Holden Caprice/Statesman

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

The only exterior panel in common between the VE Commodore and the long wheelbase WM is the front door. Presumably Holden would prefer you forget the underpinnings and running gear are virtually identical.

Which is not a problem when you consider the VE is so good, and the amount of work that went into tweaking and tuning those underpinnings to suit the bigger car.

Holden executive director of engineering, Tony Hyde, has a point when he says these are the “best engineered, best tested, best validated, most refined long wheelbase cars we’ve ever produced.”

Holden spent $Au190 million on WM development, on top of the billion dollars invested in the VE cars.

Much of the work went on alongside the VE, with the basic lines penned five years ago when designer Martin Love waved a couple of pencil sketches under Mike Simcoe’s nose.
The recipe was for a car with a longer wheelbase and wider track without increasing overall length – indeed it’s actually down by 32mm. Some spatial compromises were made inside. Head room is down by up to 16mm and front hip room by 33, but the car’s so spacious that whatever safety and design concerns mandated such changes, you won’t notice them. Most importantly, that capacious rear footwell is virtually unaltered and the boot has actually grown – it’s up five litres to 535.

Holden says this body is notably stiff, in part because among its 43 unique panels is the biggest single piece Holden has produced, the WM’s one-piece side panel replacing the WL two-piece side. The result pays dividends when driving, both in terms of ride refinement and body flexion.

Though the front and rear Linear Control suspension basics are those of VE there have been substantial changes and the bias suits the cars, with the sportier Caprice slightly softer than the Calais and the Statesman softer still.

The brakes, of course, aren’t soft at all – this is a heavy car, so the 16-inch package (Statesman), or the 17-inch package (Caprice) with their vented rotors have reduced stopping distance by five percent from the outgoing cars. Naturally ABS and ESP stability control are standard.

The engines are the 3.6-litre V6 that is standard on the Statesman, with 195kW up from 190, and 340Nm up from 335 – using 91-octane fuel.

The V8 fitted standard to Caprice is the same 6.0-litre Gen IV as the VE, offering the same 270kW (up from 260) and 530Nm (up from 510). The V6 gets a five-speed auto to the V8’s
six-speed, and all-new exhaust systems vent gases – the V6 via twin pipes, the V8 via four.

Wrapping all the tech stuff is that new body, solid and imposing with distinct differentiations and subtle embellishments. Like the chrome outlines to the Caprice door handles and the tiny LEDs in the side-repeaters – nice.

The Caprice being the prestige sporty car it gets a few more aggressive touches, like the mesh grille.

The interiors are light-years from the outgoing cars, and sufficiently altered from the VE’s – with different instruments, centre stack and door trim. The overall impression is of gravitas and understated prestige, even without the Caprice’s 10-speaker Bose audio, rear
DVD and air con controls.

Which brings us to a features list, also considerably enhanced from the outgoing cars – from stuff like Bi Xenon headlights for the Caprice to a redesigned temperature control system. The Statesman now has nine air ducts compared to five in outgoing models, and the Caprice has 11 in a tri-zone layout that includes rear ducts at foot level. Rear passengers even get their own air controls for a system designed to operate in ambient temperatures between -20 and over 50 degrees.

What’s it like to drive? Well, these are still big, heavy beasts designed for comfort. But forget the WL – that was a corporate cab at best, and not an especially clever one. This generation offers handsome cars with presence – and though you won’t buy one if you want a spirited drive, you can throw the WM
around with confidence knowing the car’s basic balance is good, the suspension efficient, if soft, and the ESP waiting in the wings.

Our back-country Aussie drive on some truly appalling surfaces revealed astonishing ride control for a prestige leviathan that at last can more than hold its own in an increasingly competitive segment.

Holden NZ sold very few WL cars – they didn’t make a convincing case for the money. This WM can, yet every one has dropped in price, the Caprice V8 now $79,990 – a drop of $7510 – and the Statesman V6, at $66,490, the first long wheelbase car at under 70 grand
in seven years.