The VE Calais V Sportwagon is sharper and smarter – and more fuel efficient – than its predecessors.

Story By Bob Drane

One of the greatest obstacles to purchasing larger sedans or wagons used to be efficiency. Families get enough grief with monthly repayments without having to deal with ever-increasing weekly fuel bills. But the Holden VE Calais V Sportwagon SIDI V6 has achieved a balance between moderate consumption – especially on those long family trips – excellent performance, size and elegance in a family wagon that might be the answer.
The VE Calais V Sportwagon is like a heavy-boned athlete with fantastic fast-twitch muscles. A Usain Bolt of a vehicle, its nimbleness and tar-hugging abilities belie its brawniness and 1900-kilogram weight. Open the bonnet and its ‘winged keel’ is revealed: SIDI (Spark Ignition Direct Injection). This guarantees more efficient fuel distribution, a better compression ratio, a silky drive and unprecedented economy. The Alloytec engine performs smoothly through the range.
Load up the back, which is capacious enough without being enormous, and the high-hinged hatch will open in the smallest of modern ‘double’ garages. When you get in, the soft leather seats offer multiple adjustments, including the all-important lumbar adjustment for long journeys. The first thing you notice is the tidy, at-a-glance instrument cluster and onboard diagnostics. The uncluttered and prominent dash display gives you the option of switching to a digital speedo.
Without consulting the manual, today’s kids will figure out how to connect their phone to the sound system via bluetooth – a standard feature. To further add to their enjoyment, there’s a video screen that drops from the roof pod and with a press of the AUX button the sound is transferred to their headphones while you listen to the radio. Also onboard is a DVD remote. When the vehicle stops, vision cuts to the front dash screen so the driver can also enjoy the film.
‘Nanny’ functions, seemingly a 21st-century necessity, include a slightly irritating rest reminder that comes up periodically, overruling the digital speedo. The incessant beepery from sensors and seatbelt reminders can be a little nerve-racking when you start your journey. The external mirrors include a redundant in-built heater and are also rather small which, combined with high-sided doorsills and thick pillars, can initially give the feeling of closeness. The natty reverse camera can be a distraction or help while reversing, depending on preference. It’s probably most handy in a pedestrian-heavy car park.
But the expansive dash is notable, as is the car’s spatial economy. The glove box, the console (into which the handbrake is integrated), the front storage compartment, the sunglasses holder located in the roof, the rear-storage compartment, cup holders (in the front and rear), the seat pockets and, of course, the rear cargo area all provide ample space.

This story excerpt is from Issue #72

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2010