From the vault: HSV GTS vs FPV R-Spec


There are several theories for the extinction of the dinosaurs all those millions of years ago.

This story was originally published in our January 2014 issue

Some say they all drowned in a great flood. Others speculate they were hunted and eaten by aliens. Everybody’s got a theory. But my favourite (mainly because it’s the one I’d most like to see made into a movie) is the one where a meteorite clobbers Earth, sending up a huge cloud of ash and dust that blocks out the sun and leads to an ice age which kills everything apart from cockroaches and Toyota Camrys. Cool.

Anyway, there’s a new extinction due soon and, even though fans of the breed may rankle at the use of the term ‘dinosaur’ it’s true that, in Darwinian terms, both the HSV GTS and FPV GT R-Spec are at the end of the evolutionary road. The genetic code is on the wall.

HSV GTS vs FPV GT R-Spec rearFord has already announced it has put a stake through FPV’s heart and will stop building cars locally from 2016, and it’s almost certain that this current Commodore platform (the Zeta architecture born here in 2006 as VE) will be the last engineered here. Meanwhile, the meteorite of consumer apathy is screaming towards us through space.

So she’s a done deal then? Well, yes, but let’s not get ahead of the plot here. It hasn’t happened yet and, if the current generation of heavy-hitting Aussie muscle cars are anything to go by, we’ll all miss the big lugs when they’re gone. See, they might be nearing their use-by date, but the latest offerings from both Ford (via FPV) and Holden (courtesy of HSV) are without a shadow of a doubt the best, most specialised versions of Rapidus Australis we’ve ever seen.

HSV GTS vs FPV GT R-Spec stillEver since FPV killed and ate Tickford and the Walkinshaw Commodore crawled out of the swamp, things have been on the up. Engineers from both camps have done their best over the years and it’s culminated in these two cars, the fastest, most powerful local Henry ever and its opposite number, the fastest, most powerful HSV.

Both have evolved in similar ways to arrive at this final specification, too. Both use V8 engines, a mighty 6.2-litre pushrod unit in the HSV; a smaller, 5.0-litre V8 for the FPV which makes up for its cee-cee deficit thanks to DOHC heads.

Crucially, though, both engines use forced induction in the form of a twin-screw supercharger sitting up high and mighty on top of the engine and blowing nothing but sunshine.

FPV gt r-spec burnoutIt doesn’t seem that long ago that the locally-developed supercharged ‘Miami’ V8 made a huge splash in the market. And fair enough, too: here was an engine that was so powerful, FPV would only admit to 335kW at the flywheel of the thing. But trust me, it was more than that as some sneaky dyno runs on my part soon proved. How much was it really making? Dunno, but 335 must have looked better to insurance companies.

But the new HSV GTS simply blows that number into a cocked injector hat. With 430kW, the LSA V8 is the new king of the kids and even if the official number sells the Ford V8 short, it still can’t march up the front with the GTS’s monster mill.

HSV GTS engineAnd when it comes to torque figures, the story is even more one sided. The 570Nm that seemed so monumental not so long ago now looks puny next to the 740Nm dished out by the HSV, the car that puts the ‘mental’ into monumental.

This time around, both cars were autos, which kind of makes sense in the context of what people are actually buying. They’re both six-speeders and both have been hailed as good things in the past. In fact, we were knocked out by the ZF in the FPV when teamed with the blown V8, but the unit fitted to the HSV now seems at least as good and maybe even a bit slicker shifting.

HSV GTS burnoutBut the auto trans does impose one fairly glaring compromise in the HSV’s make-up: no launch control. Yep, for reasons known only to high-ranking engineers, the manual GTS gets launch control while the self-shifter does not. This, of course, matters most on a drag-strip, but it’s a fair bet a reasonable percentage of owners will want to try 400m of hotmix for themselves and really see what the fuss is all about.

Of course, even without launch control, the GTS is still a genuine mid-12-second car. But the margin between it and the FPV is much smaller than you might imagine, as our best time at Heathcote of 12.75 seconds at 182.46km/h proves.

Things get tough for the FPV from there, though. Under brakes, the HSV has it on toast for feel and actual retardation, and mid-corner speed is an easy win to Team Red. Even at moderate speeds on a racetrack you can easily feel the differences between the two.

HSV GTS wheel caliperThe GTS will always be at the mercy of its rear grip to some degree, but it actually has more power-down than you might imagine. A lot more, and it’s quite surprising how early you can climb back into the throttle without the big guy just wagging its tail and turning its rear hoops into atoms.

In contrast, the FPV requires a more deft touch, not because there’s more grunt (quite the opposite) but simply because there’s less grip. Even with revised suspension control blades that enable the FPV to use a wider rear-wheel/tyre combo, there’s still every opportunity to haze ’em if you get too liberal.

There’s also more body roll in the FPV and an overall set-up that requires you to wait and perform each function in turn rather than overlapping the steering, throttle and braking inputs like you can with the GTS.

FPV GT R-Spec engineTruly, the move to the blown V8 for FPV’s gear brought it as close as it’s ever been to HSV’s hot shots. But the Gen-F stuff from the General has moved the game forward in a pretty major way. Major enough for even the R-Spec to feel like it’s ready to be pensioned off. The HSV might be one full generation newer than the FPV, but it honestly feels like a generation and a half. Maybe even two.

Of course, the FPV would still be one helluva long distance car (as has every V8 Falcon ever made, but particularly from BA onwards) but it simply hasn’t the side-step to cut it as a track day car. Not if there’s a GTS in attendance, anyway.

So it was no real surprise to find that the GTS absolutely thumped the R-Spec ’round the tight little Broadford complex in central Victoria. In the fresh-from-the-Bathurst-podium hands of W. Luff Esq., the GTS was coaxed around Broadford in 1:05.6, handing the FPV its ass on a platter with a 1:08.8.

HSV GTS vs FPV GT R-Spec frontNow, three-and-a-bit seconds mightn’t sound like too much, and it isn’t if you’re boiling eggs, but if you’re talking about a small circuit like Broady, then it’s the whole goose that’s just been cooked.

But like I said, even on the road, the GTS has the game shot to bits. There’s a degree of balance and poise that just hasn’t been seen in Holden-based big cars for many years (maybe even ever) and the chuckability of the thing belies its mass and size and completely deals with that brutal engine. This is no mean feat, which is probably why it’s taken two-and-a-half decades of HSVs to pull it off.

It ain’t, of course, all skittles. Why, for instance, in 2013 when even humble hatchbacks have them, do neither HSV nor FPV get a set of shift paddles? Okay, so either gearbox is probably best left to its own rather clever devices for the most part, but there comes a time when the road gets all twisty and you reach for a paddle to prod. Tough luck in this company, pal.

HSV GTS interiorThe HSV does, meanwhile, have selectable driver modes starting with Touring, which softens the MRC dampers and tames the steering response a little. Up the ante to Sport or Track and everything gets sharper, including the ride.

But to be honest, I didn’t find a single setting that gave me the sort of steering feedback I was after. And that’s odd, because a Clubsport I drove a few weeks back had really nice steering, yet the GTS can’t seem to replicate this.

Either way, though, the HSV is a sharper tool than the FPV which still feels it has some kind of filter between the front wheels and the tiller. It’s not bad in isolation, but back to back with the HSV, the R-Spec seems a little more deadpan. The seating position surely doesn’t help and, while we’ve given Ford (and FPV) all kinds of stick over the years for the Falcon’s appalling seat-pedal-wheel relationship, nothing’s been done about it.

So it still feels like you’re sitting on the FPV rather than in it and the steering wheel is still in your lap. And I won’t even mention the fact that you need to insert the ignition key with your right hand and hit the stupid starter button with your left. Oh, oops.

FPV GT R-Spec interiorThe rest of the interior is showing its age, too. Minor gauges are too small and fiddly to read on the fly and it just looks a bit, well, plain. The contrast is the GTS which is definitely higher-grade to look at, but also a bit all over the shop when it comes to gadget placement and materials. The multi-texture door trims are one thing, and while the lesser dials might be bigger and more legible, they’re way down in the centre console out of your eyeline.

Live with it, we say, because if the supercharged GTS isn’t the best thing to roll out of a local car factory, we can’t think of what is. Except, you won’t be able to live with it much longer, because that damn meteor is that little bit closer to Earth now than it was when you started reading this.

HSV GTS vs FPV GT R-Spec drivingSee, even the brilliance of the HSV GTS won’t withstand the coming consumer and GM investment ice age. Which is as big a shame as I can recall in this business. And the FPV? Mate, next to the GTS, it’s already a fossil.

        4.5/5       3.5/5
        HSV GTS       FPV GT R-spec
Body       4-door, 5-seat sedan       4-door, 5-seat sedan
Drive       rear-wheel       rear-wheel
Engine       6162cc V8, OHV, 16v,
      4951cc V8, DOHC, 32v,
Bore/Stroke       103.25 x 92.0mm       92.2 x 92.7mm 
Compression       9.1:1       9.25:1
Power       430kW @ 6150rpm       335kW @ 5750rpm
Torque        740Nm @ 3850rpm       570Nm @ 2200-5500rpm
Power-to-Weight        229kW/tonne       180kW/tonne
0-100km/h        4.55sec (tested)       4.67sec (tested)
Top Speed        250km/h (limited)       250km/h (limited)
Consumption        15.7L/100km (claimed)       13.7L/100km (claimed)
Emissions       369g/km CO2 (claimed)       325g/km CO2 (claimed)
Transmission        6-speed automatic       6-speed automatic
Weight        1893kg      


Suspension        A-arms, magnetic dampers,
anti-roll bar (f); multi links, coil springs,
magnetic dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
      Double A-arms, coil springs,
anti-roll bar (f); multi-links,
coil springs, anti-roll bar(r)
L/W/H        4988/1899/1457mm       4970/1868/1453mm
Wheelbase        2915mm       2838mm 
Tracks        1616/1590mm (f/r)       1583/1598mm (f/r)
Steering       electrically-assisted rack and pinion       hydraulically-assisted rack and pinion
Brakes       390mm ventilated/grooved discs,
6-piston calipers (f);
372mm ventilated/grooved discs,
4-piston calipers (r)
      355mm ventilated/drilled discs,
6-piston calipers (f);
330 mm ventilated/drilled discs,
4piston calipers (r)
Wheels       20 x 8.5-inch (f), 20 x 9.5-inch       19 x 8-inch (f); 19 x 9.5-inch (r)
Tyres       255/35R20 (f), 275/3520 (r)
Continental ContiSportContact 5P
      245/35 ZR19 (f); 275/30 ZR19 (r) Dunlop Sport Maxx
Price        $97,480 (as tested)       $76,990
Positives       The best HSV ever: power,
power and more power,
torque, torque and more torque,
Magnetic Ride
      Sophisticated DOHC engine,
the fastest Oz Ford ever,
has launch control with auto ’box
Negatives        Lacks steering feedback,
no launch control, no
paddle shifters, gauges
all over the shop
      Appalling seating position (still);
loses out to GTS in braking and
engine performance



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