Holden Commodore Calais V8 Sedan Aug 2001 to Oct 2002 Buying Guide
The Calais distinguishes itself from base Commodores in subtle ways, with chrome window surrounds, a specific cross-hatch grille with black-outlined headlights and rear-deck badging. The bumpers are also different to those of base-model Commodores, while Calais models also get drivign lights and specific wheels. Calais also goes without the teardrop headlight design seen other lower-range Commodores since the introdution of the VX series.
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Dash & Controls
Dash & Controls
The Calais centre console and instrument fascia are finished in metallic silver. The ergonomically sound base layout is the same as all Commodores, except the Calais gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel, plus leather and chrome on the handbrake lever and gearshift. The master light switch on the right of the steering column also has a variable adjustment for the instrument lights. A trip computer advising average speed, average economy on trip, elapsed trip time, trip distance, fuel used on trip, audible and visual speed warning (with four adjustable settings), distance to empty, instant economy, trip distance to go, time to go and remaining fuel is also part of the deal. The screen for the optional satellite navigation system fits into the dash/console space ahead of the transmission shifter.
Controls are basically the same as regular Commodores, but supplemented with such features as an auto-dipping internal rear view mirror and variable intermittent road speed-sensitive wipers. The Calais also has automatic headlamps-on control at twilight, plus headlamps auto off after leaving the parked car. The trip computer in the Calais includes average speed, odometer, average economy on a trip, elapsed trip time, trip distance and fuel used on the trip. It also shows distance to empty, remaining fuel, instant economy and time to go. Also standard is an audible and visual speed warning with four adjustable settings. A priority key for two people automatically restores, when unlocking the car, settings for climate control, sound system, trip computer, speed alert, transmission power/economy mode, instrument dimmer, antenna height and headlamps-off time delay. It also restores the preferred driver's seat and exterior mirrors positions. The surround for the auto shifter is finished in wood grain trim.
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Stand Out Features
"Holden Assist" is optional on the Calais. Combining mobile phone and global positioning system technology, the system puts drivers in direct phone contact with the Holden Assist Centre, which is manned 24 hours a day and offers a range of support services. The Holden Assist system can also remotely unlock doors on command, diagnose low battery voltage, detect unauthorised entry, track and immobilise the vehicle if stolen and automatically notify authorities of an airbag deployment.
Standard in the Calais is an electronic climate control system with automatic and manual modes. Rear outlet vents are standard, as in all Commodores except the two-seat ute. The system offers dual temperature zones for driver and front passenger. A priority key for two people automatically restores settings for the climate control when unlocking the car.
The Calais sound system incorporates a cassette player with auto reverse and soft-touch controls. It may also be operated via steering wheel controls. It offers automatic program search, Dolby noise reduction, metal tape equalisation and blank tape skip. A 10-disc CD changer is located in the boot. The system has 10 speaker elements, including subwoofers, and a total output of 260 watts. A fully automatic power antenna incorporates driver adjustable pre-setting for height and auto retracts with the remote control priority key. There is also a rear window "diversity" FM antenna.
A global positioning system (GPS) is available as optional in the Calais. Holden has offered the Philips CARiN system across all Commodore models since March, 1999. The system covers all mainland capitals and close to 100,000km of bitumen. Holden Special Vehicles has offered the system since November, 1998.
The remote control priority key, with rolling security code, operates the dome lamp and rear reading lamps, and engages the door deadlocks when pressed twice. It also operates the central locking for keyless entry through the driver's door only, or unlocks all doors when the button is kept pressed. The head and tail lamps also switch on via the key to show the location of the car at night. The horn chirps if a door is left ajar when remote locking. The engine is disabled to immobilise the vehicle when the key is removed from the ignition. A slip-type steering lock prevents the front wheels turning if the steering wheel is forced. The Calais also has an alarm system, operated via remote control power key, which sounds the vehicle's horn when triggered.
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Well equipped, accomodating interior, improved suspension
We Don't Like:
Lack of split-fold rear seat, power steering lacks linearity
There was a time when the Calais was the absolute pride of Holden's passenger car fleet. When the company dropped its Kingswood-based range in favour of the more compact and seemingly politically correct Commodore in the late 1970s, it also lost the Statesman/Caprice models that had been doing battle with Ford's long-wheelbase Fairlane and LTD. The Calais, which was a dressed-up Commodore, came as a VK model in 1984 as an attempt to maintain a Holden presence in the entry level prestige market. It is probably fair to say many executives within the company at the time mourned the loss of the much bigger Statesman.
Today the Calais is no longer asked to do duty as the most luxurious Holden available. It's now a middle-tier entrant, a buffer zone between the Berlina and the Statesman, and a direct competitor for Ford's Fairmont Ghia. It may not be the ultimate Holden, but the Calais still comes across as a pretty well fitted-out car. It is a sort of mini-Statesman, with just about all the standard gear fitted to the long-wheelbase limo. About the only option available on Statesman that cannot be had on the Calais is self-levelling rear suspension. The equipment list otherwise reads virtually the same and includes features like the multi-function Holden trip computer, climate control air-conditioning, dual front and front side airbags, anti-lock brakes, 10-speaker 260-watt sound system with boot-mounted 10-disc CD stacker, cruise control, speed-sensitive windscreen wipers, auto-on headlights and powered, eight-way adjustable front seats. Like the Statesman, the Calais lists leather seat trim as optional and does not offer things like the three-position memory for the driver's power seat which is standard on the top-of-the-tree Caprice. But the Calais, like most Holdens, can be had with a variety of engine options, including the 5.7-litre, all-alloy Generation III V8 which adds a limited-slip differential to an already competent line-up of electronic aids such as four-channel anti-lock braking and a traction control system. The Calais also gets the Variatronic road-speed sensitive steering system used in Statesman and Caprice.
Holden sees the Calais as having appeal to a slightly younger age group, so it offers a few optional embellishments not available on the bigger, limo-style Statesman. These include the sportier FE2 suspension and a choice of body kits including three different types of rear wings. Our test car had none of this but it did come with the 225kW V8 and was trimmed out in Cobalt Blue leather to match the metallic Delft blue exterior.
Stepping inside the Calais, the differences between it and regular Commodores is evident. The doors in the test car had soft leather and suede-style inserts, the steering wheel, console shifter and handbrake all featured stitched leather and the selector surround on the centre console had a subtle, almost charcoal grey wood grain trim. The new, user-friendly steering column stalks add in a subtle way to the car's ergonomics and convey a sense of precision lacking in previous Commodores. The seats, not as plush as the Caprice, are nevertheless well proportioned and inviting. The Calais may not have the capacious long-wheelbase interior of its larger brethren, but it is still very accommodating with ample length and breath for most purposes. Like all Commodores, the Calais gets the larger (than Statesman/Caprice) central ski port in the rear seat, in this case incorporating a fold-down armrest. It is disadvantaged here compared to the Falcon range which has a proper, more versatile 60-40 split-fold rear seat enabling it to carry larger loads.
The Calais is set up more firmly than Statesman or Caprice, feeling almost sporty by comparison to the smooth, luxury ride of the bigger cars. Strangely, it also seems a little quieter, having none of the cabin "drumming" set up by the lengthened Statesman/Caprice interior. And the 225kW V8 feels more responsive, which is something of a surprise considering the V8 Calais only weighs around 90kg less than the massive Caprice V8. This minimal weight difference does not gel with real-life economy figures either because while it is common to see averages under 13 litres per 100km in the Calais, it is virtually impossible to get anywhere near that in the Caprice. Strangely, Holden in its official literature quotes exactly the same city/highway fuel figures for both. The all-alloy V8 is happy to run on regular grade unleaded and the fuel tank holds a generous 75 litres. The V8 Calais has that deep-chested feel more evident in automatic versions than with the manual six-speed gearbox offered elsewhere in the range.
The torque converter helps disguise the Gen III engine's comparative lack of low-speed torque. It is easy to bring the traction control into play, on wet or dry surfaces, and highway passing manoeuvres can be conducted with confidence. The now slightly hoary four-speed auto is at home with this type of engine and rarely misbehaves by slurring a shift or hunting between ratios on winding, undulating roads. The Variatronic road speed-sensitive steering's "artificial" feel is less pronounced than pre-Series II VX models but there's still a lack of linearity in the response that feels a little discomfiting. Once again, Ford's generally superior suspension system leads the way in response and overall feel. That said, the adoption of the new control-link version of the semi-trailing link rear suspension means the Calais has generally more secure characteristics, tracking much better than before in a straight line - particularly if a few bumps are thrown in - and pointing better too. This is the result of combining the better tracking abilities of the rear end (it is less affected by rough roads due to a reduction in rear bump-steer) and the specially developed tyres aimed at improving steering precision as well as straight-line tracking.
It might feel sportier than the Statesman, but the Calais still rides smoothly with an absorbency factor that is both confidence inspiring and pleasant to live with. The use of no-nonsense four-channel anti-lock brakes means the car has the stopping power to add to that confidence. So for a combination of muscular performance, relatively compact size and medium-level luxury, the Calais V8 is probably the best bet in the Holden line-up - although if you want the extra space and ostentatiousness, the V8 Statesman is a mere $3000 or so away.
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Like every Commodore before it - apart from the ECOmmodore hybrid concept - the VXII Calais is a longitudinally-mounted front-engined rear-wheel drive design. In this case, it employs the LS1 5.7-litre Chev-sourced V8 mated to Holden's Trojan four-speed automatic transmission.
The base 3.8-litre V6 engine is standard in the Calais. The supercharged V6 and the imported Gen III all-alloy V8 are optional. The V8 is a basic pushrod design but uses state-of-the-art electronics such as sequential electronic fuel injection, twin knock control sensors and separate ignition coils for each cylinder. The design also incorporates low-friction technology. It uses oversquare bore-stroke dimensions and has six-bolt main bearings where the base V6 uses a four-bolt design. Capacity is 5.665-litres and the compression ratio is a high 10:1. The V8 winds out 225kW of power at 5200rpm and 460Nm of torque at 4400rpm. Recommended fuel is regular 91 octane unleaded. A stainless steel exhaust prolongs the system's life expectancy.
The front suspension of the Calais comprises MacPherson struts with a direct acting stabiliser bar and progressive rate coil springs. At the rear is Holden's new "Control-link" semi-trailing arm independent suspension with progressive rate mini-block coil springs and a stabiliser bar.
Holden's electronic four-speed automatic transmission, which incorporates power or economy modes, is the only gearbox available in the Calais, regardless of the engine fitted. The V8's auto gearbox uses the same 3.08:1 final drive ratio as the V6 model.
An all-disc system is used in the Calais with, in the case of all Commodores using traction control, four-channel anti-lock braking. When the wheel speed sensors and computer detect imminent lock-up, brake cylinder pressure is adjusted at each wheel to prevent wheel lock-up. The system operates through four-wheel discs, ventilated at the front.
The Calais comes with Variatronic road speed sensitive power-assisted rack and pinion steering. It also has a leather-trimmed steering wheel which, like all Commodores, is adjustable for height and reach. The turning circle measures 11.3 metres and the wheel goes from lock to lock in 2.8 turns.
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5.665-litres, all-alloy, pushrod, 16-valve V8
Four-speed electronically controlled automatic with power and economy modes
Front: MacPherson struts with coil springs
Rear: Independent with semi-trailing links and additional control links, plus coil springs
Variatronic road-speed sensitive power-assisted rack and pinion
Turning circle: 11.0 metres
Driver and passenger airbags
Climate control air-conditioning
10-speaker radio/cassette sound system with 10-disc CD changer
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