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First drive: Holden hits the mainstream medium
GM Holden swaps Vectra for Epica in its quest to challenge Camry's mid-sized mantra
30 Apr 2007
GM Holden has taken on the mighty Toyota Camry with a new mid-sized sedan. In a dramatic realignment, Holden has dumped the European Opel-sourced Vectra and replaced it with the cheaper Epica sedan, which is produced by Daewoo in South Korea.
The Epica is the fourth Daewoo model to join the Holden range following Barina, Viva and Captiva, and has gone on sale in Australia with a base price of $25,990.
Instead of competing against the Honda Accord Euro and the upcoming Ford Mondeo, Holden is pitching its new player straight at Toyota owners – even referring to the car as its "Camry fighter".
The company also hopes the Epica will be able to lure some buyers of the Mazda6, Subaru Liberty and the similarly-priced Hyundai Sonata.
It says the Epica would also compete against the six-cylinder Toyota Aurion, but insists its research shows the car would not appeal to Commodore buyers.
The Epica is not a new model.
Its platform 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.
The engine has stayed largely the same, but the transmissions have been upgraded along the way, as has the car’s platform.
The exterior styling has also been overhauled, with only the doors carrying over from the previous model.
As with the South Korean-sourced Captiva all-wheel-drive, Holden engineers influenced the Epica’s chassis tune to make sure it was tuned to Australian conditions and tastes.
This included developing different spring and damper rates, as well as working with tyre manufacturers to select the right rubber.
The Epica is a six-cylinder, but not as we know it.
Daewoo, then supervised by Ulrich Bez, had Porsche develop a transverse six-cylinder engine to power its front-wheel-drive Magnus flagship.
The ultra-compact engine, just 642mm long, was developed as a 2.0-litre and a 2.5-litre, which is relatively small for a modern six-cylinder.
Daewoo chose an in-line six instead of a four-cylinder for the Magnus because that layout creates an inherently smooth powerplant – just ask BMW.
The engines are no fire-crackers.
The 2.0-litre generates 105kW at 6400rpm and 195Nm of torque, while the 2.5-litre manages 115kW at 5800 revs and 237Nm at 2600rpm.
Holden is only offering the 2.0-litre with a five-speed manual, fitted to the CDX price-leader which costs $25,990.
The 2.5-litre engine is only available with a five-speed automatic as the CDX, which costs $27,990, and the CDXi, which is priced at $30,990.
Fuel consumption is 8.2L/100km for the 2.0-litre manual and 9.3L/100km when tested to the ADR 81/01 standard.
As Holden is only too happy to point out, the Epcia uses less fuel than the four-cylinder Toyota Camry, which has figures of 8.9L/100km for the manual and 9.9L/100km for the automatic.
However, the Camry 2.4-litre four-cylinder has more power and torque than the Epica’s smaller six-cylinder and more power than the larger six, but doesn’t quite match its torque output.
A measuring tape reveals the Holden has similar dimensions to its Toyota rival.
The Epica is 4805mm long, 1810mm wide and has a wheelbase of 2700mm.
This compares to the Camry at 4815mm long, 1820mm wide, with a wheelbase of 2775mm.
The Epica uses a fairly standard suspension set-up, comprising MacPherson struts at the front and an independent multi-link rear-end.
It is a practical sedan with spilt-folding rear seats that open up the cargo area to longer items.
The base CDX models sit on 16-inch alloy wheels, while the CDXi comes with 17-inch alloys. Both cars are fitted with a 15-inch steel spare, which has the same rolling diameter, but is limited to 80km/h because the wheel itself is smaller.
Electronic stability control is not available as it has not been developed for the Epica.
Anti-skid brakes are standard for all models, as is traction control and front and side airbags for the driver and front passenger.
Side curtain airbags are added to the CDXi model.
Standard gear for the base CDX includes cruise control, air-conditioning, electric windows and single-disc CD sound.
Stepping up to the CDXi adds climate-control air-conditioning, electronic information display, a bodykit, six-disc CD sound, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift, and metallic paint.
A leather trim pack is available for the CDXi for an additional $2000.
The styling for the Epica was penned at the GM Daewoo design centre in Bupyong, South Korea, which was, at the time the Epica was locked in, being overseen by former Holden design chief Mike Simcoe.
The shape is softer than the latest European designs including the next Mondeo, with the Epica also featuring chrome on its grille and at the top of the door sills to lift its appearance.
There are similar chrome-look touches inside all models, while the CDXi fitted with the leather pack also comes with a strip of woodgrain for the dashboard.
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