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Car reviews - Holden - Statesman - WM sedan range

Launch Story

Holden logo1 Sep 2006

By CHRIS HARRIS

HOLDEN’S prolonged launch of its new large passenger-car range comes to a conclusion with the launch this week of the long-wheelbase WM-series Statesman and Caprice models.

Adding a further $190 million to the billion-dollar investment on the VE Commodore range, the new long-wheelbase Holdens arrive with the promise of European standards of quality, dynamics and passenger safety at decidedly un-European prices.

The new Statesman/Caprice models share much with the new Commodore, although only the front doors are interchangeable in the quest to achieve greater degrees of visual separation than have been managed in the past. Holden says the new Statesman/Caprice have 43 unique panels.

In the process we have been given a bigger maxi-Holden that stretches the wheelbase to a massive 3009mm, which is 70mm more than before – even if the overall length has shrunk by 32mm to provide some of the blunt look evident in the VE Commodore.

But the Statesman/Caprice tote a big boot displacing a generous 535 litres, which is up on both the new Commodore and outgoing Statesman/Caprice.

And, importantly, Holden has rearranged the pricing so there is less monetary separation between the Statesman and the upmarket Caprice, which is PM John Howard’s (who officially sanctioned Holden’s heavily refurbished Elizabeth plant in Adelaide) current choice of luxury limo.

Both new Holdens are available with either the high-output 3.6-litre 195kW/340Nm 60-degree V6 or the 6.0-litre 270kW/530Nm 90-degree V8 – the latter equipped with GM’s six-speed automatic transmission and the former with the five-speed version familiar in Commodore since the introduction of the Alloytec V6 in the VZ.

At the long-wheelbase launch, Holden also revealed the official fuel economy figures for the new Statesman/Caprice, in which the V6 is slightly better – up from 11.8/L/100km to 11.7L/100km – and the V8 slightly worse at 14.5L/100km compared to 14L/100km previously.

As before, the Caprice targets the sports/luxury market with tougher looks and a re-set suspension using firmer dampers as well as meaty 18-inch wheels wearing 245/45 R18 tyres (17-inch wheels in Statesman, with 225/55R17 tyres).

The V6 promises strong performance despite the weight creeping up by around 100kg or so to top out at 1840kg in the Caprice – or 1890kg if equipped with the V8. The Statesman tips the scales at 1805kg and 1845kg in V6 and V8 form respectively.

The V8 is a genuine powerhouse that copes well with the weight and is capable, in Caprice, of 400m passes in less than 14 seconds.

Like the VE Commodore, the long-wheelbase cars are much stronger in the body than before, and were benchmarked against European luxury sedans to achieve a 30-hertz reading for bending resistance, and 35 hertz for torsion. This comes from the extensive use of high-strength steels and an integrated cockpit – both of which also benefit the accuracy of assembly and endow the big Holdens with tight, constant fit lines and a general air of class.

Both cars get Holden’s electronic stability control (ESP) system, as well as dual front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags, active front head restraints, front and rear park assist, and acoustic windscreen with a PVB layer between the laminates, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, trip computer, dual-zone climate-control, bluetooth compatibility and a trip computer that can be operated, along with the sound system, via buttons on the steering wheel.

The aim of the designers was to present a quality, uncluttered interior look and this they have managed with a centre stack that is derived from but quite different to the VE Commodore.

Separate dials for the instruments are presented in an angled panel trimmed in fake wood (Statesman) or real aluminium (Caprice) and there are clearly marked controls for the HVAC and sound systems in the centre stack.

The Caprice, for a smaller premium than before (it is the first time since 1991 that a premium Holden has been tagged under $70,000), adds dual LCD screens in the back of the front head restraints, more deeply-cushioned and heavily contoured seats, 10-way adjustment for the front seats (with driver-side memory), bi-Xenon headlights with washers, Bose sound system and, as mentioned earlier, the bigger 18-inch wheels with bigger tyres, bigger brakes and a re-set suspension with firmer damper rates.

Holden doesn’t talk any more about volume expectations (as if it didn’t have them) but does say that Australia is only a small player in its long-wheelbase market. The local figure is only about one quarter or so of what is sold in left-hand drive, Chevrolet-badged form, in the Middle East.

But Holden does expect to cash in on the fact that sales in the prestige/luxury segment have grown significantly in the last five years and, particularly with the Caprice, hopes to capture more private sales to customers aged 40 or above.

With the realigned pricing, Caprice is expected to account for a higher sales percentage than before, up from 20 per percent of long-wheelbase sales to something like 50 per cent.

The 6.0-litre V8 is expected to account for about 80 per cent of Caprice sales and 40 per cent of Statesman sales.

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