Luxury still in vogue
CHANCES are that you've probably seen me in front of you at a red traffic light or at a road works stop sign. I'm the one bopping away to the music singing at the top of my lungs, screaming a bit louder during the chorus to disguise the fact that I don't really know many of the other verses. If we are forced to linger a little longer I usually throw in a few arm movements and shoulder jerks for variety, hopefully in time to the music. I am after all of Generation X, the latter half let it be hastily said, and we pride ourselves on knowing our music.
As children we supped on a diet of our parents' record collection of hits from the '60s and '70s, as teenagers we grooved to the beat of the '80s blaring from walkmans and in the '90s we sweated it out on the dance floor to the latest rave mix. Now we are trendy enough to appreciate modern-day wonders while still shaking our heads in that oh so wise fashion that this generation actually believes that Forever Young is a Jay Z original.
In fact, there are so many songs floating around in our modest heads that it is sometimes difficult to put a name to a ditty. That whole tip-of-the-tongue scenario is horribly frustrating especially when your radio station of choice is in the middle of a 60-minute playlist.
Imagine then what a lovely surprise it was to glance up at the top-of-the-range entertainment system in the Holden Calais and see the name of the current song and artist lighting up the screen. That is just one of the many features in this luxurious offering, a car which incidentally first made a name for itself in 1984 – the very year the Alphavilles were enjoying chart-topping success with Forever Young.
As one of Holden's top billings you would expect the Calais to offer an above standard range of pampering and it certainly doesn't disappoint. The soft leather seats with lumbar support are comfortable to stretch out in taking the pain out of longer journeys. The driver's seat has an eight-way power adjustment and coupled with a steering wheel that can move for reach and height makes for the ultimate in driver comfort.
The dash and trim can sometimes be boring in models of this type but the Calais has kept things lively with silver accents and sporty materials. Instruments take the common-sense approach with the more frequently used dials at the driver's touch.
There is little doubt that the Calais benefits enormously from the switch to the 3.6-litre V6 SIDI powerplant. For those unfamiliar with the technology, the Spark Ignition Direct Injection allows for improved performance and efficiency by directing fuel straight into the combustion chamber. The Calais sings lustily through the widest part of the torque band with the Linear Control Suspension keeping bumps to a minimum. Tight around corners and powerful on the open road it makes for a pleasurable drive. Our test car had little trouble hauling a full load but there is a 6.0-litre V8 on offer if you so desire.
What do you get?
In this class generosity is often a given. The six-disc CD player drives 11 speakers and is MP-3 compatible. There is a roof mounted DVD player with wireless headphone for the kids in the back, a flashy navigation system and dual climate control and Bluetooth are also standard. Headlights and wipers are automatic, and safety features include dual stage front airbags, side and curtain airbags and adaptive front head supports.
In the event of an accident, a computerised system turns on the hazards, unlocks the doors and turns off the engine and fuel. The ESP system incorporates ABS, EBD, traction control and electronic brake assist.
The Ford Falcon G6E ($59,447) is the one to beat with the Toyota Aurion Presara ($53,850) and Sportivo ($40,990) also in the race.
The Calais has always been a top pick for families or as company cars and this update will firm up the stakes. It would be nice if the back seat folded down but that said it still has enough space, power and comfort to keep the interest.
The SIDI upgrade has certainly made visits to the pump more bearable. Official figures now stand at 9.9- litres/100km (combined average) as opposed to the previous 11.2- litres/100km.
It is still a bit thirsty around town and word has it that Holden parts are now dearer but that may be a small price to pay.
The Calais hasn't changed much in the past three but remains pretty sharp.
There are a few tweaks to the grille, lights and rear spoiler and the addition of a few badges but for the rest it is a case of business as usual.
We did, however, like how the volume of the stereo adjusts to the driving speed and mutes when a mobile phone is in use.
The Calais could do with a little more of a refined feel but Holden stays pretty true to their promise of comfort and luxury.
It is not hard to see why the Calais has been a firm favourite for almost three decades and the introduction of the SIDI system, especially with the push for everything green, is only likely to increase its longevity.
Model: Holden Calais V SIDI.
Details: Five-door rear-wheel drive sedan.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Engine: 3.6-litre naturally aspirated V6 generating maximum power of 210kW at 6400rpm and peak torque of 350Nm at 2900rpm.
Consumption: 9.9 litres/100km combined average.
Bottom line: $56,790.