HSV vs FPV: Boys' toys double as family cars

By David Linklater

Holden HSV and FPV GT. Photo / Supplied
Holden HSV and FPV GT. Photo / Supplied

Prepare to be appalled, but I think this brace of muscle cars - all 11.6 litres, 16 cylinders and 660kW of it - represents the acceptable face of the Australian large car. Full-size rear-drive sedans are becoming harder to justify in the current climate - that's obvious from the free-falling market share of the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore.

But in their high-performance, highly specialised FPV and HSV guises, these Aussie sedans have more of a purpose. They are expensive toys, yes: but ones that can transport the family in comfort during the week and keep the adults entertained in the weekends - in a responsible way, too, as both have enough performance and handling ability to be viable track-day cars. Which is best?

For some it'll be all about the numbers on the bootlid. The FPV's 5.4- litre supercharged V8 comes up trumps here, with 335kW/570Nm against the 325kW/550Nm of the HSV's naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8.

On road, the FPV has the clear advantage in low-down shove, and delivers its power in a more linear manner.

The HSV feels thinner down low and less eager right at the top end, but all is forgiven when you hear it: the GTS comes as standard with a bi-modal exhaust system that opens up beyond 3500rpm (earlier under full throttle) and sounds sensational. Suddenly, you feel like you're driving a V8 Supercar.

The two engines might differ in character, but there's almost nothing in it for sheer acceleration. The FPV and HSV both have the potential to duck under the five-second mark for the 0-100km/h sprint.

The FPV has the edge in ride and handling, assuming you don't mind keeping busy. The super-sharp steering, a surfeit of torque and a beautifully balanced chassis make the GT a hugely entertaining machine. The HSV is less responsive at low speed but more progressive overall and ultimately offers a higher level of grip.

It's the one I'd be more comfortable pushing hard on a racetrack, although it's the FPV that will have you laughing out loud at 50km/h. The HSV also features Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) suspension (also used by Audi and Ferrari) and launch control.

You can argue about the relative handling merits of either, but both succeed in serving up chassis prowess to match all that power. They are stunningly good fun to drive and only a little bit scary.

Styling is a matter of taste of course, but for my money the GTS looks like a real muscle car. HSV has made more of an effort to give its machine a different visual identity from the Commodore on which it is based.

Awesome retro green finish of our test car aside, the FPV's styling simply doesn't work as well. It has that distinctive "panda eyes" frontal section, but without the signature hockey-stick stripe package (optional on the GT), the FPV would look a bit ordinary next to its Aussie rival.

It's the same inside. The FPV has a unique instrument cluster and wide- boy sports seats, but the creaky cabin architecture of the Falcon is well past its use-by date: a real-letdown for a car with such stunning performance and dynamics.

The HSV's cabin is also too closely related to the cooking Commodore's to be cool, but the quality is noticeably better than its rival. The HSV also boasts a unique instrument cluster, a dashtop pod containing oil pressure/temperature gauges, and an extra layer on top of Holden's IQ touchscreen control centre called Enhanced Driver Interface (EDI).

EDI has a multitude of menus that can do everything from displaying understeer/oversteer in real-time, to giving you programmable gearshift indicators and even logging lap times during track days, with every major New Zealand circuit integrated into the satellite navigation. A wealth of data can be downloaded onto a USB stick for your later enjoyment.

As tested here, the FPV GT has a price advantage over the HSV GTS: $86,990 compared with $99,990.

However, you can have an HSV Clubsport (albeit with 317kW) for $86,990, and if you want the closest rival for the GTS in the FPV ranks you'll need the $95,990 GT-P, which has more equipment and better brakes. So in the bigger picture they're very close.

The bottom line
The FPV has the most flexible engine, more entertaining handling and superior ride comfort. The winner? Strangely, no. The HSV looks and sounds the part, the interior is superior and while EDI is a gimmick, it's also a real draw for the man-child muscle-car owner. The HSV is just a bit more special - and a genuine track-day toy.

Value for money
Look too closely at the FPV 335 GT and HSV GTS and they are both a bit rough around the edges: a consequence of being so closely related to their city-taxi Falcon and Commodore cousins.

But then you remember how much performance and handling this pair offer for the money.

There's simply nothing as fast and four-door-practical for less than $100,000.

In the case of some rivals, you have to spend twice that.


BMW M3 sedan, $173,700

Jaguar XFR, $209,990

Lexus IS-F, $151,900

Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG, $248,900

Porsche Panamera S, $260,000

- NZ Herald

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