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Holden Commodore Calais-V Vs Toyota Camry SL V6

The new Commodore is copping plenty of stick but the Camry isn’t…both are fully imported…we’ve gone for a top of the tree battle, comparing the Holden Commodore Calais-V with the Toyota Camry SL V6.

2018 Holden Commodore Calais-V

Pricing From $51,990+ORC Warranty Seven–years/unlimited Safety Five star ANCAP Engine 3.6-litre V6 Power 235kW at 6800rpm Torque 381Nm at 5200rpm Transmission Nine-speed automatic Body 4897mm (long) 1971mm (wide) 1544mm (high) Boot Space 490L Spare Space Saver Weight From 1515kg Towing 2100kg braked Fuel tank 62 litres Thirst 9.1L/100km claimed combined

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2018 Toyota Camry SL V6

Price $43,990+ORC Warranty three-years, 100,000km Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 3.5-litre V6 Power 224kW at 6600rpm Torque 362Nm at 4700rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4905mm (L); 1840mm (W); 1445mm (H); 2825mm (WB) Weight 1625-1630kg Boot Space 524 litres Spare Space Saver Fuel Tank 60L Thirst 8.7L/100km claimed combined

BOTH THE Toyota Camry and Holden Commodore are fully imported. Yet, while keyboard warriors have been body slamming the Commodore for, er, not being a Commodore, the Camry has slipped under the radar. It’s important to put to one side the baggage the Commodore’s carrying; it’s unfortunate that neither the Commodore or the Camry are built here anymore, but both vehicles are still very good and probably the best versions of themselves since ever – cue: hate mail.

What are we testing and why?

For this head-to-head test, we’ve selected the Commodore Calais-V and the Toyota Camry SL V6, and that’s because both vehicles hold similar positions in their respective line-ups. Both are fitted with V6 engines, both are of a similar size inside and out, and both vehicles are likely aimed at the same type of buyer. Key differences are, obviously, the price, with the Calais-V costing at least $8000 more than the Camry SL V6, and it also has all-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic where the Camry makes do with front-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic. The Camry sticks with a three-year, 100,000km warranty while the Commodore features a seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Unlike Camry’s of old, there’s been no local tuning work done to the suspension or steering, whereas the Commodore has had significant Aussie engineering input with locally delivered cars getting a bespoke suspension and steering tune to those in other markets. There’s also the, just for Australia, V6 AWD drivetrain in the Calais-V we’re testing. Apparently, Holden engineers pushed hard for this variant.

Toyota Camry SL V6 Review

The Commodore and Camry have lost ground to the seemingly unstoppable popularity of SUVs and this was a contributing factor in local manufacturing of these vehicles becoming unviable…it’s not the only reason. So, as good as these two vehicles might well be on paper, they’ll never ever get close to their sales highs of years gone by. Toyota is hoping the Camry will maintain its spot as the best-selling medium car and it probably will but it will lose a lot of sales to SUVs…just how the new Commodore will fare remains to be seen.

What are the interiors like?

The interior of the Calais impresses and disappoints in equal measures. The design is very European and there’s a lot of soft-touch materials used and I particularly like the Riva-hoop-esque sweep of the dashboard. But the materials used for the switchgear and buttons feel cheap to look at and touch.

2018 Holden Commodore Calais-V Review

The Camry’s dashboard is clearly the best-quality and modern looking since forever, but the design isn’t particularly attractive and there’s still a lot of hard, cheap plastics used, although greater use of soft-touch materials goes some way towards hiding them.

Toyota Camry SL V6 Review

The Calais-V’s seats, both front and back, are clear winners compared to the shapeless seats in the Camry. The Calais-V offers more seats adjustment and you can also lengthen the seat base which is great for long-distance comfort. The Camry’s seats offer 8-way adjustment but are not in the same league for comfort or support as the Calais-V.

The back seat of the Commodore feels roomier than the Camry and there’s more headroom too, which is partly because the Calais-V only gets a small sunroof where the Camry gets a panoramic jobbie which robs a lot of headroom in the front and back. Indeed, in the front my head was very close to the Camry’s roof and I’m just on six-feet tall.

And then there’s the infotainment units. Both are eight-inch screens with native sat-nav but only the Calais-V offers Apple and Android mirroring, and the nav on the Calais-V is much better than the Camry’s system. Both are even for graphic quality and the quality of the reversing cameras, which offer similar views and similar grainy low-light performance.

The Camry pips the Calais-V for boot space with 524L Vs 490L, both have folding rear seats in a 60:40 split and both only offer a space saver spare beneath the boot floor. Personally, though, I found the Commodore’s lift-back boot access much better than the Camry’s with its pinched boot opening; the Calais-V might not offer as much room as the Camry, but you can use the room more effectively.

It’s a win for the Calais-V.

What are they like on the road?

The Camry SL V6 runs a newly-developed 3.5-litre V6 and marks the first time a V6 has featured in a Camry since 2006. The engine makes 224kW at 6600rpm and 362Nm of torque at 4700rpm. This is mated to an eight-speed automatic and the combination drinks down a claimed combined 8.7L/100km although in our week with the thing we averaged a little higher than that at 10.7L/100km.

Toyota Camry SL V6 Review

Around town the Camry SL V6 is comfortable if it’s not hurried. There’s plenty of torque to rest on and if you’re not asking the transmission to work too hard then it all feels quite smooth. Move away from town and ask the transmission to work harder, like, when you’re on a twisty road and it doesn’t feel at all like an eight-speed transmission; it comes off feeling more like a clumsy six-speed auto.  The Camry feels fine up to about 6/10ths, from there the damping feels underdone with the car quick to slam into its bump stops before taking one or two too many oscillations before settling again. It’s a ride set-up that Americans would love but that doesn’t necessarily suit Australian roads.

Across well-graded dirt the Camry’s composure is okay if the speed is low. Again, as the speed rises the suspension struggles to cope with bigger hits or constant ripples in the surface. And it scrabbles for grip as the surface loosens.

2018 Holden Commodore Calais-V Review

The Commodore Calais-V runs a 3.6-litre V6 making 235kW at 6800rpm and 381Nm of torque at 5200rpm. This is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission and the thing is happy drinking 91RON which will make it slightly easier on the hip pocket because the Calais-V likes drink…the claimed combined consumption is 9.1L/100km but in our week of testing, we saw a much higher average of 12.7L/100km.

At around town speeds the thing feels nice and effortless thanks to a progressive throttle action and transmission that’s probably the best nine-speeder I’ve tested. Shifts are quick and smooth and no matter how hard you try, you can’t catch it out.

The suspension has been tuned for Australian roads and across the Practical Motoring loop that showed with good ride and handling across both bitumen and dirt. There’s good bump absorption but not at the expense of dynamism; the Calais-V is a car that you can lean on with confidence. That’s on part also down to the all-wheel drive which constantly varies the drive from front to back and side to side; you can get on the power much earlier in slippery conditions than in any Commodore that’s gone before, without feeling like you’ll be ramming the back end into the scenery.

It’s a win for the Calais-V

What about safety?

The Calais-V gets a five-star ANCAP rating and that’s despite neither EuroNCAP or ANCAP crash testing the all-wheel drive V6 variant… All Commodore variants get 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. Our Calais-V adds 360-degree camera, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.

The Camry gets a five-star ANCAP rating across the range. It offers Pre-Collision Safety System (Autonomous Emergency Braking), Lane Departure Alert with steering assist, seven airbags, stability and traction controls, ABS with electronic brake-force distribution and Brake Assist, Hill-start Assist Control, Brake Hold and Trailer Sway Control. The SL we’re comparing adds rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.

This is neck and neck between the two.

So, which one wins and why?

For those shopping on price alone, the Camry SL V6 makes a good argument. It’s well-equipped, roomy and comfortable. But it lacks some of the features of the Calais-V and the fit and finish doesn’t feel quite as good either. The Calais-V is much better to drive and the all-wheel drive means it’s more confidence-inspiring in slippery conditions. Yes, you’ve got to spend a lot more to buy the Commodore Calais-V over the Camry SL V6, but I think it’s worth it if you’re looking for more from your family car.

2018 Holden Commodore Calais-V Review


Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.