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2018 Holden Calais V quick review

By Tony O’Kane, 23 Mar 2018 Car Reviews

2018 Holden Calais V quick review

Holden’s new premium-ish four-door has plenty of virtues, but still needs a little finessing

TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR

The Holden Calais V is the non-performance flagship of the new Holden ZB Commodore range, second only to the VXR grade in the Commodore hierarchy.

Priced from $51,990, the ‘V’ variant comes standard with a V6 engine and all-wheel drive to help separate it from the front-drive 2.0-litre regular Calais that sits beneath it. Holden’s new large car offering has changed significantly from the rear-drive, Australian built car that preceded it, but the 2018 ZB Calais V still has lots of things in its favour.

STRENGTHS

  • Driving position – With seat rails mounted low in the chassis and with your feet stretching out ahead of you, the Calais offers a relaxed driving posture and decent vision ahead. A head-up display also helps keep your eyes from being buried in the instrument cluster, with bright and clear graphics that also display navigation info. There’s plenty of adjustment to both seat and steering column as well.
  • Rear seat vision – While the front seats are mounted low, the rear bench is mounted higher to give back seat passengers a better view to the front and through the side glass. Even though the Calais has a high beltline, even kids should be able to look at the surrounding scenery from the back seat.
  • Cabin size - Rear seat space in most dimensions is exceptional, with loads of legroom, knee room and elbow room for a pair of adults. While the cabin isn’t quite as wide as the last-gen VF Commodore, you can still fit three full-growns across the rear bench provided they’re reasonably slim-hipped.

  • Power – There’s no more V8 option for the Calais, but the 235kW/381Nm 3.6 litre that’s for now the most powerful engine in the new Commodore range is no shrinking violet. It needs plenty of revs to feel its best, but you’re rewarded with a pleasantly sporty V6 note whenever you ask it to work hard.
  • Power – The other kind of power, we mean. Electrons are abundant in the Calais V’s cabin, with a traditional 12-volt outlet at the base of the centre stack being augmented by a wireless phone charging pocket and a single USB port in the centre box (which also enables smartphone mirroring), and two more USB charge ports at the rear of the centre console for back seat passengers.
  • Surprising agility – The Calais V can really be thrown around with a significant amount of vigour without getting out of shape, something that’s not exactly expected of a mid-size or large sedan – especially one that’s not pitched as a performance option. The front end is grippy, the rear end is augmented by a clever active differential, and the suspension tune has been fettled locally by Holden to improve handling. With stability and a high resistance to understeer, the Calais V inspires confidence behind the wheel.

WEAKNESSES

  • Rear seat headroom – Remember how we said rear seat space was generous in “most dimensions”? Unfortunately, headroom isn’t one of them. While the elevated seat base is great for promoting outward vision for those in the back seat, it – combined with the sloping fastback-esque roofline – compromises head space for those above average height.
  • Gearbox isn’t entirely cooperative in manual mode - Sluggish response to manually-commanded upshifts often see the engine hit redline before the shifts occur, which further confuses the computer and delays gear changes even longer. Furthermore, the manual gate on the shifter is around the wrong way, with an unnatural pull-to-downshift and push-to-upshift action. One more reason to use the steering wheel mounted paddles.
  • Performance – While that naturally-aspirated V6 definitely sounds great, it doesn’t exactly leap off the line like some other V6-engined rivals do – Stinger being one. Not a huge drawback considering the Calais V isn’t a marketed as a sporty model, but it doesn’t feel like there’s enough of a performance advantage over the turbo 2.0-litre four of the regular Calais.

  • Cabin quality – Sadly, the Calais V simply isn’t quite up to the same standard as the old VF with it comes to trim fit and finish. There’s an overabundance of black plastics, with some questionable alignment between door card and dashboard taking attention away from what is otherwise a fairly handsome design. The finish might be fine for a lower-grade Commodore, but those buying a Calais V would rightly expect a higher standard of trim.
  • Ride quality – The Calais V comes with 20-inch alloys and conventional dampers, which introduces a stiffer ride than both the 18-inch wheels of the regular Calais and the 20-inch wheels and adaptive dampers of the top-grade Commodore VXR. It’s actually quite agreeable on long highway stints, but choppier tarmac shows up its shortcomings.

ARE THERE ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?

Skoda Superb 206TSI 4x4, Toyota Camry SL V6, Ford Mondeo Titanium