You’ve probably already recognised the common denominator of the trio of cars displayed on this page – V8 Supercar involvement. Either as official safety car or model campaigned by one of the two new factory teams to join the category. AMC was keen to sample the cars to see if their high-profile on-track role drew comments of recognition from those I came in contact with in my daily life as a magazine editor and, more importantly, ‘taxi driver’ for my kids. Would the other soccer dads say, “Hey Luke, isn’t that the car (insert marque) races in V8 Supercars?
I wanted to get a feel for whether Volvo, Nissan and Chrysler had achieved the desired profile boost from their motorsport involvement.
Volvo S60 Polestar
Our quest: Would anyone recognise it as Volvo’s V8 Supercar model? Findings: The Polestar did indeed draw comment. Several times in a week. Okay, the fact it’s the same colour as Scotty McLaughlin’s track version helps with recognition enormously. But that’s smart marketing.
A fellow soccer dad, of Scandinavian stock and a Volvo ‘estate’ owner, was happier than Bjorn in a Agnetha-filled sauna when he got to sit in it. He wanted to swaps jobs with me. Only at deadline time, ‘Bjorn’.
This is a lovely car. Ample poke, too; 3.0-litre turbo six that makes 257kW (and 500Nm between 3000rpm and 4750rpm), Ohlins dampers at each corner; 19-inch alloys with Bridgestone Potenza tyres; and a cabin with Polestar badges and blue stitching. Brembo brake package with 370mm front discs, alloy paddles linked to a brilliant auto transmission and comfy seats. It’s a $100K car and very user friendly in Sydney traffic. Bottomline: Volvo is the new benchmark for car manufacturers keen to make a motorsport campaign work. If only it wasn’t effectively a one-car team.
Nissan Altima Ti-S V6
Our quest: Would anyone recognise it as Nissan’s V8 Supercar model? Does the Altima possess any sporting credentials? Findings: My 12-year-old son was excited I brought home a car with an association to V8 Supercars, so that will perhaps please Nissan executives, although it would take him a while to save up for one. Sadly, my boy was the only one who recognised and commented on the connection. The Altima was at a distinct disadvantage compared to the Volvo, purely because of its virginal white paint.
The Kelly brothers, Moff’s lad and Michael Caruso race a RWD V8, while the roadie is FWD with either a 127kW 2.5-litre four-cylinder (starting at around $30K or a 183kW 3.5-litre V6 (starting around $45K), which was my ride for a week.
Sporting credentials? I drove it from Sydney to Bathurst return over the Blue Mountains via the famed Bells Line of Road. Super impressed with the Thai-sourced Altima’s handling and the V6 engine. Dunno about the CVT, though. It detracted from the overall package and stripped the Altima of what sportiness the powerplant and handling gave it. Thankfully the manual shift mode available on the V6 helped keep it on the boil on fast stretches, but I’m a lazy tourer who likes the auto to do the work. Bottomline: Good to see Nissan getting some cut-through thanks to James Moffat’s Bathurst podium and the sister car’s retro livery. There’s some catching up to Volvo to do in a marketing sense. As to the Altima itself, and mindful it’s a $30,000-$50,000 family car, it does the job well enough.
Chrysler 300 SRT8
Our quest: Does the 300 SRT8 still turn heads? Findings: Not only does it turn heads, it thrusts them back into the headrests. The 6.4-litre V8 engine produces 351kW and 637Nm, as well as a 0-100km/h sprint time in 4.7 seconds. Wow!
Everyone loves the gangsta-look (with the exception of my missus, but she’s a SUV type of girl) and it’s every bit the modern muscle car with a name to match. SRT stands for Street, Road, Track and goodies run to 20-inch wheels, sports suspension, Brembo four-pot brakes, burbling dual exhaust, lots of attitude and presence. Good value for around $70,000.
The 300 SRT8 serves as a reminder that in the not too distant future, US-sourced muscle is all we’ll have. Thank God and the home of the muscle car. Bottomline: The car that got lots of TV time at Bathurst is the type of muscle car that will live on when Aussie V8s are a thing of the past.