2012 Holden Calais V VE Series II V6 review – quick spin

The Holden Calais has been an Aussie icon for almost three decades now, since being introduced in 1984. Does the 2012 Holden Calais V VE Series II V6 live up to the nameplate and the statement made by the most luxurious Commodore variant?

With the new 2012 VE Series II model you’d expect some pretty significant changes. On the latest Calais V, only the addition of a rear boot lip spoiler has been added over the 2011 model year – it joins the new 2012 VE Series II Commodore lineup with the least updates of all variants. Holden has managed to increase fuel efficiency however, with an official combined rating of 9.5L/100km, down from the MY2011’s figure of 9.8L/100km.

One thing it does get is Holden’s latest 3.6-litre SIDI V6 engine which is E85 compatible (like all MY12 Commodores), proving Holden is serious about looking after the environment and adapting new technologies. Although E85 85 per cent ethanol blend fuel provides less energy per litre than conventional petrol, resulting in the engine needing more of it, E85 is more environmentally friendly, both to produce and once it is fired out the exhaust. It also has the ability to increase horsepower thanks to a high octane rating (a figure which varies from different petrol stations).

2012 HOLDEN CALAIS V VE SERIES II V6 – PROS AND CONS:

PROS:

  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class style and presence at half the cost
  • Comfortable and accommodating
  • User-friendly interior, iQ infotainment system and controls
  • Plenty of power

CONS:

  • Fuel consumption
  • Suspension not particularly refined for a luxury vehicle
  • Interior design and layout really starting to age
  • Interior quality not quite up to ‘luxury’ status

2012 HOLDEN CALAIS V VE SERIES II V6 – WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE:

The 2012 Holden Calais V VE Series II V6 is powerful. You get the feeling that no hill or situation will hold up the rev-happy V6 – the engine certainly gives you confidence. Should a slow driver get in your way that you need to overtake, one prod of your right foot and the SIDI V6 engine will pull you past with ease. The engine is quite dominating that it almost becomes the heart of the car; like a V6 engine with a luxury office fixed around it.

The punchy attitude reminds you of the original Buick V6 that was introduced in the Holden VN Commodore in 1988. Things have moved on quite a bit since then, as the now direct fuel-injected DOHC SIDI engine, with variable valve timing, is a lot more refined, and powerful. Judging by the way this car behaves could be told with one look at the specs: peak power (210kW) at 6700rpm and peak torque (350Nm) at 2800rpm, with a compression ratio of 11.3:1. In other words, it’s ready to rev with plenty of grunt down low.

It’s very smooth and silky in its power delivery, and it doesn’t sound too bad either. Some of the early V6 Commodores were notorious for their harsh V6 engine note. With the latest SIDI V6, it roars more than screams. During highway motoring, the engine is quiet and hardly heard. Knock back a few cogs on the six-speed automatic transmission, and it suddenly becomes alive.

The transmission works a treat with the powerplant. There’s no hesitation during hill starts, or thick traffic driving, and it anticipates and makes changes at all the right times. Using the transmission in a sporty driving mode also works well. The changes are fast, and you get a general feeling that the powertrain is more than capable of shifting you along at very high speeds, if you wanted it to.

It’s not the most refined vehicle in its class in terms of ride and handling, but it doesn’t come with sophisticated active suspension technologies which cost an arm and a leg, either, as featured on some of its Euro rivals. The steering is direct and there is plenty of grip from the front end thanks to the sports suspension and huge 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 245/40 tyres. Be warned though, the large wheels and very low profile tyres leave you feeling, and hearing, almost every bump – a trait which becomes apparent when you drive over a couple of those reflectors glued onto the tarmac.

The ride in the Calais V, while relatively smooth, doesn’t quite provide the directness of say, the Commodore SS V. It comes with the same springs as the SS V, but the shocks are slightly revised versions. The stabiliser bars are also smaller on the Calais V than they are on the SS V. Overall, the two feel quite different. You’re probably thinking, ‘well, they’re two different models’.

The point we’re trying to make is while the Calais V is aimed at being more luxurious, it doesn’t actually feel more comfortable than the SS V (full 2012 Holden Commodore SS V review here). The SS V is planted at speed and during cornering, whilst being very comfortable. With the Calais V, there’s a slight hint of choppiness to the ride (possibly due to the large wheels/revised shocks) when scooting around bends and along undulations. It’s almost a case of, why hasn’t Holden simply adapted the same suspension as the SS V onto the Calais V?

The steering is very light in weight, reminding you that the Calais is intended to be, and is, an easy, relaxed drive and not a focused sports sedan. For a large vehicle, it does feel quite light on its feet too, and you aren’t really aware that the beast tips the scales at 1707kg. It almost feels as if the entire chassis and main structure is made from aluminium; it gives off that solid lightweight character.

Wiping off speed is no problem for the Calais V. Even at speed, and during downhill mountain drives. There is no sign of fade or overheating. It’s during heavy braking that you are reminded of the car’s weight, with the sensation and g-force capable of changing the way your face looks.

2012 HOLDEN CALAIS V VE SERIES II V6 – INSIDE SPACE AND COMFORT:

Like all Holden Calais models over the years, the 2012 Holden Calais V VE Series II V6 is very spacious and accommodating for five adults. The moment you step inside, its vastness becomes instantly apparent when looking at the width of the centre armrest; if there was an additional seat belt, you could practically sit on it.

There’s leather throughout, including on parts of the door trim and centre console. All surfaces are quite nice to touch, however, there is sections of cheap-feeling plastic scattered around the place, including on the dash, and door trims. The handbrake, which is blended into the centre console, is kind of cool but it does feel quite tacky to engage/disengage due to its plastic handle and button.

The overall interior design is starting to age now too, having been around since 2006. The upshot is everything is very easy to understand. The layout of the controls are easy to comprehend, with the dual-zone climate control settings placed on a lower panel, and Holden’s latest iQ infotainment system displayed on a 6.5-inch LCD screen higher up. The iQ system is easy to use as well, with buttons on the side providing an ATM-like navigation of the menus.

2012 HOLDEN CALAIS V VE SERIES II V6 – IS IT A WINNER:

Australian’s love the Holden Commodore, or Calais in this case. It’s been, up until last month, Australia’s most popular vehicle in terms of sales for the past 15 years. It’s affordable, and you do get a lot for your money compared with the international rivals, and it has stuck to its large friendly-bear personality since the beginning. The 2012 Holden Calais V VE Series II V6 is the office executive equivalent. It’s still cheap and cheerful, and isn’t trying to be something it’s not, yet there’s a distinct persona of class and style.

On looks alone, the 2012 Holden Calais V VE Series II V6 is a winner. There’s no confusion that this is an up-market vehicle with a clear prestige focus. There’s chrome trimmings, including around the front grille and side gill vents behind the front wheels, while the door handles are chrome as well and feature body coloured strips down the centre. The new rear lip spoiler is a nice touch too, distinguishing the Calais V from its lower-specced brothers.

Overall, it’s hard to beat the 2012 Holden Calais V VE Series II V6 in terms of value for money. You get a lot of respect from the youngsters and the old folks who both tip their hat to the nameplate (unless they’re avid Ford fans of course). You also get plenty of comfort and power. But perhaps most of all, this is an Australian-made product that we should all be proud of. At least while we still can.

2012 HOLDEN CALAIS V VE SERIES II V6 SPECIFICATIONS:

MODEL
2012 Holden Calais V VE Series II V6

ENGINE
3.6-litre SIDI petrol V6, E85 compatible

ENGINE SIZE (cc) / COMPRESSION RATIO
3565cc / 11.3:1

BORE X STROKE (mm)
94mm x 85.6mm

POWER
210@6700rpm, 350Nm@2800rpm

POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO
8.13: 1 (kg:kW)

WEIGHT
1707kg

HEIGHT / WIDTH / LENGTH
1476mm / 1899mm /4900mm

DRIVETRAIN
Six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive

BRAKES
F: ventilated discs, single-piston calipers
R: ventilated discs, single-piston calipers

WHEELS
F and R: 19 x 8 inch, 245/40 R19

FUEL TANK CAPACITY
73 litres

FUEL CONSUMPTION
Tested combined average: 13.7L/100km
Official combined average: 9.5L/100km

PERFORMANCE
0-100km/h: 7.1 seconds

PRICED FROM
$56,790

WARRANTY
Three year/100,000km

THE COMPETITION
Ford Falcon G6/G6E, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, Audi A6

Brett Davis

Brett is currently the editor at PerformanceDrive and a co-founder. He is an expert in handling and performance. He's obsessed with driving, having played with Matchbox cars until he was tall enough to drive a real one. After earning a degree in journalism he started his career as an editorial assistant at Top Gear Australia magazine and then moved on to CarAdvice.com.au. His dream is to live next door to the Nurburgring in Germany.

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