  • New front fascia and grille
  • Hood Vents
  • New 18 inch alloy wheels
  • Performance brake option

SSV (above SS)

  • 6.2 litre LS3 V8 engine
  • Colour Head Up Display
  • New 19 inch alloy wheels

SSV Redline (above SS-V)

  • 6.2 litre LS3 V8 engine
  • Rear Brembo brakes
  • New 20 inch forged wheel option

Colour Range

  • Slipstream Blue* (NEW)
  • Phantom Black*
  • Nitrate Silver*
  • Prussian Steel Grey*
  • Jungle Green* – available on sports models only
  • Some Like It Hot Red*
  • Heron White
  • Red Hot
  • Regal Peacock Green*

*premium paint – $550 option (except on Caprice V – no charge)

Pricing

Recommended retail price^ of the Commodore VFII range is as follows:

VFII Ute

  • Evoke, V6 Auto                                               $33,490
  • SV6, V6 Man / Auto                                        $33,990 / $36,190
  • SS, V8 Man / Auto                                          $40,990 / $43,190
  • SSV, V8 Man / Auto                                       $44,490 / $46,690
  • SSV Redline, V8 Man / Auto                           $50,490 / $52,690

Optional performance brakes and 20 inch wheels    

  • Performance brakes (V8s only)                     $350
  • 20 inch forged alloy wheels (redline only)      $1,500

Holden’s Lifetime Capped Price Servicing, the largest of its kind in Australia, will also available on the Commodore VFII range rewarding customers with complete peace of mind.

^ Recommended retail price excluding dealer delivery, on roads costs and government charges

All-new Astra makes public debut at IAA, Frankfurt; confirmed for Australian release late in 2016

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All-new Astra makes public debut at IAA, Frankfurt; confirmed for Australian release late in 2016 gaycarboysAll-new Astra_Apple Car Play gaycarboys

 

 

  • Sleek and stylish next-generation Astra revealed at Frankfurt Motor Show
  • All-new vehicle architecture means up to 130kg weight saving for Australian models
  • New 1.4 litre and 1.6 litre turbo petrol engines offer more power and leading fuel economy; 5-door variant confirmed for Australia 
  • New high-tech Astra comes equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in advanced infotainment system
  • Holden engineering team involved in global chassis tuning and development

The all-new Astra was revealed today at the 2015 International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany, giving Australians another taste of what is to come in Holden’s new-model onslaught that will see 24 new models introduced over the next five years.

Destined for a late 2016 release by Holden in Australia, the new Astra is a clean-sheet design from Opel’s European headquarters in Russelsheim, focusing on style and efficiency whilst following the ‘Sculptural Artistry meets German Precision’ design philosophy introduced on the stunning Monza concept in 2013.

Mark Bernhard, Holden Chairman and Managing Director, said the all-new Astra promised Australian customers European style and sophistication, coupled with outstanding efficiency, state-of-the-art technology and connectivity features that signal the future for the Holden brand and its vehicles.

“The all-new Astra is a stunning car and clearly signposts Holden’s future product strategy – bringing in the best cars from around the GM world for our customers.  The Astra offers leading design, performance and technology, and is the latest vehicle to be confirmed as part of Holden’s new product onslaught that promises 24 new models by 2020,” Mr Bernhard said. 

“Astra has made a giant leap forward with a new engine line-up, lightweight design and an advanced infotainment system complete with Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility.

“The 5-door Astra is a perfect small car for Australians and I am excited to say that, following local engineering input to ensure its performance is optimised for our unique road conditions, Holden will be offering this car in late 2016 alongside the recently launched Astra GTC and VXR sports hatches.”

Astra utilises a completely new vehicle architecture, facilitating a sleek new look and weight reduction of up to 130 kilograms for Australian models, lending to a more engaging driving experience.

The drive experience is further enhanced with the employment of an engine portfolio consisting of 1.4-litre turbo and 1.6-litre turbo engines, both with the ability to blend exceptional fuel economy with effortless performance. 

Making its debut in Astra, the all-aluminum, 1.4-litre ECOTEC Direct Injection turbo engine is capable of producing up to 114kW of power and 240Nm of torque with a targeted fuel consumption of as little as 5.6L/100km.  Alternatively, customers can select the sportier 1.6-litre ECOTEC Direct Injection turbo engine, boasting up to 147kW of power and a class leading 300Nm of torque.

Holden engineers have shared their expertise and experience in contributing to global development rides as well as driving change into Astra’s chassis controls tuning to ensure the car performs well on Australian roads.

Ian Butler, Holden Director of Vehicle Performance, said the design and performance of Astra promised an exceptional small car that, with involvement of Holden’s engineering team during its development, would be perfectly suited to Australians.

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“This car has been designed and engineered in Europe to the highest standards and with our chassis tuning input it will excel on Australian roads,” Mr. Butler said.

“The new engine line-up and new, lightweight architecture combine to deliver a refined yet engaging driving experience, maintaining the characteristics the Astra nameplate is famous for.”

Elsewhere, the exterior styling of the all-new Astra, exudes efficiency and style.  Clean, flowing design lines coupled with a floating effect roof and reduction in length and height ensure a leaner, more streamlined body, resulting in an improvement in aerodynamics.

Inside the car, and despite its reduction in exterior size, Astra actually boasts increased rear-seat legroom, complimented by a contemporary cockpit design that is headed by an advanced colour touch screen display housing the latest smartphone integration technology via Apple Car Play and Android Auto. 

Peter Keley, Executive Director – Sales said, the all-new Astra was sure to shake up the very competitive small-car market, offering style, performance and features in one compelling package.

“Make no mistake, the all-new Astra is a world class car.  Its ability to combine outstanding fuel economy with exceptional small car performance and connectivity features will put Holden back on buyer’s shopping list,” Mr. Keley said.

“More and more Australian drivers demand their cars to integrate seamlessly with their lives and their smartphones and key to Astra’s appeal is the advanced infotainment system, complete with Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility. 

“With all of that in one package, we are confident that this vehicle will connect with customers and sitting next to the popular Astra GTC and VXR sports hatches, clearly indicates the quality of Holden’s future product range.”

The exciting, all-new Astra will be launched by Holden in Australia in late 2016 and is part of the brands ongoing product onslaught following the release of a range of European sourced current generation products earlier in 2015.