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Holden Calais V 2017 Review

The Holden Calais V is a practical distance eater, but its days are limited.
EXPERT RATING
7.3
As local Commodore production winds up, we're testing the Holden Calais for the last time ever – well, in rear-wheel drive V6 form, at least.

First… a public service announcement. There will be no wailing, nor indeed gnashing of teeth, at the demise of the locally made Holden Commodore in this review. 

It's a fact of life – if something doesn't sell, it shouldn't be made. It’s a damn, damn shame that Australia will cease producing cars – but if Holden (or Ford or Toyota, for that matter) was churning out medium-sized SUVs at a good price, manufacturing would still have a future. Market forces and all that.

Anyway… let's test the Holden Calais for the last time ever – well, in rear-wheel drive V6 form, at least. 

Holden Calais 2017: V
Safety rating
Engine Type3.6L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency9.5L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$30,388

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The current VF shape will shuffle off to the great scrapyard in the sky as one of the prettiest and most resolved sedan silhouettes on the planet. 

GM Australia design director, Richard Ferlazzo and his team at Fishermans Bend have produced a truly world class profile that blends road presence with subtle style in a way not even the Europeans can properly grasp.

In Calais trim, there's a tendency towards too much brightwork, especially around the grille and lower valance, and dropping the size of a couple of badges wouldn’t hurt. The lovely bespoke 19-inch rims and raked stance, though, bring it back from the over-glitzy.

The ride tune is middling firm, partly due to the lower tyre profile of the V's 19-inch wheel package. (image credit: Tim Robson) The ride tune is middling firm, partly due to the lower tyre profile of the V's 19-inch wheel package. (image credit: Tim Robson)

But the interior, while functional, is a mixed bag of interior treatments that don't quite gel. The suede inserts across the dash and seats, for example, are more sports model than luxury car, while the ageing multimedia system and myriad of unfinished edges, just out of sight (feel around under the driver's seat, for a start) point to a car that's not been updated or tweaked for a while.

How practical is the space inside?   6/10

Up front, there's plenty of space for driver and passenger, with the traditionally chunky Commodore wheel adjustable for plenty of height and reach. There's also a lot of foot room for the passenger.

You'll have to delve into the centre console bin for a USB charger, though there is a pair of 12-volt sockets to use, as well.

The ageing 'MyLink' system looks and feels its age now, and matters aren't helped by the recent loss of the Pandora radio app. There's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto capability, either.

There's one thing, though, that really cruels the Calais in terms of its interior space – the sunroof. It's a great whacking thing with its own deep headlining trim, which robs valuable headroom from rear seat passengers – especially if you get stuck in the centre rear.

It's bizarre, actually – this one piece of trim takes so much away from one of the car's strong suits; its ability to carry five people in comfort.

  • The interior, while functional, is a mixed bag of interior treatments that don't quite gel. (image credit: Tim Robson) The interior, while functional, is a mixed bag of interior treatments that don't quite gel. (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • The ageing 'MyLink' system looks and feels its age now, and matters aren't helped by the recent loss of the Pandora radio app. (image credit: Tim Robson) The ageing 'MyLink' system looks and feels its age now, and matters aren't helped by the recent loss of the Pandora radio app. (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • Up front, there's plenty of space for driver and passenger. (image credit: Tim Robson) Up front, there's plenty of space for driver and passenger. (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • There's a lot of foot room for the passenger. (image credit: Tim Robson) There's a lot of foot room for the passenger. (image credit: Tim Robson)

And in other oddities, the intense sun glare off the dashboard borders on rendering the car unusable in bright sunlight, while the bright silver trim around the centre console and gearshifter also bounce the sun back into the face of the driver in a most uncomfortable manner.

This is a car designed by Australians for Australians. How can sun glare be a problem? It actually beggars belief. 

While I'm nitpicking… the door mirrors, too, have been too small since the VE launched, and even though it's all too late, it’s still bloody annoying. End of rant.

Holden added ISOFIX capabilities to the Commodore in 2013, and mounting points are provided on the outside rear seat positions.

Two cupholders are present and correct up front, but there are only bottle holders in the rear doors. They are also replicated up front in relatively shallow door cards.

The boot space is roomy enough at 496 litres, though a relatively narrow and high load aperture makes things awkward to load in. There's no ski port or ability to drop the seats down, though, which underlines how much more useful a wagon ($2000 gets you the Calais V Sportwagon, by the by) actually is.

The boot space is roomy enough at 496 litres, though a relatively narrow and high load aperture makes things awkward to load in. (Tim Robson) The boot space is roomy enough at 496 litres, though a relatively narrow and high load aperture makes things awkward to load in. (Tim Robson)

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

At $48,750, the Calais needs to be exceptionally well equipped to make the dollars stand up.

It comes standard with a head-up display, front and rear parking sensors, electric park brake, remote engine start, push-button start, a tyre pressure monitoring system, a sunroof, dual-zone climate control, as well as leather-appointed, heated and powered front seats, with memory settings for the driver, plus easy exit and heated side mirrors – so there’s a fair bit of kit.

The Calais V comes standard with a head-up display. (image credit: Tim Robson) The Calais V comes standard with a head-up display. (image credit: Tim Robson)

It's also well equipped when it comes to driver's aids and safety kit.

Still, this is a sedan that’s going to set you back over $50,000 on the road, so this level of spec is expected. Given the lack of direct competitors in the space, it can really only go up against cars like the Skoda Superb 162TSI, which offers similar equipment for $41,690, once a $3700 'Tech Pack' is factored in.

What does the Calais miss out on? Rear USB points would be nice, as would some sort of pass-through rear seat arrangement.

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

The now-defunct 3.6-litre V6 is good for 210kW/350Nm, but it won't be remembered for its engine note.

The now-defunct 3.6-litre V6 is good for 210kW/350Nm, but it won't be remembered for its engine note. (image credit: Tim Robson) The now-defunct 3.6-litre V6 is good for 210kW/350Nm, but it won't be remembered for its engine note. (image credit: Tim Robson)

The last of the Aussie-made Holden V6s is mated to a six-speed traditional automatic, sending power to the rear wheels.

The Calais, like all Commodores, relies on MacPherson strut front/multi-link rear suspension and electric steering, and it rides on 19-inch rims.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

Over 220km, we recorded a dash-indicated combined cycle fuel economy figure of 10.2L/100km, versus a claimed 9.0L/100km.

The Calais has a 71-litre fuel tank, giving it a theoretical range of around 788km. It'll consume E10 or 91RON without drama.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

The Zeta platform that underpins the Calais will go down as one of the cleverest and nicest rear-drive architectures in the General Motors kingdom. 

Bench-marking cars like the BMW 5 Series, Holden engineers used brains and passion to create a base platform that matched and sometimes surpassed the world's finest, with at best, a fraction of the resources and budget.

That it still feels as good more than a decade on is testament to that talent.

The ride tune is middling firm, partly due to the lower tyre profile of the V's 19-inch wheel package, but it still yields in the mid part of the stroke to provide a comfortable but stable ride.

The steering is also exemplary, especially for an electric system. Along with great body control, the Calais covers ground effortlessly – though some road noise and wind rustle does get back into the cabin at the national limit.

As mentioned, the V6 can feel unrefined and shrieky at times, but it’s still a willing performer, and it's nicely complemented by the six-speed auto's well-spaced ratios.

The Calais will tow up to 2100kg of braked trailer, too, and comes with trailer sway control as standard.

The brake pedal is perhaps a tad sharp and firm for truly easy modulation in traffic, but it’s a minor quibble. If you still need to eat kays between cities via the ground, the Calais is tough to beat.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The Calais scores a maximum five-star safety rating from ANCAP, thanks to six airbags and a full complement of driver aids, including forward collision alert, lane departure and blind spot warning, trailer sway control and reverse traffic alert.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   6/10

The Calais is available with a lifetime capped price service program that allows a current or future owner to review the price of a forthcoming service, no matter what the age of the car.

A quick check for the Calais V shows servicing every nine months or 15,000km, up to 60,000km, will cost $239 per service, while subsequent services, up to 105,000km, will cost $299.

Holden offers a three-year, 100,000km warranty as standard on the Calais.

Verdict

The original brief for the Commodore was conceived in a different time, when fewer competitors roamed the streets and the ability to cover large swathes of ground in a single sitting was more important. The large sedan market is disappearing faster than DVD players, and the Commodore, by staying true to its origins, is going with it.

If you need a car to travel a vast distance in comfort and safety, the Calais is nigh-on perfect – but so are a lot of smaller, cheaper machines that offer more real-world practicality.

Are you grabbing a Calais, one of the last ever Australian-made Holdens? Why... or why not? Tell us in the comments section below.

Pricing Guides

$34,888
Based on 112 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$22,888
Highest Price
$69,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $24,950 – 34,888 2017 HOLDEN CALAIS 2017 (base) Pricing and Specs
V 3.6L, PULP, 9 SP AUTO $38,490 – 41,990 2017 HOLDEN CALAIS 2017 V Pricing and Specs
(base) 3.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $22,888 – 32,880 2017 HOLDEN CALAIS 2017 (base) Pricing and Specs
V 3.6L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $30,388 – 43,990 2017 HOLDEN CALAIS 2017 V Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.3
Design8
Practicality6
Price and features7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption8
Driving8
Safety8
Ownership6
Tim Robson
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$27,940

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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