Holden Calais V Sportswagon 2008 Review

Holden Calais V Sportswagon 2008 Review


I once went on a blind date, it was a forgettable evening but I can remember well how I felt before the initial meeting. I was a little nervous but also excited by the unknown and the possibilities that may bring. I felt the same way again the day I was to road test the new Holden Calais V Sportswagon. The terms sports and wagon have rarely been connected before and this is what concerned me. Would I be disappointed? Would our encounter become dull and laboured?

My nerves rapidly shifted to admiration when I first saw the Sportswagon in the flesh, it had a little more width in the rear than I’m used to, but I can dig that. The exterior styling has a definite European elegance foreign to previous Commodore wagons. The vehicle lines are fluent from tail to nose and are well accented by an aggressive waiting-to-pounce stance. Handsome 18-inch alloys fill out the guards nicely and match up well with some subtle chrome detailing on the body. Twin exhausts round off the sports look.

At first I was polite and gentle as we took a leisurely drive. Day turned to night but I felt it too forward to go home just yet, so I decided to find out what the Sportswagon’s made of on the inside. The general atmosphere of the interior cannot back up the good looks of the exterior, the plastics feel flimsy and anything that opens doesn’t quite shut as well as it should. That said, the interior is very practical with everything you need within easy reach.

The seats are good soft leather with electronic adjustment and memory settings for the driver. The front seats are wide and long horizontally but lack support during lateral movement. Seating in the rear is comfortable for three adults with Holden even boasting that rear leg room has increased since the previous larger model. Steering wheel-mounted controls for the stereo and trip computer are useful.

There is an ingenious roof-mounted DVD player with a drop-down screen for rear passengers, whatever is playing can be repeated on the main screen in the front while the car is stationary. The Sportswagon’s practicality extends to good storage options in the cabin with a large central binnacle under the front armrest, bins in all doors and a glove box big enough for both flowers and chocolates. There are well placed cup holders for front and rear occupants and separate compartments for sunglasses and coins. I found the driver’s control console simple to work and it wasn’t long before I was pushing all the right buttons so it was time for a mad dash back to mine.

The Sportswagon’s 3.6 litre V6 motor puts out a quiet hum at pace rather than the throaty growl that other six-cylinder motors often achieve. With 195kW on tap acceleration is keen but not explosive, which is acceptable when taking into account the vehicle’s near two-tonne curb weight. The five-speed automatic transmission works the gears nicely and in sports shift mode there is even more grunt on hand. If you must go faster you’ll have to get the V8, and if you need faster again you will have to wait for the HSV model, and if you need faster than that you really have no business in a wagon.

How was the ride? Well, the Sportswagon is built for comfort and at motorway cruising speed it provides just that, it’s quiet inside and very sure footed. On windier roads the vehicle does tend to feel a little high and floaty, it can lean when pushed around corners. That said, the steering is honest and precise and it does handle well considering its length and weight. The Sportswagon also has Electronic Stability Control (ESP), side, front and curtain airbags in case things turn sour.

The Sportswagon’s great rear end is a feature in itself, unlike its chunkier ancestors, the new model is built on the same wheelbase as the Commodore sedan. This has come at a cost in load capacity but compensation has been made in other areas. The tailgate hinge extends well into the roof, creating a wide opening for throwing gear in, this also means that the hatch hardly swings outwards on opening. The load height of the rear floor is high, making it easier to load items, while there is a clever cargo blind with two height settings. With the back seats folded down there are two metres in length from tailgate to front seats and a 2000 litre capacity, which should be plenty for most applications.

It was fun while it lasted but the Sportswagon really needs a family to fulfil its complete potential, I’m not ready for that just yet. If my circumstances were to change then the Sportswagon would provide an attractive mix of style, practicality and performance.

Click through to the next page for a list of specifications

Price: from $62,290

What we like

  • Styling
  • Strong performance for size
  • Highly practical

What we don’t like

  • Interior quality
  • Rear visibility
  • Wing mirrors

Holden Calais V Sportswagon (2008) – Specifications

Engine and transmission

195kW,(#) 3.6 litre High Output Alloytec V6 engine with 5-speed automatic transmission with Active Select
Limited Slip Differential (available only with sports suspension)

Control and handling

Electronic Stability Program (ESP®) incorporating:
Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
Electronic Brake Assist (EBA)
Traction Control System (TCS)
Linear Control Suspension
Sports suspension: Sport tuned spring and damper.
Reduced ride height (available only with Limited Slip Differential)


18″ x 8″ alloy wheels. 245/45 R18 100V tyres (4)
17″ x 4″ steel spare wheel. T155/80 R17 111M tyre
Full-size spare wheel and tyre


6 disc in-dash CD player. MP3 compatible
7 speakers. Total 150 watts
Speed dependent volume control
Rear seat overhead DVD player


Leather appointed seats
8-way electric adjustment of front seats
Adjustable driver’s seat lumbar support
Adjustable front passenger’s seat lumbar support
Driver’s seat position memory for up to 3 drivers
Rear seats fold flat

Cabin comfort

Dual zone electronic climate control
6.5″ multifunction colour LCD screen. Displays stereo and climate control information. DVD player and satellite navigation compatible (where fitted)
Front centre armrest with leather trim
Sunglasses holder
Two front reading lamps
Door entry lamps

Storage and cargo

60:40 split fold rear seats
Twin cup holders in centre console
Centre console storage compartment with armrest lid
Auxiliary power socket in console and rear cargo area
Shopping bag hooks in rear cargo area (2)
D-ring tie-down points (4)
Luggage net (adjustable) in rear cargo area to keep small items in place


Front fog lamps
Projector headlamps
Dual exhaust outlets
Quad exhaust outlets (V8 only)
Chrome finish body side mouldings


Steering wheel height and reach adjust
Leather wrap sports profile steering wheel
Multifunction steering wheel, featuring illuminated controls for:
Sound system
Trip computer
Bluetooth® for compatible mobile phones (where fitted)
Satellite navigation; Turn-by-turn (where fitted)
Multifunction driver display, featuring:
Trip computer information
Sound system information
Priority key. Stores settings for:
Climate control (where fitted)
Sound system
Trip computer
Speed alert
Headlamp and interior lighting time delay options
Driver’s seat and exterior mirror positions
(Calais V-Series and Calais with leather option only)
Alloy faced pedals
Leather wrap gear selector
Cruise control
Front and Rear Park Assist
Power exterior mirrors
Heated exterior mirrors with ‘puddle’ lamps and position memory
Passenger side exterior mirror dips when reverse gear selected
Rain sensing wipers
Road speed dependent variable intermittent wipers
Automatic headlamp mode. Switches on at twilight or low light
Trip computer with triple display, including:
Average speed
Odometer/tripmeter/trip time
Distance/time to go
Instantaneous/average fuel consumption
Digital speedometer
Tracks two trips simultaneously (eg. short day trip within long interstate trip)
Fuel used/range
Visual and audible speed warning
Sound system able to accommodate mobile phone kit
Auto mute when phone is in use
Bluetooth® for compatible mobile phones
Satellite navigation. Turn-by-turn
Satellite navigation. Full colour mapping

Occupant safety

Dual-stage front airbags for driver and front passenger, side impact airbags for driver and front passenger and side curtain airbags
Front lap/sash seatbelts with load limiters and pyrotechnic pretensioners
Rear seat child restraint anchor points (3)
Remote control priority key:
Operates central locking
Operates interior lighting. Time delay on entry
Automatic illumination when engine turned off
Operates exterior lamps
Enables/disables alarm system
Unlocks tailgate
Horn sounds if either front door is ajar when remote locking
Sound system operates only in original vehicle

# Maximum figures as per ECE regulations
* Figure quoted using 98 RON (PULP)


3.6L 60-degree Double Overhead Cam V6 with 4 valves per cylinder. Twin knock control sensors with individual cylinder adaptive control. On-board diagnostics.
Continuously variable camshaft phasing for inlet and exhaust cams. Variable Intake Manifold (VIM)
Capacity: 3564
Compression: 10.2
Power: 195kW@6500rpm
Torque: 340Nm@2600rpm
Exhaust system: Dual exhaust outlets
Gear ratios:
1st 3.42
2nd 2.21
3rd 1.60
4th 1.00
5th 0.75

Words Adam Mamo, photos Darren Cottingham

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