The Holden Statesman and Caprice are a series of full-size luxury vehicles produced by the Australian General Motors division of Holden since 1990. Between 1971 and 1984, General Motors marketed their long-wheelbase sedans under the Statesman marque. The Statesman and Caprice are essentially long-wheelbase variants of the Commodore range, and as of 2006, are the largest rear-wheel drive sedans offered by General Motors. Internationally, Statesmans and Caprices are sold as Buicks, Chevrolets and Daewoos.
The main difference between the Statesman and the Caprice lies within their equipment packages; Caprices are commonly powered by V8 engines rather than V6s, and whilst they may be thought of as fully specified versions of their Statesman siblings, the two were separate Holden models by this period. Appearance wise, Caprices can be distinguished by their unique interior and exterior trim such as the grille. Traditionally, the Statesman along with the Caprice have been direct rivals to the Ford Fairlane and LTD correspondingly. However, the 2008 discontinuation of the Fairlane and LTD has ceased such traditions.
In 1990, demand for a full-size luxury sedan in Australia saw Holden resurrect the Statesman and Caprice names on a long-wheelbase version of its Holden VN Commodore, which in turn was a heavily revised and enlarged Opel Omega A. Given the model designation VQ, the car was built on the chassis of the VN Commodore station wagon. It differed in length by approximately 110 millimetres in comparison to the short-wheelbase models.
Holden made many efforts to distinguish the Statesman from the Commodore, with a formal grille and a very different glasshouse reminiscent of contemporary GM products such as the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, all while incorporating the doors and lights from the lower models. Both Statesman and Caprice models were offered and were equipped with independent rear suspension, one year before its introduction on higher-end Commodores. Also in 1991, Holden introduced the Series II VQ models. The Caprice ushered the introduction of 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 now standard on the Statesman, with the old 5.0 litre V8 reserved for the Caprice, becoming an option on the Statesman. Both powerplants are mated with a four-speed THM700R4 automatic transmission.
The VR followed in 1994, following the model change of the standard Commodore and incorporating their engineering improvements as well as sheet metal changes. The updated running gear included a new electronically controlled version of the GM 4L60-E automatic transmission, and the latest revision of the Buick 3.8 litre V6 engine. The engine now featured rolling-element bearings in the valve rocker arms, increasing compression ratios from the VQ II series engine. These changes combined to deliver an increase in power to 130 kilowatts (174 hp) and further improvement in Noise, Vibration, and Harshness levels. In terms of equipment, a driver's air bag became standard on both the Statesman and Caprice.
For the VR series, Holden no longer used separate model designations for its Statesman and Caprice. Instead, they adopted the same two-letter title as the Commodore. This same principal applied for the VS models, but not for those succeeding it.
The 1995 VS saw the introduction of the updated Ecotec (Emissions and Consumption Optimisation through TEChnology) version of the Buick V6 engine which coincided with the changes to the engine in the United States. The Ecotec engine packed 13 percent more power, an increase of 17 kilowatts (23 hp) over the VR, and increased the compression ratio from 9.0:1 to 9.4:1. Holden mated the new engine with a modified version of the GM 4L60-E automatic transmission, bringing improved throttle response and smoother changes between gears. Series II and III revisions came in September 1996 and June 1998, mainly consisting of a more rounded rear treatment and new alloy wheel designs. The Series II also heralded the introduction of the L67 Supercharged V6. This engine slotted in between the existing V6 and V8 engines in the lineup and was officially rated at 165 kilowatts (221 hp), just 3 kilowatts (4 hp) below the V8, though a 185 kilowatt (248 hp) HSV option for the 5.0 litre V8 was available. A special edition Statesman International was briefly offered in 1995, with the Caprice becoming the donor car for the HSV Grange.
For the Statesman, Holden included the ten-stack Compact Disc player from the VR Caprice as standard, with a new two-stage door remote standard across the range. The remote, located on the key fob allows for just the driver's door to be unlocked. Safety-wise, a passenger airbag was introduced as standard in the VS range, following the introduction of a driver's airbag on the VR series. The Used Car Safety Ratings, undertaken by the Monash University Accident Research Centre, found that first generation Statesmans (VQ–VS) provide an "average level" of occupant safety protection in the event of an accident.
Compared to the previous model, stability has been improved through the use of wider tracks and a longer wheelbase. The use of self-levelling rear suspension brings advantages when hauling heavy loads and improves vehicle dynamics when towing. Safety in the WH model was also enhanced, with the addition of side air bags and pyrotechnic seat belt pretensioners as standard. If the seat belt pretensioners trigger, the doors automatically unlock and both engine and fuel pump shut down.
Feature wise, the Statesman now offered standard front parking sensors and optional satellite navigation, with the Caprice receiving the latter as standard along with a dual screen DVD entertainment system for the rear passengers. When reversing, the passenger wing mirror faces downwards the ground to assist the driver when parking, thus preventing the risk of damaging the wheels on the kerb. The Used Car Safety Ratings found that WH/WK Statesmans provide a "significantly better than average" level of occupant protection in the event of an accident.
In 2005, General Motors began exporting the Statesman to China, where it was badged as the Buick Royaum. The Royaum was initially equipped with the 3.6 litre Alloytec engine fitted to the Statesman, however a 155 kilowatt (208 hp) 2.8 litre version of the same followed later in the year. During 2005, Holden exported almost 2,000 units to South Korea. With an identical powertrain to the Buick, the South Korean export model was sold through the GM Daewoo network and marketed as the Daewoo Statesman.
The third generation WM was launched alongside the VE Commodore on 16 July 2006 at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre. With the Statesman's export plans, it was decided that its launch should be simultaneous with that of the Commodore, rather than months later, as had been the convention. The WM development programme reportedly cost General Motors AU$190 million with another $1.04 billion devoted to the VE Commodore model which the Statesman is based upon. The WM series utilises the GM Zeta platform developed by Holden. Unlike previous models, the WM no longer shares its architecture with an Opel sedan, and has rear doors different to those found on the Commodore. Previously, it had to share the doors, or at least the lower parts, with the lesser Commodore. This is just one of the ways Holden has tried to create greater differentiation between the Statesman and the Commodore on which it is based.
Like the second generation model, the WM is exported to the Middle East as the Chevrolet Caprice. In China since 2007, complete knock down kits have been exported and assembled there as the Buick Park Avenue, using some locally sourced parts. Holden recommenced Caprice exports to South Korea in 2008 as the Daewoo Veritas after showcasing a pre-production Daewoo L4X in 2007. Compared to the Australian-specification model, the Veritas is V6-powered only and has a modified rear floorpan to accommodate the electrically adjustable rear seats incorporating a massage function. The headrests are also electrically adjustable, with the Caprice's dual headrest-mounted LCD screens orphaned in favour of a single, ceiling-mounted unit.