2009 Holden Caprice AFM V8 Review & Road Test
Will AFM stop Caprice from going the way of the Dodo?
- 2009 Holden WM Caprice, 6.0-litre, AFM V8, six-speed automatic, sedan - $74,490 (RRP)
- Sunroof $1990 (Fitted); Satellite Navigation $1990 (Fitted); Alarm Upgrade $720 (Fitted); Holden Assist Telematics Ultra $2200 (Fitted)
- by Matt Brogan
The Caprice nameplate first appeared in 1971 to sit atop Holden's HQ series and in turn replace the superseded Brougham. Since that time, with the exception of a six year hiatus in the late 1980s, Caprice has represented the pinnacle of full-size luxury motoring for the Holden marque.
Today the Statesman and Caprice remain as the only locally built full-sized sedans available with Ford's Fairlane and LTD having sadly gone the way of the dodo, and perhaps as a sign of where large cars are headed.
So with values changing and car sizes shrinking does the politically incorrect Caprice still deserve to exist? Furthermore, does the introduction of Active Fuel Management (AFM) present enough of a fuel saving to keep our much-loved land barge from extinction?
Before we get in to all that technical mumbo-jumbo, it would be remiss of me not to first pass comment as to the looks of the Caprice.
Now I know looks are subjective, but to me, externally at least, the Caprice is a very handsome car. It's bold presence and masculine styling bring an elegant charisma to the road in a way that short wheelbase cars can't quite seem to manage.
Long flowing lines, subtle chrome highlights and proportions that whilst augmented somehow don't appear unbecoming stylistically, all of which adds heart to that capricious and boastful character one would expect from a top-shelf sedan.
Internally however the Caprice leaves me feeling somewhat deflated as the hectares of simple black plastic and unremarkable black leather detract from the experience as a whole.
Just as underwhelming is the quality of the switch gear, the dated appearance of the satellite navigation page, the feel of the gear selector and the noise from the roof mounted rear DVD player, all of which deny other more enjoyable attributes of the cabin, such as the terrific Bose stereo, any atmosphere in which to be fully appreciated.
Simply these faults could be attributed to the car's design age and perhaps have not stood the test of time as well as the exterior shape. One can only hope a marked improvement is seen in the new model due sometime next year.
Proportionally though the car is very rewarding with hip, shoulder, head and leg room generous in all five seating positions. The seats however aren't entirely supportive, and are a little flat, but their sheer size gives that armchair feeling for which the Caprice is perhaps best renowned.
Moving on now to the technical side of things with the highlight feature of the car being Holden's new Active Fuel Management system.
Known by a few different names throughout the industry (cylinder deactivation, displacement on demand, etc), AFM works by using an electronically actuated solenoid that in turn deactivates the lifters on certain cylinders (1, 4, 6 and 7) by using the engine oil to hydraulically modulate the valve function, effectively 'turning off' half the engine's capacity.
High-quality oil with anti-foaming agents must therefore be used to prevent any air being entrained or dissolved in the oil which could in turn delay the timing of hydraulic control signals.
But with the car running on four of its eight cylinders does this new found technology equate to better fuel economy? Well as far as I could determine - no.
Despite Holden claiming economy gains of up to 7.5 per cent, the Caprice managed to get through the week averaging 15.8-litres per 100km, some 2.8-litres above the claimed ADR result.
Perhaps though this isn't entirely unexpected given the size of the engine, for under the bonnet a 6.0-litre V8 provides the Caprice with 260kW at 5700rpm and a rather chunky 517Nm at 4400rpm.
For a large car, weighing in at some 1837kgs, the Caprice certainly does have enough get up and go with 0-100 times well under seven seconds (6.79 seconds as tested) and a top speed of 227km/h (claimed).
Handling too is predictable and certainly very capable with much less 'float' at higher speeds than that of it's VE cousin. Steering is a touch on the heavy side, but generally well weighted with the possible exception that small inputs at high speed do see much more output than is necessarily expected.
Though what comes as a disappointment to an otherwise rewarding drive is the poorly calibrated six-speed automatic transmission, and the associated 'shunting' this mismatch causes the driveline.
Reapplication of throttle, no matter how gently progressive, will see a momentary delay followed by a sharp 'grab' that causes a jarring sensation through the whole car. The quicker the throttle is reintroduced, the stronger the shunt.
I have noticed this scenario in other Holden V8 six-speed cars before, but the long wheel-base seems to exaggerate the sensation. It's not pleasant, and although this vehicle is a very early example of an AFM Caprice (having probably had the life beaten out of it), the lack of driveline refinement still comes as a bit of a concern.
Boot space is tremendous at 535-litres and the cargo net (shown above) is very handy when you've only on or two small items on board.
As with all full-size Holdens 60:40 split fold seats are a glaring omission with a "ski-hatch" instead provided as means of substitution.
For safety's sake the Caprice comes standard with dual front, side and curtain airbags, ESP with Traction Control and ABS braking with EBA and EBD to achieve a four-star ANCAP rating.
The way I see it V8 fans won't mind the fuel consumption figures given the added performance on hand and for those wanting a large car with more economic orientations a six cylinder option is available.
The Caprice, as nice as it is, could do with an update, especially internally, but despite a few short comings does represent pretty good value for the price.
I suppose when all is said and done the decision to buy one is all about where your priorities lie, and if it's a matter of size over substance, you could do far worse for the money.
CarAdvice Overall Rating: How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go:
- Engine: 5967cc OHV V8 (16 valve)
- Power: 260kW @ 5700rpm
- Torque: 517Nm @ 4400rpm
- Induction: Multi-point
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Driven Wheels: Rear
- Brakes: Discs with ABS, EBA & EBD
- Top Speed: 227km/h (Claimed)
- 0-100km/h: 6.79 seconds
- CO2 Emissions: TBC
- Fuel Consumption: 13.0 litres per 100km (ADR)
- Fuel Consumption: 15.8 litres per 100km (As Tested)
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 73 litres
- Fuel Type: 91-98 RON petrol
- ANCAP Rating: Four-stars
- Airbags: Front, side & curtain
- Safety: ESP with traction control
- Spare Wheel: Full size alloy
- Suspension: Strut (F)/Multi-Link (R)
- Cargo Capacity: 535 litres
- Tow Capacity: 2100kg (Braked)
- Turning Circle: 11.6 metres
- Warranty: Three Year/100,000km
- Weight: 1837kg (Tare)
- Wheels: Alloy 18 x 8.0-inch