Holden Commodore berlina 3.0L V6, SSv 6.0L V8, Calaise 6.0L V8, Caprice 6.0L V8 and SV6 3.6L V6

Most little boys, and a number of little girls, grow up with Motor sports and like it or not, we are Ford or Holden people, Commodore or Falcon? Even if we don’t watch it, everyone knows what and where Bathurst is.

We’ve spent the last 5 weeks trawling the streets and highways of Australia to bring you the brand new (well 6 months old now) Holden big-boys-toys line up. It was hard but someone had to do it. We had the sexy-as-hell Berlina Sportswagon, the drop dead gorgeous Commodore SSv and SV6, the super elegant top drawer Calaise Redline and the range topping Caprice V for those who think size counts, which let’s face, is all of us.

IQ is now standard kit for all big Holdens. It’s very very clever and once you operate one, you can operate the whole range. How very Airbus of them! Base models still get Bluetooth and on-screen info including programming the infotainment system. Bluetooth is a snap and it only takes a few moments to pair your instrument. Boys don’t read manuals so it must be easy right? It’s fully handsfree and supports voice dial if your phone has it. Your address book is displayed in the screen but this is the only bit I didn’t like. It is far too slow and clunky. Much easier to touch the button and speak, though she has a habit of getting it wrong. Even my other half who is technically challenged found it a breeze with not the slightest sign of a hissy-fit. The best thing is you don’t have to plug your iPhone in because the tunes will stream via Bluetooth. If you plug in via USB you’ll have full iPod control via the IQ. If you can put up with the wrong songs, it will play with voice selection but I rather felt like that call centre ad on TV where no matter what I said it played something else or nothing at all. Too clever by half!

You don’t have to go far before the Sat Nav models drive you quite mad. One of the features is camera and school zone warnings. The warning “bing” is an annoying tone that will have you ripping every hair out by the roots, especially in the city where is bings every 20 metres or so. It’s funny the first 10 times but then you will want to throw yourself off the gap if you think you can’t turn it off. That’s the second stroke of genius, Holden know boys like a thoroughly good fiddle with a knob, so the security, locking, lights and bing bing functions can be personalised. For the record, the bloody binging racket can be put to bed via the satnav menu. With the ignition on, you flick through the small central LCD screen between the tacho and speedo for other menu items. You decide if you want the doors to lock or unlock if the key is moved or the gear lever is moved, or the car moves. Do you want only the driver’s door unlocked, or all of them? And how about those lights front and back? Do you fancy your path to be gently lit so you don’t go tits-up in a puddle and night? No problem. On electric seat models, you have the option of the passengers mirror dipping when you select reverse. Just imagine how that will save your precious alloys! You select the ‘on” by pressing the mem button on the driver’s seat. Move the mirror to where you want it after selecting reverse, then select park and press “mem” again and bobs-your-uncle. From then on selecting reverse will dip the mirror to your saved position. Brilliant! Other brands have it for sure, but just try programming it. The satnav models also have a reverse camera. As you all know, I think no car should be without one. There isn’t one among us who hasn’t hit, or nearly hit something or someone while backing up. It gives you the most awful fright. It happened to me once and I nearly dropped my gin!

Mostly the trim is the same in all models. There is cowhide or cloth but other than that everything looks the same. The sporty SSV and SV6 get different dash vents but that’s about it. It’s not a problem for the 6 pot models but the V8’s drink like a drag queen if you’re not careful. Holden have a clever little gadget that tells you if you’re in 4 cylinder mode and how much petrol is being sucked down. Surprisingly, especially on cruise control, the V8 will stay in 4 cylinder mode for much of the time. Did I mention the computer will cut out 4 cylinders when the power isn’t needed? It’s odd though that at idle, all 8 cylinders are drinking down duel at an Olympic rate. Funnily enough, the V8’s get about the same fuel figures as our ancient SAAB 9000 which is a wheezing old 4 cylinder. There is no doubt that most V8 buyers won’t be forking out for their own fuel, but the rest will pay anything for the thrill of being pinned back by 270 hairy chested kilowatts of brute force. With a huge 512 NM of torque, a mere caress of the go pedal will stick your face to the back window. Once you’re going, you can drive around all like a tweed suited, carpet bag carrying granny, but stick the stiletto to the floor and you release an angry  fire breathing Norse god complete with Hammer and horns, and the sound is glorious. There is no need of special damping or clever membranes in the exhaust, this is genuine GGGGRRROOOWWWLLLL. Sadly even the sports models are far too quiet at gentle speeds. Frankly if I was paying for the petrol, I would want noise, and lots of it. Best of all, Holden has made the range Bio-Fuel compatible. Use E10 or E85 without risking a piston through your bonnet.

Berlina International 3.0L v6 VE series II

The sports wagons must have been conceived over a pitcher or margaritas. Imagine the Holden designers full as state school port racks scribbling furiously on their coasters then passing out. Now picture first thing in the morning, the sun comes out, a few blokes surface feeling shitty as hell from the night before, glaring incredulously at their drunken musings. Their tongues feel like the bottoms of cockies cages, but they can’t believe the thing of true undiluted beauty before them. A few excited calls later, the big man at Holden jumps for joy, and oh what a feeling, the Sportswagon is born. As it turns out, Sportswagon is the only local wagon. Ford only has the massive territory SUV and all the rest are imports. Holden must have been wringing their hands with glee and the sales spoke volumes as the most popular car in the country got even more popular. The series 2 Commodores all got upgraded interiors and tweaked exteriors. It’s a very classy package with supple ride and first class handling, and is a bunch of fun.

The interiors are more or less common to all models of Commodore. The 3.0L is Bio fuel compatible in line with Holden’s view that switching to alternate fuels now is a good thing. I think they are missing a trick by not have a diesel option, but the petrol engines are fabulous. Although there is 190KW in the  3.0L V6, I can’t help but feel the Berlina International would definitely be better with the 3.6L 210KW unit from the SV6. It was made the wagon feel a touch heavy. The international scores a few extra goodies over the base Omega and is well worth the money. Wagons come in handy for the sales rep or camper or for the dogs. If you are the outdoorsy type, you’ll love the extra room which could be used as one big flat area with the seats down. If you love being uncomfortable and having none of life’s little luxuries, you could throw some camping gear in the back and head for a frolic in the woods with the better half. Frankly I would rather put my eyes out, nonetheless, the Sportswagon wonderfully versatile.

SV6 VE series II 3.6L

The man from Holden handed me the keys to the SV6 and out I went to see the magnificent fire engine red SV6 just begging to be swept up and taken away in my arms. But I do go on! The 18inch wheels look hot and the effect was as melting as the super-hot guy across the bar that looks over and sees only you, and you feel like the only person on the planet, and you want to take him home and….. Well funnily enough the SV6 can drive you home as well, so there are a lot of similarities really aren’t there?

It screams “look at me” and I guess that’s why they have been so popular. The IQ is sans SatNav but who cares, I’ll use my iPhone. All Commodores and caprices share the same steering wheel controls for phone, radio and menu so drive one and you drive them all in that respect, again, not unlike the cute guy at the bar. Unlike the cute guy, there is absolutely 0% chance of disappointment with no performance issues regardless of the time of day. The same 6 speed auto across the range is super smooth with none of that hunting endlessly for the right gear nonsense. The ride is just a little firmer than the base models and you have to really misbehave before you look like getting into strife. Even in the wet, the electronic nannies sort out most of your miscalculations. Despite the fact that the SV6 is a very popular model, you get lots of looks, and not just from bogans in riced 20 year old Nissan Silvias.

Apart from the colour, the sexy body and the luscious interior, things that you can see, only a drive will show how good the SV6 really is. Costing in the mid 40’s, it is great value for a full sized, 4 door sports car. The VE has been out for a few years now but hasn’t aged a day and this midlife make over hardly touched more than the headlights but the interior spruce-up has been a real shot in the arm. The one thing I hate, and it is being a nit-picker, is the hideous hand brake. It’s hard to use and if not adjusted properly needs two hands to release, and when you do, you are very likely to snag a finger in the vice-like jaws formed by the odd design. It looks good though…

SSV VE series II 6.0L V8

I could hardly contain myself when I drove the Sunburst Yellow SSV out of the Holden Dealer. Not used to the ever-so-touchy accelerator, I gently dabbed the throttle to find I had launched myself several hours into the future. I used the catch-up time to have a coffee and gather my thoughts. I had read the specs before collecting the SSV, but nothing prepares you for the brute force of that massive hunk of pig iron (well alloy actually) up front. The performance figures are eye as watering as the fuel consumption. But driven with just a smidgen of finesse and the fuel use improves no end (12.9l/100k average). A Holden-aphile will spot the SSV Badge which means more stuff inside and the chromed quad exhaust to get as much out the 6 litres of symphonic mastery as possible, and of course 19” wheels, YUM! To be honest, 2 valves per cylinder and pushrods seems a bit last millennium. But one drive fixes all that. (Keep in mind that Lexus IFS which we are testing in a few weeks, gets 310 KW out of its 5.0L V8).

The inside is pretty much the same as the SV6 but you get SatNav/reverse camera and a few extra dials in the instruments. These are common to all V8 Commodore/Caprice.Is it worth the money? Hell yes! Both the SV6 and SS models get a honking great boot spoiler which does nothing but look HUGE, but I couldn’t option if off. You get used to it after a while. The leather is a nice quality and very comfortable even in the heat of summer.

I’m only going to describe the handling as superb. Fabulous ride on both 6 and 8 cylinder cars with light and responsive steering should be legendary. Again, on both models, the sound proofing is amazing. How far we have come since the almost prehistoric VB HDT commodore of 1978.

Calaise V Redline. 6.0L V8

Without the brashness of the SSV, even with the same engine, the Calaise looks very mild mannered and subdued. In fact you can get it as untidy as the ferocious SSV. If you were of a mind, you could shred your tyres and ruin the neighbour’s sleep with very little effort. Although fun, it’s a touch undignified in the full-on luxury Commodore. You notice the Calaise no longer wears the Commodore name, but take off the business shirt and scratch at the singlet and you’ll find the same hairy chest as the SSV. It still breathes fire, but the more subtle outside is mirror by an altogether more grown up inside. Boy racer has been banished by the merchant banker who has more sense than to spend 3 times as much on a Merc or BMW. Can a humble Holden really compete against German marketing? The answer is, if a car makes you feel special, if it makes you smile, if after 10,000 k’s of motoring you still love it more than iPod, than yes Holden can compete. The simple fact is Audi, Mercedes, BMW and even the delectable Jaguar can’t do this price. It’s not as sophistacted I hear you say, and you’re right. But at the end of the day, you get in and drive from one place to another then get out and go about your business. The real test is how do you feel when asked what you’re driving? Are you proud to say Holden Calaise when the other guy says Mercedes Benz or do you feel a pang when you’re in a pissing contest? Only you know….

The Calaise shares the beautiffuly chiselled body of the Commodore, but you get a bit of tarting-up for your money. The leather is nicer, the wheels are nicer, and the options list is very short because they have piled the range topping redline chock full of stuff. The special leather and rear camera are obvious, but the Brembo brakes are really just showing off, but they work awfully well. And yet, surrounded by well appointed luxury, there is the same boy racer thrill when you gently push your Gucci moccasin (yes you’re just a bit daggy) into the carpet and the monster is unleased. You hear the utterly fabulous chorus front up front but the limited slip diff, traction control, ABS, EBD and ECS tame the beast if you forget yourself. It’s really a better equipped SSV without the gaudy paint, massive spoiler and firm suspension. If you’re the kind of person who has decision issues, don’t test drive both.

Caprice V

For most of us, the Statesman Caprice is a slightly clapped out series 1 WB Silver Service taxi with a little man at the wheel  is sweating profusely and swearing at all the other drivers and telling you how awful the traffic is and how bad the work has been today. The V6 is shagged, the diff is a bit past it and the gearbox sounds like it’s full of shrapnel. Everything works, but the speedo is on its 5th spin and frankly you wonder if you’re going to get to your hot date.

Rest assured the limo didn’t start out that way. When Holden did the same makeover on the Statesman Caprice, they ditched the “Statesman”  bit. I think this is a mistake as I was fond of statesman going back to the first model of the 70’s. It always looked super elegant built on the Kingswood station wagon platform with a boot the size of Queensland. The people driving in it always looked posh and smiled from inside their cocoon. It turns out they knew something I didn’t.

Our final car is the king of the Holden pile which is known at the dealerships as “the beast”. The leather is softer, the suspension somehow wafts along making hardly a noise or movement and somehow it corners like its smaller sister, the Calaise. There is no hiding the fact that it’s a very big chunk of metal, but as a driver it honestly feels no bigger than a commodore. It’s helped mainly by the massive engine. You find yourself nipping in and out of traffic and trying to get into places that are just a tad too tight, but you get in anyway, much like that date! You have parking sensors front and back, the reverse camera of course, and the test car had a towing pack so should you accidentally touch park…..

The sunroof had a rather clever dial rather than a switch. You could dial your preferred possie and the roof opened without you doing anything else. I was slightly annoyed at not being able to leave it open without the key in the ignition. As soon as you take it out the bloody roof shuts. Of course it goes without saying that even a tall person such as I could sit in the back with my legs fully out and still have room. Capacious just isn’t sufficient to describe the space. There are controls for the audio and rear mounted DVD, plus wireless headsets and a remote! Joy of joys there is also a knob to twiddle should you happen to be a despot in need of extra cooling because if the front is set to tri-zone, you are able to control your own air temp. How is that for smarts? And, I’m not sure if it was my imagination, but the back seemed to have an even smoother ride than the front. Perhaps I should become a despot, though some say I already am.

I know I gush when I drive a car or cars that I really like, but the makeover for series II addressed all those little niggles I had about the VE. If the VE II is this good, where does that leave Holden for their next range?

I’ve driven lots of cars over the years but I kid you not when I say the Caprice V made me feel like a queen.

model cyl Cap litres trans Co2 gms Power kw Torque nm Fuel cusumpt 0-100 Price*
Caprice V 8 6.0L 6 sp Auto 292 260kw 517nm 12.3 comb $69,990
Calaise V redline 8 6.0L 6 sp Auto 292 240kw 517nm 12.3 comb $61,990
SSV 8 6.0L 6 sp Auto 292 260kw 517nm 12.3 comb $57,290
SV6 6 3.6L 6 sp Auto 234 210kw 350nm 9.8 comb $43,790
Berlina sportswagon 6 3.9L 6 sp Auto 216 190kw 290nm 9.1 comb $38,990

*excludes onroads