General Motors’ overseas brands have some news that may affect U.S. buyers. GM is rolling out a new version of the Opel Insignia which, for the first time, will also be sold in Australia, as the Holden Commodore. Since the current Insignia shares a platform with the Buick Regal, the new Insignia will likely serve as the basis for a redesigned version of that model as well.
The merger of the Insignia and Commodore is also significant because it marks the end of Holden’s rear-wheel drive, V8-powered sedans. These enthusiast-friendly cars survived in Australia long after they were phased out in the U.S., but GM’s decision to end Australian car production will be their death knell. Versions of the current-generation Commodore are sold in the U.S. as the Chevrolet Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle, and the civilian Chevrolet SS.
Instead of a tire-smoking V8 muscle car, the next Holden Commodore will be a mild-mannered machine based on the same “E2” platform used by the Chevy Malibu. Front-wheel drive will be standard, with all-wheel drive optional. The all-wheel drive system can split torque between the front and rear axles, as well as between the rear wheels to improve handling. The system may make its way into the next Regal.
In Australia, the Commodore will be offered with 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline and diesel four-cylinder engines, as well as 308-horsepower V6. The latter will only be available with all-wheel drive, and a nine-speed automatic transmission. Both gasoline engines may make it to the U.S., but the diesel seems less likely. While the Commodore and Insignia will be offered as hatchbacks and wagons, expect the U.S.-market Buick to be offered only as a sedan.
Using the same platform for multiple models in different regions will undoubtedly save GM money, and the switch to front-wheel drive in Australia is ultimately a sensible decision (there’s a reason why other markets largely abandoned rear-wheel drive decades ago, after all). But the plan is still a blow to car enthusiasts, who will miss the sportier rear-wheel drive Holdens.
The next-generation Opel Insignia is expected to debut at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show in March, with the Holden Commodore and Buick Regal derivatives following sometime after that.