The greatest day of your life happens. You find out that fatherhood is just around the corner! Then comes the crashing reality check of owning a super-mini. No prams will fit in the boot, and the baby capsule requires the passenger seat to be set in the Tyrion Lannister seating position.
Enter the all-new, European (gasp!) Holden Calais V Tourer. The first bastard child of German carmaker Opel to wear the Holden Calais Badge. It is, however, arguably the prettiest Calais wagon to date, especially from the rear, with muscular cladding on the wheel arches creating an urban assault Dad wagon vibe. Props to the Germans for the new styling direction.
The Calais Tourer V, priced at $60,390 including on-roads, sits right at the top of the full-size wagon price tree. Having said that, the standard equipment list is extremely long, with everything you need, some things you don't, and some things you didn’t know existed!
The 3.6-litre V6, when fired from its push-button start has a surprising and pleasingly gruff cold start. Power is more than adequate at 235kW, which is over 100kW more than my first car; a Holden VN SV3800. 380Nm of torque is useful for the inevitable highway overtake when you’re stuck behind a slow semi-trailer, but it's not outstanding.
Fuel economy, although claimed at a sophisticated 9.1 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle, when it’s tested in the real world, the Calais drinks more like your weird uncle than Ghandi, gulping a solid 12L/100km if you live in the city. Thankfully it will take 91 octane, keeping the fuel costs down just a touch.
The number 9, usually associated with halfbacks or hookers, depending on your footy code, is too many speeds in a gearbox, by at least one, but more likely two. Although, there is no doubt that more gears increases performance and fuel efficiency. The gearbox in itself is surprisingly smooth and responsive for a non-premium car. It doesn't hunt for gears and it kicks down when required. Having said that, you will find yourself going for the paddle shifters on occasion to select a lower gear when using the Adaptive Cruise Control and going up a steep hill.
Providing a convenient segue into probably the best part of the Calais V is the aforementioned Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and the very long list of standard equipment. The ACC is fantastic, it works unbelievably well. Set it on the freeway to one of its three preset follow distances, take your foot off the throttle, and relax into your somewhat gimmicky, massaging drivers seat. Standard heated and cooled front seats aren't gimmicky - once you’ve had them, you won’t want to live without them! The rear seat is comfortable, hugely spacious and heated.
Infotainment is another strong point, without being outstanding. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and DAB radio play through a Bose stereo, all managed by an 8-inch touchscreen that includes sat-nav. The stereo represents a good-for-the-money level of sound quality, rather than a good-for-Bose level of sound quality, and most people will find themselves sticking to Waze instead of the included navigation.
In terms of practicality, the Calais Tourer V is supreme in its domination of this component. In fact it’s so cavernous inside that even with a newborn, packing everything you need, plus at least ten things you don't, for a long trip involves nothing more than using your foot to open the tail-gate and launching armfuls of gear into the boot. The interior is also a genuinely nice place to be for those trips, hard plastics are only sparingly used and the seats are comfy and infinitely adjustable.
Around town the Calais rides well over Sydney's average roads. If you do happen to take it on a poor road, the ride does become rather crashy. It's almost as if the engineers put all their effort into small bump compliance, leaving large pothole compliance as a distant afterthought. Body roll is managed very well, far better than any equivalent family SUV, making back roads or city corners mildly interesting rather than dull and boring. The head-up display (HUD) is a nice addition, allowing you to keep your eyes peeled for drivers on their phones who don't have hands-free calling like you do, and the inclusion of a 360 degree camera is awesome, especially on a car that is over 5 metres long! Parking is simple, thanks to the camera, whether you do it yourself, or use the auto park assist. Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) is included and is something that should be standard fare on all modern cars. The AEB system in the Calais could be described as one that is effective, if not a little hyperactive. Detecting the occasional parked car when exiting a roundabout lets you know the system is working, but can become tiresome after a couple of months.
In terms of opportunities for future models, the only thing missing is a diesel option. For families in the country, those with long commutes or those lucky enough to frequently get away from the city, a diesel with its fuel-efficient, high torque from low-revs characteristics would be a worthy addition to the line-up
Should you get one?
Short answer, yes!
Long answer, if you are looking for a car that is incredibly practical and great value for families, it will tick all of the boxes. Possibly the greatest benefit is that it actually steers pretty well for what it is, and is significantly better for a driving-focused buyer than any other similarly priced SUV.
A final recommendation, do not pay full RRP, whatever you do. There are plenty of deals getting around on new, demo or 1-year old models that can be taken advantage of. This little tip only adds to the great value of the overall, highly impressive, Holden Calais V Tourer.