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Iron Fist, Velvet Glove: The New Caprice V

Caprice profileThe Holden Caprice V, in its new 2014 guise, is a combination of street savvy, world champion boxer melded with the smarts of a technical genius. Think Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky sitting down and talking quantum mechanics or relativity with the bushy headed wunderkind that was Alfred Einstein. Chevy’s ballsy 6.0L V8 with Holden’s US sourced electronics with some world class programming delivers what Holden has desperately needed and it’s a cracker.
Distance sensing radar, lane changing awareness, integrated internet radio, remote start from the keyfob, heads up display with multifunction info, blind spot alert, G force readout, voice to text messaging, voice control and reverse park assist add to heated seats, trailer sway control, reverse camera and Active Fuel Management from the 260kW/517Nm alloy block Caprice cabinpower source. Holden’s flagship, along with its Commodore brethren, also receives an interior redesign and electronic parking brake, doing away with the tired and unloved handle built into the centre console, that doubles up as a Hill Hold Control system.
It’s finally what Holden have promised for years, a world class luxury vehicle and I spent a wonderful week with the Caprice V, with a road trip to the mid south coast of NSW, to find out if that promise holds up.
Caprice noseThe exterior design is virtually unchanged from the VE based WM model; now called the WN, it makes the new Caprice a real sleeper to those not inside it. The V spec has the V8 as standard mated to an uprated six speed auto with sports shift. The engine/exhaust note is muted, subtle, barely hinting at the animalistic roar the quad tipped exhaust lets loose when the go pedal is pushed in anger. It’s a free swinging engine, ticking over at just under 2000 rpm at freeway Caprice enginespeed, revving cleaning and gutterally to 6000 as the speedo does indecent things. The potential to be a boulevarde cruiser or street brawler is well within its sphere of influence and the engine does both well. There’s no doubt at all that it likes a drink, especially when provoked, however the economy of the 6.0L comes into play with a judicious right foot (and Active Fuel Management), with over 700 kilometres provided from full to empty, including some spirited driving. The gearbox slurs through the gears, with just a hint of whine as it changes.
The ride is rarely disappointing; the bias towards comfort certainly shows, with roll and tip in towards the outside wheel noticeable. There is a skip across the road on certain bumps and with the roads still damp from (at the time of writing) the heavy rains of late June the traction control system was noticeable hauling in the near two tonne mass of Caprice driver doorthe Caprice. The rear compressed hard on some of the heavier undulations but never lost grip. It’s smooth, unfussed Caprice dashand handles like a car smaller and lighter in the tight turns of the Kangaroo Valley Road. The interior, in its own way, is also rarely disappointing. A negative standout is the cheap feeling and cheaply fitted plastic shroud for minor storage ahead of the gear lever; the plastics would benefit from more of a suede feel throughout the cabin, including the seat supports, which still betray their low rent origins, as does the leather print plastic on the upper dash. The seats are well padded, supportive without feeling as if they crowded the thorax but the stylistic addition of a fabric strip, colour matched to the fabric on the dash, is questionable. The eight inch touch screen infotainment system and aircon layout is natural, ergonomic and much better overall than the WM/Calais in the preceding model. The view from the driver’s seat is also pleasurable, with a full colour LCD screen providing information such as fuel usage and economy, tyre Caprice rearpressures and more. The rear seat passengers, with heaps of rear leg room, can relax with wireless headphones to listen to the DVD playable from the centre dash mounted player but, disappointingly, USB access is from the console storage rather than from the aforementioned lower dash, whilst the same console also has, somewhat un-user friendly, a slot to put the keyfob. Unsurprisingly, there’s loads of boot space, thanks to the extra wheelbase.Caprice boot
Moving to the electronic system available in the US is a revelation and unlocks a bevvy of user friendly features. Collision Avoidance, for example, works on sensors reading the distance between the Caprice and the vehicle in front. Should that vehicle get closer whilst the Caprice is not braking, alarm chirps sound and the distance can be changed through a number of choices. Remote start needs the new electronic handbrake to be engaged, allowing the engine and dual zone climate control to come to life. Reverse park assist also uses sensors to judge angle and distance to help bring Caprice HUDhome the five metre behemoth to a parking space. The HUD (Head Up Display) gives speed, g force, revs and the posted speed limit, integrated with the satnav system whilst the infotainment system works on voice command. A button on the steering wheel is pressed to activate the system.
The much vaunted update to the Commodore range is more about the interior and electronics; with the flexibility and grunt of the V8 in the Caprice V with that level of intelligence, it’s well worth the mid $60K driveaway price with its mix of brawn and brains and certainly holds its own against the European competition.