Let’s cut to the chase: this Calais is a land barge. A luxurious, highly annoying land barge. Because Holden have dived so deep into the US parts bin, it doesn’t feel like an Aussie car anymore. There are so many beeps and bongs I keep expecting the car to ask me if I want fries with that. There are many, many ‘features’ that just plain irritate me. But let’s keep it nice and start with the good stuff.
Compared to previous models, the interior is top notch. The Alcantara and leather appointed interior is comfortable and stylish. Gone are the ‘like it or lump it’ footy team colours. The interior is actually cohesive and er, top notch. On a drive from Brisbane to Noosa, the air conditioning didn’t miss a beat and it was smooth sailing. The driving position is not bad either. The seats unlike their German contemporaries are comfortable. That old Buick V6 donk wheezes along in relaxo mode with a good old fashioned 4 speed auto, no CVT nonsense and picks up like buggery when you bury the right foot into the firewall. Boot space? Easily big enough to accomodate our baby gear and holiday bags for a week. No problems there.
But then the annoyances kick in. This car is so soft I swear it has a jelly centre. I think it should be the Holden Kalais Krispy Kreme Stay Puft (yes I watched Ghostbusters the other day) edition. Sure it steers OK at highway speed. But around town it sounds and steers like a barge. The blind spot warning is very useful. Because the B pillar creates a blind spot so big an entire Hyundai Getz hid in it on one drive.
That big colour screen goes dim, then lights up like a Christmas tree for no reason. Hooking up Bluetooth is unnecessarily complicated. Bah and as with GM cars in the States, the seat belts tend to lock on for skinnier, more petite folk like my wife. Wives appreciate nothing more than being locked in their seat at speed trust me. Larger American folk I guess don’t have this problem. Oh and speaking of seat belts, the front belts buckles always get jammed between the seats and the B pillar. For some reason it has no ignition. Which made life interesting when we couldn’t find the key to the car at ‘highway speed’ and we found it stuck between the passenger seat and the console. Now I guess I just keep it in my pocket. But it doesn’t feel right! When you open doors, bong. When you take a seat belt off, bong. Trying to park is a bong fest. When both doors close, the horn beeps 3 times. When you get out of the driver’s seat, everything shuts off. It doesn’t have a proper hand brake. Bah in the words of Pauline Hanson “I just don’t like it”. Just give me a meat pie and sauce.
Truly this car would be a lot nicer without the Krispy Kreme electronic garnish. It’s unnecessary and clearly irritating. Notwithstanding the flim flam, it’s a fairly lavish, stylish land barge. There’s nothing wrong with that. What it has confirmed for me though is I want something more nimble and agile. The same thing in an SS Commodore might be a bit more speed boat than land barge but it’s still big. This car to me just feels like it’s in danger of getting diabetes. For tens of millions of Americans, that feels perfectly normal. For me, I think I need to try the Subaru Levorg next.