Holden’s Calais has always been an interesting prospect particularly in V8 form. Like a nightclub bouncer wearing a three-piece suit, there are two distinct sides to the picture. The Calais represents Holden’s luxury Commodore offering but also has the brawny V8 powerplant shared with the more sports focused SS. High-spec trim, loads of equipment and eight-cylinder performance haven’t always stitched together tidily for Holden, but this Calais could be different. With the recent Series II upgrades and in its highest spec V-Series Redline Edition form this Calais is certainly ready to impress. Car and SUV gained entry to Holden’s opulent saloon to find out more.
Externally, the Calais has always been lower key than some of its Commodore stablemates, that hasn’t changed with the Series II model. It has a nicely rounded, less-is-more look that skips the bulky body kit and boot spoiler. Instead, a premier feel is largely created by subtle chrome trim around the window line and in the door handles and other areas. The Series II updates focus mostly on the Calais front end where new headlights, lower air intake and a blinging grille look modern and classy. Being a Redline Edition our test vehicle had 19-inch polished alloy wheels that packed the pumped guards nicely and combined with the Redline badging let all know that this is one chic Commodore.
Inside the Calais dark plastics blend in with even darker leather for an executive feel. Contrasting silver trim lightens the look and circles the large, simple instrumentation. Like all models in the Commodore range the Calais has been updated with Holden’s new IQ vehicle entertainment system. This media unit has a 6.5-inch colour touch screen and can connect to an iPod, USB stick or by Bluetooth to a mobile phone. The screen is mounted high and is easy to use, it’s also quite clever with full colour Sat Nav and a reversing camera included as standard. Heater and stereo volume controls have been rejigged but are still very functional and close to hand. Trip computer and audio buttons are repeated through steering wheel controls and a second screen located within the instruments offers vehicle information. It’s a well laid out interior and there are plenty of small storage and cupholders but the only let down is quality. This top spec Calais shares too much trim with its lesser siblings and the result is some hard plastics and raw edges that don’t match up with its premium objective. Don’t expect the interior quality to match more expensive European competitors but there is a feeling of durability in the Calais which is always vital for a family sedan.
Like all Commodores, the Calais Redline is very spacious with plenty of shoulder and leg room for all occupants. The perforated leather seats are wide and comfortable with the back pew easily accommodating three adults. The front seats are heated and have 8-way electric adjustment with three memory settings for the driver. The rear seat back doesn’t split to fold down but has a centre ski hatch and the boot has a generous cargo capacity.
The Calais Redline standard equipment list is as long as it gets on any Commodore and includes front and rear parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, cruise control, automatic headlights, dual-zone climate air con and a handy roof mounted DVD player for back seat passengers.
For all the bells and whistles in the interior, it’s the lump under the bonnet that remains the main attraction for many Calais buyers and the current powerplant won’t disappoint. The Calais Redline uses Holden’s now familiar 6.0-litre V8 engine that pumps out 260kW of power and a hearty 517Nm of torque. Put your foot to the floor and the Calais does its best to stay refined while the V8 pushes it ahead with gusto. It has an audibly pleasing exhaust note through the quad exhaust tips and with the masses of torque available it rarely sounds stressed. Power delivery is smooth and predictable and while it’s definitely no slouch off the line, like most V8s the Calais true strength is at overtaking speeds (80-120kph) where it’s very rapid. Towing capacity is generous, rated at 2100kg.
This V8 engine has the brawn but it also has some brains in Holden’s AFM (Active Fuel Management) system. This shuts down four of the V8’s cylinders while the car is cruising and absolute power is unrequired. With this system fuel economy comes in at 12.3l/100km combined, which is acceptable for an eight-cylinder performance vehicle but running costs will still be on the high side.
Power is put to the rear wheels through a traditional 6-speed auto transmission. It provides smooth changes but can feel a notch slow when working through the gears. This isn’t a major issue because it fits in well with the Calais relaxed personality and manual changes can be accessed through a sequential system on the gearstick. There are no steering wheel mounted paddles.
Strong handling ability is a feature of the VE Commodore and the Calais Redline pushes the limits even further. As part of the Redline package the Calais has been fitted with a “track-inspired” sports suspension set-up. This means firmer dampers and stiffer stabiliser bars are added to the existing MacPherson struts at the front and modern multi-link arrangement at the rear. The result is a vehicle that sits flat through corners and remains well composed right up to its limits. Naturally, the flip side is slightly firmer suspension than other Calais models but the Redline still has good compliance on rough NZ roads. Overall ride comfort is excellent, the Calais is well geared for long journeys and the only noise that enters the cabin is the one you want – V8 growl.
Another upgrade with the Redline Edition package comes in the form of Brembo brakes for the front wheels. Four piston calipers make sure the Calais pulls up short and has strong initial bite. Other safety systems include hard-working stability and traction control set-ups, ABS braking, electronic brakeforce distribution and a six-airbag package.
There’s a lot to like about Holden’s Calais especially in its V-Series Redline Edition ultimate guise. Priced at $75,290 it occupies the high end of the Commodore range but if the extra goodies are really worth the $8,500 premium over the already high-spec Calais V-Series is borderline. That said, if you have the coin and are a V8 Commodore fan then the Redline Edition represents a special opportunity. You don’t just get the power, it has spaciousness, good handling ability, high safety level, strong towing capacity and loads of equipment. If you love a luxury ride and love your Commodores then the Calais V-Series Redline Edition is your match.
What we like:
- Suspension and braking upgrades
- High equipment level
- Smooth and strong V8 power
- General spaciousness and practicality
What we don’t like:
- Interior cheapened by shared Commodore features
- Still quite thirsty
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo