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At the end of Part One of our Ford Mustang GT Fastback v Holden Commodore SS V Redline comparison – the Road Test – the 5.0-litre ‘Yank Tank’ was lagging a little behind the 6.2-litre Aussie brute. But things were most definitely still close.
On the track
Rolling through Sandown Raceway’s main gates at a little after 8am, our two challengers line-up on pit lane ready to tackle the iconic 3.1-kilometre Melbourne circuit, as part of a Driver Dynamics Level 3 High Performance driver training day.
As discussed in our preceding Road Test, the Ford Mustang GT Fastback is priced from $57,490 (before on-road costs), and pairs a 306kW/530Nm naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8 with a six-speed manual transmission.
The Holden Commodore SS V Redline starts $2500 cheaper at $54,990 (before on-road costs), and teams a 304kW/570Nm naturally-aspirated 6.2-litre V8 with a six-speed manual transmission. Each also boasts independent rear suspension, a limited-slip rear differential, and Brembo brakes.
The Ford scores six-piston Brembo calipers and 380mm discs up front, and single-piston calipers and 330mm discs out back. The Holden sports four-piston Brembo calipers all around, with front and rear discs measuring 355mm and 360mm, respectively. It’s also worth noting only the Commodore is equipped with metal valve caps as standard.
With Sandown’s front straight all to ourselves, we wire up the Mustang and Commodore to the VBox, so we can record some obligatory 0-100km/h and 0-400m times for both cars. The results?
Able to get out of the blocks faster and easier than the Ford, the Holden claims bragging rights for the triple-figure sprint, recording a best 0-100km/h time of 5.0 seconds, to the Ford’s 5.3s.
In another win for the Local Lion, the SS V Redline keeps the hammer down over the quarter mile, recording a best 0-400m dash of 13.4 seconds at 174.9km/h, narrowly trumping the American Fastback’s best of 13.6s at 172.2km/h.
With the straight-line stuff done, we head out for our first laps of Sandown’s 13 turns and two 900m-odd straights.
Keeping things as even as possible, the Mustang's mismatched set of Pirelli P Zeros and the Commodore's like set of Bridgestone Potenzas have all had their pressures upped by two pounds per square inch to increase sidewall stiffness, while the Ford has been put into ‘Race track’ mode and the Holden into ‘Competitive’ mode. This means sharper throttles, heavier steering, and reduced traction control intervention.
Jumping into the Commodore, and if the LS3 sounded good ‘on noise’ driving on the road, it sounds even better on the racetrack hunting down 6500rpm.
Helped no end by the 2015 introduction of Holden’s unique ‘Baillie Tip’ exhaust design – Dr David Baillie, you will be remembered with every pop and crackle ejected from the back of a V8-powered VFII Holden Commodore – the SS V Redline simply sounds ‘right’.
Significantly quieter and more muffled from both inside and out, the 5.0-litre Mustang might be more aurally subdued than the Commodore, but gee wiz it winds out to 7000rpm with pace, seeming to pull even harder at the racetrack than on the public road. That said, you do find yourself missing the Holden’s convenient and easy-to-read digital speedometer and head-up display.
When it comes time to rein the Mustang in, its albeit touchier brakes, offer more initial bite than the Commodore’s, as well as ample stopping power. Less positive is the Ford’s heavier clutch, and clunky, overly-notchy, six-speed manual transmission.
Necessitating the use of a slower, more precise, and far more deliberate gear-change technique, the Pony car’s gearbox makes the consistently weighty and generally agricultural-feeling six-speed manual Commodore 'box feel comparatively light and slick. No small achievement.
Although the Ford’s floatier on-road feeling still translates to the racetrack, and its lesser grip levels dictate a more mindful use of the throttle, overall, the 1700kg 'Stang feels much, much, happier being on a wider, smoother circuit than a tighter, bumpier public road.
It still lacks the front-end bite and composed agility of the Commodore – and the Holden’s better positioned pedals – but the Mustang is fun, entertaining, and seriously fast.
Already impressing us with its highway and twisty-road ride/handling combination, on track, the SS V Redline’s firmer 'FE3' suspension does a first-class job at keeping the big ol’ Holden planted and secure on the straights, yet also relatively flat through corners.
With speeds hitting over 200km/h, the near-on 50kg heavier Commodore undoubtedly feels its weight, especially under braking. However, as a package, it points and turns in well, possesses better lateral grip and better grip under power than the Mustang, and is more communicative and confidence-inspiring than its Blue Oval opponent.
In the end though, despite the recorded 0-100km/h and quarter mile performance times, and both cars hitting an identical 215km/h maximum speed, the Ford Mustang claims the day’s best time of 1:30.88 around Sandown Raceway – 1.26 seconds faster than the Holden Commodore’s best of 1:32.14.
And, for the third time in this two-part comparison, it’s the Ford that again betters the Holden in terms of fuel efficiency, with the 5.0-litre 'Stang averaging 36.1L/100km while at the track, compared with 38.8L/100km for the 6.2-litre Commodore.
Warranty and servicing
Track time will always cost you in terms of fuel, tyres, brakes, et cetera, but when it comes to standard scheduled servicing, it’s the Holden that comes out on top.
Covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty and 12-months road-side assist, the Commodore’s recommended service intervals are every nine months or 15,000km, with scheduled services priced at $239 per service for the first three years. That means you’re looking at a total of $717 in servicing costs for the first three years of ownership (not including additional service items).
The Mustang is also covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty with 12-months road-side assist, however, its recommended service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, with scheduled services for the first three years priced between $425 and $485. That means you’re up for servicing costs of $1335 for the first three years of ownership (not including additional service items).
Like it or not, the Ford versus Holden rivalry is steeped in Australiana. And hopefully, if nothing else, this comparison shows that while each manufacturer’s ‘hero’ cars may alter and change over time, the rivalry is one that can – and perhaps should – continue.
Now, before you get on your high horse or crack the whip about the Mustang losing, think about things this way.
This is the last locally-built Holden Commodore, and it’s based on an 11-year-old platform that debuted beneath the billion-dollar VE Commodore back in 2006. That’s 11 years of development, of engineering work, suspension work, chassis tuning, refinement, tweaks, and so on. That’s eleven years of honing, effectively the one product, to get it to where it is today – and honestly, that level is pretty bloody good.
That said, while the Mustang itself has existed since late 1964, this latest sixth-generation Pony car has only been around since late 2013 – that’s a little over three years. So in fairness, as a ‘first attempt’ if you will, if you’re a Ford fan, there’s still plenty to be positive about.
We already know the upcoming 2018 Ford Mustang update will move the game on further, however, if Ford can improve this modern-era Mustang at anywhere near the pace that Holden has developed the VFII Commodore, look out.
As it stands today though, with the two cars tested here, the 2017 Ford Mustang GT Fastback just falls behind the 2017 Holden Commodore SS V Redline in a number of key areas.
The Commodore offers more car, more space, more practicality, and more flexibility than the Mustang, as well as some better technology, better dynamics, and arguably better performance. And all for less money.
Whether it was cruising along the highway, negotiating challenging B roads, or receiving a spirited kick up the jacksy through twisty roads or at the racetrack, the Holden consistently outshone its Pony-badged rival – even if it wasn't the outright fastest around the track.
Ford’s 5.0-litre Coyote V8 is unequivocally the sweeter engine of the two sampled here though, consistently proving to be not only keener but also more frugal than Holden’s antiquated 6.2-litre LS3. The Mustang, however, lacks the comfort, versatility, and engagement of the Commodore. It’s not loud enough, its gearbox is harder work than it should be, and both its ride and handling need to be improved.
So, what’s our final call? Well, if you’re looking at spending just under $60k and you’re keen to get your bum into a new, rear-wheel-drive, V8-powered ‘muscle car’, the 6.2-litre Holden Commodore SS V Redline is the pick.
As adept and proficient at long-haul journeys or the daily commute as it is at spirited drives or even the occasional track day, the Commodore is an extraordinary Jack of all trades. That said, of course we understand the appeal and rationale behind the ultra-cool, stare-magnet that is the Ford Mustang. But is it the better, smarter, or more fun car? 'Fraid not.
So, until the end of October anyway: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie.
Click on the Gallery tab for more 2017 Ford Mustang GT Fastback and 2017 Holden Commodore SS V Redline images by Tom Fraser.
Note: After the conclusion of this comparison two things happened. One; Ford Australia acknowledged that our long-term Mustang had been fitted with the incorrect rear Pirelli tyres (all four should have been a matching set of Pirelli P Zeros). And Two; a crunching fourth-gear issue that reared its head while we were at Sandown Raceway was confirmed as a broken fourth-gear synchro. Both matters have since been rectified.
Listen to the CarAdvice team discuss this comparison below, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.