The SS Ute
doesn’t sound anywhere as good at idle. In fact, you
might struggle to pick it as a V-8 before you hit the accelerator – at
which point there’s no doubt whatsoever. It sounds more brutish
than the Ford V-8, delivering a gruff exhaust note that’s closer
to NASCAR than a street car.
might not be as technically advanced as the Boss, but the blunt, torquey
Gen 4 is an effective instrument. The six-speed automatic isn’t
as fast as the Ford, nor as smooth. The
XR8 Ute takes the points when it comes to cabin quality.
looks more like a European prestige car than an Aussie hauler, with its
top-quality plastic surfaces and a stylish dashboard layout. The leather
seats look good and are comfortable. The “carbon
and door inserts might be fake, but they look convincing. The centrally
mounted 7-inch information screen and high-resolution graphics could
have come straight out of a BMW.
Ford’s traditional colors,
it’s only natural that
the instrument cluster and central buttons glow blue at night. In the
Holden, the interior glows red. Everything is laid out well, and the
controls are easy to use, but everything looks a bit plain. The plastics
all look cheaper than the Ford’s, and there’s no big, color
central info screen.
have to get by with a narrow display that uses a chunky font that has
a retro Atari feel about it. Of course, while the Holden’s
interior does look less refined than the Falcon’s, it’s also
quieter. There’s less road noise and less engine noise at low speeds.
SS is also a far more comfortable car on a country drive. This is partly
due to its independent rear suspension and the fact that it runs smaller
wheels with higher-profile tires than the Falcon. Having driven FG Falcon
Utes with smaller wheels, which were far more comfortable, it’s
clear that the optional 19-inch rims are what cause the kidney-rattling
ride in that car.
leaf-sprung rear does a pretty good job in most conditions, with smaller
wheels and higher-profile rubber, but it was completely thrown out by
the big wheels on our test ute. It was very
hard to get the rear to settle and get the power down on bumpy roads.
SS Ute, running on 18-inchers, still doesn’t feel as well-tied-down
as a sedan, but it is considerably better than the XR8. It’s a
shame, really, because the Ford handles well on smooth roads, and its
steering is more accurate, giving more feedback than the Holden.
thing XR8 owners will appreciate is its ability to drift. The
leaf-springs and their contribution to a low level of grip make this
a perfect drift master. On dirt or tarmac (allegedly), it will hold
a smooth sideways slide, and there’s more than enough power to
go around. With 389 hp and this suspension setup, the XR8 Ute likes doughnuts
more than your local cops do.
The SS is
no slouch, either, but it’s harder to get
sideways. After some fun on dirt roads, it was time to head back into
town, on a track that included a creek crossing. The utes don’t
sit much higher than sedans, but it would have been a long way around,
so we pressed on through the water. Both Utes made it through without
stop was Calder Park, a local drag strip that runs off-street drags
under lights each Friday, just outside Melbourne. The new XR8 caused
quite a fuss with its testosterone-fueled styling.
prominent feature is the big "power
bulge" on the
bonnet that’s unique to V-8 Falcons. This is the automotive equivalent
of pec implants.
the bulge is not just for looks, saying the Boss V-8 just doesn’t fit beneath
a regular bonnet. The rest of the Falcon’s
design is not that dissimilar to the previous model, with some smooth
edges and some nice sporty details.
The SS Ute
has a simpler, less fussy design; it looks more like a sports car.
Its pumped-out wheel
arches, square edges and sloping B-pillar mean it looks like it’s
going fast even when it’s sitting
Ute was first up on Calder's two-lane blacktop. The Christmas tree
lit up and it disappeared in a cloud of Dunlop-scented smoke. With
all that grunt under the bonnet, the Ford struggled to get its power
down and took 2.7 seconds to sprint 60 feet. At the 660 foot
mark the time was a flat 10 seconds and the speed registered at 70.6
mph. It sounded great as it ran up the strip, but only recorded a 15-second
400 meter run (14 feet short of a quarter mile) with a top speed of
was up next. I went a bit easier on the go-pedal the second time around,
and the SS dug in with great traction, taking just 2.3 seconds for
the first 60 feet. It continued to surge forward at an impressive pace,
right up until I missed the change point and hit the rev-limiter. The
mistake resulted in a time of 15.15 seconds, much to the disgust of
feather foot throttle application meant a better get away in the Falcon
Ute the second time around, but there was still some wheelspin. The 30
foot time was down to 2.4 seconds and the Ford did the first 660 feet
in 9.75 seconds at 77.1 mph. The Boss was singing, though,
and the XR8 surged across the line for a time of 14.69 and a top speed
of 99.4 mph, which wasn’t too bad for an automatic.
last run in the Holden beckoned. Again it took off without wheelspin,
but the first 60 foot time was slower, this time coming in at 2.6 seconds. The
big V-8 was breathing hard and having left the gearbox in 'performance
mode' there was no problem with shifts. Its 660 foot time was 9.76 seconds
at 79.8 mph. It was neck and neck, but the SS still
had something left and crossed the line with a time of 14.57 seconds
and a top speed of 100.66 mph.
the Holden won the drag, but not by much. There’s probably some
time to be made up if you could get the XR8’s power down better,
which would come with practice, but it's a trickier car to race.
has a classier interior, sounds great, has a sweeter revving engine
and is easier to get sideways than the Holden. But the XR8’s
big 19-inch rims, combined with its leaf-springs, spoil the drive. We’d
be happy to park either in the driveway, as long as the Falcon was not
fitted with 19-inchers, but the SS is the better-handling hauler, which
gives it a narrow win.
where’s that slab gone?