Tow Vehicle: Holden Calais V Redline

By: Steve Vermeulen, Photography by: Steve Vermeulen/Holden

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If you haven’t noticed, the Aussie-built Commodore’s gotten smart over the last few years. The Calais V Redline exhibits some of Holden’s best new technology. But don’t worry, it still offers a rumbling V8 with all the grunt you need for towing.

Tow Vehicle: Holden Calais V Redline
Tow Vehicle: Holden Calais V Redline
  • Plenty of agreeable luxury features here without the six-figure price tag
  • That V8 sounds as well as it goes and is mated beautifully to a six speed automatic
  • Space to really stretch out, comfortable on long drives

If you’re looking for a tow vehicle, you’d be crazy to overlook the Commodore. Despite the decline in large car sales overall, in its caravan-loving homeland of Australia the Commodore has just become the most popular passenger car for the 15th year running.

You can put some of that success down to patriotism – the Commodore hasn’t fared quite that well in our market and to be honest, with the first generation VE Commodore boasting a long list of durability issues, the love loss isn’t entirely without reason.

The good news for this newly updated, series two version is that much of those initial teething problems have been ironed out. This has always been the way with Commodore, as a former Holden technician I can speak with some experience.

The first iteration of an all-new Commodore as the VE has traditionally been plagued with the odd glitch. For the purpose of this review and to ease my mind, I called in on some former colleagues and by all accounts things are looking good for the popular large car: far fewer in for unplanned maintenance and I can attest there’s an obvious improvement to the feel of the interior.

Engineering and design

Our tester was the highly specified – big breath now – Calais V V8 Redline edition. The Redline add-ons are designed to pull in enthusiasts with chrome window surrounds, massive 19-inch polished alloy wheels and sports suspension, but there are also big Brembro performance brakes. These don’t just serve a purpose for the performance focused, but also bring a significant element of confidence for those lugging a caravan or boat, and prove to be very effective stoppers. Come to think of it, the firmer suspension will probably also help resist squatting when the load comes on.

Another real bonus for family buyers is a roof-mounted DVD system (standard on Calais V V8) with wireless headphones. So long as you don’t run out of Wiggles DVDs, your kids will be entertained and, hopefully, quiet in the back seat the whole trip.

There’s also premium leather and standard on Calais V models, in-built Bluetooth hands-free and satellite navigation. Arguably an even more impressive change over the first VE though, is the intuitive and nicely laid out "IQ" touch screen that controls audio, sat-nav and heater functions. This reduces the amount of buttons on the centre stack and the new dash fascias are a cleaner, clearer design. Forget what you thought about rugged Aussie build quality and specification, all in all this is really very good. The plastics remain too harsh to the touch to rival Europeans in terms of finish, but for $75,290 you’re still comfortably shy of any Euro V8 pricing.

Engine and performance

From a driver’s perspective the VE Commodore chassis has been a revelation in the Australian auto industry. It was originally benchmarked against the BMW five series and Audi A6, and shares a similar rear suspension set-up. It’s not quite as precise, but developed for the varied Aussie conditions it seems far better suited to our roads than the Euro product.

Under the bonnet is a sonorous V8, now a staple of Holden’s DNA but despite now adopting clever cylinder deactivation technology that shuts four cylinders off on low load cruising, it still isn’t the most efficient large capacity engine available. Still for towing, it’s all about torque and the Holden V8 has it in spades with 517Nm available it won’t be laboured by even larger caravans. Holden specify a maximum tow rating of 2100kgs (braked).

If the redline isn’t quite your thing, the standard Calais V or indeed any of the V8 Commodore range (Calais for luxury, SS and SS-V for sports focus) would suffice for the long haul and to optimise practicality go for the fantastic Sportwagon variants.

See the Holden Calais for sale on


Towing capacity 2100kg maximum
Power 260kW @ 5700rpm
Torque 517Nm @ 4400rpm
Transmission Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy 12.3L/100km
Length 4894mm
Width 1899mm

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