VQ Statesman and Caprice
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
The VQ Statesman and Caprice models were more than just another car for Holden; they represented a big technological step forward and a return to the luxury car market - a market Holden handed to Ford six years earlier when the WB Statesman
was scrapped. While the Statesman was more than just a luxury car, it was also much more than a stretched VN Commodore
. It used a wheelbase that was both longer and wider than the VN and incorporated plenty of refinement, particularly with its proper independent rear end. The five-litre V8 engine was standard along with the four speed automatic transmission and the interior - particularly that of the Caprice – had just about every conceivable luxury option then available.
While not up to the standards of a Gen III or IV V8 of today, the power from the 5 litre V8 was generous and the handling superb and predictable to the point that you would forget just how big the Statesman was. Making the Statesman physically bigger was priority number one so the Commodore
floorpan was carved-up and re-engineered for an overall length of 4960mm and a wheelbase of 2826mm. Those figures are well down on the respective WB measurements but the VQ had more leg and knee-room indicating a pretty efficient use of space.
In fact, knee-room was a Statesman strong point and there was actually 40mm more than in the Ford LTD - the VQ’s main competitor. There was also 5mm more leg-room and that was despite the Statesman being 260mm shorter overall than the big Ford. Headroom was identical in the two cars and the only real area where the Statesman gave anything away was in width, where the LTD was 45mm wider. The more important shoulder-room figure, however, revealed that the Statesman was just 1mm down on the LTD.
The First Locally Produced Independent Rear End
Underneath, the upsizing and up-speccing from the Commodore was even more obvious. The independent rear end was the first for a full-size locally-produced car. After the VQ was released nearly every motoring journalist was claiming that this rear end should have also found its way onto the Commodore
from day one – particularly given it could bolt into a VN Commodore without floorpan alterations. The rear end was standard on both Statesman and Caprice models and was a loose derivation of the Opel system used in Europe. The semi-trailing arms and other hardware were from Opel but all settings and spring and damper rates were calculated locally. Coil springs were used along with a 16mm stabilizer bar on Statesman and a 15mm bar on Caprice while dampers were Monroe and Bilstein gas respectively.
The differential was actually the same unit as used in the Commodore and retained the 3.08:1 final drive ratio in a different casing. The whole set-up was mounted on rubber blocks on an isolated subframe. The front suspension was similar to the VN Commodore and used MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar while the coils were now rising rate. Once again, the shock inserts were either Monroe or Bilstein on Statesman and Caprice but the big change was a widening of the front track. The relatively narrow front footprint had been a major criticism of the VN, so the engineers widened the track by 34mm to 1485mm giving a better appearance as well as giving a better relationship between track and wheelbase. The upper strut mount was also changed to give increased castor and less camber, improving steering feel.
Brakes were discs all round including ventilated units at the front while 15 inch wheels were a standard fitment. The Statesman ran on steel rims with full wheel covers while the Caprice got alloy wheels
styled along the lines of those fitted to the WB Statesman. Tyres on the Statesman were Dunlop Monza D8s measuring 205/65 15 while the Caprice was fitted with Pirelli P600s of the same measurement but with a V speed rating rather than the Dunlop's H rating. There were no engine options, the only one available being the fuel-injected five-litre V8 in exactly the same state of tune as the unit fitted to the V8 Commodore, turning out a useful 165kW at 4400rpm with a torque peak of 385Nm at 3600rpm. Obviously the bigger bodied Statesmen needed the extra torque, especially with all the luxury equipment on board, and the power made for effortless performance in any situation. The inherent smoothness of the V8 was a big plus too.
The only transmission available in either Statesman or Caprice was the excellent THM 700 four-speed automatic. At the time there were very few that could find fault with this transmission, and some even claimed it to be one of the best hydraulic autos around. With plenty of power on tap, the VQ Statesman was a strong performer both in sprinting abilities and outright top speed. The lighter Statesman was one-tenth of a second quicker to 100 km/h with a time of 8.7 seconds while both cars, according to Holden's claims, would cover the standing 400m sprint in 16.5 seconds. Obviously the engine and weight of the car meant fuel consumption was never going to be a strong point. Again, quoting Holden figures, the VQ had an urban cycle fuel consumption figure of 16 litres per 100km. On the highway cycle, however, things improved markedly and the figures quoted were 9.5 litres per 100km and 10 litres per 100km for Statesman and Caprice respectively. Those highway figures, combined with the standard fitment 80-litre fuel tank gave the cars a large touring range.
Styling-wise the Statesman took the Holden badge a few steps further with an overall look that was definitely more Europe than anything else. The front treatment was identifiably Commodore but the grilles (particularly the Caprice's) gave the car its own identity. The detail work was aimed at a smooth appearance so there was nothing bulky in the way of rubbing strips or chrome work and there was proper flush glass all the way around. The side and rear glass were cleverly designed to look like a single piece which winded its way around the turret in what appeared to be an unbroken line.
Behind the Wheel
Inside the dashboard was disappointingly very Commodore and although the instruments were Calais-based, the switchgear was ordinary. The real let-down was the steering wheel. Rather than opt for something with an appropriate amount of leather covering, the standard Commodore Executive wheel was fitted with a different horn pad. The seats were comfortable enough, although they were a little flat but the real bonus in comfort was in ride quality and rear space. The independent rear end was largely responsible for the improved ride and in the Caprice with the gas dampers, the ride was quiet and civilised (not that the Statesman was anything less than exceptional, either). The driver's seat in the Statesman was adjustable for height as well as lumbar support while the interior was trimmed in velour including door trims and the moulded roof lining. The Caprice interior was trimmed in a more upmarket velour style with what GM described as suede-style inserts. The Caprice also had the option of leather trim at extra cost.
Both models featured a trip computer showing average fuel consumption, a speed alarm, elapsed time and trip distance as standard – you will find these on a Hyundai these days – but when the VQ was released these were rare indeed. There was also a standard alarm system with an ignition disabler built-in as well as a memory mode which recalled the time and place of any attempted break-in. Another standard fitment across the board was automatic climate-control air-conditioning. A manual over-ride was fitted but when in auto mode, the electronics controlled everything from temperature to which vents were open or closed. And while the Statesman had plenty of standard kit, the Caprice was really loaded. Aside from all the cloth and velour there was a 14 speaker stereo system pumping out 100 Watts, two sets of headphones for rear passengers and a set of remote stereo controls mounted on the roof. There were Australian black bean wood inserts on each door, the dashboard and horn pad and vanity mirrors set into the rear roof. Interior lighting was extensive and covered each footwell, the roof and doors.
A number of thoughtful touches also characterised the Statesman/Caprice and demonstrated just how much thought went into the design of the VQ. The most notable of these was a safety triangle (which was combined with a first aid kit on Caprice) which was stored within the spare tyre
and a switch battery
. The switch battery
was, in 1990, a relatively new development in battery
technology and through a spare cell, allowed several start-ups even when the main part of the battery
was drained. With such a heavy demand on electronics in the Statesman, the fitment was a nice piece of lateral thinking.
The obvious competitor for the VQ Statesman was the LTD, but if you were tempted to go European then you would need plenty more money if you expected to match it with similar levels of performance, handling and equipment. In 1991
introduced the VQ Series II models. The Series II Caprice ushered anti-lock brakes
as standard, however it was optional on the Statesman. The Commodore's 127-kilowatt (170 hp) 3.8 litre 3800 V6 engine was made standard on the Statesman, with the old 5.0 litre V8 reserved for the Caprice, becoming an option on the Statesman. There was another final update in late 1993 just before the VQ finished production. It involved minor cosmetic changes such as body coloured grille and a boot spoiler. They were still officially designated as Series II.