Just in case you think the whole idea of globalisation sucks bad, consider this: without a globalised General Motors conglomerate, this car simply wouldn’t have happened. Not in this form, anyway.
This review was originally published in MOTOR’s December 2006 issue
In a nutshell, the new WM Holden Statesman and Caprice wouldn’t be anywhere near as resolved as they are, were it not for exports. Local volumes could never have justified the $190 million Holden tipped into the big fella, on top of the billion dollars already spent on the VE.
Oh, there would have been such a thing, but probably a much tamer – and lamer – proposition. Holden suits reckon the end product would almost certainly have been more of a compromise, perhaps with a lot more VE sheetmetal.
As it is, only the WM’s front doors and windscreen are shared with VE – everything else is long-wheelbase-specific in an attempt to both differentiate the Statesman and Caprice from the Commodore, as well as arrive at a legitimate luxury car in terms of appearance and accommodation.
There are 60 WM-specific body panels alone, and that’s before we even get to the interior and trim items. And in that department, only the glovebox lid and fusebox cover are shared with the short-wheelbase stuff.
The pressing itself might be different, but the WM has stuck with the VE’s pioneering (for a full-size Holden) one-piece side stamping that aids both panel fit and structural rigidity. But bolted to the longer floorpan are more or less VE carry-overs in terms of front and rear suspension and steering gear.
How much longer is it? Try 94mm more wheelbase, which means the WM is also 71mm longer between the axles than the outgoing WL, as well as 21mm taller and wider across either track (33mm front, 41mm rear). Surprisingly, despite its obvious bulk, the WM is also 31mm shorter than WL.
Marketed as the comfort-oriented model, the Statesman is available in two main forms, the 195kW V6 with five-speed auto and the Gen IV 6.0-litre V8 punching out the same 270kW as the VE short-wheelbase stuff.
Of potentially more interest to MOTOR readers is the Caprice which, like in the old WK/WL range, is positioned by Holden as a more performance-slanted, youthful approach to a big luxo. Again, a V6 is available, but the V8 is the headline act.
Along the way, you also get the best-equipped local car ever with an impressive line-up of safety gear. Bargain on six airbags (which includes full-length side-curtain bags), ESP, brake-force distribution and brake assist, traction control, front and rear park-assist, and active front headrests, as well as stuff like leather, eight-way electric front seats, bluetooth phone compatibility, rain-sensing wipers and even puddle lights in each exterior mirror.
The Caprice adds a fair bit to that lot, too, with 18-inch alloys, soft-touch leather, colour LCD screens in each front headrest, a monster Bose sound system, xenon headlights, tri-zone climate control and even on-board tyre-pressure monitoring.
Visually, the Caprice gets a sportier front fascia with a black mesh insert, plus a sports steering wheel and sports front seats. The major mechanical difference is a specific suspension tune, but it’s only the dampers that are altered – the Statesman and Caprice share spring rates and ride height.
But what about the $64,000 question: does a car that’s been designed for export customers in far-flung countries still cut it in Australian conditions? Well, yeah, actually.
The V8 engine is a real sweetie in the Caprice and while there’s just enough soundtrack, it’s nicely refined and only really starts to feel like it’s working when you’re revving it as hard as it’ll go. The six-speed auto can be caught on the hop, sometimes kicking down to first when second would have done, but the shifts themselves are smooth and assured.
The ’box doesn’t seem overly enthusiastic about following instructions via the manual mode, but any car this big and heavy (try 1890kg for a V8 Caprice) is probably best left to its own devices, anyway.
Perhaps the biggest surprise (and the biggest hint that Aussie blokedom wasn’t the only consideration) is how softly the Caprice, even with its sportier damper settings, is set-up. Okay, the pay-off is a superb ride, but there seems to be a slight lack of suspension control. Bumps that should only intrude once can have a second half-life and you can get the Caprice to porpoise a little if you’re deliberately savage on the throttle.
The plush factor has also robbed the VE platform of some of its steering feel and accuracy, too, and you better believe that when you get nearly two tonnes of bouncy Caprice sliding around. You wanna be right on your game. Then again, cars like the Caprice are supposed to be a bit like that, aren’t they?
In the go department, that big V8 does the job. Plant the clog, she buggers off. That is all.
Dollars? Um, not cheap, though better value than before. The V8 Statey is $62,990, while the Caprice you’d want (the V8) is $69,990; again, not a giveaway alongside the $10K-cheaper Chrysler 300C Hemi that gave the previous Holden flagship such a kicking.
Should make for an interesting rematch, no?
Remembering the good ol' days on classic MOTOR
2006 Holden Caprice
Engine: 5967cc V8, OHV, 16v
0-100km/h: 5.7sec (estimated)