POL­ISHED

The real test of the VF is the ev­ery­day ur­ban grind

Herald Sun - Motoring - - On the Web - JOSHUA DOWLING NATIONAL MO­TOR­ING EDI­TOR joshua.dowling@cars­guide.com.au

The new VF Holden flag­ship re­turns to form. On price, equip­ment and styling, the Calais V is a ri­val for the im­ports

ONE week in the hus­tle and bus­tle of city driv­ing is all you need to re­alise just how far the new Holden VF Com­modore has come.

We might dream of vast land­scapes and open roads (or so ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies imag­ine) but the real test of a car is how it han­dles the grind of ur­ban driv­ing.

The flag­ship of the new lineup, the Calais V, is armed to the gun­wales to con­tend with this sce­nario. Ev­ery Com­modore can park it­self but, as we dis­cover, there is more to the last home­grown Holden than meets the eye.

VALUE

About $10,000 off should be enough to grab your at­ten­tion. The Calais has dipped to be­low $40,000 for the first time in more than a decade and the top-line Calais V we’ve tested here is $48,990 for the V6.

The sharper rec­om­mended re­tail prices re­flect the real trans­ac­tion prices peo­ple have been pay­ing for Com­modores in re­cent years. Holden is be­ing more open about it to get more buy­ers into show­rooms and be­hind the wheel.

TECH­NOL­OGY

All new VF Com­modores come with self-park­ing gear and rearview cam­era but the Calais V takes the tech to a new level in an Aus­tralian-de­signed car.

In case you’re won­der­ing, the self-park­ing party trick tends to work in about three at­tempts out of five, pro­vid­ing you have ideal con­di­tions. Your speed, the height of the cars along­side and the size of the space come in to play. Our pre­dic­tion: own­ers will do it once to show off, then pos­si­bly never use it again.

The neat­est fea­ture is the head-up dis­play (HUD) which un­til now was ex­clu­sive to late model BMWs. It re­flects the ve­hi­cle’s speed and other key in­for­ma­tion into the wind­screen in the driver’s line of sight (al­though it can be switched off if you pre­fer to be old school).

Un­like some other cars, the ad­just­ments for bright­ness and height for the Hold­enHUD sys­tem are easy to use. Best of all: po­larised sun­glasses don’t make the dis­play van­ish (as they do on BMWs). Nice one.

There is also a blind zone alert to warn of traf­fic ap­proach­ing along­side but out of view over your shoul­der.

A crash alert sys­tem, as the name im­plies, warns if you’re about to slam into the car in front. Un­like some other sys­tems, how­ever, the Holden won’t hit the brakes au­to­mat­i­cally. Glad I checked that first.

If you have an An­droid or Black­berry phone you can re­ply to text mes­sages at the press of a but­ton on the touch­screen.

If you have an iPhone you can use Siri to re­spond via a but­ton on the steer­ing wheel (if the phone is plugged into the USB socket).

DE­SIGN

The mid­dle sec­tion of the new Com­modore’s body is the same as the old one but a nose job and a bum tuck have done won­ders for its ap­pear­ance.

The more ta­pered rear end gives the Com­modore a sleeker look and helps slip through the air. The out­stand­ing as­pect of the new de­sign, though, is the in­te­rior. If you see a new Com­modore some­where it’s worth putting your face up to the glass and get­ting a peek in­side (wait un­til it’s stopped).

The Calais V gets some nice faux suede on the dash and doors, high­lighted by an al­loy­look gar­nish around the air vents. Top marks.

SAFETY

Six airbags and a five-star safety rat­ing are the norm th­ese days but in the case of the VF it’s worth ex­plor­ing in a lit­tle more de­tail. The score that led to the five-star rat­ing is ac­tu­ally a touch higher than the VE, so there has been an im­prove­ment.

A few eye­brows were raised when it was re­vealed Com­modores sold in Aus­tralia only get six airbags when the US ex­port ver­sion gets seven. But that’s be­cause seat­belt use is lower in North Amer­ica than here and, even though belts have fi­nally been man­dated in all US states, the old law re­mains to pro­tect any­one silly enough not to belt up.

Holden deserves points for mak­ing a rear cam­era stan­dard on ev­ery model— but can I be picky for a mo­ment? The im­age qual­ity isn’t bril­liant, es­pe­cially at night. The im­age qual­ity of other rear-view cam­eras we’ve sam­pled re­cently are bet­ter (Mazda CX-5) while some are worse (Honda CR-V). At least a cam­era is bet­ter than none.

DRIV­ING

Let’s be clear, Holden hasn’t rein­vented the wheel here. But

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