ONLY Ferrari's equine badge is more evocative; GT the Stang to buy for sound with fury; fittings look messy and cheap
Cracking engine; well-sorted chassis; styling
Drive modes add nothing but complexity; interior feels cheap; wait list
oesnít look like a fair fight, does it? I mean, three Fords against a single Holden. Or what about a single six-banger shaping up to three V8s. Or maybe three cars with nooses around their necks (and the hangman reaching for the lever) versus the one car with a real production future.
Or maybe we should just cut the crap; disregard the dogma, elbow the emotions and can the cultural cringe. And in the process realise that here are four cars with stickers between the mid-$50Ks and $60K that can kick some serious butt, in terms of both straight line grunt and G-force production. And we know you lot have been looking forward to this oneÖ Okay, for a start, the Mustang is the odd man out with just two doors and limited rear seat space. All the others have fairly extreme rear seat dimensions and will cope with the sort of pudgy-arsed teens that I keep seeing in shopping malls, little eyes glued to smart phones. On the other hand, the Stangís twodoor profile and sweeping roofline makes it the looker of this bunch, although youíve still got to credit the Commodoreís big-car visual balance and the upscale aggression of the Aston-esque snout on the Fords.
Itís a bit harder to categorise from inside, because none of these four is exactly what youíd call pinnacledesign stuff. Based on decades of zero-shits-given American interiors, youíd expect the Mustang to be bottom of the heap here. Except itís not. Well, not entirely, anyway. The Mustangís big problem is the general quality of the graphics and the fittings; the fake chrome could not be faker and the layout is messy and cheap looking.
But jump straight into the XR6 Sprint and you can still see where Ford has cut the meter out of this thing.
Itís plain and plasticky-looking and even though some bits that were fake-chromed in the previous XR6 are now black, that doesnít seem to help. In factÖ The XR8 Sprint is a more of the same but thankfully that daft starter button of the V8 FPV stuff has been flung. But itís still clearly related to the base Falcon and thereís the same, plasto-clack noise from the gear shifter and the same hard plastics that suggest that new grille cost a lot of development money. The SS?
Well, itís more sumptuous in a way, but itís also incredibly busy with multiple surfaces and textures and w-a-y too much cod-chrome. But it is the nicest to sit in with the most logical relationship between wheel, pedals and seat, although the Mustang ain't bad either. Stone last are the two Aussie Fords which, even with the lower seat of this latest model, still perch you too high relative to the steering column.
And the roof.
Thereís a fairly big equipment gulf, too, with the Fords missing out on safety stuff like blind spot monitoring, although they do get a reversing camera.
BLACK spoiler, wheels, stripes add menace; seats have decent levels of support; sadly, it's adieu to the XR8 badge
Grunt galore; chassis much improved; subtle looks
Interior feels its age; torque can overwhelm traction; byebye Falcon
But the local Henrys also miss out on some really basic kit, including shift paddles for the automatic gearbox and even something as stone age (these days) as a left footrest.
The SS-V is the real luxo-schmoozer with autonomous emergency braking, blind spot spotto, powered chairs and even a very useful head-up display. That said, itís not perfect and while the other three get a perfectly acceptable conventional park brake lever, the Holden gets one of those annoying electronic numbers and a rear spoiler that is both a bit gauche and was always in my eyeline in the mirror.
Now, when you look at the spec sheets, you might think thereís a big spread of performance times against the stopwatch. Well, youíd be wrong. Itís not that thereís not variation in outputs, but the fact remains that the biggest hitters had the biggest problems in getting off the line. And as any drag racer will tell you: if it wonít 60-foot, it wonít be quick. Which, more or less, is why all four were within two or three tenths across the 400m.
Looking at the Mustang, with its 306kW against the Commodoreís 304, you can see why the pair was neckand- neck at the 400m mark, even if a relative lack of grip did play against the Mustang a tad. But thanks to short gearing and a clutch that could be juggled to mask that grip deficit, the GT could still be hustled down the strip in 13.38 seconds with only a slight graunch from first to second to spoil your day. Getting a quick 0-100km/h time is a bit tricky, though, as second gear hits the limiter at 102 klicks, meaning you have to stretch it right out without banging the funstop button to get to 100 without a second gearshift.
The SS-V was next and with its relatively soft (stay with us) atmo power delivery and spanking top end rush, it wasnít the hardest to beat into submission.
But forget the launch control; itís a waste of time and youíll do better with a keen ear and some right ankle control. Itís also worth mentioning that the rear bags on this car were Ė ahem Ė past their prime. In the end, the Commy rattled off a 13.33.
The XR8 Sprint was second quickest with 13.22, despite having five supercharged litres at its disposal.
Meaning of course, that the smallest engine, the turbocharged four-litre of the XR6 Sprint was champeen on the day with a 13.12, even though it gives away a full 30kW (when both are overboosting) to the XR8. So whatís going on?
Simple, really. The XR8 is a bitch to launch. The combination of all that low-down mayhem and a launch control system that is a question of luck, makes for a lottery every time. See, the launch controlís effectiveness is entirely down to the grip available. It doesnít seem to be able to read the track itself. Persist with it and the caríll just heat-soak, intake temps will rise and the overboost function goes ta-ta.
The XR6, meantime, is simply easier to hook up, largely because the power delivery and tiny amount
MIGHTY turbo 4.0-litre six's swansong; stylish '6' hockey stick stripe recalls '60s 'GS' decal; dash design looking old
Smooth turbo six; roll-on stomp; bargain price; brakes
Looks arguably too plain, though a dark colour helps; lacks the V8's character
of turbo lag involved gives the rear tyres half a chance to keep up. Or so it seemed. The shot was to stall it up to about 1800rpm and short-shift slightly to make the bulk torque. The specific boost map for each gear in the ZF 'box also helps here from the seat of the pants.
Now, if you donít believe us, take a peek at the terminal velocities. You can pretty much always look at a slow time with a high terminal and deduce that the time has been lost in the launch. And thatís why the XR8ís 180.95km/h trap speed suggests it would trump the XR6 (180.39km/h) in grippier circumstances.
It also shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that either Aussie Ford would slaughter both the Mustang (176.61km/h) and especially the Commodore (174.12km/h) if turning the rear Pirellis into atoms wasnít such an inevitability.
In pretty much any circumstances beyond the dragstrip, this means that both Aussie Fords are noticeably quicker; they get up and haul out of corners quicker, they overtake with more authority and theyíre just ballsier all 'round. Theyíre also way more likely to be phoning up 1300 ESP for a chat. Again, if you donít believe us, check the 80-120km/h roll-on times: 3.2sec for the Mustang, 3.5 for the Holden and 2.8 for each Sprint which, even though the latter were both autos versus two manuals, tells the tale.
But how fast is fast enough? To be honest, the Mustang feels adequately stompy and more like a six litre than a five, as well as offering up a pretty refined sound and feel. And the SS-V hardly feels like a slacker, either, what with that swelling top-end rush and a rhythm section that leaves the others here for dead.
Neither the Commo nor the 'Stang feel anything other than quick, but both Falcons are heavily armed destroyers by comparison. And while either Sprint has its own set of characteristics, the limited lag of the turbo six makes it feel almost as savage as the blown Miami V8, with just the blower whine and mellow note of the latter making the biggest difference in perception. What weíre dealing with here, of course is a potted history of torque. While the GT makes a commendable 530Nm peak, the SS-V can muster a full 570Nm. And while that figure is almost line-ball with the XR8 and XR6 (575 and 576Nm respectively) when Mr Overboost comes a-knockiní, both Falcons suddenly blurt out 650Nm and at much lower revs than the atmo pair. Simples.
Things, however, change when you turn off the straight, smooth bits and head for the patchy, bendy stuff that we call the real world. Suddenly, the Mustang comes alive with steering that is tight and right.
Changing the steering setting from Normal or Comfort to Sport only seems to add weight and reduce feedback, so weíd stick with the other settings and let the wheel do some talking. And when you do, the 'Stang starts
LUXURIOUS interior nicest to sit in, but has mish mash of surfaces; LS3 badge means stonking power
Brilliant chassis; V8 soundtrack; new-age tech
Crazy mix of interior materials; not much else, really
to become very easy to place accurately. Yes, you still get the impression of a long bonnet stretching out in front of you but lining it up for a corner starts to come pretty naturally. And for all that, this car had done more than 14,500 hard, magazine-test kilometres, and it still felt pretty fresh and sharp. The ride is pretty good, too, with what feels like spot-on damping.
That said, the GT canít match the Holden for driver involvement. Not only is the SS-V the most natural steerer here, it also soaks up the dross more effectively with a greater degree of suppleness that doesnít appear to come at the expense of ride or damping control. It simply feels like it would be the easiest car with which to thread the needle. And even though itís a big, wide car, it doesnít feel that way on the road, even at speed.
Thereís more rear-end compliance, a little more squat and, as a result, more power-down, too. Itís one thing having mucho torque, itís another thing entirely to be able to paste them Newtons to the deck.
Fact is, the Commodore feels at least a generation newer chassis-wise than either Falcon (which it is, of course) and thatís apparent straight away. Where the SS-V flows over lumps and bumps, the Falcons both seem to be trying to level them rather than cope with them. As such, the ride in the XRs is choppier and stiffer and itís worse in the XR8, the front of which has to cope not only with its own shortcomings, but also the mass (23kg more than the six) of that blown V8. Thereís a degree of steering fidelity missing from either Falcon, too, and although they point pretty hard, they donít inspire the same confidence nor offer the same accuracy.
Braking? Geez, local cars have come a long way, havenít they? Six-pot fronts and four-pot rears from the house of Brembo adorn the three Aussies, while the big Yank gets six-potters on the front and a singlepiston rear combo. If you can make any of them fade, youíre not just being cruel, youíre being clumsy too.
Really, the only thing to mention is that the Mustangís stoppers Ė with the least aggressive package Ė almost feel over-assisted at low speeds. But they also have that knack of providing more stopping power in a panic stop the harder you lean on the pedal thanks to a great ABS calibration.
The subject of money proves that these guys all watch each other pretty closely, because on an auto-versus-auto basis, thereís just over seven grand from cheapest to dearest. And weíre only using the automatic versions for comparison because thereís no manual XR6 Sprint on offer. But even with the
0-10km/h 0.45 0-10km/h 0.39 0-10km/h 0.47 0-10km/h 0.31 0-20km/h 0.95 0-20km/h 0.82 0-20km/h 0.89 0-20km/h 0.84 0-30km/h 1.36 0-30km/h 1.25 0-30km/h 1.32 0-30km/h 1.27 0-40km/h 1.83 0-40km/h 1.70 0-40km/h 1.76 0-40km/h 1.64 0-50km/h 2.27 0-50km/h 2.15 0-50km/h 2.19 0-50km/h 2.13 0-60km/h 2.73 0-60km/h 2.63 0-60km/h 2.60 0-60km/h 2.62 0-70km/h 3.41 0-70km/h 3.37 0-70km/h 3.16 0-70km/h 3.19 0-80km/h 3.90 0-80km/h 4.00 0-80km/h 3.78 0-80km/h 3.80 0-90km/h 4.54 0-90km/h 4.64 0-90km/h 4.39 0-90km/h 4.49 0-100km/h 5.20 0-100km/h 5.26 0-100km/h 5.01 0-100km/h 5.19 0-110km/h 6.13 0-110km/h 5.87 0-110km/h 5.62 0-110km/h 5.99 0-120km/h 6.97 0-120km/h 6.72 0-120km/h 6.44 0-120km/h 6.89 0-130km/h 7.86 0-130km/h 7.73 0-130km/h 7.48 0-130km/h 7.82 0-140km/h 8.79 0-140km/h 8.74 0-140km/h 8.53 0-140km/h 8.78 0-150km/h 10.02 0-150km/h 9.75 0-150km/h 9.57 0-150km/h 10.11 0-160km/h 11.21 0-160km/h 10.77 0-160km/h 10.66 0-160km/h 11.32 0-170km/h 12.47 0-170km/h 11.83 0-170km/h 11.82 0-170km/h 12.72 0-180km/h 13.84 0-180km/h 13.10 0-180km/h 13.07 0-180km/h N/A 0-400m 13.38sec @ 176.61km/h 0-400m 13.22sec @ 180.95km/h 0-400m 13.12sec @ 180.39km/h 0-400m 13.33sec @ 174.12km/h 80-120km/h (3rd-6th) 3.2/4.4/6.4/13.7sec 80-120km/h 2.8sec 80-120km/h 2.8sec 80-120km/h (3rd-6th) 3.5/5.4/9.1/13.2sec 100-0km/h 34.8m 100-0km/h 35.9m 100-0km/h 36.8m 100-0km/h 37.1m
1st 67km/h @ 6600rpm 69km/h @ 6200rpm 69km/h @ 6200rpm 75km/h @ 6600rpm 2nd 101km/h @ 6600rpm 122km/h @ 6200rpm 122km/h @ 6200rpm 110km/h @ 6600rpm 3rd 146km/h @ 6600rpm 188km/h @ 6200rpm 188km/h @ 6200rpm 152km/h @ 6600rpm 4th 187km/h @ 6600rpm 230km/h @ 5680rpm 230km/h @ 5680rpm 227km/h @ 6600rpm 5th 246km/h @ 6600rpm 230km/h @ 4330rpm 230km/h @ 4330rpm* 230km/h @ 4750rpm* 6th 264km/h @ 4600rpm* 230km/h @ 3440rpm* 230km/h @ 3440rpm* 230km/h @ 3810rpm* 7th N/A N/A N/A N/A As tested by MOTOR: Heathcote Dragway, 10am, 24 degrees, dry. Driver: Scott Newman. *Manufacturerís claim
REMEMBER when muscle cars had a big ol' V8 lump in the front and that was the end of it? Only Holden has stayed true to that recipe, 6.2 litres of LS3 producing 304kW/570Nm. The Mustang's downsized donk plays in the same ballpark with 306kW/530Nm, a little less than its Stateside counterpart. Also packing five litres is the XR8 Sprint, but adding a blower lifts outputs to a minimum of 345kW/575Nm and a full 400kW/650Nm when overboost is operating. The XR6 Sprint produces similar results with 370kW/650Nm, but does so from the ultimate iteration of the Aussie 4.0-litre turbocharged six.
slushbox, that car is great value at $54,990, just $500 more than the manual SS-V Redline. Add a self-shifter to that car and youíre looking at $57,690, still short of the $57,490 Ford is asking for the manual Mustang GT.
The XR8 Sprint is the priciest at $59,990 with a clutch pedal and $62,190 without.
Our mix of manuals and autos might seem odd (itís the way the cards fell when we booked them) but we reckon each is presented here in its preferable format (although a manual XR8 Sprint is tempting).
If youíre buying any of these cars (but particularly the Aussie trio) for their collectability status down the line, then you can make up your own mind about which is going to be the keeper. Thatís not something weíve set out to do here. But if youíre after a big car that can pull some dragstrip numbers as well as be an entertaining drive on a proper country road, then the Commodore SS-V comes into its own.
No, it doesnít have the roll-on stomp of either Falcon and it isnít as sexy as the Mustang, but itís almost as quick on the strip thanks to better mechanical grip and itís less of a handful on your favourite back road. And should the dragstrip suddenly become a racetrack, then our money would be on the SS-V anyway.
The Holden is nicer to sit in, cheaper to buy, and it sounds way better than the rest. And if citing the exhaust note as a factor in a car-buying decision doesnít make sense to you, maybe you should be looking at the base model Omega or even the Mustang Ecoboost and saving yourself some coin. In the meantime, weíll take the one with the lion badge and the World War One soundtrack. M
BODY 4-door, 5-seat sedan 2-door, 4-seat coupe DRIVE rear-wheel rear-wheel ENGINE 4951cc V8, DOHC, 32v, supercharger 4951cc V8, DOHC, 32v BORE/STROKE 92.2 x 92.7mm 92.2 x 92.7mm COMPRESSION 9.3:1 11.0:1 POWER 345kW @ 5750rpm (400kW on overboost) 306kW @ 6500rpm TORQUE 575Nm @ 2220-6250rpm (650Nm overboost) 530Nm @ 4350rpm POWER/WEIGHT 184kW/tonne 176kW/tonne TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic 6-speed manual WEIGHT 1872kg 1739kg SUSPENSION (F) A-arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar struts, anti-roll bar SUSPENSION (R) multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar multi-links, anti-roll bar L/W/H 4950/1868/1493mm 4784/2080/1381mm WHEELBASE 2838mm 2720mm TRACKS 1583/1598mm (f/r) 1582/1655mm (f/r) STEERING hydraulically-assisted rack-and-pinion electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion BRAKES (F) 355mm ventilated/drilled discs, 6-piston calipers 380mm ventilated discs, 6-piston calipers BRAKES (R) 330mm ventilated/drilled discs, 4-piston calipers 330mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers WHEELS 19.0 x 8.0-inch (f); 19.0 x 9.0-inch (r) 19.0 x 9.0-inch (f); 19.0x 9.5-inch (r) TYRE SIZES 245/35 R19 (f); 265/35 R19 (r) 255/40 R19 (f); 275/40 R19 (r) TYRE Pirelli P Zero Pirelli P Zero PRICE AS TESTED $62,190 $57,490 PROS Supercharged grunt; fi tting farewell to Falcon Supermodel looks; great engine; tidy chassis CONS Not quite as sweet to drive as the XR6 Could do with a little more bark and bite
BODY 4-door, 5-seat sedan 4-door, 5-seat sedan DRIVE rear-wheel rear-wheel ENGINE 6162cc V8, OHV, 16v 3983cc inline-6, DOHC, 24v, turbocharger BORE/STROKE 103.25 x 92.0mm 92.3 x 99.3mm COMPRESSION 10.7:1 8.76:1 POWER 304kW @ 6000rpm 325kW @ 6000rpm (370kW on overboost) TORQUE 570Nm @ 4400rpm 576Nm @ 2750rpm (650Nm on overboost) POWER/WEIGHT 170kW/tonne 179kW/tonne TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual 6-speed automatic WEIGHT 1793kg 1818kg SUSPENSION (F) struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar A arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar SUSPENSION (R) multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar L/W/H 4939/1898/1474mm 4950/1868/1493mm WHEELBASE 2915mm 2838mm TRACKS 1593/1590mm (f/r) 1583/1598mm (f/r) STEERING electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion hydraulically-assisted rack-and-pinion BRAKES (F) 355mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers 355mm ventilated/drilled discs, 6-piston calipers BRAKES (R) 360mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers 330mm ventilated/drilled discs, 4 piston calipers WHEELS 19.0 x 8.5-inch (f); 19.0 x 9.0-inch (r) 19.0 x 8.0-inch (f); 19.0x 9.0-inch (r) TYRE SIZES 245/40 R19 (f); 275/35 R19 (r) 235/35 R19 (f); 265/35 R19 (r) TYRE Bridgestone Potenza RE050A Pirelli P Zero PRICE AS TESTED $54,490 $54,990 PROS Awesome engine; top-notch chassis Probably the best Aussie Ford ever CONS Interior material mismatch; outgunned at strip A little more noise would be nice; sold out