The Calais is a magnificent piece of machinery for the price, with presence, performance and a wealth of technology that makes a compelling case.
Base price: $66,790.
Powertrain and performance: 3.6-litre petrol V6, 210kW/350Nm, 6-speed automatic, rear-drive, Combined economy 9.8 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4950mm long, 1474mm high, wheelbase 2915mm, luggage capacity 496 litres, fuel tank 71 litres, 19-inch alloy wheels.
We like: Presence, equipment, succeeds in creating semi-luxury cabin ambience.
We don’t like: Still a little behind on refinement, shine has gone off new model this week after Holden called time on Australian manufacturing.
How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
Well, the timing isn’t ideal on this one. Just as we were readying a road test on the Calais V, the news came through that Holden would be shutting down its Australian manufacturing operations in 2017.
Does that change how we should look at the Calais? In some respects, yes. It’s now certain to be the last-ever Australian-design and built sedan. If you were being unkind, you might think of it as the car that failed to save the company.
But in many respects, nothing has changed. The Commodore/Calais will continue its production run as it was intended to do. Beyond this generation, although Holden always said it intended to make another Commodore, there was never going to be a completely Australian model to replace it. This was always going to be the end of the road for Aussie big-six.
The VF-generation Commodore/Calais is still a car that Holden poured everything it had into, with impressive results. The buyer still gets the benefit, regardless of the news that the company will stop making cars in 2017.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
Since the groundbreaking VE series of 2006, the Calais has not lacked driver appeal. The VF is better still, with much work on steering calibration and further-enhanced handling.
Making such a large family car means Holden can offer rear-wheel drive and plenty of performance. The Calais V comes with a direct-injection 3.6-litre V6, although keen buyers with oil company shares can also opt for the 6.0-litre V8.
So yes, it’s fun. But one of the biggest dynamic improvements for VF has been in refinement. It’s still not right up there with the best Japanese and European models (remember, this is a $66,990 machine), with a coarse engine note and a hint of that familiar transmission whine around town. But overall the noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels of the Calais are low enough not to be a major issue. And low enough not to spoil the pseudo-luxury demeanor of this upmarket model.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?
The Calais is still a big car and proud of it, with space for five adults and a massive boot.
However, Holden has invested a lot of energy (and money) in making sure the latest Commodore/Calais is not a hassle to run for the average driver. Aside from the work in refinement, the car has a wealth of driver-assistance technology designed to take the intimidation factor right out of piloting a five-metre-long sedan.
So Calais V doesn’t just come with a parking camera, for example. It can actually park itself using radar and the new electric power steering system. A cross-traffic alert function will also warn you of approaching traffic when you are reversing out of a space.
Want more? There is a blind-spot warning system and lane departure alert. A colour head-up display means you can keep your eyes on the road at all times. This car is absolutely packed with technology.
Holden has also done a decent job of giving the Calais cabin an air of luxury. The quality of plastics is arguably not as good as the previous VF, but the overall impression is better because it’s been cleverly garnished – the suede-like insert across the passenger’s side of the dashboard being a good example. It’s a car built down to a price for sure, but the bits you touch are actually quite nice.
SHOULD I BUY ONE?
We could argue all day about whether large sedans are still relevant – although perhaps the argument would last a bit less time in light of Holden’s recent news (bearing in mind the Ford Falcon will also disappear in 2016).
But let’s say there is still some demand for a semi-luxury ‘big six’ right here, right now as we charge. The Calais is a magnificent piece of machinery for the price, with presence, performance and a wealth of technology that makes a compelling case.
Air conditioning: Dual climate
Audio: CD, iPod compatible, eight-inch MyLink touch screen
Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
Blind spot warning: Yes and reverse traffic alert
Cruise control: Yes
Driver footrest: Yes
Head-up display: Yes, colour
Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
Lane guidance: Yes
Leather upholstery: Yes
Parking radar: Yes with camera
Power boot or tailgate: No
Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
Rear ventilation outlets: Yes
Remote audio controls: Yes
Satellite navigation: Yes
Seat height adjustment: Yes
Self-parking technology: Yes
Split/folding rear seats: No
Steering reach adjustment: Yes
Trip computer: Yes
Find a Holden Calais VF HERE