The Holden Calais is a flagship car from the popular Holden range produced by General Motors (GM). Essentially it is the top-of-the-range Commodore complete with bells and whistles, providing a high-performance drive in a luxurious and safety-conscious environment.
The Holden Calais was introduced to the market in 1984 and has continued to reign supreme amongst the Holden models ever since. Its main competition comes from the Ford Falcon, Nissan Maxima, and Honda Accord, and to a lesser extent its predecessor models in the Commodore range.
The early VK and VL models (1984-1988) sat firmly within the mid-size range before the second-generation enhancements and VN, VP, VR, and VS editions catapulted the Calais to full size. Third-generation models (VT, VX, VY, and VX) saw the Calais through from 1997 to 1996, when the popular VE took the market by storm. Both third- and fourth-generation models are highly sought after in the used-car market, while the VE remains in production and a popular choice both as a full-size family car or quality company vehicle.
The Calais has continued to reinvent itself during its three-decade supremacy, coming into its own once more with the 2010 editions. The unique SIDI engine is a major selling point for the brand. SIDI stands for Spark Ignition Direct Injection, a system that improves fuel distribution by driving it straight into the combustion chamber and providing an enhanced compression ratio for better performance and efficiency. Sharing this system with some of the leading German brands including BMW, Audi, and VW, the Calais is in undisputedly good company.
The latest Calais V-series models use rear-wheel drive and a 6L50 six-speed automatic transmission. Engine capacity for the Omega, Berlina and Sportwagon models is 3.0 litres, while the SV6 sedan and ute, as well as the long-wheelbase Statesman and Caprice models, come with a 3.6-litre V6 version or a V8 for added performance. Combined average fuel consumption runs between 9.9lt/100km and more than 10lt/100km and emissions are in the region of 241 g/km. The 73-litre fuel tank offers plenty of drive between stops, with the 3.0-litre Omega capable of driving from Sydney to Melbourne on an impressive single tank.
The V8 is unsurprisingly the most impressive of the pack, with serious acceleration at the touch of a pedal combined with a smoothness that can be difficult to achieve in a car with so much power beneath the bonnet. Extra sound deadening in the cabin gives protection from the throaty rumble of the powerful engine, which remains just loud enough on the outside to let the rest of the world know the Calais is on its way.
The V8’s road handling doesn’t quite live up to its power, however, with a tendency to oversteer, but on the whole the Calais delivers a quality ride whichever guise you happen to drive it in.
The early VN model introduced a decent spec for looks and equipment, with air conditioning, power windows, central locking, cruise control, trip computer, a quality music system, and smart velour trim to doors and roof.
Every edition of the Calais has delivered a comfortable interior and luxurious feel to the ride. Standard models from the newer ranges feature a plush cloth interior with leather bolsters or full-leather upholstery. Plenty of standard equipment now includes dual-zone climate control, integrated Bluetooth, colour LCD with 6.5-inch screen, high-quality multi-CD stereo, dual-zone climate control, and a six-way operated driver’s seat to ensure optimum comfort in the drive position.
ANCAP rating for the VE Calais is five stars, providing drivers with the added reassurance of safety as well as comfort on the roads.
In its V8 guise the Holden Calais is considered by many to be the best in its class. The Calais’ main competition comes from models such as the Ford Falcon G6E Turbo, Chrysler 300C v6 CRD, Nissan Maxima, Honda Accord and Skoda Superb 3.6 Elegance. These models all share the limo-style ride and punchy engine capabilities, but the Calais stands out at the front of the pack for looks, comfort, and general luxury.