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New models - Holden - Commodore - Calais sedan

First drive: Calais V6 offers Euro panache

Crisp handler: The Calais V6 was benchmarked against the BMW 5 Series.

Not only does the new Calais look like a polished European, it behaves like one

10 Aug 2006

AT $45,490 for the High Output Alloytec V6 mated to a silky sequential shift five-speed auto, the VE Calais makes a compelling argument of going local over a luxury import.

Buyers looking for prestige and luxury must spend more to get into some of the base model – 2.0-litre no less - Germans and some of the high-end Japanese offerings come nowhere near the Calais for local refinement, space or packaging.

Visually, the Calais is differentiated from lesser Commodores by its projector headlights, chrome grille header with mesh grille insert, 17-inch five-spoke alloys, larger tail-lights with clear smoked outer lens, dual round chrome exhausts, chrome ringed foglights, chrome door surrounds and body coloured door handles and mirrors.

Like the rest of the Commodore range, the Calais benefits from the substantial price roll-backs, in part to lure both private and novated lease buyers back to the big six fold.

But the Calais offers the biggest VE price reduction, essentially to make way for another model, the up-spec Calais V.

The "entry" Calais is down 15.5 per cent or $8400 (from $53,890 to $45,490, or just $5500 more than a Berlina).

Like the previous Calais V6, the VE Calais V6 has a five-speed auto, Holden’s upgraded High Output Alloytec V6 (now with dual exhausts), which develops 195kW at 6500rpm and 340Nm at 2600rpm.

13 center imageInside, the entry Calais gets fabric/leather seats (full leather is optional on the Calais but standard on the Calais V), dual front, side and curtain airbags, six-way power driver’s seat, colour information display, dual-zone climate control, height and reach adjustable leather steering wheel, white-faced instruments, large multi-function colour monitor for the audio, heating and stereo, six-way electric front seats, foglights, sliding front centre armrest, electric windows/mirrors, dual exhausts and chrome door handles.

It also gains the now standard ESP system, anti-lock brakes and brake assist.

Further up the performance tree is the VE Calais V8, which costs $50,490 – the same $5000 premium over the V6 as Berlina. Significantly it is down a massive $8100 over the VZ Calais V8’s price of $58,590.

For $53,490 ($400 less than the VZ Calais V6), the new Calais V variant adds 18-inch alloys, a full leather interior with the choice of two colours, eight-way power memory front seats, a 230-watt sound system, roof-mounted DVD player, rain-sensing wipers, alloy-look interior highlights and front park assist.

Calais V V8 is priced at $58,490 - $100 less than the VZ Calais V8.

Options include satellite navigation ($1990, available later this year), sunroof ($1690), rear seat DVD player ($1290), full-size alloy spare ($250) and a limited slip differential ($595).

It is no secret that Holden looked at the BMW 5 Series for ride control and chassis dynamics in the VE range and the Calais benefits significantly from this input.

The VZ’s semi-trailing arm rear-end has been replaced by a sophisticated four-link independent rear suspension and the front MacPherson strut unit replaced by a new strut design that employs a double-ball jointed lower A-arm.

Larger wheels compliment VE’s all-new rack-and-pinion steering, which is now mounted ahead of the front axle to deliver what Holden claims is better feel and response.

In an effort to achieve a 50/50 weight balance Holden has moved the engine back slightly in the engine bay, pushed the front wheels further forward and put the battery in the boot, which contributes significantly to the Calais’s impressively neutral stance in all situations.

The Calais, like the rest of the VE range, rides on a 125mm-longer (now 2915mm) wheelbase and also features 33mm-wider front track (now 1602mm) and 41mm-wider rear track (now 1618mm).

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