Holden's Calais Is All Class
Holden's Commodore isn't Australia's favorite car without good reason, and the latest range-topping Calais V-Series has stepped up to the plate with genuine luxury and style.
We tested the Calais V-Series with Holden's standout SIDI direct injection V6 and this package really highlights why the Aussie company is one of the jewels in General Motors' global hierarchy.
What You Get
Whether you're buying a Calais V-Series as a private family sedan or as your company car, be prepared to be pampered with lots of luxury and technology including leather seats that look - and smell - just great and a rear seat DVD player complete with roof-mounted fold-down screen, headphones and remote control.
And of course you get that superbly engineered, economical SIDI V6 and a well-developed drivetrain and chassis which makes every day driving enjoyable even for enthusiasts.
Wrap all that together and the result is a full-size sedan that can proudly stand toe-to-toe with rival vehicles anywhere in the world.
Under The Hood
We're not alone in applauding Holden's SIDI engines which debuted with the 2010 Model Year Commodores. Like the SV6 sedan and ute and the long wheelbase Statesman and Caprice models, the Calais gains the 3.6-litre V6 SIDI powerplant (Omega, Berlina and Sportwagon get the 3.0-litre engine).
With 210kW/350Nm, the Calais V-Series V6 we tested had lots of performance but for those who want more, the 270kW/530Nm V8 remains an option. For fuel consumption, the Calais we tested is rated at 10.1l/100km and the emissions are 241 g/km.
SIDI (Spark Ignition Direct Injection) directs fuel directly into the combustion chamber for improved fuel distribution and allows a higher (11.3:1) compression ratio for improved performance and efficiency. Leading German brands like Volkswagen, Audi and BMW use the same technology.
Calais V-Series drives the rear wheels via Holden's new 6L50 six-speed automatic transmission. That new auto is lighter, dimensionally smaller and provides reduced engine load for better fuel economy.
With its 73 litre fuel tank, Commodore with the SIDI engine has a long range between refills - Sydney to Melbourne on one tank with the 3.0-litre Omega.
Inside the Calais V-Series is a very pleasant, well-appointed place to be.
Holden's interior division clearly has a great leather supplier because the trim is first class. The drivers' seat has eight-way power adjustment while the front passenger has four-way adjustment.
Combine that seating flexibility with the rake/reach adjustment of the leather-wrapped steering wheel and a great driving position is achieved rapidly. Instrumentation consists of conventional dials but Calais V-Series gains a 6.5-inch multi-function screen for the centre console.
The 6-disc CD audio system can also be controlled via steering wheel buttons. It's MP3/Bluetooth compatible and there's an auxiliary input jack.
Access to the rear seat is enormous, child seats fitted easily and the Car Showroom juniors found instant love in the form of the roof-mounted DVD player with their own headphones and remote control.
Exterior & Styling
Holden's VE Series Commodores still look good, three years into their model life. Calais V-Series rides on 18-inch alloy wheels and also gains fog lights, projector headlights and a rear spoiler.
The quad exhausts get chrome tips and the exterior mirrors have automatic dipping in reverse and puddle lamps which illuminate the ground around the doors.
Combine all that and the result for the Calais is a stylish, purposeful look that is clearly a step above other Commodores
On The Road
Calais has lots of the latest driver aids including Electronic Stability Control with ABS anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Electronic Brake Assist (EBA) plus traction control.
Suspension is Holden's well-developed independent front end and multi-link rear.
It's a polished package which delivers sure-footed road holding and the sort of feedback demanded by enthusiast drivers. Our Calais turned-in nicely and wasn't perturbed by mid-corner bumps.
And of course the excellent response and power delivery of the 3.6-litre V6 -- nicely matched to the six-speed auto -- is always a Commodore highlight.
Around town, Commodore isn't the smallest car on the block but its 11.4-metre turning circle helps tight parking situations.
There's no doubt that SIDI V6 is a beauty, however in the luxury Calais application, refinement - especially under load - is a little lacking. Extra sound-deadening would complete the Calais luxury feel.
And we'd like to see the satellite navigation system moved from the options list to be standard equipment - appropriate for a world-class luxury vehicle like the Calais V-Series.
All things considered, the Calais V-Series is a competent large-size sedan with lots of luxury kit. Nice to drive and sharply priced, Holden has stepped-up the Calais very well.
Naturally it's Falcon and Aurion.
Ford's FG-Series G6E has a similarly long list of features, looks the part and is nicely priced. Toyota's Presaro & Sportivo Aurion models are also well-equipped and handily priced but aren't quite the equal of the Calais V-Series for driving engagement.
Well-equipped, nice to drive, spacious interior
Could do with standard sat nav and a bit more refinement