Owner Review

2018 Holden Calais-V Tourer review

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Before I start this review, I will make this simple comment. I own what is now considered one of the most hated Holdens ever sold on Facebook and general social media in this country. I have been told that by many people on Facebook over the last three months since I took delivery of the car.

I, like most, was sceptical of the new Commodore when I first looked at it and didn’t feel it suited me, but once I drove one it just won me over. Thus, without seeing it and based upon what I had just experienced via the test drive, I purchased a Mineral Black Calais-V Tourer.

This variant of the Commodore wagon only comes as a V6 AWD, and is the only model to feature a panoramic sunroof, plastic guard protectors and the AGR (Aktion Gesunder Rücken) approved driver's seat and raft of up-to-date safety features found in most European cars.

The Tourer feels like it belongs on the road and is an absolute joy to drive. In normal mode, the steering is light to the touch, but at the same time exact and precise, and handles corners at speed without much hesitation or noticeable body roll considering it sits higher than its Sportwagon cousins.

Kick the car into Sports mode and you have a whole new experience and the car feels and responses like a different vehicle. The steering is heavier, as it should be, and still as responsive and precise, while the ride of the car changes and you get more of a feeling of the road surface. Considering how varied Australian road surfaces are, it does an excellent job. You still feel bumps and ridges, but all in all it's a comfortable ride.

When driving this car, you do sit lower than previous-model Commodores and in a slightly different position. In the first few drives of this car, I had to adjust my spacial awareness. That aside, it's interesting you sit lower but are actually sitting high in this car, due to its road clearance height being higher than all other variants.

The AGR driver's seat is comfortable to be in and makes the drive easier on you. Having driven this car on a number of long-distance drives since taking delivery, the best part about this seat is the massage function. First-time use is a bit strange, but considering when you arrive at the other end feeling relaxed as opposed to feeling stiff from the long haul, it's a great feature.

On top of that, the cooling function is excellent in warmer weather and the heating function is just perfect considering the cool weather as I write this review. However, if people expect to jump into the car and get both of these features to work straightaway, they will be disappointed they both come into effect as the car warms up. But once going, they are great.

The fuel economy is excellent, and running the car on E10 unleaded it averages 6.7L/100km on the open road and between 9.2 and 10.5L/100km around town. These figures vary, of course, and it does get better figures than the last VF V6s were getting.

The thing about this car that will strike most people is that the cabin feels smaller and is orientated to the driver. Yes, it's slightly smaller than the previous models, but overall that doesn’t change the experience. It no longer feels outdated and tired, as the previous model had become. The feel of the cabin is very European and just right, however some of the plastics feel a little bit underwhelming and could be better in quality.

The driver's side of the car is excellent, with the dashboard being mainly digital and providing the driver with a raft of useful information and options to change what information is displayed. The HUD is the right size and provides enough of the needed information. Although, the colours could be better, and we are missing the speed-limit indicators as per the previous model’s HUD. Interestingly, in Europe this is an option that is available when you purchase the car. Something Holden should consider making available, as it's simply an update to the navigation software.

The controls on the steering wheel are easy to use, and with the headlights you simply turn on the adaptive button and let the on-board computer do its work. The headlights will come on automatically as in previous models, and the Tourer is fitted with fog lights both front and rear.

So, to the actual operation of the car. All things worked as they should – maybe a little too well. The full stop function is great for city driving if the requirements for it are met. The first-time experience will make you think the car has stalled. So when you come to a complete stop with your foot on the brake, it kicks to get started again, and just release the brake and away you go. Alternatively, if you prefer not to use it, you simply turn the function off.

One of the best features of this car has to be its adaptive cruise control. This feature allows you to choose your distance between yourself and the vehicle in front, and slows you appropriately to match the car in front's speed based upon the distance selected, and speeds up when changing lanes and slows on hills as needed. We tested the adaptive cruise control to see how far it would work and slow the car down. In fact, we got it to keep functioning in traffic down to 20km/h without issue.

The lane-keep function in the Tourer is similar to that included in the current-model Astra. If you drift off the line of the lane, the steering moves you back in line. Like its little cousin's version, it is a bit aggressive at times and does move the car back suddenly with a bit of force, especially in Sports mode.

The 8.0-inch Mylink system is such a big improvement over its previous version and provides much more information, especially with regard to customisation and such. It has all the usual features and includes DAB radio, which is currently only available in metro areas.

Mylink now includes Apple CarPlay. CarPlay works well and is easy to use, and the vocal commands function as they should through Siri. One comment about it, though, is a number of people have complained about CarPlay saying it is unstable and unpredictable. During the writing of this review, we were using the version included with iOS 12 Developer Beta 2 and found it had a number of issues. However, as this is a beta version of CarPlay, we expected issues, whereas previous versions work just fine.

The Bose audio is clean and clear, and the sound is excellent. If positioned correctly, you can achieve a perfect balance of sound between the front and rear of the car and have the bass of the subwoofer present without overpowering it. You do notice a difference in the sound between connecting your phone and using Bluetooth streaming for the audio and using audio through CarPlay.

The parking cameras are brilliant to a point. The 360 camera on this Tourer makes reverse parking a breeze, and having a front view as well saves hitting the concrete edges in car parks – something we all have done at some time. Its only downside is night-time reversing is a bit more of an experience due to the reflection from the rear tail-lights – you have to be a bit more careful. Also, the camera is prone to sun-glare during the late afternoon.

Filling the car is easy, as there is no fuel cap to take off and the fuel nozzle goes into a protected filling recess. But if you get a leak from the fuel nozzle when you remove it from the car, it will drain out easily via a small drain hole.

Now to its faults, and yes it has a couple of them, but like any car they do have them. So, the dashboard materials could be a bit better in quality and finish, the glovebox could be bigger in size, and interior storage spaces could have been thought out better.

All in all, this is a great car, even with its couple of design faults. It's worth going to visit your local Holden dealer and taking one out for a test drive. It will surprise you with how it feels.

As far as it being a replacement for the previous model, yes it's a worthy successor and is a total shift in the direction cars are headed now, and brings Holden into line with the European and Asian makes finally. Does it deserve the name? The answer is yes. As the Commodore, it's a refreshingly well built car that will not disappoint.