The great eight de­bate

Home-grown or im­ported? That’s the choice for V8 lovers in this three-way arm wres­tle

Herald Sun - Motoring - - COVER STORY - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@news.com.au

EIGHT-CYLIN­DER cars are an ex­trav­a­gance most buy­ers can do with­out. Most buy­ers al­ready do, opt­ing for smaller sedans and SUVs with ef­fi­cient turbo en­gines rather than the home-grown V8s.

For those who drive their ve­hi­cles rather than com­mute in them, a tra­di­tional V8 is still an en­tic­ing prospect. If you were raised on the Holden v Ford ri­valry, it is a last chance to wave the red or blue flag.

That’s why Holden expects its new 6.2-litre V8s to ac­count for more than half of VFII Com­modore sales be­tween now and the fac­tory shut­down in 2017.

Ford fans are equally keen to put a su­per­charged 5.0-litre Boss en­gine in the garage, be it as a fi­nal farewell to an icon or a spec­u­la­tive in­vest­ment.

Chrysler will be the last large main­stream V8 sedan left stand­ing with the lo­cal duo’s demise and the US brand jus­ti­fies its heftier price tag with a more lux­u­ri­ous in­te­rior and the best straight-line per­for­mance.

All three are ca­pa­ble of a sub-five sec­ond sprint time, will house five adults in rea­son­able com­fort and have a drift racer’s dis­dain for fuel econ­omy and tyre wear.

HOLDEN COM­MODORE SS-V RED­LINE

The roar ap­peal of a big ca­pac­ity V8 — the most pow­er­ful en­gine fit­ted to a reg­u­lar Com­modore — is now sup­ported by sus­pen­sion that can man­age the torque. The re­vised rear end has a new sway bar to cut body roll, let­ting the en­gi­neers soften off the springs.

The changes mean the grunt now goes to the ground rather than evok­ing spin­ning wheels un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion out of a cor­ner. It is a vastly im­proved car when pressed hard. Brembo brakes are fit­ted to all wheels and a bi-mo­dal ex­haust gives the Holden bark to match its ap­pre­cia­ble bite. Bon­net vents and an LS3 badge pinned to the front bumper are the eas­i­est way to spot the VFII Com­modore be­cause the up­dates don’t ex­tend to the in­te­rior. That means more but­tons than are found in many mod­ern cars and there’s still a mish-mash of qual­ity fin­ishes and bud­get bits.

Over­all it is still a gen­er­a­tion clear of the Fal­con but a quick sur­vey shows friends are split on whether it or the Chrysler has the bet­ter look­ing dash lay­out.

CHRYSLER 300 SRT

If big­ger is bet­ter, the SRT rules the roost. It is the largest ve­hi­cle here in size and en­gine ca­pac­ity and, in the eye-sear­ing red of the test ve­hi­cle with pol­ished 20-inch al­loys, over­shad­ows the lo­cal duo vis­ually.

The Chrysler is also the quick­est car in a straight line. Its launch con­trol — all three cars have soft­ware as­sis­tance to help har­ness the torque off the line — lets own­ers ad­just the take-off revs de­pend­ing on road con­di­tions. A mid-four sec­ond sprint time is pos­si­ble in the right en­vi­ron­ment.

The premium cabin feel is en­hanced by leather and al­can­tara up­hol­stery and car­bon-fi­bre in­lays in the dash and door trim but for $69,000 (a less-blinged SRT Core can be had for $59,000) the door plas­tics are too hard for the money and de­tails such as the sun­glass holder mech­a­nism feel and sound cheap.

A long wheel­base also means the Chrysler can’t wrig­gle through the tight stuff like its lo­cal com­pe­ti­tion. Fron­tend re­sponse and steer­ing feel is vastly bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous model but the Chrysler is ul­ti­mately a grand tourer rather than a track-fo­cused per­for­mance sedan.

Chrysler has the Charger SRT Hell­cat to ful­fil the lat­ter role in the US and the Aus­tralian arm still hasn’t given up on get­ting that ve­hi­cle here.

FORD FAL­CON XR8

Ru­mours con­tinue about the ar­rival of a more pow­er­ful XR8 Sprint next year but that will ad­dress an area the Fal­con al­ready ex­cels in. There’s noth­ing wrong with the Ford’s

driv­e­train; it is the time-warp in­te­rior that lets this car down.

Not much has changed since the FG launched in 2008 though the XR8 does come with Ford’s Sync2 in­fo­tain­ment in­ter­face dis­play­ing on an eight-inch screen. It is easy to op­er­ate and re­sponds to thou­sands of voice com­mands but that’s the high­light of an oth­er­wise mun­dane in­te­rior.

Driv­ing aids such as lane de­par­ture and blind spot alerts are stan­dard on the ri­vals but not on the Fal­con even in the op­tions list and the $2200 auto trans­mis­sion op­tion doesn’t in­clude pad­dle shifters.

The su­per­charged 5.0-litre en­gine is the high­light. It de­liv­ers peak torque much ear­lier in the rev range than its ri­vals. It is a push in the chest that in­ten­si­fies un­til the driver is smart enough to back off.

The XR8 is more prone to push its nose through the cor­ners and is hap­pi­est of this trio to light up the back end ex­it­ing turns. The sus­pen­sion may be bor­rowed from the old FPV GT R-Spec but it still isn’t enough to tame this beast.

The brakes do not feel as solid as the Holden but they take longer to fade than the heav­ier Chrysler.

VER­DICT

Be­yond the su­per­charger there’s enough to whine about in the XR8 to rel­e­gate it to third place here. Yes it will beat the Chrysler in some sit­u­a­tions but the in­te­rior ci­vil­ity and elec­tron­ics are off the pace.

The SRT’s im­proved ride and cor­ner­ing make it more than a drag-strip spe­cial. Size and weight work against it when hus­tled on back roads but it has pres­ence and per­for­mance.

That leaves the Red­line as the best bal­anced car in this field, both dy­nam­i­cally and in terms of its abil­ity to per­form as a track weapon or fam­ily cruiser. Holden has saved the best for last and the SS-V Red­line will leave a last­ing im­pres­sion on all who drive it.

If you were raised on the Holden v Ford ri­valry, it is a last chance to wave the red or blue flag

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