New models - Holden - Caprice
First drive: Holden’s top-shelf WL Caprice
A 250kW V8, more equipment and chassis tweaks improve the Holden Caprice breed
17 Aug 2004
STILL fresh from receiving a sportier new personality with the WK-series cosmetic facelift in May last year, Holden’s most expensive model continues its upward stride with the release of the WL version.
The final update of a long-wheelbase sedan series that will be replaced by the all-new, VE Commodore-based WM-series within two years, Holden’s latest stretched sedan heralds a more powerful standard V8, more standard equipment and subtle styling tweaks including smart new LED tail-lights.
But while the latest iteration of Holden’s luxury class leading "local limo" - which began life as the 1999 WH Statesman/Caprice (itself a longer version of the 1997 VT Commodore) – offers a number of significant technological advances, the flagship V8 misses out on Holden’s trumpcard stability control system, which is available across the facelifted VZ Commodore V6 range.
Exclusive to the new 3.6-litre Alloytec 190 V6 because of its all-new engine management system, the new Bosch 8.0 ESP system – virtually identical to that found in Ford’s Territory SUV – can only be had as standard in Acclaim, Calais, Statesman and Caprice V6.
Caprice’s standard safety armoury includes brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution on top of the full gamut of twin front and twin front side airbags, active front head restraints and front seatbelt force limiters and pretensioners.
Only the less expensive Caprice V6 offers the more sophisticated electronic brake assist and ESP, which includes cornering brake control and the latest ABS system.
The flagship Caprice, which in WL guise rises in price just $700 to $74,390 ($69,650 for the optional V6) when it goes on sale in September, partly compensates for this with exclusive new standard equipment like switchable front park assist (to go with the current model’s rear parking sensors, which operate under 25km/h in forward gears) and a tyre pressure monitoring system like that offered by HSV.
Like all VZ/WL models, there’s also an upgraded brake system including a new booster and master-cylinder combination that is claimed to reduce stopping distances by four per cent by improving brake pedal response, as well as a revised traction control system that now activates unobtrusively (without accelerator pedal push-back) and features a higher activation threshold.
In line with the higher output of VZ Commodore SS, there’s a performance hike for Caprice’s standard V8 too, with power and torque both rising five points each to 250kW at 5600rpm and 470Nm of torque at 4800rpm, thanks to revised ECU software mapping, a larger 95mm air intake, a mass airflow sensor and exhaust tweaks.
As with the new V6, the VZ/WL-spec V8 also receives electronic throttle control, which offers smoother pedal performance and greater durability than the current V8’s cable throttle.
Exclusive to SS, SV8 and Caprice, the 250kW version of Holden’s Chev-sourced 5.7-litre Gen III V8 out-powers both Statesman’s optional 245kW V8 and the 235kW V8 that is optional in Calais and Berlina sedan and wagon.
So while there’s exclusive new equipment and an exclusive (at least in long-wheelbase terms) power output, Holden’s most expensive model lacks both the key new safety feature of some of its cheaper V6-powered siblings and the new five-speed automatic transmission mated to the premium Alloytec 190.
Going some way to making up for this are revisions to the V8’s four-speed GM auto, which apart from the fifth ratio also lacks the Alloytec 190’s new five-speed GM auto’s Active Select manual-shift function. Upgrades to the V8 auto’s hydraulics, controller and calibration are aimed at improving shift-to-shift variations and downshift times.
Rounding out WL Caprice’s revisions are the same front anti-roll bar changes that benefit short-wheelbase models, including a different pickup point (now ball-jointed, not rubber bushed) which reduces both the bar’s mass and bar crank length by 40mm to sharpen steering and "increase the range of mild understeer at low to mid lateral G-forces".
There’s also a new, lighter power steering pump and hoses to improve on-centre feel, while Caprice continues to employ firmer suspension than that of Statesman.
A lidded centre console compartment, lighter colour scheme and new instrument graphics are the extent of WL Caprice’s interior changes, with standard leather for Statesman bringing it closer in specification.
Caprice, however, continues to offer the full-house equipment list, including full leather trim, climate control, rear DVD player and powered front seats with driver’s memory.
Subtle exterior styling changes round out the WL Caprice story, headlined by light emitting diode tail-lights featuring 24 LEDs in five horizontal rows. A first in an Australian-made vehicle, they are said to light up 1000 times quicker than a conventional bulb.
Combined with a new square chromed exhaust outlet, the LED tail-lights give both Caprice a more high-tech rear-end look, and are also standard on Statesman.
Both long-wheelbase models score the more heavily ridged new bonnet and new alloy wheels (Caprice with bigger 17-inch items), while further differentiating Caprice from Statesman are sportier black-bezel headlights and a hexagon-mesh grille with single horizontal bar, instead of the Statesman grille’s chromed uprights.
There’s also a new front bumper with larger intake and subtle side skirts, continuing the sportier new attitude that saw WK Caprice sales double those of its WH predecessor, along with bettering Ford’s LTD luxury class contender by a staggering seven times.
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