TERRITORIES once roamed exclusively by Commodores and Falcons hold the key to saving an icon from extinction.
Heartland regions where Holden runs in the veins is pivotal to the success of a new European-sourced line-up that reaches showrooms this month starting from $35,990 drive-away.
"There are plenty of strong opinions out there about how this car will perform,” Holden boss Mark Bernhard says.
"Will our heartland customers buy the next-generation Commodore?
"I challenge any of them to drive the car and then have an opinion.”
Headline attributes of the past have gone.
Sitting in the departure lounge are the V8 and rear-wheel drive.
Staunch revheads can dispel their absence, but national sales figures don't lie. Aussies don't want the Commodore of old, and it's time to move forward.
"Is it a true Commodore? Absolutely. We wouldn't call it one if we didn't think it could live up to the nameplate,” Bernhard says.
"It is going to be different being the first imported Commodore, but it still has our unique Australian DNA.”
While hailing from Germany, the new Commodore speaks fluent Aussie.
Overseas it's called a Buick Regal, as well as an Insignia under Vauxhall and Opel badges, but this isn't exactly the same car.
A team of Aussie engineers and experts have been testing and making under-the-skin changes over more than 200,000km.
Much of that has been done near Melbourne, at Holden's own Lang Lang Proving Ground.
The facility, which is about to receive a $13million upgrade courtesy of parent company General Motors, has wide-ranging bitumen and gravel tracks to simulate everyday conditions. It comes complete with a large contingent of kangaroos, wallabies and snakes.
Changes to the suspension and set-up have been led by engineering guru Rob Trubiani - who's been honing Commodores for two decades. He rates this new model up there with the excitement of Holden's billion-dollar baby, the VE.
"Australians have different driving tastes to Europeans and Americans,” Trubiani said.
"Here we like cars to feel more connected to the road and more engaging to drive. It's all about road feel and steering.”
UNDER THE BONNET
There are three engine choices, the V6 petrol and turbocharged four-cylinder petrol from the United States both partnered to a nine-speed automatic, along with a 2.0-litre diesel from Germany that is mated with an eight-speed self-shifter.
The turbo four-potter is the most powerful entry-level Commodore we've seen.
Already awarded a five-star safety rating, the Commodore comes standard with emergency braking that can automatically apply the anchors if a frontal collision is detected by the in-built camera, functionality that can steer the car back into the lane if the driver wanders, a warning light if you are tailgating, along with front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera.
To gain blind-spot warning and cross-traffic alert you have to step up one rung into RS or Calais.
Radar cruise control is available only on the top-shelf VRX.
Commodore comes in three guises, Liftback (looks like a sedan) as well as Sportswagon and a higher riding Tourer.
Core features across the range include a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, leather steering wheel, eight-way power driver seat, 60-40 split- folding rear seats, alloys and push button start.
The RS gets bigger 18-inch wheels, sporting touches like better seats, body kit, athletic steering wheel and a rear lip spoiler, while wagons have a power tailgate.
Going up a rung into the RS-V is exclusively V6 with the all-wheel drive system, rear sports fascia treatment, wireless charging for compatible phones, eight-inch touchscreen with digital radio and sat nav, heated front seats, eight-inch driver digital display, gear-changing paddles on the steering wheel and alloy pedals.
The VXR is available in Liftback only, picking up the best of what's on offer including selectable mode adaptive suspension, Brembo brakes up front, sunroof, 360-degree camera, ventilated and heated front seats with power side bolsters, Bose audio and cool LED headlights that project up to 400m of light.
Calais models are more luxury focused, available on the Tourer (which sits about 50mm high than the normal wagon) and Liftback variants. They have 18-inch alloys, leather trim, heated front seats, the bigger eight-inch touchscreen, a 4.2-inch driver's cluster, along with the V6 option with Tourers.
Calais-V adds 20-inch alloys, rear spoiler, electric sunroof in the Liftback and a panoramic version in the Tourer, the LED headlights, bigger driver display, 360-degree camera, Bose sound system, colour head-up display, along with front chairs that have power bolsters and a massage function.
Colours include white (flat and metallic), two red hues, silver, grey, black and blue.
Compared to the VF, this new Commodore has shrunk in all directions. Yet take a seat inside and it feels generous in proportions.
The space around the front passengers is nearly identical as the old model, although they are sitting closer together with a smaller centre console.
Rear headroom is ample, and the front-wheel drive models actually have extra legroom courtesy of no transmission tunnel.
There is still some hard plastics around the glovebox and below the dash, but collectively the cabin feels modern and easily navigated - even the indicators are on the right.
From the outside the Commodore reeks of European style, even though Aussie designers had input throughout the project.
AT A GLANCE
2018 Holden Commodore Liftback, Sportswagon and Tourer
ENGINES 2.0-litre 4-cyl 191kW/350Nm with nine speed auto FWD; 3.6-litre V6 235kW/381Nm with nine speed auto AWD; 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel 125kW/400Nm with eight speed auto FWD.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING Three-year 100,000km warranty. Service intervals are annual or every 12,000km, capped price servicing at an average of $307 for the petrol and $327 for the diesel each over seven visits.
CONSUMPTION 4cyl petrol 7.7-7.9litres/10km; V6 9.1L; diesel 5.7L/100km.
SPARE Space saver, repair goop in VXR
TOWING V6 2100kg, 4cyl 1800kg, tow ball 90kg.
LT 2.0-litre turbo *$33,690
Calais 2.0-litre turbo *$40,990
Calais-V V6 AWD$51,990
RS 2.0-litre turbo$37,290
RS V6 AWD$40,790
RS-V V6 AWD$46,990
VXR V6 AWD$55,990
LT 2.0-litre turbo *$35,890
RS 2.0-litre turbo$39,490
RS-V V6 AWD$49,190
Calais Tourer V6 AWD$45,990
Calais-V Tourer V6 AWD$53,990
- Diesel available - $3000 premium