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Holden WL Statesman V8 Test

No big changes - but it's still a good buy.

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • Lots of cabin and boot space
  • Comfortable
  • Effortless V8 grunt
  • No major improvements
  • But still good value
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Where’s the development? That’s what we’ve been asking ourselves every time we step in and drive the newly-released Holden WL Statesman V8. Sure, the big Holden carries on its reputation for huge interior space, comfort and 5.7 litre power, but what’s new on the scene? Not a lot. This could be a vehicle released five years ago.

But this is not to say the WL Statesman a bad car – it just feels like a model nearing the end of its life.

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All of the familiar Holden quirks remain. The big V8 starts with a rattle and rip and, once settled to idle, it’s quite lumpy. Then you pull the transmission selector back into Drive and – oops - the Statesman’s bum drops under the torque load. Hmmm...

It’s when you get out onto the road when Statesman shows its worth.

The cabin is well insulated from outside noise and there is ample space. The electrically adjusted seats are also very comfortable. With a 151mm longer wheelbase than the base Holden Commodore, the Statesman holds a clear ride quality advantage which goes unspoilt with a well matched spring and damper combination. It doesn’t feel like a particularly sophisticated suspension arrangement, but there are no complaints about bump absorption or travel.

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Holden has made a couple of tweaks under the bonnet of the WL Statesman. At last, the 5.7 litre pushrod V8 has received electronic throttle control along with upgraded engine management. The move to electronic throttle control is probably why we found stronger throttle response compared to various other LS1 vehicles we’ve driven. Part-throttle performance is effortless. Further changes to the air intake and exhaust endow the WL Statesman with 245kW at 5600 rpm and 465Nm at 4800 rpm – up 10kW and 5Nm on the previous WK model.

The Statesman V8 comes with a 4-speed automatic transmission that, like the rest of the car, is showing its age. It teams nicely with the 245kW LS1 but where’s the sequential shift? Drive is to a limited-slip rear differential.

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At 1727kg the Statesman is a heavy car but it can easily whisk you to 100 km/h in the low/mid 7 second range; not a bad performance. Unfortunately, some of this shine disappears when you watch the fuel level gauge. The LS1 drank over 17 litres per 100km during our test. And, believe us, it takes a while standing at the bowsers to fill its 75 litre tank with ULP...  

When you’re punting hard, the Statesman pitches and rolls but its chassis remains remarkably stable. Carry too much speed into a corner and it will understeer, but this is easily offset by easing off the throttle. In power-down, low speed manoeuvrers the Statesman also gets its torque to the road exceptionally well – even when the traction control is switched off.

The MacPherson front and Control-Link IRS remain unchanged except for an altered front swaybar link arrangement. The standard tyres are medium-grip 225/55 16 Bridgestone Turanzas.

The biggest improvement in dynamics department is an all-new traction control system to replace the ol’ kick-your-foot-off-the-accelerator arrangement. Finally! The new system interfaces with the electronic controlled throttle and ignition and it performs, well, like a modern traction control system should.

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The rack and pinion steering is fine overall but its rpm-dependant assistance means there’s considerable weight during parking and not enough on-centre weight at high speed cruise. The turning circle is decent but there’s no avoiding fact the Statesman needs a lot of space to manoeuvrer.

The brakes – ventilated discs at the front and solids at the rear – performed well during our test but they felt mushy under-foot. ABS, EBD, brake assist come standard and compared to the previous model, the WL has an upgraded booster and master cylinder.

The cabin is a familiar place for anyone who has owned a late-model Statesman or has ridden in a chauffer driven vehicle.

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Front occupant space is abundant and rear space is tremendous – there’s actually more legroom in the back than in the front. This is a true limousine. And don’t think all of this cabin space has come at the expense of boot space – much to our amazement, the Statesman boot can swallow a set of four wheels complete with tyres... Our only criticism is the obtrusive boot hinges – a pair of gas struts would let you use every bit of that huge boot.

Up front, the driver is fronted with a recently tarted-up dashboard that’s an odd mix of woodgrain, silver highlights and classic-style instruments. All controls fall well to hand but the centre console controls are cluttered.

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The standard equipment list is fairly run-of-the-mill in the category – front airbags, front side airbags, dual airbags, dual zone digital climate control, cruise control, trip computer, auto headlights, remote alarm/immobiliser, Blaupunkt 6 stack CD with 10 speakers, leather steering wheel and 8 way electric adjustable front seats. A beeping rear park assist system also comes standard – a welcome feature on a vehicle of this size.

Note that leather trim is standard fitment. Our test car was fitted with optional velour trim package, which doesn’t affect price.

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At nearly 5.2 metres in length, the Statesman is easily recognisable as a luxury saloon. Holden has not given the WL much of a facelift over the WK except for a tweaked chrome grille, revised 16 x 7 inch alloys and LED taillights. These LED lights look trick and provide a handy safety enhancement. Fog lights are also fitted as standard.

So what do we make of the WL Statesman V8?

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Well, the body and engine are obviously near their use-by date; still, we can't help admire how capable it is. It's spacious, comfortable, grunty and relatively cheap. At AUD$60,790, the Statesman V8 is within AUD$250 of the Ford Fairlane V8 (which offers a 'mere' 220kW).

The WL Statesman V8 is nothing ground-breaking but it’s hard to go past its well established strengths.

The Alloytec V6 Statesman

We must make mention of the base-model WL Statesman V6.

This vehicle is equipped with the up-to-date Alloytec 3.6 litre V6 (generating 190kW and 340Nm) as well as a 5 speed Active Select transmission. Safety is also improved with electronic stability control, corner brake control and an electronic version of brake assist. Note that none of these features are available – even as an option - in the more expensive V8 version.

Factor in an AUD$5000-odd saving and a less frequent servicing schedule and the V6 version of the Statesman looks very attractive.

The WL Statesman V8 was provided for this test by Holden Australia. www.holden.com.au

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