2013 HOLDEN CALAIS REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Large sedan
Price: $39,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 210kW/350Nm 6cyl petrol | 6spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.0 l/100km | tested: 9.3 l/100km
Champagne tastes and beer budgets aren’t always the best of buddies.
But what does this have to do with the VF Calais? Well, it can be yours for a whisker under forty grand (before on-roads) - that's in beer budget territory - but the good news is that there is very much the premium feel to this big home-grown sedan.
More like Champagne then? Yes, we think so.
This Calais comes with a proper high-end fit out. It's good enough to leave Euro full-sizers gasping and is a threat to a swag of similarly-priced SUVs and those rampant midsized Germans.
Quality: This is the absolute triumph of the VF program. This interior is probably the best-crafted ever to find its way into an Aussie car.
It may not carry the innovation of Ford’s clever Territory, but the soft seats, and leather and suede dash look top-notch.
Trim highlights in satin metal and chrome could put a premium Euro to shame; there's also a neat ‘technical’ look to the decor and the dash and wheel look fresh and modern.
A tiny niggle (and the press fleet is mostly early-build cars) was a loose-feeling park brake button, but things were otherwise tight and rattle free.
Comfort: If a big car like this wasn’t comfortable, there’d be a problem. Those big broad buckets are comfort to a 'T'.
The powered driver’s seat makes it easy to settle in. There’s a bit of side-support for long hauls and the cushion padding is a little soft, but not engulfing.
In the rear, three adults can easily fit across the bench, and even the centre position is no firmer or less viable. There is that centre tunnel to straddle though.
Equipment: Standard Calais equipment includes front and rear park-sensors, reversing camera, self-parking assist, blind-spot alert, reverse traffic alert, dual zone climate control, powered driver’s seat, leather trim and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The list extends to auto headlights, proximity key with remote start, multi-function steering wheel, cruise-control and voice recognition (Siri eyes-free where compatible).
In the dash an eight-inch touch screen controls the six-speaker audio system, which as well as CD, MP3 and AM/FM playback and Bluetooth audio and telephony, also includes internet radio apps for the included Pandora and Stitcher streaming services.
Storage: Hit the boot-release button and the new aluminium boot lid is light enough to lift itself and reveals 495 litres of storage space. Rear seatbacks remain fixed, with a folding ski-port for longer items.
Cabin storage includes generous glovebox and console areas, a bottle holder for each door, plus a variety of handy small item nooks in the centre console.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: While the 3.6 litre V6 is a carry-over from the VE Commodore, that’s no big issue. With 210kW at 6700rpm and 350Nm at 2800rpm, the V6 engine is strong enough to easily and effortlessly shift the big Calais.
Most noticeable around town is the way the bigger V6 variant uses its extra torque to good effect, compared to the 3.0 litre Evoke. The six-speed auto has also been fettled, taking some of the hesitation out of the VE’s shift cycles.
Get out of town and overtaking is a cinch, kickdown response is accurate and the power delivery smooth.
In the interests of fuel consumption the auto (like so many) is quick to shuffle through gears. For more eager progress though, selecting the sport shift pattern really awakens the gearbox.
A quick belt through the hills in sport-mode proved the auto will hold onto revs when required and isn’t afraid to hang onto a lower gear though the bends. And the V6 really comes on song from 3000rpm and above.
Refinement: From idle to the top of the rev range, the V6 is smooth and quiet, and only makes itself heard when pressing on.
The settled transmission also helps the feeling of calm with smooth shifts and free of hunting. Ford’s ZF six-speeder might still have the upper hand, but it’s a much closer race.
Across a variety of surfaces the interior of the car remained hushed, with both wind and road noise very well attenuated.
Suspension: VF models have a new aluminium front suspension, joining the multi-link independent rear.
The Calais rides on the same ‘Touring’ suspension tune as the Evoke; while comfort is the prime directive, there’s still impressive levels of control during spirited driving.
Importantly though, be it speed-humps or torn rural tarmac, the Calais rides out Australia’s notoriously choppy road surfaces without jarring or shocking occupants.
Braking: The four-wheel disc brakes of the Calais, with dual-piston front and single piston rear calipers, are up to the task. Braking isn’t agressive, but the pedal offers adjustable control and progressive stopping.
ANCAP rating: 5 stars
Safety features: Dual front, side and curtain airbags, ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, stability and traction control with trailer sway control, break-away pedals, seat belt warning for all seats.
Calais and Calais V models also gain height adjustable front seatbelts and adjustable rear head restraints.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km (whichever occurs first)
Service costs: Holdenwise capped price servicing covers the first four services up to three years or 60,000km. Service intervals are every nine months or 15,000km and standard service costs will not exceed $185.
Consult your Holden dealer for full terms, conditions and exclusions.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Chrysler 300 Limited ($43,000) - With imposing looks, the 300 stands out from the crowd. Its large size makes it right at home among Aussie contenders.
The 300 offers a strong features list, with standouts like Xenon headlight, tyre-pressure monitoring and an eight-speed auto. Interior presentation is impressive, but boot space not as large. (see 300 reviews)
Ford Falcon G6 ($40,835) - Your move, Ford. With an updated falcon not due until 2014, the FG MkII soldiers on, but lacks the impressive technology found in the Calais.
Passenger accommodation and on road behaviour are every bit as good as the Calais, and we find the Falcon’s six-speed auto just a little sharper. In G6 spec, equipment is a fair way behind what Holden currently offers. (see Falcon reviews)
Toyota Aurion Prodigy ($41,490) - It may be a Camry beneath the skin, but the sweet V6 of the Aurion means it can keep up with the rest of the large car crew. Towing is a Aurion weakness, with the 1600kg towing capacity the smallest here.
Rear seat space isn’t as plentiful, and despite being well-built the interior is a little anonymous. (see Aurion reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Not everyone needs a large car, but when they offer the levels of equipment, comfortable interior and superb ride comfort of the Calais then everyone should at least take a look.
Superbly equipped, with a noticeable luxury feel and high-end fittings. The clincher is the price: the Calais sits below a four-cylinder Euro mid-sizer.
Families will love the space. Rural buyers will love the long-haul comfort. City shoppers will benefit from the self-parking and streaming technology.
There isn’t an Aussie buyer that hasn’t in some way been catered for with the VF Calais. Buyers would be mad ignore this cracking sedan and the outstanding value it represents.
PRICING (Excludes on-road costs)
Recommended retail prices, comparing new VF to VE, excluding dealer delivery and government charges:
Evoke (auto only)
SS-V Redline (manual)
Calais (auto only)
Calais V V6 (auto only)
Calais V V8 (auto only)
Sportwagon body style adds $2000 including GST (auto transmission only)
Automatic transmission adds $2200 including GST (Sports models only)
Prestige paint adds $550 including GST