We say goodbye to one of Australia’s luxury car icons, the Holden Calais
The Holden Calais badge has a history spanning over 30 years. The “Calais” name first debuted on the VK series, and since then has always set out to appeal to customers that want something locally made, but with panache and luxury, a car for middle management, perhaps.
In 2006 when the all-new VE series Commodore range was launched, Holden premiered two versions of the the Calais: Calais and the more highly specified Calais V, which essentially had all of Holden’s technical innovations at the time crammed into one package.
The tradition continued with the VF series upgrade, and sadly, the VF series II will be the last range of Commodores made in Elizabeth, South Australia before the next generation will be sourced from Germany.
The Series II facelift has largely centred around the performance models, with all other models treated to relatively mild changes. The Calais V now has unique lettering on the rear, new wheels and new tail lamps for both sedan and wagon.
We sampled the Holden Calais V sedan fitted with the 3.6 litre V6. A wagon and a V8 engine are also available. The standard equipment list on the Calais V is extensive, with the following highlights included for the $47,990 (V6 sedan) asking price: blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, rear cross traffic alert, remote start, heads up display, satellite navigation, reversing camera, automatic parallel parking, a Bose stereo along with the all essential leather trim and heated seats for the front occupants.
We set out to see if the Calais is a dated relic or if you should buy one before production ceases.
What we like:
• Road manners
• Relative frugality
Not so much:
• Tiny wing mirrors
• Could use LED headlights
• Transmission can lack finesse
• Luxury doesn’t equate to prestige, sadly.
The Calais V interior – like all models in the VF range- is a big, cavernous and plush space. There is ample leg, head and shoulder room for all five – and the seats are big, chunky and wrapped in grey leather with beige velour trimming. There’s electric adjustment and two memory options for the driver’s seat and three stage seat heating for the driver and front seat passenger.
The front seats are firm but very supportive, with adjustment options to suit a wide variety of individual needs.
The Calais’ interior décor is an acquired taste: the fake leather, velour and chrome definitely indicate that this is a luxury model, but the overall effect isn’t what you’d call “understated” or perhaps more pressingly, prestigious.
Granted, the cabin is still a pleasant and modern place to sit, and the build quality seems to have improved in spades since the VF first went on sale back in 2014. The only issues in our test car were a sticky centre console latch and some squeaks and rattles when traversing over truly poor tarmac. Some of the interior plastics were a little cheap, but it was generally well screwed together.
Holden’s MyLink infotainment system remains unchanged for the Series II makeover, and while it does offer user a modicum of entertainment options including internet radio, satellite navigation and Bluetooth audio, it isn’t the most user friendly systems upon initial introduction and the few buttons located atop the dash seem to be arranged in a less than intuitive manner.
Thankfully, the Siri-based voice activation system is brilliant – unlike many others – and the driver can call up virtually any of MyLink’s functions without taking their hands off the wheel.
Frustratingly, in our test car, the Bluetooth system refused to work, freezing when we attempted to pair a mobile device.
The Bose stereo system was decent without being outstanding, and there was some static when we used the radio.
The boot will swallow 496 litres of luggage.
Under the Bonnet
The Holden Calais is powered by Holden’s 3.6 litre V6 with SIDI technology paired to a six-speed automatic. The engine makes for 210kW @ 6700rpm and 350Nm @ 2800rpm. Power delivery is a little peaky, but when cruising around town the V6 is quiet and hushed, most suitable for a luxury car.
Press on and the engine becomes a little coarse and the gear shifts rough. The six-speed auto is far from cutting edge and is the Achilles heel in the drive train.
Fuel economy was properly impressive for a large car. During the test week we average 9.3 litres per 100 kilometres across mixed driving conditions.
On the Road
The Calais’s road manners are refined, confident and entertaining. The ride is excellent too, with a slightly softer set up than the SSV for extra comfort and we found that ride quality was only unsettled over truly rough tarmac.
The multi-adjustable heads up display is an excellent feature and helps to ensure that the driver’s eyes are always on the road. The wing mirrors were less impressive, being simply too small to canviss the size of the car and one’s surroundings.
Steering feel is satisfying and communicative, with the big Aussie always letting the driver exactly where the front wheels are pointing. In sum, the Calais is an excellent machine for those long weekend drives.
The Holden Calais V is backed by a three-year 100,000 kilometre warranty.
Name: Holden Calais V Series II
Engine: 3.6 litre V6, 210kW @ 6700rpm and 350Nm @ 2800rpm six-speed automatic.
Price: $47,990 plus on road costs
Country of Origin: Australia
Options: Empire Bronze metallic paint