Holden’s Calais V-Series Sportwagon brings a touch of luxury and SIDI fuel economy for buyers of V6-powered full-size Aussie wagons.
With its sumptuous leather interior, rear-seat DVD entertainment system and nice driving dynamics, the Calais V-Series Sportwagon really has something for everyone – mum, dad and the youngsters.
What You Get
Car Showroom tested the 3.6-litre V6-powered Calais V-Series Sportwagon – the 6.0-litre V8 is an option – and really this is Holden doing what it does best. The Sportwagon is an ingenious creation that combines the superb styling of Holden’s VE Commodore with the wagon convenience Australian families and commercial fleet operators love.
No denying the Sportwagon is a large car, but Holden’s excellent chassis engineering ensures it feels nimble and maneuverable through the twists and turns and the SIDI V6 delivers previously unheard-of fuel economy.
Under the Hood
Development of the SIDI 3.6-litre DOHC V6 is a real credit to Holden’s engine development team.
SIDI stands for Spark Ignition Direct Injection and like similar technology used by Volkswagen, Audi and BMW, fuel is injected directly into the combustion chamber for more efficient distribution. This allows for a higher (11.3:1) compression ratio and that means enhanced fuel economy and performance.
The SIDI V6 Calais V-Series Sportwagon delivers 210kW of power at 6400 rpm and peak torque of 350Nm at 2900 rpm. Fuel consumption is rated at 10.3l/100kms and the exhaust emissions are 245g/km, which adds up to a 3.5 star score in the Federal Government’s Green Vehicle Guide.
That’s especially impressive when you consider the Sportwagon has a 73-litre fuel tank, can carry five people, has a 2000 litre cargo capacity and can tow up to 2100kg.
Drive is to the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. Called the 6L50, the new transmission was developed for the SIDI engine and is lighter and smaller than its predecessor; with calibration for reduced engine loads at cruising speeds, it’s also a contributor to reduced fuel consumption.
If it’s been a few years since you’ve last sampled Commodores, the standard of luxury equipment inside the Calais V-Series Sportwagon may astound you. This is a world-class large car luxury interior with abundant leather, electric adjustment for the front seats, dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning and a roof-mounted rear seat DVD player complete with remote control and headphones.
Drivers of all sizes will enjoy the seat adjustment and thick, leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel which moves for rake and reach – a comfortable driving position is instantaneous. Instrumentation consists of the conventional two dials, with a central trip computer display controlled by steering wheel buttons and scrolls.
The 6-disc CD audio system is likewise controlled via the steering wheel and is MP3/Bluetooth compatible.
A 6.5-inch multi-function colour screen dominates the center console. Satellite navigation is an option but pleasingly the rear view camera with guidance lines is standard.
We do like the cleverly designed, wide opening rear doors of the VE Commodore – certainly makes life easier for families with child and booster seats. And the flat-folding 60/40-split rear seat helps families and commercial/fleet buyers who remain stalwarts of Commodore wagons.
Exterior & Styling
With the Sportwagon and its rival Ford Mondeo wagon, it’s fair to say wagons no longer look like the styling ‘Black Sheep’ of the automotive world.
From any angle, Holden’s stylists have successfully combined the aggressive, sporty front end of the VE Commodore with a shapely and nicely packaged wagon rear end. We reckon the proportions are spot-on.
The Calais V-Series’ 18-inch alloy wheels certainly make a major contribution to its stylish, up-market appearance.
On the Road
Families will be secure knowing the Calais V-Series Sportwagon comes standard with front, side and side curtain airbags. In addition, high-tech driver aids including ABS anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Electronic Brake Assist (EBA). Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Traction Control (TCS) are also standard.
Holden’s multi-link rear/independent front suspension is spot-on for large cars like the Commodore. Not surprisingly, its tune and calibration has been developed over a number of years and is admired by automotive engineers throughout the world.
For the Calais V-Series, Holden’s excellent sports suspension set-up -- firmer sports calibration with stiffer springs, reduced ride height and limited-slip differential – is a desirable option pack.
Over our rural roads, the Calais V-Series Sportwagon really strutted its stuff with the poise, balance and responsiveness you would expect from a vehicle developed exclusively on Australian roads. The matching of the 3.6-litre V6 to the six-speed transmission is well done with good response at all engine speeds.
Around town, you can’t avoid the Sportwagon’s size and its 11.4-metre turning circle requires care to park in tight city car parks. That is why (in addition to its safety benefits) the reversing camera is such a good idea – it becomes intuitive and certainly speeds-up reverse parking on the street and in car parks.
We’re not fans of stalks to operate cruise control systems – Holden’s is easier to use than some, but we maintain steering wheel buttons are a better choice.
We also think a luxury vehicle like the Calais needs some extra sound-proofing from the mechanical noise of the engine (all other noises are noticeably low, it’s just the V6 growl that gets a little intrusive by luxury car standards).
And we reckon a luxury car like the Calais V-Series should have satellite navigation as standard.
Holden’s Sportwagon is as good as it gets for Aussie cars – a clever design, world-class engineering and all that space is a combination that’s hard to beat. Now with the SIDI engine, you can toss in 21st century low fuel consumption and emissions.
Ford’s European-sourced Mondeo is one of the world’s great cars and its wagon model is a standout. It’s surprisingly spacious, but at the end of the day is a tad smaller than the Sportwagon.
And while the Mondeo Zetec wagon is powered by a 2.3-litre four cylinder with 118kW/208Nm, it does carry a significant price advantage over the Calais V-Series Sportwagon.
If you’re shopping for a wagon, we do recommend comparing the Ford and Holden products. Particularly if you will not be challenging the load capacity of the Sportwagon, you may find the Mondeo meets all of your needs.
Volkswagen’s Passat wagon and Skoda’s Octavia wagon present similar European credentials.
And from America, Chrysler’s 300C Touring offers a different take on wagon style.
Clever styling; great interior; performance and handling
Needs more refinement for a luxo wagon