Holden Commodore Reviews
So the story goes that NASA spent millions of dollars developing a pen for its astronauts to write in outer space while the Russians gave their cosmonauts pencils. It's not actually true but it does put into perspective what Holden has accomplished with the new dedicated LPG Commodore range - it's a simple solution but highly effective.
While budget conscious consumers have become infatuated with hybrid vehicles for lower running costs and reduced emissions, often they are no more cheaper to run than their diesel rivals and the underpowered hybrid engines are relegated to not so family-friendly small to medium cars. Plus if you believe everything you see on TV, aren't actually all that environmentally friendly either.
The new dedicated LPG Commodore range promises large family car practicality with the running costs and green credentials of a small car, and at just $55 to fill up the 85 litre tank it makes a strong case for itself.
Unlike hybrid vehicles which carry a hefty price premium over a comparable petrol model, the dedicated LPG option is just a $2,500 extra - coupled with the $2,000 government rebate for private buyers makes it just a $500 increase over the petrol models - a cost which Holden says will take consumers less than six months to recoup at the pump.
The LPG system Holden uses is vapour injection - as opposed to liquid injection in Ford's ecoLPI range - which yields less power but better efficiency and lower running costs.
At the heart of the dedicated LPG Commodore range is actually the previous generation non-SIDI 3.6-litre engine which for Holden was a better candidate for the LPG conversion process. With a dedicated fuel type, Holden has been able to optimise the design in several key areas with new fuel injectors, fuel rail, LPG fuel filter, hardened valves and valve seats and an all-new single-exit exhaust system.
Whereas a liquid injection LPG system typically makes more power than petrol as seen in Ford's ecoLPI range, Holden's preference for lower running costs and emissions means the vapour injected LPG engine makes 180kW and 320Nm of torque which is 10kW less than the 3.0-litre direct injection V6 in the Omega but 30Nm more torque.
Overall it has been a well-judged balancing act by Holden considering the fuel savings and near identical driving characteristics behind the wheel.
The engine is mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission with revised shift patterns to compliment the power delivery of the LPG engine, however a manual option is not available which may come as a disappointment to some buyers.
Now it's a bit tricky to get your head around the benefits of LPG, it is actually less economical from a litres per 100km perspective than petrol, but the combustion process - especially from vapour injection - is more efficient resulting in class-leading emissions of just 189g of CO2 per 100km earning the LPG range a 4.5 Green Star Guide rating which is great news for fleet buyers.
Of course with LPG almost half the price of petrol this also means it is still cheaper to run despite the outright and - in this case - somewhat irrelevant fuel economy figure.
From a drivability perspective you would be hard pressed picking an LPG Commodore out of a line-up in a blind test. Holden's system is a far cry from the smelly aftermarket LPG system you would find in a taxi and - aside from a fairly unsubstantial 10 litre loss in the sedan - no boot space has been compromised in fitting the LPG system.
However this has been achieved largely by placing the LPG tank in the space usually occupied by the spare wheel, meaning the LPG Commodore range receives only a tyre inflation kit as standard although a spacesaver or deflated full-sized spare can be added as an optional extra depending on body style.
But the benefits of LPG don't end at the pump, Holden's Managing Director Mike Devereux went to great lengths to highlight the long term benefits of higher LPG uptake from consumers on the nation - even going to far as to praise Ford's efforts with their ecoLPI range which he described as fantastic.
Utilising Australian sourced LPG for the Commodore for one of Australia's top selling cars reduces our dependency on foreign oil, and with current demand peaking at just 1.8 kilotonnes - a far cry from the 2.7 kilotonne production volume prices are much less volatile so it will be rare if ever to get a price shock at the pump.
Just as electric cars have "range anxiety", if LPG availability is worrying you rest assured that more than half the petrol stations - around 3,300 - across Australia carry LPG. But if that still doesn't put your mind at ease the clever boffins at Holden have made a mobile app to tell you exactly where those locations are.
What Holden has done is entered the space race with a pencil but it makes all the sense in the world and if they can overcome the stigma of LPG-powered vehicles then they are onto a winner. Times have changed, if you want your next car to be green, cheap to run, big enough for the whole family and great for the country then you can't go past an LPG Commodore - or Ford for that matter.
It's gas - but not a guzzler.
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