above: the caprice on route to Queensland via the New England Highway
Above: LCD screen for rear passengers.
A cafe in a reclaimed church, The Containers will form the owners new home! The carpark sits just across from a cane field. How Australian is that?
A view from atop the range near Byron Bay NSW
The New Caprice.
Isn’t the Buell pretty?
Capacious, handsome, quick and advanced are some words one might use to describe Holden’s 2014 Caprice. I’d also like to describe it using the word “Statesman” too but Holden thought that tag far too old fashioned and the name was dropped. PAHHH! What wasn’t dropped was the vast space contained within her sexy exterior.
Although we’ll be giving the Caprice a thorough going over, the main thrust and parry will be just how a huge V8 fairs on a long journey. Many are afraid the cost of fuel makes taking a big luxurious beast such a long way would be prohibitive. Before we go into it let me share a few figures with you:
Fuel= up to E85. This includes standard unleaded and E10 through to E85 (take that Eurosnobs)
Econ= 9.1L/100k h/way and 18L city
Trip distance 2,400 kilometres (total tanks=3 and a smidge)
As I sit here recounting the story of the eventful journey, a day has passed and Sydney is being lashed by some of Tony Abbott’s “climate change is crap” whether events. The 12th floor here in waterloo is being lashed by what can only be described as an “extreme” event. I have no doubts that tomorrow’s papers will report (probably sanitised by the well-known ex-Australian now American resident Rupert “I’ll elect your new PM” Murdoch) as an unfortunate and rare storm. A scary time for anyone unfortunate enough to be outside.
Rupert’s nutbaggery however will not dampen my delight at being asked to sample a taste of Holden’s stunning flagship, the Caprice. Before you ask, No, I have not gotten over the dumping of the wonderfully regal nomenclature, “Statesman”, from Holden’s noteworthy history. But Caprice, once the top of the “Statesman” stable, has finally arrived at a place it should have been all along.
The body, already drop-dead gorgeous, was mercifully left unfettered by the bean counting dollar mad senior execs. Instead, the entire Commodore/Caprice interior was given a Cinderella makeover the likes of which would make QE II green with envy. In fact QETQM would have relished one of her famous G and T’s in the back seat missing not a bit of the luxury to which she was accustomed. Have I lost you? Despair not, I shall reveal all…
Let me paint a picture:-
What started as a normal run of the mill distance trip transformed into a life changing experience with Caprice as a willing and able partner.
A dear friend, sister Soph, agreed to accompany me on what would normally be a solo drive. Yes ladies and germs, we had ourselves a bona fide road trip. Like the Beverly Hillbillies, we loaded up the truck and moved (not to Beverly but) to sunny Queensland, resplendent with recent storm and flood damage and an utter nutter as leader. However, cocooned inside the rarefied atmosphere of the Caprice, all was quiet and jolly. The kind folk at Holden had omitted the obligatory user guide so we were left to our own devices to decipher the inner workings of their new poster boy.
After cramming the boot full of cases and pillows I collected Soph from her digs just near the ANZAC bridge in a posher part of town, which beyond my capacity to contemplate. She too, piled further belongings into the Holden, and we set off full of anticipation. The 6 litre power plant sang to us in an enticing symphony, and propelled us forward in an effortless waft of barely contained cataclysm.
The Caprice had been picked up only an hour before and there had been no exploration of her inner sanctum. That would come as the experience revealed itself. We were living life as the owner of a Caprice might be fortunate enough to live it. An Australian road trip, in all its glory, was gently unfolding as an epic from Homer might enrapture a reader with each turn of a page.
We settled into the first leg and Soph probed the “My Link” infotainment system for assistance. First the Satnav was programmed, not because we didn’t know where we were going, but because it provides details not otherwise available. It will tell you where there are hold-ups and what snarls to avoid. It will also give a running update on travel time, and how long each break adds to the arrival time. It has to be said that she can be a bit chatty so for much of the time she was asked to keep silent so cabin chat could ensue. We experimented with the online service which operates when a phone is paired later in the trip. The streaming music service gets tetchy in bad phone service areas though. Thanks to the new government, this isn’t likely to improve any time soon.
One of the major cabin upgrades is to the quality of the audio, and this goes for the whole range as I can now attest since I have since swapped to the lowly entry level Ute. The Caprice has an impressive Bose system which makes her predecessor look like a cattle dray with tin cans. I was always baffled why Holden had such rubbish sound in their otherwise impressive large cars. The new Caprice had a concert-hall-like tone though persisted in having an somewhat obsolete CD player mounted discretely in the dash. Ha! I hear you say, but nay it also takes DVD’s which can be displayed to wayward rear seat incumbents on journeys such as this. There are folding LCD’s in the front seats pointing rearward at just the right height. They function as monitors for videos, but we had no such incumbents so they were wasted. If there were, they could stretch right out because the legroom can’t be beaten in an any other Australian-made car. It is vast. NOTE:- when not in use the LCDs should be stowed because at night there are flashes from them that look like distant lightning in the rear-view mirror. Would a video playing at night distract a driver?
We wafted up the F3 but because our Liberal state government is run by a bunch of idiots, the road is now known as the M1. The renaming exercise cost them millions. I would have spray painted the signs for a fraction of that cost and spent the rest of a holiday in the Whitsundays! But, back to the wafting…
Because of the Japanese bladder my parents gave me, our stops were numerous which afford a chance to take in some of the New South Wales scenery normally passed by. Highways have a habit of robbing us of the best bits our wide brown land. We are all too keen to simply get where we’re going as fast as possible.
The cabin is a quiet place most of the time too with only the dulcet tones from a favourite playlist for company. It has to be said that selecting the New England Highway instead of the Pacific wasn’t the best choice. The NWH is chock-a-block full of road works and holiday-loving grey nomads towing an interminable number of caravans and pop-tops to climes unknown. They care not for folk enjoying a road trip and insist on driving often only 2/3 of the legal limit. This isn’t normally a problem but the goat tracks masquerading as national highways in this country are often sans a second lane resulting in kilometres of backed up traffic hankering to pass. The trip took an eon. It must be said that there is a bottomless pit in reserve for overtaking and unleashing the beast from time to time doesn’t affect the economy. Just don’t do it too often.
Once in Gatton, a mere spec of dust in south eastern Queensland, an overnight stop at sister Soph’s wonderful mum’s was a welcome respite from a dusty and tiring track. There isn’t a lot to see there so after a fortifying brekkie of bacon and eggs lovingly prepared by the lovely Wendy, I set off solo for Brisvegas. Soph, stopped for a spell of family reunion time. It gave me a chance to appreciate the Caprice in all her glory for she was much improved in her F series garb.
It would be churlish of me not to spend a few moments on the deft touches with which Holden had endowed it’s princess. The interior, one of the problems most folk had with the preceding models, had been facelifted. It had not been a normal half-baked attempt to prolong the life of an aging range, but rather a revitalisation of the linchpin of a once great auto maker. Indeed the model is one that could once again install Holden as a star atop the Aussie car-making Christmas tree.
The interior designer was given carte blanche and a seemingly limitless brief. The trim no longer feels like that from a poverty stricken Eastern Block nation emerging from the fall of the iron curtain. The console and dash have a new flair that would fool the most Euro-snobs into thinking they’ve stepped into a “Big German Barge”. The vast space hasn’t changed, instead it’s been refined in its appearance and feel. The dash has leather and suede and there are colour LCDs where once only pov-model duo-tones once ruled. The “My Link” has a generous touch screen and has apps which can be added at will. However without the user guide this procedure remained a mystery.
The menus have changed and the driver can no longer select how the doors are unlocked. There is keyless start so only shifting into Park will do the trick. That is of course unless you yank the door handle a couple of times. The Heads Up display is a system the Euros have had for ages and shows the driver info on his windscreen negating the need to drop the eyes to the speedo. It also tells you the speed limit and which direction you need to turn. The party tricks don’t end there, no siree-bob. The “crash detection” will inform you when it thinks you’re too close to the bloke in front and will flash a large red image of two cars and a star, meaning you’re too close damnit! It will sound a chime too but won’t apply the brakes as in other brands. Will this be added later? You will also get a chime and the flash of an Icon if you drift over the lane markers without hitting the blinkers. This is amazingly handy on a long trip as is the blind spot detection. This flashes an orange image on the exterior door mirrors telling you someone is sitting there, be it a bike or an 18 wheeler.
By far, the best trick of all is when parking. The Caprice is a massive chunk of tin to try and park. If you’re not adept at this procedure, or a conservative politician’s driver, you can hit a button on the console. If you want to parallel park it will find a space to fit and tell you to stop. Following the directions in the centre LCD, you will shift from reverse to drive and the car will steer you into the tightest of spots. All you have to do is use the brake as the steering is done by a computer telling the electric steering what to do. If you want to do the same thing at a shopping centre? No problem, hit the button again and it will park in rear in instead. It’s surprisingly accurate. There is a reversing camera in all F series Holdens now, a real boon in my opinion. Whether you’re driving a humble Commodore Evoke Ute or the fabulous Caprice, the automated parking and rear view cameras are standard. As far as I know, this is a world first to be fitted to an entire range.
As mentioned, all F series Holdens have electric steering. They also all have “My Link”, auto headlights, multi-zone climate control and electric parking brakes as standard. We all have caught a finger in the parking brake of the VE right? It should have been a court-martial offence!
The interior has a few faults such as the surround around the air cond controls which is nasty grey plastic, but that is really being picky. The upgraded interior design and increased standard technology has propelled the Commodore/Caprice range in a quantum leap to the head of the class. There isn’t anything else around for the price that looks, feels or performs as well. The final nail in the coffin of the opposition is the price, Holden have added all this stuff while reducing the retail price. Quite simply, this will wipe the other contenders off the map. The superb ride and handling is almost immaterial.
All Commodores run on standard ULP but can also take E10 and E85 and have done for several years. The E stands for Ethanol and is made from plants so as little as 15% of your fuel is taken from the fossil reserves. That’s a huge CO2 saving.
As I mentioned, I swapped the Caprice for the very bottom of the range Ute but the drop was almost imperceptible. Both the Ute and the Caprice are a little tail happy which means the electronic nannies cut in late, very late. They can be a handful in the wet but it’s so refreshing to feel like you are actually in control of a vehicle instead of a computer doing it all for you. Once I saw the Ute it all made sense. What Holden has done, has been done to the whole range. The Ute is no longer an awful weak blot of nothingness with steering from the 50’s. With a set of alloys you’d be hard pressed to pick it from a sports model. After sticking my nose into a Calais yesterday I’ve come to understand the range. Post makeover, the Caprice is now a long wheelbase Calais, just as it should be. The range now makes sense. The interiors are the same you just have to decide how much space you want and which interior appeals more.
The quick journey back to Sydney cemented Holden’s large cars into first place for price, performance, green credentials and class.
Would I buy a Caprice? An absolute yes!
Price:- $65,000 approx onroad. A drop of $10,000 on the previous model