Caprice on gas, a Statesman like presence with Commodore pace.

A Wheel Thing is into week 3 of its “A Month of Holden” with the LPG Caprice filling the driveway. I say filling because it’s an imposing presence, especially with the lustrous red metallic the test car is coated with. At five metres in length and a sleek rear window line adding to the overall handsomeness on the outside, the Caprice has a Statesman like presence (now the Statesman is gone, I think the standard Caprice has taken over, with the V being what the Caprice should be) both on the road and in the carpark. http://www.holden.com.au/vehicles/caprice/range

I’ll get the downside of the Caprice out of the way first. The interior on the test car, the non V spec Caprice, is an outright disappointment, given it’s meant to be Holden’s (one of two) flagship vehicle. Yes, it’s got memory seating and leather seats, but the SV6 currently on offer also has leather. It has climate control dual zone aircon, so does the Calais and Omega. The dash layout is almost the same as the Commodore range apart from a slight difference in the centre aircon vents. The plastic horizontal strip is a dull grey and the display dials look like cheap versions of classic font dials. The seats themselves, although comfortable enough, lack a measure of support to the sides of the body and surprisingly, given a Cruze can be had with heated seats, don’t feature them (but there’s heated exterior mirrors) while the centre console is nothing luxury either, with gearshift surround no different to the Omega. In regards to specification, given the lack of interior entertainment (DVD is an option, not standard while the V spec gets rear seat viewing as standard) and only being had with the 3.6L, I think Holden’s reshuffled the Statesman into memory but replaced it with the Caprice. I remember hiring a Statesman in 2008 and having a velour trim on the front, folding door pockets…

On the road the Caprice, with the LPG, exhibits all of the driving manners you’d expect from it handling wise; there’s no float, plenty of noise insulation, grip and braking are wonderful whilst acceleration does suffer from the relative lack of torque from the LPG engine trying to push the weight of the Caprice. But once up and running that torque loss compared to the standard 3.6L rarely impedes progress. Surprisingly, there’s a nice aural snarl from the single exhaust port when pushed, something I didn’t notice from the Omega or SV6. With the extended wheelbase, the ride quality absorbs the minor bumps and thumps well plus deals with car park speed humps nicely, in conjunction with the smooth riding suspension. The A pillar issue that plagues Commodore doesn’t seem so noticeable in the Caprice, oddly enough, but once the driver is settled into the pews and has adjusted the mirrors plus uses the rear vision camera for reversing, all round vision isn’t an issue.

Naturally, with the extended wheelbase, interior and leg room at the rear is more than adequate plus the central ski port access makes for an extra access point to the cavernous boot. Even with the spare tyre in there, thanks to the LPG tank (see my review on the Omega wagon) there’s plenty of cargo space. On the LPG subject, economy has settled in at around 13L/100 kms, pretty reasonable for a mix of freeway and mainly suburban driving.

The exterior cops a few changes from the Commodore of course, with the front and rear bars, front and rear light clusters and turn indicators noticeably different without losing the family resemblance. It’s definitely a handsome car and, to be honest, is the only part of the car that says it’s a luxury car.

With that in mind, the cost to differentiate the Caprice from it’s “lesser” brethren in Australia could be prohibitive, given the market share it has. But, as it IS sold overseas into markets that expect a bit more, plus competes with the Europeans AND the up and coming Koreans, it begs a question from me: do Holden take this seriously enough for it to be what it could be?

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