Car Reviews

2018 Holden Commodore Calais-V Tourer Review

Isaac Bober’s 2018 Holden Commodore Calais-V Tourer Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: The Tourer is a slightly higher-riding, all-wheel drive Commodore wagon that’s got the Subaru Outback in its sights.

2018 Holden Commodore Calais-V Tourer

Price $53,990+ORC Warranty seven-years/unlimited km Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 3.6-litre V6 Power 235kW at 6800rpm Torque 381Nm at 5200rpm Transmission nine-speed automatic Drive on-demand AWD Dimensions 5004mm (L) 1871mm (W) 1525mm (H) 2829mm (WB) Weight 1772kg Ground Clearance 146mm Boot Space 560L; 793L (to roof) and 1665L (back seats folded) Spare space saver Fuel Tank 61.7L Thirst 9.1L/100km (claimed combined)

THE KEYBOARD warriors have worn out numerous keyboards and touch screens ranting and raving about the not-a-real-Commodore, Commodore. And, on the whole, I get the argument, the thing wasn’t designed and built here, and it’s based off something from somewhere else. I get it.

But, Holden’s engineers, as we’ve discussed in our other road tests of the new Commodore, went tor great lengths to get involved in development of the thing and ensure the cars delivered here would be tuned for Australian roads and drivers.

2018 Holden Calais-V Tourer Review

So, this might not be the Commodore to win back the heartland, but it might just be the first Commodore that has buyers reconsidering the purchase of something more premium…or am I stretching too much? I don’t think so. I mean, this thing’s designed and built in Germany and for the coin it’s got bucket loads of features that many of its similarly-priced competitors don’t have. Moving on.

What is the Holden Commodore Calais-V Tourer?

The Tourer is essentially the same as the Sportwagon in that it’s a station wagon. Sure, it offers a slightly higher ride height of 146mm (ground clearance – and not the 105mm I saw quoted by one review site) but that’s a long way off the high-riding Subaru Outback’s 213mm. And that’s an important measurement if you’re trying to build a multi-road wagon with all-wheel drive.

And that’s what the Calais-V Tourer seems to be going for, rather than an RS4-esque fast wagon…it’s got plastic cladding around the wheel arches and bottoms of the door sills to protect against dirt; so it looks rugged. But the low ground clearance means this thing won’t and can’t go as far along a bumpy track as an Outback. But let’s leave this comparison for a story later in the week (hint, hint).

2018 Holden Calais-V Tourer Review

Taken on face value, the Calais-V Tourer is a rough-road-oriented wagon loaded down with creature comforts. Available with only one engine, a 3.6-litre V6, which is mated to a nine-speed automatic. This is a cracking engine which we’ll delve into in more detail later, but it’s a shame that it’s the only engine you can get in this variant. I think the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder we tested recently in the RS Sportwagon or the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel (which we haven’t yet sampled) would both be rippers for this vehicle and enhance its appeal.

Our test car, the Calais-V Tourer lists from $53,990+ORC while the Subaru Outback 3.6R Premium is priced from $49,140+ORC. The Calais-V isn’t cheap but it gets a lot of kit, including a Bose sound system, wireless phone charging, 20-inch alloys, adaptive LED Matrix headlights, panoramic sunroof, electric tailgate with kick to open functionality, driver seat power bolsters, massage driver seat, ventilated front seats and heated rear seats, and colour head-up display.

Holden has announced a seven-year, unlimited kilometres warranty for both the Commodore and the Equinox, with fixed price servicing (12 months/12,000km intervals) running from $259 through to $359 for petrol variants.

What’s the interior like?

There are those who claim to have seen the interior of the new Commodore in person and describe it as rubbish. Those people are wrong. As we’ve said in previous reviews, there’s an air of sophistication to the interior of the new Commodore that previous iterations didn’t have.

That said, it’s not perfect. While there’s plenty of good-quality leather and soft-touch materials, and contrasting gloss black panels that seem resistant to finger print smudges, some of the switchgear is shared from variant to variant and even other models, like the Equinox, and it’s those bits that knock the shine off an otherwise well designed and functional interior.

2018 Holden Calais-V Tourer Review

The 8.0-inch touchscreen dominates the dashboard and it’s both easy to reach and read, as well as being glare resistant, which is great. And that’s even if you’ve got the sun shade retracted for the panoramic roof. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and while I don’t have an Android device to test that connectivity, I did have a few issues with the CarPlay connection; the connection would occasionally disconnect, or bump out of CarPlay and back to the regular Home Screen but the music, via CarPlay, would keep going. More than this, when using Apple Maps as sat-nav, I couldn’t get the mirroring to display what could be seen on the phone…it simply showed a static map. A few hard restarts were required to get things working again. But this shouldn’t take away from the vehicle, because it could have been my cable causing the problem. Still, the experience is worth mentioning regardless.

There’s plenty of storage in the front of the cabin, with twin cupholders, and an odd, square shaped holder with a lid next to the centre console storage bin; there’s a single USB outlet inside the centre console. You’ll fit 500ml water bottles in the door bins, but nothing bigger.

 

Climb in behind the steering wheel and the seats are comfortable and supportive; you can adjust the side bolsters on the Calais-V to pinch in a little more, or not. The driver’s seat is powered and you can manually extend the seat base which is great for those with longer legs. After driving more than 700km in our week with the Calais-V, and some longer 100km stints, I can attest to the long-distance comfort of the seats. As good as the seats are, my favourite bit is the head-up display. It’s clear and offers plenty of information, like music tracks which flash up and then disappear, speed and even the status of the AEB; warning you if a pedestrian is either in the road or standing on the edge of the road. It’s a good touch, although the calibration needs some work, as in a lot of cases, the warning was too late.

Vision around the Commodore is okay, although the wing mirrors are a little too small for my liking and they distort at the outer edge, and the A-pillar is a huge blindspot which becomes a big problem at roundabouts and crossings. There are numerous camera options, front, rear and 360-degree, but the camera quality isn’t amazing.

 

Moving into the back, and this is one part of the interior where the transition to the ‘new’ Commodore could be called a failure, depending on your point of view. See, Commodore’s of yore could accommodate three child seats across the back seat, or three adults. You’ll only fit two child seats across the back of the new Commodore, and only two adults in comfort. See, the middle seat is designed as more of a perch than a seat.

Beyond that possible failing, there are air vents for those in the back and USB charging outlets at the back of the centre console. Climbing in and out of the back seats is easy and there’s good head, leg, knee and foot wriggle room for those in the back. You’ll fit a 500ml water bottle in the door bins and there are two cup holders in the arm rest that folds down from the middle seat back.

2018 Holden Calais-V Tourer Review

Move over into the boot and there’s gesture functionality, meaning you simply kick your foot under the rear bumper and above the Holden emblem projected onto the ground. Or you can open the boot via two clicks on the key fob, but you’ll need to be standing at the back of the vehicle for it to work, or by pressing the tailgate release button on the door. And you can set the opening height from the driver’s seat, there’s a dial on the door.

2018 Holden Calais-V Tourer Review

In terms of boot space, there’s up to 793 litres of storage space (up to the roof – something you should only do if you have a cargo barrier) and this grows to 1665 litres if you fold down the 40:20:40 split-fold rear seats.

One grumble is the cargo blind…you’ve got to pull it out just-so to avoid it pulling out of its tracks. A first-world problem. Another slightly bigger issue is the fact that there’s only a space saver spare lurking beneath the boot floor. This is an alleged rough-road vehicle, so, a full-size spare would be preferable.

What’s it like on the road?

Under the bonnet, exclusively, is a 3.6-litre V6 making 235kW at 6800rpm and 381Nm of torque at 5200rpm. This is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, with paddles on the steering wheel, and gets its power to the ground via an on-demand all-wheel drive system.

2018 Holden Calais-V Tourer Review

If you look back at our other recent road tests you can read all about the Australianisation of the Commodore, which is based on the Opel Insignia. But, in a nutshell, Holden made sure its engineers were involved from the very beginning of the development of the Opel Insignia, running test mules around Lang Lang and the Outback; the aim was to develop a local steering and suspension tune. And it seems to have worked.

While I’ve read other reports about the mid-corner roll of the Calais-V Tourer  because of its ‘high ride height’ those accounts are nonsense. The Tourer isn’t much higher than a standard Commodore, and the suspension has been tuned to take the extra ground clearance into account. The thing handles bumps well at all speeds, has bugger all mid-corner roll and the speed with which it settles after a big bump is very impressive.

2018 Holden Calais-V Tourer Review

Throw in the on-demand all-wheel drive system and you’ve got a vehicle that, either on dirt or bitumen (wet or dry), you’re able to get on the power much earlier than in any Commodore ever before. The on-demand system can vary drive split from 100:0 front to rear through to 50:50 front to rear. Even when you try and get the thing to slip so you can test out the speed of the drive split you’ll never ever notice it shuffling drive around.

The lack of ground clearance meant I didn’t/couldn’t take the Tourer across the same section of dirt road that I drove the Subaru Outback 3.6R across when I tested it recently; it would have bottomed out. But I did still take it onto the dirt and the most impressive thing about the car is its grip. There isn’t a lot of suspension travel and you do have to watch the jutting jaw and make sure you’re angling across a wash out, but the traction control works well and shuffles power quickly to the wheel with grip and cuts it to the one spinning to keep you moving forward.

2018 Holden Calais-V Tourer Review

Don’t think this is the Adventura re-born. It isn’t. But if you live along a well-graded dirt road then the Calais-V Tourer is a good vehicle for your short-list. We didn’t notice any squeaks or rattles across the corrugated section we drove over, but our test car had just ticked over 2000km when we drove it, so it was all still nice and tight. My gut suggests it would last well, although I did notice the passenger front door didn’t sit flush with the rear passenger door when closed. Hmmm.

The engine we’ve dealt with in our previous Calais-V write-up. It’s a lusty thing that’s got decent shove from down low, but it likes a good kick before it’ll pick up its skirt and race off towards the horizon, but then that’s not how most owners will drive the thing. The throttle is nice and progressive so progress around town is relaxed and assured; the nine-speed automatic is excellent, responding well to both throttle and brake inputs.

2018 Holden Calais-V Tourer Review

The steering is good, although there’s a little slackness in the straightahead, but this quickly vanishes the moment you move off centre with good weight, feel and directness to the action.

The Calais-V drinks a claimed combined 9.1L/100km but in the real-world you’ll get closer to 11 and 12L/100km, like we did. Interestingly, our average of 12.0L/100km was less than we recorded in the Calais-V liftback.

What about safety?

The Commodore range gets a five-star ANCAP rating, although this particular drivetrain hasn’t been crash tested and that casued a bit of an uproar amongst motoring scribblers, with Holden citing the financial cost of crashing a V6-toting all-wheel drive Commodore. Beyond this, Holden should be commended as the Commodore range is well-equipped with active safety features, including autonomous braking, an active bonnet, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert, head-up display, rear view camera, front and rear parking sensors and rain-sensing wipers, and park assist.

2018 Holden Calais-V Tourer Review

Our Calais-V adds 360-degree camera, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, and don’t forget there’s also head-up display. There’s also six airbags, ISOFIX mounts for the two outboard seats in the back, the clever LED headlights, an on-demand all-wheel drive system for grip and traction and stability controls.

So, what do we think?

As we said about he Calais-V liftback, despite all of the baggage, this is a Commodore that is right at home in Australia. What the Calais-V Tourer adds that makes it stand out from its lift-back sibling, is the slightly extra ground clearance and the cavernous boot. This thing is a practical machine that is further proof that a roomy wagon should be on more radars, rather than buyers just heading towards the closest SUV.

Tuned for Australian roads and tastes, Holden has done a good job of taking something from somewhere else and making it relevant. That the Commodore is backed by a seven-year warranty is icing on the cake.

2018 Holden Calais-V Tourer Review

Editor's Rating

What's the interior like?
What's it like on the road?
What about safety?
Practical Motoring Says: This might not be the Commodore the faithful wanted, but it’s the only one we’ll be getting. And potential buyers would be wrong to dismiss this as being something from somewhere else; there’s enough Aussie input into the way the Calais-V rides and steers that buyers should absolutely have it on their shortlist. It might not be quite as capable as an equivalent Subaru Outback when the going gets rough, but for swift progress across a dirt road, there are few other vehicles that come close. The Calais-V is well equipped for the coin, roomy inside and great to drive; there’s a lot to like.

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober