6-cylinder Luxury Large Car Showdown – Ford vs. Holden vs. Honda vs. Toyota
2008 FG Ford Falcon G6E vs. Holden Calais V6 vs. Honda Accord V6 Luxury vs. Toyota Aurion Presara
Model tested: 2008 Ford Falcon G6E Recommended Retail Price: $46,990. Options fitted: None fitted.
Handling; engine and gearbox; rear leg room; price point
Non-flat boot floor; no xenon headlights
CarAdvice rating: (4.25)
Model tested: 2008 Holden Commodore Calais V6 Recommended Retail Price: $46,190 Options fitted: Metallic paint ($400).
Space, standard ESP, solid ride
No Sat/Nav or reversing camera, ‘poverty’ interior
CarAdvice rating: (3.00)
Model tested: 2008 Honda Accord V6 Luxury Recommended Retail Price: $46,990. Options fitted: None fitted.
Impressive handling; size; features
Sometimes heavy on fuel, too many buttons on centre console
CarAdvice rating: (4.15)
Model tested: 2008 Toyota Aurion Presara Recommended Retail Price: $49,490. Options fitted: None fitted.
Performance, plenty of luxury items, good safety equipment
Stodgy handling, generic interior styling, pricey
CarAdvice rating: (3.50)
– Review by Paul Maric, David Twomey and Matt Brogan, photography by Paul Maric.
In this day and age it is becoming increasingly difficult for car manufacturers to meet the demands of consumers. With petrol prices continually skyrocketing, pressure is on manufacturers to make fuel efficient cars, while still catering for size and performance.
In the first test of its kind in Australia, CarAdvice has pegged the rear-wheel-drive Falcon and Commodore against their Japanese front-wheel-drive rivals, the Accord V6 and Aurion.
The luxury variants chosen here will be popular amongst professionals and families with a luxury cruiser in mind.
After a week of extensive testing ranging from city driving to performance tests, we have determined a winner. The results are close but paint a clear picture of the current large car market in Australia.
Ford Falcon G6E – Paul Maric:
The highly anticipated FG Falcon is here and what better way to put it through its paces. Lined up against every other conceivable competitor in this segment, there was no doubting a useful challenge.Just several thousand dollars separated the four competitors, with the Falcon G6E and Accord V6 Luxury costing an equal $46,990.
There is a massive step up in terms of interior fit and finish with the new Falcon. Although the BFII wasn’t all that shabby, the FG derives a true feeling of European touring. The controls are simple and easy to comprehend, while the high mounted LCD screen offers a variety of display options.
As a technology buff, I headed straight for the Falcon’s settings menu where I found an absolute myriad of options. Everything from lane change indicators through to the audible alarm note could be adjusted from the G6E’s menu system. It was far more advanced than the Holden unit and certainly miles ahead of the Accord’s somewhat confusing system.
Full iPod integration was another technical highlight. The system not only charges your iPod when connected, it allows you to browse through folders and subfolders via the central screen. A reversing camera was also standard and with an ultra wide angle lens and high resolution, it worked very well, certainly the pick of the bunch.
Although the display side of things was good, the sound system was below average in comparison to the Accord and Aurion. There was a sub-woofer fitted but the panels surrounding the sub-woofer rattled constantly when the audio level was increased.
The Falcon’s seats were the best on offer from the four contenders. They were extremely comfortable for long distance driving and offered adequate side support whilst cornering. The driving position was also impressive. It was slung low enough for enthusiastic driving, while also being high enough to see over the front of the car.
The most impressive aspect of the Falcon was the drive. Mated to the 195kW, inline six-cylinder engine is ZF Sach’s renowned six-speed automatic gearbox. This slick shifting unit works in absolute harmony with the Falcon’s 4.0-litre motor, transforming it into a world-class engine. It feels as good, if not better than any other naturally aspirated six-cylinder motor on offer from the Europeans.
There is unlimited urge from take off and plenty of torque surge as the revs rise. The shifts are very quick and always timed exactly where they need to be. The adaptive gearbox learns the driving style and reacts with precise timing and performance.
Steering through bends is met with a heavy-ish response. The weight isn’t overly exaggerated but is certainly prominent. The added weight also makes the steering quite accurate around the centre. At slower speeds it loosens up slightly also, allowing for ease of parking and tight manoeuvres.
The car’s weight is noticeable, but no more noticeable than its three other competitors. It tracks nicely though corners and rolls in to a point where it stops and remains steady. It changes direction confidently too, the result of a well-tuned suspension and chassis package.
Brake feel is uniform and progressive, but quite touchy on first application. We didn’t experience any fade during testing too which was impressive.
Rear leg room, ingress and egress has been improved dramatically. This makes entry and exit from the second row of seats surprisingly easy and care free. The middle seat is quite comfy too. Two cup holders are on offer from the fold out section of the middle passenger seat.
The G6E’s standard features include: Dual zone climate control; power windows; power mirrors; central locking; trip computer; 8-speaker sound system with 6-stack CD player; leather interior; electric driver’s seat; 17″ alloy wheels; metallic paint; front fog lights; full iPod integration; auxiliary input; auto dimming rear vision mirror; automatic headlights and engine immobiliser.
Standard safety features include: Electronic stability control; ABS brakes with EBD and BA; driver and front passenger airbags; front side airbags and traction control.
It was disappointing to see a lack of Xenon headlights or even projector headlamps (like the Commodore). There was also no sign of automatic windscreen wipers or satellite navigation as standard fitment.
But, from what I’ve seen with the G6E during testing against its main rivals, Ford has set a new benchmark which will remain for some years to come. The level of refinement and the impressive drive have made the Falcon a desirable product once again. It’s such a shame this engine will be phased out for an American V6 in the not too distant future.
Holden Commodore Calais V6 – David Twomey:
The interesting thing about this comparison is acknowledging how quickly things change in the car industry and how rapidly Holden’s “billion-dollar baby” has slipped to a rather impoverished last position in this test.
That’s not to say that the Holden Calais V6 we tested isn’t a good car, it still offers all those basic criteria of the ‘big Aussie six’ but it just doesn’t have the technology, the glamour or the competence of the challengers.
As tested the Calais V6, with optional metallic paint, costs $46,190 which puts it right in the ball park with the other contenders, and although we had originally thought we would include the Calais V-series we decided that as that car was $8000 more expensive it wasn’t a proper competitor.
What’s hard to take, when you look at the competition, is the relative ‘poverty’ feel of the Calais interior.
There’s a mono-colour LCD screen with no Sat/Nav available, part leather upholstery – the rest offer full leather, and way too much dull, grey/black plastic for a car that is supposed to be almost at the top of the Commodore range.
Remember, to get rid of some of these criticisms you have to pay $8000 more than the smarter looking Falcon or Accord, and while the more expensive Aurion suffers from its Camry origins it still makes an attempt at luxury with full leather, some wood and a full-colour Sat/Nav screen.
The Calais was also the only car in our test not to have a reversing camera, making do with rear parking sensors and an alert display on the central screen.
Driving the Calais in comparison with the other three was also a revelation is change, the Holden mostly wallowed its way around corners and while the drive was good when you factored the vehicle’s weight, the steering and brakes weren’t anything to write home about.
Fuel economy is one of the VE range’s downsides and the Holden mostly trailed its main competitors – Ford and Toyota – when it came to fuel use.
The high-output 195kW V6 motor fitted to the Calais consumed 10.9-litres/100km during our extensive testing, which included a wide range of highway, city and country driving.
The five-speed automatic gearbox was always reasonably responsive, but too often seemed unsure about which gear it should be in, something that was drawn into sharp comparison by the Ford’s superbly managed ZF gearbox.
Standard features common to the Calais include: Six way power seat for driver and front passenger; leather wrapped steering wheel; cruise control; rear parking sensors; power mirrors; auto headlights; 6-stack CD-player with 9-speakers; dual zone climate control; power windows and central locking.
Safety features include: Dual stage front airbags; side impact airbags for driver and front passenger; side curtain airbags; active front seat head restraints; ABS brakes with EBD and BA; Electronic Stability Control and engine immobiliser.
All very commendable and the safety offerings are no less than you should expect these days, but they still mean that the VE range has only a four-Star ANCAP rating.
Holden fans won’t be happy with this outcome but the fact remains, the Calais is a very good car – if you don’t mind not having the best car available – and it will be the vehicle of choice for the legion of diehard Holden fans who will forgive its shortcomings to maintain their allegiance.
It does the job well, it’s expensive to run, and it’s quickly falling behind its later competitors –that’s the nature of the game- but we doubt Holden will leave it there and perhaps the Series Two car next year will address at least some of our criticisms.
Honda Accord V6 Luxury – Matt Brogan:
The Accord V6-L is Honda’s top shelf offering in the new CP range and boasts internal and external refinements well above that of the previous model, most notably cylinder deactivation technology on the 3.5-litre V6.
Simply put this system allows the engine to operate on six, four, or three cylinders, depending on how much effort is required, by withdrawing the spark from the unused cylinders. It works well, but you can certainly feel when the it kicks in – feeling similar to a smooth gearshift of an automatic gearbox met with a small ‘ECO’ light on the dash.
On all six cylinders the engine produces a class leading 202kW at 6200rpm and although a little lower on torque than Falcon with 339Nm at 5000rpm manages to maintain pace rather well on all but the largest of hills and offers reasonably strong pull from standstill.
The transmission is a silky smooth five-speed offering seamless shifts, well managed kick down timing and sports mode for sharper throttle response and quicker shifting (both up and down) on windy roads or when overtaking.
Fuel economy is claimed at 10.0 litres per 100km (ADR) and although this seems on par with the others on paper, real world figures are a little less complimentary with high 8.0L/100km recorded on highway cycle and 13.25L/100km around town. The Accord will run comfortably on regular unleaded but prefers the extra octane offerings, feeling sharper and more responsive on 95RON.
From the outset Accord is an attractive car, far more handsome than the predecessor, and possibly the most attractive in the group – though looks are subjective. It is also larger in proportion, which is noticeable from a space perspective, but not from a driver’s standpoint. We like this a lot.
Ride and handling compliment each other very well and the extra weight on board is not at all bothersome, even through more challenging sections of tight winding country roads.
Confident, almost eager handling characteristics are second only to Falcon, which has sharper turn in and better feedback. In all though it’s a reassuring and light-footed ride, which although not quite sharp, is certainly better than Presara’s understeer and although not quite as soft is less wallowy than Calais.
Confident braking with a precise and well weighted pedal mate perfectly to the cars proportions and offer stopping power that beat both Presara and Calais in both stopping distance and ability. The ABS is spot on and with EBA and EBD to assist driver input, safe stopping is well taken care of.
Continuing the safety theme Accord also offers standard ESP, front, side and curtain airbags, ISOFIX preparation for the kid’s seats and a four star EuroNCAP rating. Not a bad deal for the $46,990 asking price though I’d not settle for any thing less by today’s standards.
With impressive boot space and a generously capacious interior the only other thing left to consider are what you get for your money and how well the nitty gritty comes together.
Perhaps most obviously the dashboard seems to abound in buttons, which can seem a little cluttered and unnecessary with the appearance that there’s almost a button for each individual function – which is just about true.
The lay out can take some remembering and at first will require an “eyes off” approach which for drivers fresh to a new car is less than desirable. Once mastered though it’s of little consequence and pleasantly all functionality works incredible well and with a quality feel we’ve come to expect from Honda.
If the Accord had just a little more torque and pointed just a tad quicker at corners it would have come out on top, but as it stands the decision was almost unanimous that the honour went to Falcon.
Toyota Aurion Presara – David Twomey:
Toyota’s Aurion range certainly seeks to play with the big boys and it needs to be said from the start that while the Aurion Presara is the most expensive car in our foursome, it is also smaller than the others.
The feeling of compactness, this is after all a Camry bodyshell, is almost always noticeable and no amount of technology, equipment or refinement will ever make you think this is a trulylarge car.
That said the Toyota is a worthy competitor in this challenge, although one that falls short of the outright competence of the Falcon and the Accord, due in some part to the shortcomings already mentioned.
The Presara is a well-equipped luxury car, offering full-leather upholstery, electric adjustment for the seats, the usual wide range of Toyota luxury items inside, including a full-colour screen that provides a range of information about the car, plus Sat/Nav, a six-stacker CD and climate control air-conditioning.
There’s also front and rear parking sensors, Smart entry and push button start (same as Lexus – so you just need to have the key fob on your person and then hit the start button).
There’s also a host of safety features built into the car and these include; Vehicle Stability control, Traction Control, Anti-Lock Brake System, Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist along Dual front, side and curtain airbags.
Steering is reasonably well weighted although it does feel a little remote and disconnected.
Timber accents dress up the car along with a tasteful blend of reasonable quality plastics, and the switchgear has a quality and function that is flawless. We also liked the Optitron instrument dials which are super bright and legible even in bright sunlight.
With 200kW and a respectable 336Nm of torque in a good-sized five-seater car, the Presara does measure up in the power stakes, no matter which way you dress it up. Its 5kW more than the G6E and the Calais and 2kW less than the Accord but more importantly, it weighs in at 1630kg which is significantly lighter than its rivals.
We doubt it’s something many Toyota owners do but seriously prodding the accelerator pedal won’t push you back in the seat as you might have expected with this much power, but it will get you from 0-100km/h in 6.75 seconds with some degree of urgency.
The muted response is due in part to the fairly average torque figure and the fact the full 336Nm is not available until you hit 4700rpm.
The Aurion’s six-speed automatic gearbox, with sequential shifting available, is smooth and responsive, although it does tend to hunt around a bit when trying to maintain a certain speed under load.
It’s a characteristic common to quite a few multi ratio gearboxes these days, and again, usually due to not enough torque available at some throttle points.
Steering is reasonably well weighted and brake pedal pressure is quite good despite using single piston callipers front and rear and there is a feast of brake assistance acronyms to pull this car up in the shortest possible distance in most conditions.
The Aurion can accommodate five adults, although for comfort we think two in the rear would be the limit, and there’s a tonne of storage space throughout the car with the usual cup holders and hidden compartments front and back.
Toyota has an enviable reputation for reliability and resale value, which is what sells a lot of its cars – rather than that special spark, and the Presara is no different.
If you want the steady reliable solid contender then the Toyota will be your choice, it just won’t have that special spark of excitement that is found in our top two choices.
She Says – Miranda Simpson:
Whilst all four vehicles in their own way typify the family sedan, and indeed share similarities, each is also distinctively different in its own right and offers differing driving dynamics which, for one or two candidates, can prove a little daunting.
All four are without doubt very spacious, they all accommodate the average family of four or five comfortably, and each has ample boot space. But it’s the little things that stack up when making decisions, and this is certainly true with these four cars.
Calais to me feels heavy, especially in the steering. The brakes take a little effort to apply and visibility both rearward and through the “A” pillar is awkward. Entering roundabouts can prove a little disconcerting as you have to move yourself around to get a line of sight happening and out the back window, for shorter people at least, can make parking difficult. The seats are very comfortable though and everything looks quite good but it is certainly no better than you’d expect, and a little plastic, which for me personally is a little bit of a let down -so fourth place.
The Presara drives reasonably well, is light enough to manage, has good visibility and has a bigger boot than I’d have thought possible making weekend shopping and family weekends a simple prospect. The amount of features on offer too is unexpectedly sufficient and I especially like the climate control switches on the steering wheel, but it’s about there that the warm fuzzy feelings stop. Most of the interior features look cheap, almost tacky in appearance, especially the dash and wooden steering wheel which is a little bit “cardigan set” for my liking, despite the exterior being really quite attractive – that’s third place.
Surprisingly the G6E was a lot easier to manage than I thought it would be and it drives really well. It’s very spacious, has a large boot and is very easy to get in and out of, especially when getting the kids in place. All the features are easy to operate and the layout is such that you don’t need to think about it or look for things, everything is just “there”. It looks really nice too, inside and out, and is a much more refined car than I remember Falcon ever having being. But despite all of this, it just feels very big, and a little overwhelming to live with day-to-day – so that’s second place.
Last, but definitely not least is the Honda. I felt extremely confident when driving this vehicle. It drives very well, so easy to steer, in fact you feel as though the car could simply drive itself. It’s good looking, spacious enough, and in fact I feel it’s bigger than you’d expect, and has a really large boot space. It has great visibility all round whilst driving, which really does make you feel a lot safer and more confident in driving it. The interior features can -at first – feel a little daunting for the technologically challenged, however once you learn to use them, they are extremely easy to operate and feel above average in quality and presentation – it’s the big first place, for me.
All of the vehicles, as I mentioned, are spacious and comfortable, and really are quite close to call. The Ford has a nice appearance, is spacious, but feels big and bulky which is a little off putting. The Toyota, whilst it is a nice vehicle, and offers plenty of room, definitely doesn’t feel as though you are getting anything extra special for what you are paying, which also rings true for the Holden.
While Calais looks great and has all you really need from a car I am put off by the heavy steering, and the value offered for the price, especially when you factor in the fuel costs. But I would have to say the Honda would be my choice of the four. It just seems to have the edge over the others, feels more modern and has everything you need, all with a touch more class and style.
Performance Tests – Paul Maric:
Although performance won’t be at the forefront of the average punter’s list of desires when it comes to buying this type of car, we have thrown it in for those interested.
The performance figures also indicate that kilowatts don’t necessarily mean quicker numbers.
All performance tests were conducted with the driver and a single passenger on board, along with half a tank of petrol. All testing was conducted by Paul Maric. Three runs were conducted, with the average of all three results listed below.
The Aurion’s 200kg weight advantage allowed it to nudge ahead of the Falcon. Although the Accord felt lively and very responsive at the top end, there was a lack of attentiveness off the line, causing it to run consistently slower times than its competitors.
The Aurion’s stability control had to be disabled for the timed acceleration runs also. There’s no button to disable the Toyota’s stability control, but there is a secret combination which will switch all driver aids off.
The Commodore was the slickest off the line with no wheel spin, allowing it to move off without hesitation.
This comparison was certainly not as clear cut as we had expected it to be. The results we all expected before going into this comparison were totally different to the end results.
The Falcon took out the win by a bee’s foot, nudging the Accord out of the top position by the slightest of margins.
The other end of the pack wasn’t as hard to determine though. The Commodore’s dire lack of features and lackluster engine and gearbox combination placed it at the back of the pack. The price point didn’t help it either. If you wanted to even come close to matching the Aurion or Accord for features, you would have to fork out for the Calais V which was some $8000 more than the Accord.
Although the Aurion came with a considerable amount of kit, the engine and handling package was a bit spasmodic at times. It didn’t offer any flare when it came to the drive and became quite thirsty during performance testing.
Needless to say, the Falcon really is an impressive all rounder. The engine’s level of enthusiasm, coupled with the amazing gearbox made it quite a riveting drive when put to the test, it also dominated when tootling around, making it the perfect luxury six-cylinder sedan on the Australian market in this price bracket.
A big thank you also goes out to the Poowong Hotel for providing one of the best lunches we’ve ever had! They fed our team of 6 and had us full to the brim. Keep up the great work Ben and Fiona!