• Cabin ambience, space and equipment; steering consistency and precision; ride on 18-inch wheels; sharp handling of V6 models; excellent auto calibration
  • Calais V can be too restless on 19-inch wheels; V6 still doesn't sound great; V8 too mute; some cheap interior plastics

9 / 10

2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review
by Daniel DeGasperi

Luxury for less is the Holden VF Calais and Calais V pitch and that’s exactly how it translates.

The Holden VF Calais is priced from $39,990 – a reduction of $8000. As with the entry-level Evoke it includes front and rear parking sensors, a reverse camera and auto-park capability. It also adds 18-inch alloy wheels, fog and daytime running lights, blind spot and reverse traffic alerts, keyless auto-entry with push-button start, luggage nets in the boot, an eight-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat, andleather-wrapped steering wheel, gearshifter and seats.

The only item missing from that list is integrated satellite navigation, and it’s optional for just $750.

Spec-spotters will pick the Calais V-Series models – priced from $46,990 with a V6 and $52,990 with a 6.0-litre V8, down by $9000 and $9800 respectively – by their larger 19-inch wheels, chrome door handles, and black projector headlight bezels.

Rounding out the equipment additions are a sports-profile steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, satellite navigation, nine-speaker Bose audio, heated front seats, driver’s seat memory, and an electric sunroof.

It is difficult to think of a more premium new-car interior available for less than $40K.

Okay, some of the dash-top plastics are hard, the lower plastics around the transmission surround are slightly scratchy and the dash applique between the climate controls and audio screen looks a bit chintzy – this is no German-rivalling cabin in terms of quality.

2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review

The door handles are shared with the Opel Insignia, the indicator and wiper stalks with the Holden Cruze and others.

But the leather and suede dash inserts, the brilliantly intuitive and high-resolution touchscreen interface, and soft cocktail-blue lighting on the climate controls create a truly inviting and semi-premium ambience.

Even class-leading mid-sized imports like the Mazda 6 and Volkswagen Passat struggle to match it, at least in sub-$40K specification.

Then there are the traditional Commodore virtues, like supremely comfortable seats and plenty of rear legroom, that those aforementioned size-smaller price-point rivals definitely cannot match.

The 495-litre boot can still only be expanded via a centre ski port, however.

The Calais now weighs 1702kg thanks primarily to the addition of aluminium bootlid, bonnet, and suspension components.

Keeping the theme of offering full-size luxury for less, the Calais weighs just 23kg more than the smaller Passat with the same-size V6 engine (though the VW gets all-wheel-drive). The Calais V adds another 28kg, while the optional V8 engine puts a further 48kg on the nose.

Compared with the original VE Calais V6, kerb weight falls by 47kg with the VF Calais V6.

2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review

Although both the 3.6-litre V6 and 6.0-litre V8 engines carry over virtually unchanged, each benefits hugely from an overhauled six-speed automatic transmission calibration and increased firewall sound deadening.

Holden claims that engine noise is reduced thanks to a new acoustic instrument panel with a thicker, more expansive yet lightweight dash insulator, steel engine bay parts replacing plastic, and improved auto and engine insulators.

While the Calais doesn’t feel premium in terms of its road noise, which is higher than expected, especially in terms of wind noise around the tops of the doors, the V6 engine in particular is far more muted than before.

In fact, it’s the V6 drivetrain that feels most transformed. The 3.6-litre produces the same 210kW as before, but now at 6700rpm instead of 6400rpm, and 350Nm at 2800rpm down from 2900rpm.

It has never been a great-sounding engine, but the grainy acoustics are now pushed further into the engine bay and away from the ears of occupants. It feels quicker to rev and fills the holes of the 3.0-litre in the lower torque curve.

Even better, the new Sport transmission mode is a beauty. It detects harder driving almost immediately, holding onto lower gears longer and downchanging more aggressively than in normal mode.

The same is true for the 6.0-litre V8, which now produces its 260kW at 5600rpm instead of 5700rpm, though its 517Nm is made at an unchanged 4400rpm.

2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review

But although the V8 – driven in Calais V Sportwagon spec – also benefits from greater transmission smarts, the wonderful acoustics of the bent-eight have been muted to almost sound anonymous. The win for the V6 is a loss for the V8.

More than with standing start acceleration, overtaking manoeuvres is where the V8 really dusts off the V6. It feels burly and breezy, not rev-hungry and a bit desperate to reel in bitumen.

When the VE launched in 2006, the Calais grade ran sports suspension dubbed FE2, which was criticised for being too firm for a luxury model. Holden responded by creating an FE1.5 tune – a mid-way setup between the soft FE1 for Omega and FE2 for SV6 and SS.

Both the Calais and Calais V now get the standard FE1 suspension shared with the Evoke, which is dubbed ‘Touring’ for the brochures. The standard setup is, however, firmer than before “for a more sporting flavour against contemporary European imports” according to Holden.

The new electro-mechanical power steering also gets a Touring tune, which is lighter than the sports models, although all VF grades share the same rack ratio and sharper on-centre reactivity compared with the VE’s hydraulic-mechanical setup.

First, the steering – it’s absolutely superb. The increased on-centre reactivity makes the VF Commodore feel sharp on turn in, yet there’s still a progressiveness there that never makes it feel nervous or overly sensitive to small inputs. The light weight is no barrier to the wonderful consistency and directness of this completely natural-feeling electric system.

2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review

Holden allowed us to drive a VE Calais, then swap into a VF Calais, and the difference was dramatic. There’s much less rack rattle over mid-corner bumps in the VF. The new system also exposes a slight laziness on centre in the otherwise still-excellent VE system.

It is one of the few cases that an electro-mechanical steering system beats a hydraulic setup, and an excellent one at that. The VF Commodore now boasts better steering than a BMW 5 Series – it’s as simple as that.

Another area where the VF Calais trumps its VE Calais predecessor is with body control.

At 130km/h over successive undulations, the VE got bouncy, slapping into its bump stops. Even travelling 10km/h faster, the VF Calais felt absolutely secure. It delivers substantially better body control than before.

Despite this, however, some of the irks of the original VE Calais suspension return with the VF, particularly with regard to country-road compliance.

The Calais V, which rides on aggressive 40-aspect 19-inch wheels, is very sensitive to small road irregularities. The damping of the suspension is excellent, but together with a decent amount of road rumble, the slightly too-firm ride lowers the ‘premium’ image and is a reminder that VF is a major overhaul not an entirely new car.

Swapping into the standard Calais, which rolls on 50-aspect 18-inch wheels, proves enlightening. It rounds off sharper edges better than the Calais V does, and picks up less of the small stuff that annoyingly intrudes with its more expensive sibling.

2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review

The ride quality is excellent, but it’s the base Evoke that still provides the best balance of ride and handling in the non-sports VF range.

In handling terms, as with the VE, the VF Calais is mainly separated by which engine is under the bonnet.

The V8 feels noticeably less keen to turn in than the V6, being heavier at the front end. The firmer suspension of the Commodore SS seems to help with containing front end mass better, enhancing turn in, but the combination of softer suspension and a heavy engine makes the Calais V V8 not as rewarding to drive as the regular Calais V6.

The entry Calais feels more like the Evoke, which is a good thing. It allows a bit of front-end wash in tight bends, at which point the driver can lift the throttle as you would with a front-wheel-drive car, and the nose tucks back in. But because the VF is rear-wheel drive, it’s possible to then get back on the throttle and balance a touch of power oversteer, with the stability control – again, better than a BMW’s – keeping a subtle eye over proceedings.

All of which makes the sub-$40K Calais V6 a brilliant sweet spot of the Calais range, and one of best models in the entire VF Commodore line-up.

Benchmark value, quieter and keener to rev than before, with a sporting transmission and superb handling, it is difficult to think of a more appealing car for the price.

2013 Holden VF Calais Review
2013 Holden VF Calais Review

Holden Calais
Price: from $39,990 (sedan); $41,990 (wagon)
Engine: 3.6-litre V6
Power: 210kW at 6700rpm
Torque: 350Nm at 2800rpm
Transmission: 6-speed auto
0-100km/h: not available
Fuel consumption: 9.0L/100km
Weight: 1702-1730kg (1798-1808kg wagon)

Holden Calais V8
Price: from $52,990 (sedan); $54,990 (wagon)
Engine: 6.0-litre V8
Power: 260kW at 5600rpm
Torque: 517Nm at 4400rpm
Transmission: 6-speed auto
0-100km/h: not available
Fuel consumption: 11.5 to 11.8L/100km
Weight: 1778kg (1866kg wagon)

Other Holden VF Commodore Reviews
Click for review of the Holden Commodore Evoke
Click for review of the Holden Commodore SS

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  • Jimmytwoshoes

    First to comment. VF. Mad.

  • guest

    I think this will be my next car, Calais at 39,990 is a great buy!

    • Nicaragua

      Yeah, Calais is, in my opinion, the best looking one of the lot too.

  • Andy Whitby

    Caradvice before you go dogging the Calais for harsh ride on the 19’s perhaps take a spin in a BMW with run flats and 18’s, and that’s a true luxury car.

    • tonyW

      One of my biggest gripes about reviews of so-called luxury European cars. In most cases the ride comfort in these cars (and its not just limited to BMW with their runflats) on our roads is far from being luxury. Yet they still get 4 or 4 1/2 star ratings.

      • Sumpguard

        I drove a 7 series many years back and was really surprised at how it crashed through even minor bumps. You guys are right. They don’t get judged on it either.

  • Shak

    Before all the 12 year old’s jump on and say that these journos are only comparing the Commodore with Germans because its Australian and they have to be patriotic, i just need to say: Sometimes you people need to accept the fact that your uninformed opinions are not true. These journos have driven both cars in question, and they are telling you whats better.

    • Sarah

      Agreed. It is sad that Australian engineers don’t get more exposure and credit internationally through our domestically-produced products. We have plenty of talented people in our motor industry and technical prowess to be as good as the makers at the top.

  • Blueberry

    Hey Daniel… Thanks for the great review… I am going to ask my usual question… How good was the Bose sound system… As good as the competitors?? Also with the V8 did it appear to be more efficient than the previous model??? Thanks again

  • BP

    VF Calais looks slick. Very tempting!

    • gtrxuone

      BP how about a V8 Calais Sportswagon sitting in your driveway.

  • Poison_Eagle

    Great write-up, sounds like a superb car!
    Hate to say it, but I could really see myself in one of these!

    • Golfschwein

      For the price of these newies, me too.

  • O123

    For 40k you couldnt buy better!

  • Dieseltorque

    So true the 3.6 V6 is a pretty ordinary sounding engine. It never feels very smooth or inviting to give it a good thrashing. Calais V8 Sportwagon sounds and looks tempting.

    • guest

      I’ve got a Calais with that engine – if it is not smooth, then mine must be the exception. Mine is smooth, and surely a V6 shouldn’t be that quick! It loves to rev as well – but is equally happy just rolling along at 1300-1500rpm.

      Wouldn’t mind the new one – as a V Spec with the bigger wheels. Firmness I don’t mind.

      • Dieseltorque

        Glad to hear yours is smooth but drive an SV6 back to back with gasp… An Aurion and the white goods 3.5 is smoother and sounds miles better.

        • Monk

          And then try an I6

          • Guest

            Those are even smoother – excepting battered old Falcon taxis spluttering away.

          • Dieseltorque

            Ah the old BMW M3’s what a great noise!

          • Dudeface

            Or a H6 – the wife’s 3.0L H6 Liberty sounds glorious revving past 7K and is smooth as silk

        • guest

          Mine sounds almost like a Honda NSX (but lower pitched of course – only 6400rpm instead of 8000rpm). Mine also lives on a diet on 98RON as well. It just seems to love that higher octane fuel. And it has only very low kilometres as I prefer to use a bicycle whenever I can (because it is a very exotic and fast one, and its rider is also somewhat quick).

        • F1orce

          The only thing GM do is add big plastic pieces of sound deadening and try to eliminate any noise.

          The reason the Aurion motor is good is due to the good design, its very well balanced, low friction and good design that yields that smoothness and nice power delivery from idle to redline all very smooth.

  • John

    Quick poll: how does everyone pronounce ‘Calais’?

    • Discus


    • Shak

      Ca-Lay. Why, how do you pronounce it?

    • Henry Toussaint

      I know it’s a Silent ‘S’ but I do like saying Cal-ays

      • Golfschwein

        Like Camray!! Kind of. :)

        • Sonu

          It’s Django , the D is silent

          • Golfschwein

            “It’s a silent ‘P’, Madame, as in…can’t” –

            Sir Les Patterson.

    • Sandy

      I’ve always pronounced it Ke-Lay-Iss. I don’t really care if people are going to look at me funny.

    • Wile E

      Ask someone from Calais

    • Repus

      Luxury Holden Commodore that’s how it’s pronounced

  • Me

    Bring back Calais V Redline.

  • Homer

    What’s with the stripe on the seats? It’s hard to believe someone signed off on such a tasteless, cheap looking addition to a so called prestige interior.

    • Norm

      I think the Pepe Le Pew stripe is cool…kinda silly – but cool. Ivory suede on the dash however?!?! What tha?! Why? How?

    • Golfschwein

      Been thinking about that, myself. Those of us with long enough memories (ahem!) will remember such a stripe, made of tackle-burning red vinyl, in the seats of the HJ Monaro coupe and GTS sedan.

      Is it a Secret Society-style nod to history?

      • norm

        They [The HJ GTS seats] looked to be inspired by a Red Back spider so searing pain in the upper thigh area was to be expected. My “middle” Kingswood was an HJ sedan. Racing Orange with beautiful big Ivory vinyl bucket seats and black dash. Stylie! I loved that car.

  • Alex

    I think people need to keep in mind the added expense of this car when considering fuel consumption. The VF has about twice the fuel consumption of some “hot hatches” or say the 320d or 328i. Over 5 years, if you do say 20,000klms per year, the fuel cost is significant.

    • Alex

      Or for that matter even a mazda 6 diesel.

    • pinkie ponk

      and a 320d uses more fuel than my postie bike

    • Troy

      On that basis you’d also need to consider typical servicing costs too – also very significant over 5 years but in the Holden’s favour against your comparisons.

    • Norm

      It has the same fuel consumption as many compact SUVs and significantly better than many large SUVs. All round it’s a pretty economical package.

    • ShaneMcGrath

      Heh Nice try but a new 320d drive away is around 67k, Calais destroys it in both V6 or V8, You are paying an extra 20k on that BMW for the privilege of trying to save on fuel, Sorry but it doesn’t work even if you kept the car for more than 10 years you wouldn’t use any where near 20k worth of fuel unless you are some courier and boy would that be a poor choice of car for the job. 😉

    • Sumpguard

      It’s offset of course by the fact it is half the price of the 5 series which is its true competitor in class. Not the 3 series as Alex claims. That $40 grand saved on not buying a 5 series buys a lot of fuel :)

    • tonyW

      I know I’m late to the party and only reading this review because we are having a look at replacing our expensive BMW with the Calais V. Don’t forget the Calais 3.6 is quite happy on regular unleaded (RON 91). I think all European petrol engines require premium RON 95 at typically 10c/l more than regular unleaded. And in recent times the price of diesel has been above that of 91 RON petrol. You also need to keep in mind what you are comparing. How can you compare a large sedan like the Calais with so-called hot hatches or even mid-sized 3 series BMW. Interior room-wise surely you should be looking at the 5 series which starts at nearly twice the cost of a Calais. In operating cost you have got to look at the whole picture of not just fuel consumption, but also servicing costs, cost of tyre replacement and of course depreciation. Yes the Holden has shocking depreciation compared with any BMW but then look at the purchase price.

  • Liam Sullivan

    I have been on the fence about the styling but I have to say, if the Calais was a car on it’s own, I’d be perfectly happy to buy it. It looks rather good with the DRL and the specc’d rims. Quite an upmarket look about it and you can get sat nav for $750 intergrated, why not lol

  • 458 italia

    If the base Evoke “provides the best balance of ride and handling in the non-sports VF range.” I’d be tempted to put 17″ wheels with 235/55 tyres on a Calais V.

    245/40R19s should be for SSV only.

    Most Calais V buyers rate ride comfort over rough riding rubber band tyres.
    Even the 245/45R18’s on my VE are a pain in the back – literally.

    • ShaneMcGrath

      Well said, I have 19’s 245 35 rubber bands on my VY SS and on south east Victorian roads it is the biggest pain ever! Already destroyed one set of rims from large potholes, Were so badly damaged the guys at wheel repair shop couldn’t fix them! Waste of 2k right there. Tempted to go for a Calais instead of SSV redline for a little more ride comfort.

      • 458 italia

        I see the Calais and Calais V both have “touring” suspension in place of the FE1.5 sport suspension on my VE Calais V.

        The touring suspension will be a great deal more comfortable than the SSV Redline which will as hard as a rock.

        • Holden driver

          Why do manufacturers insist on 19 inch rims with super expensive $500 delicate tyres. Most buyers of sedans want a comfortable ride and good handling (otherwise they’d buy a Toyota 86 or HSV).

          • nelly

            It seems silly that the top of the current range luxury model has the worst ride quality and the probably the most amount of tyre roar to go with it. Even Mercedes fits 16″ wheels to the S-class. The Calais and especially Calais V should ride better and quieter than the evoke…….that’s worth more thean the extra gadgets.

          • Sumpguard

            It’s par for the course nelly. I agree with you but they all do it. Don’t be surprised if you can’t simply bolt the small rims on though. Many manufacturers put larger brakes in and the small rims won’t fit.

          • Ben Haynes

            The Evoke’s 16″ tyres are 2.3% smaller rolling diameter than the Calais’ 18″ tyres. It seems that if you want a decent amount of sidewall in your tyre and decent level of spec in your vehicle, buy an SUV. Even the top spec Mazda CX5 gets crazy 19″ alloys!

  • jne83

    I like the interior, nicely designed

  • Sumpguard

    “V8 too muted”
    If I was in the market for a Calais I’d want the muted engine.

    IF I was in the market for the SS I’d want the noise. I think CA miss the point of the luxury tag.

  • desbo

    my son just bought the vf ssv great car so I bought the Calais v v8sedan absolute luxury great car holden

Holden Commodore Specs

Car Details
Body Type
New Price
Private Sale
$23,100 - $26,250
Dealer Retail
$23,960 - $28,490
Dealer Trade
$18,200 - $21,000
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
320Nm @  2000rpm
Max. Power
180kW @  6000rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
Bore & Stroke
Compression Ratio
Valve Gear
Drivetrain Specifications
Drive Type
Final Drive Ratio
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
11.5L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:2100  Unbrake:1000
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
225/60 R16
Rear Tyres
225/60 R16
Wheel Base
Front Track
Rear Track
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Multi-link system, Coil Spring, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber, Anti roll bar
Standard Features
Control & Handling
Traction Control System
Trip Computer
Optional Features
Satellite Navigation
Metallic Paint
Service Interval
9 months /  15,000 kms
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Pass Side Windscreen
Country of Origin