The skinny: Call it the strangest of bedfellows – the Holden Calais V Sportwagon mixes a 6.2-litre V8 and bi-modal exhaust with wagon practicality, comfort suspension and luxurious specification.
Priced from $57,490 plus on-road costs, the Calais V Sportwagon is the shared pinnacle of a VF Series II range that itself is the peak of Commodore’s 37-year career.
We say shared because you can, in Sportwagon bodystyle, choose this luxury Calais or a Commodore SS V Redline, that, for similar money (from $58,190), trades some premium features (power passenger seat, heated front seats) for sports suspension and bigger brakes and tyres.
Vehicle Style: Large wagon
Price: $57,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 304kW/570Nm 6.2-litre V8 petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 12.9 l/100km | tested: 14.3 l/100km
The VF Series II range is a big-block outgoing-bang for the Commodore as it heads towards the end of local production. The iconic nameplate will then live on in some other locally tuned, but fully imported model that will lack a V8 option.
Holden has previously needed to conform to the government’s Green Car Innovation Fund that used taxpayer money (what Holden called co-investment) to make the Commodore lighter and more efficient. However, engineers can now give V8 buyers more of what they want – power, not economy.
The VF Series II moves from a 6.0 to a 6.2-litre engine in V8 versions, and grunt increases from 260kW/517Nm to a mighty 304kW/570Nm.
Those numbers deliver a 0-100km/h claim a lick under 5.0 seconds. Consumption, however, increases from 11.7 l/100km to 12.9 l/100km.
Holden no longer needs to woo pollies; just buyers. The VF Series II looks set to do just that.
- Standard equipment: cruise control, power windows and mirrors, keyless auto-entry, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, leather seat trim with front heating, electrically adjustable driver and passenger seat, rain-sensing wipers, head-up display
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch touchscreen with USB/AUX inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Pandora and Stitcher apps connectivity and satellite navigation
- Cargo volume: 895 litres (2000 litres back-seat folded)
There are no changes to the VF Series II cabin compared to the 2013 original and some of the materials remain of the hard and scratchy variety.
However, few rivals can deliver such a convincing blend of design quality, standard equipment, seat comfort and outright space. Certainly any European vehicle at a similar price will be smaller and offer less standard features.
From the intuition of the bright touchscreen infotainment system (with internet apps connectivity and great nav) to the standard technology (head-up display, blind-spot monitor, lane departure warning and forward collision warning), the flagship Commodore is strong value.
The front seats are supportive, the driving position is spot-on, the rear bench offers vast acreage and the luggage area is unsurpassed with its 895-litre volume. The only disappointment concerns the lack of adjustable headrests in the rear, as featured in the sedan (which gets only a 495-litre boot).
Speaking of the sedan, the Calais V Sportwagon comes at a $2000 premium yet it also loses the electric sunroof and nine-speaker Bose audio – items we were hoping Holden would add with the Series II update.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 304kW/570Nm 6.2 litre naturally aspirated petrol V8
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front and rear discs
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering, turning circle: 11.4m
- Towing capacity: 1200kg (unbraked), 2100kg (braked)
If you want, you can choose the suave 3.6-litre V6 in the Calais V Sportwagon from $49,990.
However, if you’re spending another $7500 to purchase the 6.2-litre V8 that we’re testing here, then you clearly care about performance.
Swapping the former model’s 6.0-litre for the larger LS2 6.2-litre engine, plus the addition of the bi-modal exhaust, has transformed the character of the Calais V Sportwagon.
Where this model has always delivered a distant V8 rumble and strong performance, in VF Series II guise it ridicules anything before it.
The combination of ‘touring’ suspension and comfort-oriented Bridgestone Turanza tyres dealing with 304kW and 570Nm can be hilarious.
Rarely does the Calais V Sportwagon feel overpowered, however it also demands respect.
The plush suspension can take time to settle over country bumps, and the chassis demands a delicate touch as it moves around between bends, but there is an intimacy to the feel through the wheel that is really satisfying.
Feeling a large luxury car breathe with the road while not feeling the bumpy surface reinforces that upmarket sense of maturity and balance.
It is echoed in the steering response which is sharp yet free of nervousness, and with a sweet ‘middle weighting’.
Once turned in to a corner only then can full throttle be deployed. The rear-end squats as the nose rises and the Calais V Sportwagon bellows like a bull and simply inhales the road.
The six-speed automatic is a smooth partner and intuitive in Sport mode. Choose the manual mode and the auto responds instantly to a tipshift, although paddles are reserved for the SS V Redline, as is a ‘sports stability control’ mode.
It is, at the very least, incredibly muscular and very rapid first-class travel.
Back off the throttle and the Calais V returns to being a quiet, immensely strong luxury car, rarely requiring beyond 2000rpm even on big climbs.
While the Calais V’s country road ride is brilliantly isolated, the 19-inch wheels affect its low-speed urban ride by snagging on potholes. The 18-inch wheels of the ‘non V’ Calais work more harmoniously with the suspension – but that standard model isn’t available with the V8 engine.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - The VF Commodore range scored 35.06 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Six airbags including dual-front, front-side and full-length curtain, ABS, ESC, auto park assist, front and rear parking sensors, reverse-view camera, forward collision alert, reverse traffic alert, blind-spot monitor and lane-departure warning
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Does a 6.2-litre V8 wagon for under $60K have rivals? If you only need a sedan, the fastest Falcon in luxurious G6E specification is the only choice.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Holden Calais V Sportwagon when optioned with the 6.2-litre V8 is a very complete package. If you want it to be quiet, luxurious, plush and roomy, it can be all those things.
Step up the pace and it can be as fast, snarly and involving as you want it to be (or until your nerve fails).
So although the Calais V sedan gets a better stereo and sunroof for less, and the SS V Redline with sportier mechanicals could be a better fit for the power, the alluring Calais V Sportwagon arguably boasts the broadest skill-set of the lot.
In any case, choose with confidence because all VF Series II models with the new V8 engine make for a cracking ‘latest and last’ local Commodore.
Don’t go looking for fuel efficiency, but this is the monster we hoped it might be. We have a very great affection and respect for this car.