March 24, 2004


Sydney readers of a wheel-minded nature should grab a copy of this weekend’s Sunday Telegraph, for my full review of Holden’s way-impressive Calais. I’ll post the review here after publication.

Next month’s reviews include the swoopy Chrysler Crossfire and, to celebrate Earth Day, the V10 Volkswagen Touareg.

These and future reviews will involve a whole bunch more online stuff, including pics.

Posted by Tim Blair at March 24, 2004 02:59 PM

My ignorance of the Australian car market is comprehensive, but don't you get dizzy trying to catalog all the razor thin differences between the apparently infinite variations of the Holden Commodore?

Granted it's appealing that you can get GM's Gen III LS-1 V-8 with four doors, two doors, five-doors and/or with a couple of different pickup beds... but every time I look at a Holden all I can think is "Cadillac Catera." And I despised the Catera.

Posted by: John Pearley Huffman at March 24, 2004 at 03:40 PM

The Crossfire is ugly, with a capital 'ugly'. You can always tell when a company thinks they have an ugly car on their hands, as all the publicity shots are a) low angle b) only show 1/4 to 1/2 of the car and c) are in black and white or sepia.
Australian and american tastes are quite different. I really liked the monaro, considering its lineage, but many americans find it dull. The taurus sold by the boatload in the US, but they couldnt give them away over here.

Posted by: atilla at March 24, 2004 at 03:45 PM

It's all misleading. Give cars the names which go with the car and people who drive 'em:

Mercedes N Fucking Payments Left

Volvo Lemon

BMW Overtaking? whose Overtaking?

and so on.......

Posted by: Traps at March 24, 2004 at 05:02 PM

The Touareg is awful, so I've heard. Is this correct?

Posted by: PNN at March 24, 2004 at 05:49 PM

Hey Tim! You can also buy the Sunday Tele in Newcastle and Wollongong. I've even seen it for sale in (gasp) Brisbane. Sydney is not New South Wales. Or even Australia.

Posted by: snoopy at March 24, 2004 at 08:16 PM

I was passed by one of those Crossfires the other night while I was walking. I couldn't believe it was a Chysler. The engine sounded great. And they don't look that bad either, especially considering that it's a Chrysler.

Posted by: Charles at March 24, 2004 at 08:42 PM

The Crossfire is basically a 7 yr old Mercedes engine & suspension package with a Yank body.

Posted by: Dave at March 24, 2004 at 08:58 PM

crossfire is a commercial failure in US.
for that price (35K+) there are 5-6 better cars available.

is it me, but car resembles a dog taking a poo?

Posted by: niels at March 24, 2004 at 11:29 PM

"The taurus sold by the boatload in the US, but they couldnt give them away over here."

Hey, give us credit. They sold "by the boatload" to car rental companies. The Accord and Camry were more popular with individual drivers, even though they had higher prices and came with a standard 4 cyl. engine, instead of the Taurus's six.

Posted by: Bruce Rheinstein at March 25, 2004 at 02:45 AM

Congrats 'Tom'... car reviews for the Sunday Telegraph. Junkets don't get any more down market do they? And they said you'd never make it in journalism.

Posted by: Miranda Divide at March 25, 2004 at 05:04 AM

I'll be looking forward to hearing what an actual car guy thinks of the Touareg V-10 TDI, rather than the VW-heads and dieselgeeks I've read already. I drive a Jetta TDI at present, and should I find myself moving up in the car market one of these days, I'd be interested to hear whether that Touareg passes muster with someone who doesn't really care about the badge or the fuel.

Posted by: Josh Crockett at March 25, 2004 at 06:01 AM

Dear Miranda

Nothing "downmarket" about my auto section, old thing. I should know, I edit it.

I'll think of you when I'm motivating through the Alps in some winsome auto. Actually, I won't.

Think of you, that is.

Posted by: Paul Pottinger at March 25, 2004 at 10:38 AM

John Pearley H: the Catera was an Opel Omega in slight drag to suit the US market. The Omega has a 26 year old shared lineage with the Commodore, though by the time of the Catera the only shared panels were the door skins. And the 377BHP Omega Lotus used a Holden diff. So, apart from the engines, body, transmission, and interior, the Commodore is identical to the Catera/Omega...

And I'm one of those odd people in Australia who owned an oval-oid Taurus for 2 years. Great financial deal (not given away though), very comfortable car, with similar performance but better fuel consumption and a *much* smoother engine than the local Falcon equivalent at the time. The slabs of grey rubbery plastic in the interior were a bit of a let-down though.

But that was just a glitch in my usual patterns, and now I'm back in cars of "character": a 1987 928 S4 and a 1979 Benz 6.9.

Posted by: Peter Q at March 25, 2004 at 10:40 AM

Not that I'm a passionate defender of the Crossfire, but here's some more on it, from the US site.

Posted by: KR at March 25, 2004 at 10:59 AM

A Holden *Calais* - what, named after a desolate windswept cold ugly rainy dump where the English underclass buy cheap(er) beer?


Posted by: blooKat at March 25, 2004 at 12:08 PM

VW "Touareg"? Gotta be kidding.
How long till VW find out its some some country's ethnic slang for "wank" "sprog or "felch"?

Posted by: max power at March 25, 2004 at 01:02 PM

Thanks Peter for the insight into Commodore genetics. The door skins of course greatly define a car's appearance, but there's also a lot of similarity in roof and windsheild shape, and in the sheer anonymity of the basic design. Isn't the Commodore's floorpan stamping essentially that of the Omega with additional width? Don't they share basic suspension design? I'm open to being enlightened.

The Catera was such a turd bucket and the first time i drove one its adjustable rear suspension froze in the fully extended position leaving the car with a nose down attitude and a hideous ride. I was shocked GM could be foisting such a load on the Germans as an Opel. The Catera was, of course, replaced by the vastly better CTS and that car is now available with the Gen III LS6 as the CTSv and, while I haven't driven it, everyone I know who has professes a deep love for it.

I've driven the Monaro (at a GM press event) and GTO (its slightly warped brother) and found them a bit antiseptic in character for my taste. The GTO feels particularly heavy (and at 3800-pounds it is heavy) and that definitely mutes its appeal. I haven't driven any Commodore or Calais, but the idea a four-door version of the current GTO doesn't excite me.

Your taste in German cars is exquisite. The 928 S4 is the grandest mistake Porsche ever made and I'd love to have one -- if fixing it with hideously expensive parts and ludicrous Porsche mechanic labor rates wouldn't wipe out my always-teetering financial position. Same goes for the 6.9, which is almost ludicrously charismatic.

Posted by: John Pearley Huffman at March 25, 2004 at 04:37 PM

Hey Potts, how did you manage to reach such lofty heights at News Ltd? Guess they won't be able to ignore your leadership qualities any longer, now you've stopped to pick-up the Bloghead for your team.

Man, Lachlan should have had you over at Cancun this week calling the shots.

Posted by: Miranda Divide at March 26, 2004 at 09:51 AM

My apologies... that should have been "stooped" to pick up the Bloghead, not "stopped". But then an editor of your obvious qualities would have picked that up in a jiffy!

Posted by: Miranda Divide at March 26, 2004 at 09:53 AM