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Holden launches new 2003 Statesman

WK Holden Statesman, Caprice
2003 WK Holden Statesman

WK Holden Statesman, Caprice
2003 WK Holden Caprice

WK Holden Statesman, Caprice
Statesman's rear end gets new sheet metal

WK Holden Statesman, Caprice
V8 Caprice now Holden's most powerful car

WK Holden Statesman, Caprice
New centre console with optional Sat Nav

WK Holden Statesman, Caprice
Caprice buyers get dual-screen DVD system

While Mitsubishi was busy in the States unveiling the revamped Magna at the 2003 New York Motor Show, Holden decided to stay at home to unveil its new WK range.

Beyond the new look, more powerful engines and redesigned seats of the WK series, the word everyone seems to uttering at present is 'exports'.

Holden exports a large number of Commodores and Statesmans to the Middle East, rebadged as Chevrolets.

Thanks in part to a deal to supply GM cousin Pontiac with 18,000 Monaros a year, the reputation of Holden, and indeed its local rivals in general, has improved dramatically.

One of the reasons the new Magna has been unveiled in the US - and not Australia - is because Mitsu has high hopes for the face-lifted model in the American market. Some 13,000 of the built-in-Adelaide Magnas will be exported there in 2003.

And while the Statesman is a vital export model for GMH, it's an even more important domestic vehicle. There's something about large cars and Australians that go hand in hand, and the long wheelbased vehicles have always been popular.

Given a serious upgrade that may even raise a few eyebrows over at BMW, let alone Ford and Mitsubishi, the WK Statesman and Caprice offer a very peachy first impression.

From the get-go, it's fairly obvious that the new WK series has a new look, starting with the modified headlights borrowed from the VY Calais.

The front end has been restyled and gone is curvy grille, replaced by a more angular and contemporary item. Pronounced power lines run along the bonnet from windscreen to grille, and apart from the roof and doors, the new models get all-new sheet metal.

In profile, there’s a fresh rear quarter design, with a flowing C-pillar and new sixth window shape.

The rear end is sharper than the outgoing WH model: An all-new decklid, bumper and tail lamps in solid red, separated by a simple chromed décor strip helps emphasise a trend towards cleaner surfaces.

New 'technical' alloy wheels adorn both models: Statesman (16-inch) and Caprice (17-inch).

And while the two new models have a fairly similar look, an individual sporting character has been created for Caprice and the models now have more differing personalities.

The Caprice has been given some impressive interior features, and with uprated suspension and a freshly-tuned Gen III V8, it should please buyers both here and overseas.

Holden managing director, Peter Hanenberger, said the Caprice and Statesman are currently exported to ten countries, and their sales success here and abroad reflects the fact that the hallmarks of quality, refinement and value are universal.

"It also demonstrates our expertise in niche model manufacturing and our ability to produce customised products that are targeted to meet specific buyer requirements.

"The level of differentiation now apparent between Caprice and Statesman is an excellent example of this," he said.

Compared to the Statesman, the Caprice gets bigger 17-inch alloys and rides lower on firmer suspension in what Holden says is a bid to attract a younger buyer.

The Caprice also gets low-profile tyres and design cues like black bezels and chrome highlights on the projector headlamps, fog and cornering lamps, a sports graphite honeycomb grille and twin chrome exhaust tips.

Inside, both models get a two-tone instrument panel, silver-ringed instrument cluster, plus the centre fascia and steering wheel are entirely new.

All controls and graphics are updated, the layout is simplified and special features include a sporty binnacle and a central, high-mounted multi-function ‘infotainment’ display with large screen digital readout and user-friendly settings.

New front seats, now with the added safety benefit of active head restraints, offer more support and cushioned comfort.

The Caprice ships with smooth-seamed leather trim as standard, while the Statesman comes with plush, high-pile velour with suede inserts.

Emphasising its performance credentials, the new Caprice is equipped with a high output 245kW version of Holden’s Generation III V8. Furthermore, a dual DVD system with individual screens for rear seat passengers - complete with headphones and remote control – is a first for any Australian produced vehicle.

The system is very impressive, and can be hooked up to the Caprice's 12-speaker sound system, while the DVD player is located beneath the back seat. The WK Statesman and Caprice also get rear-parking sensors and for the first time, Holden is offering a factory-fitted sunroof, albeit at a $2050 premium.

The tuned 5.7-litre V8 with 245kW of power and 465Nm of torque is now Holden's most powerful vehicle available to customers, and comes standard with free-flowing, stainless steel twin exhaust system.

Ford's equivalent 'sporty' model will be the the Fairlane G220, though with only 220kW of power, the Holden looks to have the performance edge.

The Statesman is offered with three engine choices: 152kW 3.8-litre V6, 171kW supercharged 3.8-litre V6 and 235kW 5.7-litre V8. The Caprice can be fitted with the aforementioned 245kW V8 or the 152kW V6.

While exhibiting all the primary ride control attributes and isolation qualities that won their predecessors a reputation for solid chassis dynamics and ride comfort, the latest long-wheelbase Holdens are smoother, quieter and according to Holden types, more enjoyable to drive.

Contributors include improvements in aerodynamic performance, body structure, build precision, chassis dynamics, powertrain and safety performance.

"The advancements we have made with the WK series provide further evidence that Holden continues to satisfy the diverse driving needs of Australian and international buyers by listening to what they have to say and by producing high quality vehicles which are exciting to drive and which offer exceptional value for money," Mr Hanenberger concluded.

The WK series will go on sale in May and replaces the WH Caprice and Statesman, and should give Ford's upcoming Fairlane a very good run, particularly with the new twin-screen DVD option, which is likely to attract a new demgraphic of buyers.

It's interesting to see how Holden has delivered the Caprice and Statesman models, now more different than ever, but both still highly desirable.

At the end of the day, Holden's plan of attack appears to be working, despite Ford's much-improved line-up. The new WK range gets a good two month jump on the Fairlane, which will undoubtedly make things very hard for the Blue Oval in the sales department.

The sportier Caprice brings a whole new dimension to the long wheelbase models too, and will whet the appetite of those wanting the extra space and prestigious appointments, yet with a more sporting intent.

Holden's flagship models look very sharp, very sophisticated, and are set to make a big splash not only in the domestic market, but also in export markets due to the car's European styling and more powerful donks.

Pricing:

Statesman
$53,490 (3.8-litre ECOTEC V6)
$54,490 (3.8-litre Supercharged V6)
$58,240 (235kW 5.7-litre Gen III V8)

Caprice
$72,990 (245kW 5.7-litre Gen III V8)
$68,250 (3.8-litre ECOTEC V6)

All cars come with electronic control four-speed automatic transmission.

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