Holden may be stopping production in 2017, but the brand will live on affixed to cars brought in from other parts of the General Motors (GM) empire, beginning with a couple of cars sold under the Opel brand before the company ceased Australian operations after less than a year – the Astra and the Insignia – as well as the new Cascada convertible. All will arrive in dealers in the first half of 2015.
The Holden Cascada will be the company’s first convertible since the Astra TwinTop ceased production in 2009, but unlike the previous model, it comes with a soft top instead of a folding metal roof. Australia-spec cars will be fitted with a 1.6 litre turbocharged Ecotec four-cylinder petrol engine sending 170 PS and 260 Nm to the front wheels via a choice of a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.
The same drivetrain also powers the Holden Astra, for now available only in three-door GTC guise (the company still sells the five-door Cruze). But customers looking to scratch their boy-racer itch can also opt for a higher-performance version from Opel’s OPC range, badged inexplicably as VXR (taken from GM’s UK arm Vauxhall), rather than the company’s own Holden Special Vehicles (HSV).
The Holden Astra VXR’s front wheels will be tortured by a 2.0 litre turbo Ecotec four, this time channelling 280 PS and 400 Nm through a standard fit six-speed manual. A mechanical limited-slip differential, FlexRide adaptive damping and torque steer-reducing HiPer Strut front suspension keeps everything in check.
Stepping up to the Holden Insignia sedan (intriguingly not the facelifted model) will net you just one available variant, the VXR. The 2.8 litre turbocharged V6 produces 321 hp and 435 Nm, mated to a six-speed automatic as standard that sends power to all four wheels.
GM executive vice president and president of GM International Operations (GMIO) Stefan Jacoby also confirmed that the Lang Lang proving ground, used to test all Holdens since 1958, will be retained even after Holden’s production shuts down. Also staying put is GM’s Australian Design Centre, while some 2,900 Holden production jobs will be safe until 2017.
The usage of the VXR badge, on the other hand, will almost certainly make HSV’s life rather difficult. Australian website motoring.com.au reported that while Holden’s performance division did learn of its parent company’s plans, the announcement of the already potent VXR models will make building a future Holden-based variant more of a challenge.
However, the firm remained upbeat, with HSV managing director Tim Jackson saying, “Our business has always been to enhance Holden product and the opportunity to enhance that vehicle from our perspective is still open.” He also confirmed that plans are afoot to build an even hotter Astra, adding that the VXR is “already a great car, which ups the challenge for us to make it better and to establish a business case.”