The great eight debate
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 h 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 2017 factory shutdown.
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