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Holden Calais Tourer 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
7.9
Could Holden's huge and high-riding Commodore Tourer be the cure to SUV outbreak currently sweeping the nation? We put the 2018 Calais version through its paces to find out.

If Holden had a dollar for every time someone had criticised the new and international flavour of Australia’s formerly home-grown hero, it would surely have more than enough spare cash to blow the dust of that vast South Australian factory and restart local Commodore production immediately.

Hell, there’d probably be enough left over to relaunch the Camira while they were at it. And maybe even knock out a new Gemini or two.

So we’re not going to do that again here. The all-new Commodore, in this case the Calais Tourer, is now here - granted having travelled further than the one it replaces - and so we’ll be playing this review with the straightest of bats.

Because the truth is, if you peel the badging - and thus the swirling emotion - off its elongated rump, then you’ll find this German-built Tourer is, really and truly, a very good thing.

Holden Calais 2018: TOURER
Safety rating
Engine Type3.6L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency9.1L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$34,490

Is there anything interesting about its design?  8/10

Less an SUV (happily), and more a high-riding wagon, the Calais Tourer borrows a little from the Subaru XV in its exterior design, sporting the same plastic cladding over each wheel arch. Clearly there is a whole heap of shared DNA between the Sportwagon and Tourer, and so it offers similar perks; like its SUV-shaming boot space. 

Elsewhere, the Tourer shares the same soft and rounded edges as the rest of the Commodore range, and while it is genuinely quite handsome from most angles, it is at its best viewed front on, where a simple front-end is bookmarked at each corner by a narrow headlight on top, and an encased fog light below. It’s all a touch understated, sure, but it looks sharp in the metal.

The Tourer shares the same soft and rounded edges as the rest of the Commodore range. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) The Tourer shares the same soft and rounded edges as the rest of the Commodore range. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

Inside, it’s a clean and functional cabin design, with most of the touchscreen functions controlled by a simple row of four horizontal buttons, and with a gloss-black surround encasing the centre console. The thin leather wheel feels lovely under the touch, and the contrasting door trims and soft-touch materials find their way into the backseat, too. 

How practical is the space inside?  8/10

The Tourer serves up identical storage space to its Sportwagon near-enough twin, with 793 litres of storage (to the roof line) with the rear seats in place, and 1665 litres with the rear seat folded down. That’s about 200 litres more than the regular Commodore hatchback.

With the rear seats in place there is 793 litres of storage. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) With the rear seats in place there is 793 litres of storage. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

Where the Tourer does differ from the Sportwagon is in its exterior dimensions, measuring 5004mm in length (versus 4986mm in the Sportwagon) and 1525mm in height (versus 1483mm). Width and wheelbase are identical, though (1871mm and 2829mm), and so the interior space dimensions - like headroom and legroom - are identical no matter which of the estate-style Commodores you opt for. 

The key dimension here, though, is ride height, with the Tourer offering 20mm more ground clearance (42mm greater height overall) than the Sportwagon. That, combined with the on-demand all-wheel-drive system, allows for some light off-roading - though you won’t be conquering Everest.

Up front, expect two cupholders hidden under a gloss-black cover, as well as power and USB connections located in a central cubby. The back seat is home to two extra cupholders hidden in a pulldown divider, and there is room in each of the doors for bottles. The back seat is also home to air vents (but no temperature controls) and two USB charge points located just below the vents.

  • The 8.0-inch touchscreen comes with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) The 8.0-inch touchscreen comes with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)
  • The back seat is home to air vents and two USB charge points. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) The back seat is home to air vents and two USB charge points. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?  8/10

The Calais has long formed the most luxurious rung of the Commodore ladder, and the wagon-ish Tourer is without doubt the most practical version. It will set you back $45,990 ($47,990 drive-away) in the guise we’ve tested here, and $53,990 In Calais V specification.

Not to be sneezed at, then. But it does arrive with plenty of stuff to help justify your investment.

Outside, you’ll find 18-inch alloys, a handsfree auto-opening boot, heated mirrors, keyless entry with push-button start, a remote start function, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights with LED DRLs. Inside, expect leather seats that are heated in the front, a leather-wrapped wheel, dual-zone climate control, standard satellite navigation and a wireless charging pad for compatible phones.

The Calais Tourer comes with 18-inch alloys. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) The Calais Tourer comes with 18-inch alloys. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

On the technology front, an 8.0-inch touchscreen pairs with an eight-speaker stereo, and it’s both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto equipped. There’s also a genuinely impressive standard safety package, too, but we’ll drill down on that under the Safety sub-heading.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?  7/10

A really rather good 3.6-litre V6 engine Is parked under the bonnet, feeding 235kW at 6800rpm and 381Nm at 5200rpm to all four wheels as required, thanks to an on-demand all-wheel-drive system. The suspension is tuned specifically for its high-riding antics, too.

The 3.6-litre V6 engine produces 235kW/381Nm. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton) The 3.6-litre V6 engine produces 235kW/381Nm. (image credit: Andrew Chesterton)

The grunt is fed through a nine-speed automatic, and while Holden doesn’t quote a specific zero-to-100km/h time, it’s no slouch from the lights. 

The 3.6-litre engine means a braked towing capacity of 2100kg, and an unbraked max of 750kg.

How much fuel does it consume?  6/10

Not so good, I’m afraid. The offical number is on the high-side at 9.1 litres per 100 kilometres on the claimed/combined cycle (though that's less than the equivalent Subaru Outback), but we were averaging a smidge under 14.0L/100km after what was admittedly quite a lot of city driving. Still, that’s high.

Emissions are pegged at 212g/km or C02, and the Tourer’s 61-litre tank will accept cheaper 91RON fuel, or an E10 blend.

What's it like to drive?  8/10

Really very good. That 3.6-litre engine (why they haven’t offered the Tourer with the smaller and smarter turbo engine is something of a mystery) might be a touch old-school and a touch thirsty, but it’s a rich and powerful thing, and it gives the Calais-stamped Tourer a perky personality that defies its dimensions.

The Calais Tourer was built in Germany, and fitted with an engine and transmission from the USA, before undergoing local tuning here in Australia (think bespoke steering and suspension tunes calibrated both at the company’s testing facility and after a 200,000km test on Aussie roads), and it’s the last of those Dr Frankenstein ingredients that have had the biggest impact here. 

The Tourer’s ride is fantastic, perfectly poised between firm composure and everyday comfort, and - like most good wagons - it will honestly leave you wondering why so many people are clamouring aboard the SUV train when you can all the space with better dynamics in a humble estate. 

The nine-speed ‘box is smooth and sharp in its operation, too. But the fuel use is a concern. Sure, we spent the bulk of our time in the city, where stop-start traffic naturally uses more fuel. But then, surely so would most owners? 

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?  9/10

You’ve got to hand it to the Lion for the standard safety package here, which includes the Holden Eye camera system as standard, adding auto emergency braking (AEB), lane keep assist, lane departure warning and forward collision warning. You’ll also find semi-autonomous parking, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors.

The Calais Tourer adds blind-sport monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert to that pretty comprehensive package. All of which helps the Commodore range qualify for the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating.

Finally, you can add six airbags and two ISOFIX attachment points to the mix.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?  9/10

Holden has recently relinquished the initial warranty offering, now including the Commodore in its seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty program, meaning it mixes with the very best in the aftercare business. For now, at least; normally, the Commodore carries the brand's standard three year/100,000km warranty. But be on the lookout for the return of this deal if you miss out this time.

Service intervals are pegged at 12 months or 12,000kms, and the Commodore falls under Holden’s extensive capped-price servicing program, and it will cost between $259 and $359 for each of the first seven annual services.

Pricing Guides

$39,145
Based on 40 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$27,888
Highest Price
$54,888

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(5YR) 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $33,220 – 39,490 2018 Holden Calais 2018 (5YR) Pricing and Specs
(5YR) 2.0L, PULP, 9 SP AUTO $30,470 – 36,740 2018 Holden Calais 2018 (5YR) Pricing and Specs
(base) 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $29,950 – 30,500 2018 Holden Calais 2018 (base) Pricing and Specs
(base) 2.0L, PULP, 9 SP AUTO $27,888 – 28,977 2018 Holden Calais 2018 (base) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.9
Price and features8
Design8
Practicality8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption6
Driving8
Safety9
Ownership9

“A best-of-both-worlds option that should have us questioning our SUV obsession, the Calais Tourer delivers plenty of practicality perks and a higher ride height in a dynamic and car-like package. The equipment levels are spot on, including the comprehensive safety package, and it you act smartly, you'll get a hugely long warranty to boot.  It sure is thirsty, though, and we can't help but think plenty of owners would be happier with a smaller, more-efficient engine. ”

Pricing Guide

$34,490

Lowest price, based on 7 car listings in the last 6 months

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