Since 1984 Calais has been the name of the flagship Commodore, although a degree of complexity was added with the VE in July 2006 when the Calais V-Series took over that role. The Calais has cloth seats with leather bolsters as standard and 17-inch alloys, while the V-Series trumps these with full leather and 18s.
The standard Calais engine is the 3.6-litre V6 but the major upgrade with direct injection makes the six-cylinder version more appealing than it has ever previously been and many buyers will find no need for the optional V8.
What You Get
The Calais is a spacious, well-equipped and stylish prestige sedan that now competes with smaller four-cylinder European and Japanese models on economy, while easily beating most on performance. Its blend of easy torque, luxury cabin, ride and handling designed to tackle this country’s demanding conditions, and sharp styling define the Calais as an absolutely contemporary Australian luxury sedan.
Under The Hood
With 210 kW of power and 350 Nm of torque, the 3.6-litre V6 no longer feels marginal when asked to power such a premium model. It is probable though that six-cylinder Calais customers will be even more impressed with fuel economy in the region of nine litres per 100 kilometres and 7.5 in highway running. The official figure of 9.9 looks very conservative as Car Showroom’s long stint in a Calais saw the average hovering around 7.3!
Carbon emissions are 236 g/km. This engine is still a touch raucous when driven to its limits, but is palpably smoother and more refined than the outgoing port-injected version. Like all the revamped Commodore/Calais VE sedans and Sportwagons, the Calais has a five-star ANCAP rating.
There has never been any such thing as an uncomfortable Calais cabin. While some will specify the optional leather upholstery, the standard blend of plush cloth with leather bolsters is aesthetically satisfying as well as comfortable.
In summary, this interior is classy and understated. The extensive list of standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control, integrated Bluetooth, six-way electrically operated driver’s seat, 6.5-inch colour LCD screen and a high quality six-stacker CD stereo.
Exterior & Styling
When Holden’s designers developed the VE, they obviously had the sporty variants as their priority. The base model Omega which used to come with rather narrow steel wheels and comparatively high profile rubber looked rather odd, while the SS and SS-V variants have always been stunning.
The Calais – intended for a more conservative customer set – is beautifully balanced with its elegant 17-inch wheels filling out the wheel arches nicely. In summary, it is an elegant and contemporary prestige sedan that stands out from the crowd without being ostentatious.
On The Road
Unfortunately, even the Calais name can’t offer an escape from the thick A-pillars which detract from front and side vision. If you are not used to the VE, then you will need to familiarise yourself. These pillars, a mistake which Holden insiders concede, do serve to remind us of the importance of driving skills. With vigilance, you can easily train yourself to ‘drive around’ this problem by being even more conscious of moving your head to look for hidden objects.
The Calais adds a limited slip differential to its technological repertoire and, really, the car is superbly set up to handle whatever road conditions it encounters. In the so-called ride/handling compromise, there really isn’t one: the handling is taut and accurate, the ride plush and well-controlled.
A split-fold rear seat would be welcome. Some of the minor controls require familiarisation and can even be counter-intuitive.
The Calais nameplate has served Holden well but until now has really needed a V8 engine to achieve its potential. This combination of performance, dynamics and spaciousness makes the direct-injection Calais a formidable prestige car.
For 25 years the Calais’s strongest rival has been the equivalent Falcon. That used to be the Fairmont Ghia but is now the G6E. The Ford and Holden enjoy the distinctive technology of rear-wheel drive in this sector. Front-wheel drive competitors include the new Nissan Maxima and Honda Accord. But the fuel economy potential of the new SIDI 3.6-litre engine has sharpened the Calais’ competitiveness.
Distinctive styling, brilliant fuel economy, driving dynamics
Too-fat A-pillars, lack of split-fold rear seat, niggly ergonomics