All-new and fully imported Holden Calais comfortable, pleasant to drive and decent value, but it somehow doesn’t fit the “Calais” name
What is it?
Possibly one of the most controversial models in Holden’s history, the all-new Holden Commodore. Based on the Opel Insignia and made in Germany, the new Commodore range is offered in liftback, wagon and tourer variations with a choice of turbo petrol, turbo diesel and petrol V6 engines.
Holden has completely changed the specification names for all models in the Commodore range, bar the luxury-oriented Calais and Calais V models.
We took the Calais liftback for a spin.
What’s it cost?
The new Commodore range is varied and complex. For the purpose of this review, we’ll just stick to the Calais models. The cheapest Calais is the 2.0 litre turbo petrol liftback starting from $40,990, the diesel liftback adds $3,000 and then there’s the V6 Calais V liftback priced $51,990.
Oddly, this is the first time the Calais name has been applied to a high-riding Subaru Outback style wagon. There are two versions: the standard Calais which is priced from $45,990 and the Calais V from $53,990.
Standard equipment on the Calais includes autonomous emergency braking with forward collision alert, blind spot monitoring, satellite navigation, Holden MyLink infotainment with touchscreen compatibility, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors. Remote start is thrown in for added convenience.
On the luxury front there’s an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, leather trim with seat heating for the front two seats and dual zone climate control.
What’s it go like?
Holden Australia has had considerable input in the all-new Commodore from the get go. Australian models have considerably different suspension tuning to their German cousins, and the end result is a ride and handling compromise that is safe, predictable and comfortable.
Turn in is quick and crisp, and body roll is always well controlled and the ride is firm, but it never loses its composure and is never uncomfortable. The Calais is a competent steer, but it just doesn’t quite feel like the driver’s car like the VF.
Under the bonnet, that turbo four develops 191kW @ 5500rpm and 350Nm @ 3000-4000rpm and is mated to a nine-speed automatic that sends power to the front wheels. We quite like the new turbo engine, and prefer it to the naturally aspirated V6. The four-cylinder engine is eager and is more responsive than the old Alloytec V6, which used to rev and rev, but deliver very little in return.
Refinement is good too, with very minimal engine and road noise permeating the cabin. The automatic is smooth and responsive, and keeps the engine the engine ticking over nicely. However, on the odd occasion – and the occasions were intermittent – there were clunky gear changes, most commonly when shifting up from first to second.
What’s it like inside?
Spacious. Very spacious. There’s more than ample room for five people, and the head, shoulder and legroom for the passengers up the front is excellent. And the dash feels like it has been set quite low, which further amplifies the sense of space.
Use of materials and fit and finish are very good – made in Germany, ja – and the instrument cluster is oh so very Opel. The Calais is equipped satellite navigation, Holden’s MyLink infotainment system and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The MyLink and Apple CarPlay seemed to be the Achilles Heels of our test car, with the CarPlay cutting out randomly and music pausing unexpectedly when using Bluetooth streaming.
Sound system quality is decent.
Jump into the rear quarters and you’ll be delighted by vast amounts of rear legroom, and you’ll get three passengers in there without any drama. All seats are comfortable and supportive, but in a very Germanic way, a polite way of saying they’re very firm.
While the rear compartment offers heaps of leg and shoulder room, that sloping liftback roofline cuts into rear headroom, meaning that passengers over 5’10 or so will find that the ceiling might wreck their hair.
The boot space is huge, although that tailgate is heavy and cumbersome, and shorter people may find the tailgate difficult to reach and we found that it often required a good slam to close properly.
Overall, the Calais interior is a comfortable and inoffensive place to sit. No real drawbacks, but no stand out strengths either.
What we like:
- Good interior space
- Decent performance from that drivetrain
- Build quality
What we don’t:
- The ZB Calais just doesn’t feel like a Calais, not in the traditional sense anyway. The exterior and interior are too understated – those wheels and lack of jewellery mean that it could be mistaken for a base model – and the interior doesn’t offer enough equipment and or the right trim to indicate that you’re sitting in a luxury model. The new Camry’s interior design is far more impressive.
- A power tailgate should be fitted to all liftback models. The tailgate can be too heavy and cumbersome
- Glitchy and unreliable infotainment system
- Rear headroom
- Questionable resale value.
Sale or no sale?
The new Holden Calais is a good car. Truly. But, if the new Calais has taught us anything, it’s that certain qualities are associated with a certain name, and that we believe that this car should wear an Insignia badge. If it did, a large portion of the market may perceive it very differently.