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Car reviews - Holden - Epica - sedan range

Launch Story

Holden logo11 Aug 2008

By CHRIS HARRIS

DIESEL at a Toyota Camry petrol price, a six-speed automatic for all versions, more safety including standard stability control and six airbags, and no price rises over the model it replaces are the latest Epica’s weapons of choice.

On sale now, the mid-sized four-door front-drive sedan from Holden’s South Korean GM-DAT division has undergone a mild makeover, barely 15 months after debuting in Australia.

Out goes the $25,990 CDX 2.0-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol engine with a five-speed manual gearbox as the base model, for the $27,990 CDX 2.5-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol that eschews the old five-speed automatic for a new 6T40 six-speed auto with Tiptronic-style Active Select shift as standard.

For $2000 extra, buyers can now choose the CDTi, boasting the 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel found in the popular Holden Captiva SUV – but with six instead of five speeds for the automatic gearbox.

And like that transmission, the diesel engine – a 1991cc SOHC 16-valve four-cylinder unit featuring a Bosch common-rail system with direct-injection, a variable-geometry turbocharger and a particulate filter – is also made in South Korea, but was devised and developed in collaboration with Italy’s VM Motori.

Euro IV emissions-compliant, it produces 110kW of power at 4000rpm and 320Nm of torque at 2000rpm, can return 7.6L/100km on the combined average fuel consumption cycle, and emits 210 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre.

In contrast, the 2.5-litre petrol six manages 9.3L/100km (exactly the same as the previous five-speed auto-equipped Epica, and still less than the Camry auto’s 9.9L/100km), and 221g/km of CO2 emissions, while its power and torque outputs (115kW at 5800rpm and 237Nm at 2600rpm) also remain the same.

You can spot the revised Epica by its smoother appearance, the upshot of a new grille and rear valance, while the alloy wheels have also come in for a restyle.

Drivers are more likely to appreciate a steering column that now telescopes and tilts.

A redesigned flip-out key fob, the inclusion of standard rear parking radar on the better-equipped CDXi models, and the introduction of heated front seats, as part of the $2000 Leather Pack option, complete the MY09 Epica’s transformation.

Underneath, the Epica dates back to the 1997 Daewoo Leganza, which was used as the basis for the Magnus, a more luxurious six-cylinder model that was introduced in Korea in 2000.

Nevertheless, GM modified the car significantly during a 27-month redevelopment regime costing around $55 million that saw 3,000,000km of vehicle development and 6,000,000km of engine durability testing.

Holden says its 64,000km of chassis tuning included developing different spring and damper rates, as well as working with tyre manufacturers to select the right rubber, transmission calibration and durability testing in Australia, with another 40,000km evaluating the diesel engine over here.

For the diesel model, the Epica’s MacPherson strut front suspension sees unique spring rates to offset the 70kg increase in engine weight, while the rack-and-pinion steering is a speed-sensitive device. There are no changes to the car’s multi-link rear-end.

According to Holden’s press release, its engineers “...tightened the handling feel, tuning spring rates and dampers to provide sharper responses, meeting Holden's high-speed double lane change and limit handling criteria at the extreme end of the scale. Body control and front-to-rear grip balance have also been improved.”

So, with a petrol and a diesel range available for under $30,000, Holden sees the Epica as finally being well-enough equipped to snare more than a few Toyota Camry customers its way, although how many exactly remains a secret. Fleets are being heavily targeted.

Around half of all sales are likely to be diesel.

According to Holden marketing director Philip Brook, a shortage of vehicles after a large fleet order earlier in the year saw previous Epica stocks dwindle, explaining a poor sales performance of just 1332 units to the end of June, compared to 11,771 Camrys and 11,387 Toyota Aurions over the same month.

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