This was going to be the story of my Holden ZB Calais V. I was going to explain to you how our ZB Commodore range differed from the Buick Regal and Opel/Vauxhall Insignia offered overseas. I was going to tell you, too, how it would’ve been bittersweet to buy one of the last Holdens and indeed one of the last mainstream General Motors products sold in Australia.
That purchase never happened, and it’s because of a good friend. Instead, I ended up with the car I’d been really wanting all along.
So, how did my friend BK help me?
It started with a drive to check out a Holden ZB Calais V. Without delving into the convoluted and overly large range of our short-lived, final Commodore series, the Calais V name was used on a highly-specified Insignia/Regal hatchback with a 3.6-litre V6 and all-wheel drive but without adaptive suspension. Think a subtler-looking Regal GS.
The example was white, one of my least favourite car colours. At least it was a nice, somewhat pearlescent white. It also made the black leather interior – the only interior colourway available here – more tolerable.
I’d test driven a lower-spec Commodore RS-V (above right) and found it a barrel of fun. The AWD system helped it grip tenaciously and the exaggerated engine/exhaust note sounded sporty if a little melodramatic – think an ‘80s Chevy 2.8-litre V6.
I’d have been happy with the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine but it wasn’t available with all the features I wanted. The 2.0T was also FWD-only, though a test drive revealed it actually handled wonderfully and also had very little torque steer.
This Calais V I was driving though felt… slow. Something seemed off. I went over it and over it with BK on the drive home. Was it because there were more people in the car? Did the extra features over a regular Commodore add a lot of weight?
BK had haggled $3k off of the price but the seller seemed almost too easily persuaded. Later that week, as I was readying the financing, BK told me to run a PPSR check. It’s a standard check to see if any money is owed on a vehicle.
While it came back clean in that respect, the report also told me the car was a repairable write-off.
It was the best $2 I ever spent. The seller’s partner, whom I’d been liaising with, was quick to explain and seemed surprised her partner didn’t mention it. Nevertheless, it was a hard pass from me.
I kept looking around for Calais V hatches, VXR hatches (Regal GS equivalent), even the Calais V Tourer (think a V6 Regal TourX). They were all too expensive or too far away.
I had gravitated away from the cars I discussed last year because of one particular feature: Android Auto.
You might’ve noticed I’ve been a little less present here lately. That’s largely because I’ve got a contract gig with a new automotive news and reviews site in Australia, CarExpert.com.au.
I’d been writing for another outlet since mid-last year but only doing news. With CE, I’m now doing reviews. And a lot of cars I’ve been reviewing have come with Android Auto, phone mirroring software that just makes it so much easier to play music, send messages and take notes.
I’d gotten so used to using it that suddenly I was no longer considering cars that didn’t have it. That included the Hyundai Genesis.
I mentioned to BK how I was previously dead set on getting one, specifically the range-topping Ultimate. Alas, there were none in Queensland whenever I searched on Carsales.
Sensing a challenge, he had a look and found one. “No,” I sighed, “That’s just the base model.”
Except it wasn’t. The dealer had mistakenly classified it on Carsales as a base model when it was indeed an Ultimate. It was also a 2015 model, just new enough for me to be able to finance it through a bank.
It was priced at $AUD35,000 drive-away with just under 60,000km on the odometer. New, these retailed for $82,500, or around the price of a base BMW 520i. That was some steep, steep depreciation, largely because it was the first bona fide luxury car in Hyundai showrooms and still wore a Hyundai badge on the back. These ended up selling mostly to taxi/limousine companies.
Here, we received only the 3.8-litre naturally-aspirated V6 with 311 hp and 292 ft-lbs. No all-wheel drive, no V8, no turbocharged Sport.
There were other things we missed out on. No Aussie-market Genesis offered real wood trim, including the gorgeous open-pore wood trim Americans could get. Also, there was no rotary controller for the infotainment.
The second-generation Genesis was the first Genesis offered here, arriving in select Hyundai showrooms in 2014. It was withdrawn in 2017, intended to be relaunched shortly thereafter as a Genesis but not arriving in the Genesis showroom – yes, they only have one for now – until last year.
G80 buyers still don’t have real wood trim, a rotary controller, or any engine other than the 3.8. Reclining rear seats and adaptive suspension are now available but the upgraded infotainment system with Android Auto hasn’t made it here.
I took the Genesis for a drive and it was evident it’d been on the lot for a while. It needed a new battery and so, on our test drive, the dealer had to leave the engine running as he filled up the petrol tank.
The owner had bought it new from this Hyundai dealer and had finally traded it in on an A8 from the dealer group’s Audi franchise.
The drive, however, revealed this was a car that was worth it, even if it didn’t have that one measly feature I wanted.
As an Ultimate, it had every feature available here including heated rear seats, a power rear sunshade and soft-close front doors.
Those features I could have done without, but the Genesis ticked every box on my wish list except for Android Auto. That means it has:
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Proximity entry
- Adaptive high beam and automatic headlights
- Panoramic sunroof
- Heated and ventilated front seats
- Adaptive cruise control
- Panoramic sunroof
- Head-up display
- Autonomous emergency braking with forward-collision warning
- Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
- 360-degree camera and front and rear parking sensors
I was already pre-approved for financing. I negotiated $2k off the price and the Genesis was mine! My first time financing and easily my fanciest car yet.
I had noticed that every car I’d ever bought had been roughly the same age and always cost around $10k. This meant that they would reach a point sooner in terms of age and mileage where things would start to wear.
I had then decided I wanted a “forever car”, or at least something I’d hold onto for a minimum of five years. It was part of the reason I looked at ZB Commodores, as their almost equally awful depreciation meant I could get into something quite new for quite cheap.
If you had to compare a 2018 Calais V to a 2015 Genesis, however, it’s pretty clear which car is going to feel the more expensive, solid and well-built of the two.
Every surface in the Genesis is soft to the touch, even the lower half of the doors. The doors close with a solid thunk and even if you don’t close the front doors properly, they’ll do it themselves.
The cream leather interior looks so much classier than the black interior. For some inexplicable reason, Australians love black leather interiors or automakers love selling them here. Either way, it’s almost rare to find something with a tan or cream cabin.
The top part of the dash and doors is a greyish colour, providing a nice contrast. The metal-look trim on the centre stack and console is also aesthetically pleasing and feels solid to the touch – it isn’t just patterned plastic.
The 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system is quite large and, though it doesn’t have Android Auto, the factory navigation has attractive graphics and works well. Alas, as with all factory navs, it will need to be updated at the dealer and that will likely be an additional cost.
The genuine panoramic sunroof really opens up the cabin. Since buying the car, I’ve closed the shade maybe once. It lets in so much light (though the tinting cuts a lot of the glare) and the front half opens, too, if you want some fresh air.
The Genesis feels expensive to drive, too. The V6 engine is muted and refined but, if you punch it, there’s a wonderful if subtle snarl.
The ride can be a bit firm over larger bumps and imperfections but that might be due to the Ultimate’s 19-inch alloy wheels. Reviews have indicated the 18-inch wheels of the regular and Sensory models result in superior ride quality. The Ultimate’s ride is hardly objectionable, however.
I was actually surprised how well this car handles. It feels particularly large and heavy in day-to-day driving but you can toss it down a winding mountain road and it holds its own. The handling is wonderfully balanced and you can even bring the tail out.
To think, I almost didn’t buy a rear-wheel drive car. What was I thinking?
Fuel economy isn’t great, though I knew that going in. There’s no stop-start or cylinder deactivation technology and I drive in a, uhh, spirited fashion so it’s averaging around 18mpg. However, that’s on 91RON regular unleaded fuel when everything from Lexus and the German brands requires at least 95RON premium unleaded.
One other bugbear is the glorious panoramic roof, which has the slightest of rattles. It’s a known issue but there’s a known fix. BK tried lubricating the seals but it only worked temporarily.
Though I had press cars to get me around after I sold the Falcon, I was motivated to get a car as soon as possible in case car dealerships closed due to the Coronavirus crisis.
Unfortunately – and yes, smallest of violins here – the crisis has meant I haven’t gotten to drive the Genesis much. I’m working from home full-time and the Queensland Police Service, rightly or wrongly, is stopping people from making non-essential trips.
I did, however, manage to get in a couple of trips up to Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious before the crackdown started in earnest. For those who aren’t familiar with Brisbane, the two mountains are located maybe 30-40 minutes west of the city and contain arguably the two best driving roads in South-East Queensland.
The second time, I let BK take the wheel. It’s always interesting to be a passenger in your car! We’ve both found Sport mode adds a fair amount of weight to the already well-weighted steering, in addition to sharpening the throttle response. The paddle shifters work well, the car only dropping out of manual shift mode if you don’t make any inputs for a while or go and do something really crazy.
I’m immensely happy with my Genesis. This kind of car is exactly my cup of tea – a spacious, rear-wheel drive sedan that can balance ride quality with handling ability. Once these travel restrictions are lifted, I’ll need to take this baby for a road trip.
My previous COALs: