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Car reviews - Holden - Caprice - Range

Our Opinion

We like
Interior overhaul gives us the limousine we always should have had, smooth and refined drivetrain adds to luxury feel
Room for improvement
Interior layout is not really all that different to base-model Evoke, too much tyre roar at speed, where’s all the extra kit that featured on the export cars?

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Holden logo28 May 2013

LOOKS can be deceptive. Never has this been more the case than for Holden’s newest version of its Commodore-based long-wheelbase Caprice limousine.

From the outside, the WN series looks the same as the WM it replaces. There’s no trick there, because it is the same.

In part, this is due to the fact that the limousine is not a big seller, so Holden decided it was better off spending its money on what will be the volume seller, the more mainstream Commodore. The other part of the reason is that the Caprice-based cop car is already locked into Holden’s US export program, and any mid-stream changes made to the program would upset things.

The one place it did benefit, though, was the interior, where it gains all the key updates heaped into the VF Commodore.

Of most benefit to Caprice buyers, though, is the safety gear available on the more richly equipped version.

Standard kit on the Caprice V includes the alert system that warns if the driver is following too closely to the car in front, a lane departure warning system that stops the car straying out of a lane, a blind-spot warning, and a head-up display that floats information in the driver’s eyeline.

Under the carryover bonnet, still made from steel instead of the VF’s lightweight aluminium, the Caprice carries over the same 6.0-litre V8 as before, producing the same 260kW and 517Nm, with the same cylinder shutdown system that turns the V8 into a V4 under light throttle, and the same six-speed automatic transmission.

However, both the transmission and the engine are better than before. The auto is now more intelligent, and can pick when the limousine is heading uphill. The big change is that instead of hunting through the gears as the Caprice V climbs, the ‘box now drops a single gear and holds it.

Under the bonnet, the old Caprice V would send a slight shudder through the car as the engine jumped out of V4 mode and fired up all eight cylinders in response to an increase in load. The new one is imperceptible when it cuts over, with the only indication being a small rise in the instantaneous fuel use figure.

On that, Holden has dropped the function that indicated whether the Caprice V was in V4 or V8 mode on the previously monochrome screen that sits in between the dials on the instrument cluster (it is now colour). According to Holden powertrain engineer Andrew Holmes, the small icon was no longer needed because buyers were now more accepting of the technology.

The power steering has also swapped to the same Korean-sourced electric unit that replaces the hydraulic one used in the old Caprice.

It allows the Caprice range to tap into the same self-parking technology as the rest of the Commodore line-up.

The Caprice V uses the same suspension set-up as the top-of-the-line Calais and entry-level Evoke models.

Classed as the “touring” tune, it gives the Caprice a quite comfortable low-speed ride on its standard 19-inch alloy hoops.

However, up the pace and things soon get a bit noisy, with lots of road roar, particularly over coarse-chip surfaces. There’s more noise from the suspension, too, with the low-profile tyres tending to slap loudly over sharp imperfections in the road surface.

You’re not going to mind so much, as the Caprice’s cabin is pretty well equipped in its “V” specification.

It mirrors the top-level Calais in terms of fit-out, including eight-way adjustable leather-trimmed heated front seats with a memory function, a DVD player with nine-speaker audio, remote engine starting, a whisper-quiet electric parking brake and more.

However, externally it gains the only Xenon headlights in the line-up, although misses out on the LED daytime running lights on the higher-priced Commodore models.

One thing the top-dog Caprice misses, though, is that true limousine experience. Holden has exported the long-wheelbase Commodore to other markets as either complete cars or knock-down kits, and included features such as massaging front seats, electrically adjustable rear seats, and even electric sun blinds.

Look through the options list on what is likely to be the last Australian-designed and built Commodore, and all this is missing.

Surely it is time?

Even though it wears the same face as before, Holden’s radically restyled Caprice is different enough under the skin to warrant a close look from buyers.

Here’s hoping the US police forces think the same thing.

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