Five worthy alternatives to the departing Holden and Ford V8s
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Thursday Five: who will fill the void left by the Falcon and Commodore?
2017 grows closer and with it the sad departure of two of New Zealand’s most loved cars; the Ford Falcon and the Holden Commodore. Sure the nameplates will probably remain, but they're unlikely to ever be attached to a high-output rear-wheel drive sedan ever again.
I remember my first experience with an Aussie V8. It was a blue Holden VT Clubsport that a dysfunctional uncle had purchased. In typical dysfunctional uncle style he asked if I wanted a spin in it and in typical naïve child language I said yes.
I was a dyed in the wool blue-oval fan at the time, but the prospect was still one of excitement. And as we rounded a corner leading onto a straight length of road two minutes away from home, he floored it — BWAAAAAAA BWBWBWAAAAAAH.
I remember sinking back into the leather seat, wondering to myself whether this was how space shuttle pilots feel on lift-off.
I think part of the continual success of the Commodore and Falcon is their integration into the culture. We all have a Commodore or Falcon memory buried in our psyche somewhere, many of which probably include bogans, mullets, and the aforementioned dysfunctional members of the family.
All of which makes it sad that these brutes are on life support. Ford have already made their last Falcon, while Holden will pull the plug next year. So what will those who would’ve bought a Falcon or Commodore migrate to now? Who is going to pick up the slack? We present our candidates in this week’s Thursday Five.
With the Falcon gone, the Mustang now becomes the main V8 option for Ford fans. But, it’s admittedly not a natural fit as a replacement.
The Falcon, and the Commodore for that matter, are four-door sedans — not low-slung two-door coupes like the Mustang. However, what the Mustang does do is quench the thirst for simple engineering and simple performance.
These elements are cornerstones of what has historically defined the Aussie four-door performance sedan — elements that have also defined American cars like the Mustang. Though while the Mustang continues to trudge along defying the trends of its rivals to deliver us no-frills performance in a raw language that speaks to the Commodore and Falcon clientele.
The one mark against the Mustang is that it’s not terribly cheap, even in four-cylinder trim. However that hasn’t slowed its uptake in New Zealand and over the ditch. During the Bathurst 1000 week, there seemed to be a new Mustang parked on every corner, while in Auckland City at least they’re becoming quite a common sight. And for good reason.
Hear me out…
We sit here with our high horses with our monocles and whittle down the Commodore and the Falcon into just their V8 versions. However both for a long time had base-model variants that would sell in huge numbers to fleet buyers and those after cheap space and comfort respectively.
What are those people missing out on if they swap over to the ever humble Toyota Camry?
It’s got four wheels, four doors, and a requisite level of luxury. I’m even happy to label the current generation car quite handsome — even with the hour-glass grill on the tip of its nose.
Sure it’s front-wheel drive, but it handles with just as much compliance as most things. Plus in an alternate universe, it would probably still be badged as a Holden anyway.
Mercedes-AMG C 63
Of course, you could go the other way with the aforementioned point and just seek out the closest possible existing car to the roaring Aussie V8s. In this case, I think that car is probably the AMG C 63.
People love to assume that German sports sedans are all a bit stale, and maybe a few of them are, but the claim shouldn’t extend to the C 63. We recently got to test the Coupe version, and we identified that it’s definitely not just another “everyday business car.”
It’s V8 powered, it’s explosive and raucous on demand, and it’s a looker. Why’s it not leading the list?
Even the price isn’t too extreme. Sure they’re a chunk over 100 Gs to buy, but that’s not much more than what a tippity top spec HSV Clubsport would set one back. The white Gen F we tested in January for example tipped the scales at $102,490.
From a different angle still, here’s the Subaru Levorg — a name that everyone else on the planet thinks is silly except for me.
The Levorg represents many of the values of the outgoing Australians. It’s spacious, it’s comfortable, and it’s quite fast. Adding into the mix that it’s significantly cheaper than the AMG and it’s a solid candidate to fulfill the role.
There are ways in which the Levorg seems like quite an extreme shift from the Commies and Falcs; being an all-wheel drive turbocharged four pot and all. But in some ways it's the most sensible car on this list, without taking that boring concept too far into cardigan territory.
Look, maybe just buy an old one
Photo / CarAdvice.com.au
We cry about the death of the proverbial rear-wheel drive Aussie brute, but there’s still plenty of exceptional used examples roaming the streets — and roaming online trading sites like Driven’s.
If you are a true fan of any kind of car that doesn’t cost ridiculous money, ask yourself why you don’t have one in the garage right now.
Granted if you’ve always wanted a Mazda MX-5 but have eight children, you’re probably not expected to own one. But it still amazes me how many people laud over those who own hot hatches or zesty turbocharged sedans or high-revving VTEC Hondas or indeed rear-wheel drive V8s but instead choose to own something dreary and banal — then leap to their own defense by simply saying “well, at least it’s new and reliable.”
In the same way, the VF Commodore and FG-X Falcon are still world-class cars. And while their former competition will continue to plug wonton amounts of new technology into their dashboards, the V8 Aussie battlers will still display exceptional balance, a wonderful soundtrack, and tyre-smoking abilities that compare with the best of them.