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Holden Commodore VEII vs Ford Falcon 2010

The landscape of the battlefield has changed but the combatants have not changed much. The long-running Holden versus Ford battle continues with the Commodore and the Falcon leading the fight, but both companies have had to make wholesale strategic changes in the face of changing market demands.

The former remains the country's top-selling passenger car - a title it is likely to retain this year for the 15th time at the end of 2010 - while the latter has struggled in the face of stronger competition from the small car and SUV ranks.


Both cars represent plenty of metal for the money - circa $40,000 - and neither have been selling at the recommended retail price for some time. The features lists on both the VEII Omega and the FG XT have big six-cylinder engines teamed with six-speed automatics, 16in alloy wheels, multi-function trip computers, trip computers, cloth trim, cruise control with steering wheel mounted controls for that, the audio and Bluetooth phone systems.

The Falcon makes do with single-zone climate control while the updated Omega has dual-zone climate control, both with rear vents. Both cars have electrical adjustment on the driver's seat with manual slide and automatic headlights.

Neither car has rain-sensing wipers but the Ford gets a splitfold rear seat, something Holden still can't do - the Omega has a hatch through to the boot.


Holden's main claim to fame for VEII is the E85 capable three-litre V6, which uses a little more of the ethanol-blend fuel than it does when running normal unleaded. Holden says there's no outright increase in power and torque when running on E85, but rather the increased outputs work through the mid-range with a cleaner, smoother burn. The revised touchscreen system is an improvement over the outgoing VE's layout and is standard range-wide, although with satnav only standard on top-end models. It ties together the Bluetooth and other infotainment functions and is displayed higher - although not quite as high as the Falcon - and closer to the driver's eye-line.

Ford's drivetrain upgrades earlier this year brought it into line with Euro IV emissions standards, as well as improving fuel economy. The ZF six-speed automatic (replacing the outgoing five-speed auto in the XT base-model) teams with a number of hardware, software and calibration changes to drop fuel consumption to 9.9 litres per 100km, an improvement of 5.7 per cent, with a corresponding drop in emissions.


Both cars are evolutions of long-running body shapes, the VE being the more recently and majorly overhauled in 2006 while the FG's body shape harks back to the BA.

The Holden has undergone revolutionary changes to its exterior - new front fascias and changes to the bodywork below the front bumper, as well as the underbody panels to improve the aerodynamics - Holden boss Mike Devereux says the design team were following an "ain't broke, don't fix" design brief.

The subtle front-end changes give the Omega a deeper-chinned slightly more aggressive look. The Ford is still a handsome machine but neither is on the cutting edge of styling.


The Holden and Ford products both have stability and traction control as standard, with anti-lock brakes that have brakeforce distribution.

The Omega has dual front, side and curtain airbags are standard, whereas the XT needs an option box ticked to get the side-thorax and curtain airbags for $300, making do with dual front and side head/thorax airbags as standard.


Back behind the wheel of the FG XT the first thing that becomes apparent is the high-set seating position for the driver. For anyone average height and above, the seat could be lower-set, with the steering wheel needing to start a little higher. The FG's mirrors are on the small side but reasonable vision can be achieved.

Pairing a phone to the Ford's infotainment system is simple and there's an iPod connection to integrate the phone and allow the music player to be controlled from the helm.

On the winding country roads of the Adelaide hills, the Falcon - even in its mainstream chassis set-up - feels well-planted on the road. The Goodyear rubber gets a little rumbly on the coarse road surface but at cruising speeds the XT is quiet.

In the corners the steering has good meat to it and despite not being the sports model it handles bends (includnig those with mid-corner bumps) with aplomb and without excessive body-roll. The four-litre in-line six-cylinder might well have been around since the invention of the wheel but it still does the job, displaying 11.1 litres per 100km on the winding, hilly country drive loop.

A strong mid-range is where this engine is at its best and the six-speed auto - more intuitive than its immediate opponent - works particularly well with this big six engine, which best left in the bottom half of the rev range as it feels a little strained at full noise.

Complaints are few - the XT's plastic steering wheel feels a little cheap (a complaint in VEII as well), the driver's seat is reasonably comfortable but needs to be better-cushioned and more in rather than on.

Switching to the driver's seat of the VE II Omega, it is apparent the Bridgestone rubber is a little less noisy on the same coarse chip bitumen. The mirrors are actually a little smaller than the Falcon's which means rear vision could be better on both cars, but the driving position and seat comfort .

The VE II is similarly impressive over the same twisty loop, with lighter steering that feels a little less meaty than the Falcon. Neither car drives like machines that tip the scales at more than 1.7 tonnes - Holden is yet to release a weight figure for VEII - but both cars are light on their feet.

The centre stack with the iQ touchscreen system - with the dual zone climate control below it - has a cleaner look than VE I, with fewer trim joins. Holden said it was aiming to improve the connectivity of the car to smart-phones and other devices and it has - the Bluetooth link to phones and audio devices is simple to use and the only drawback will be some devices can't be operated using the steering wheel controls.

The three-litre V6 is running on an ethanol-blend and it's a little smoother - the sweeter fuel has not roughed the V6 up. It still feels a little underdone through the mid-range compareed to the Ford and the trip computer ended the same loop showing 13.7 litres per 100km, which corresponds to Holden expectations of increased fuel use on E85.

The Holden's six speed auto is better than earlier versions but the Ford transmission is still a little smarter. The Commodore's steering wheel controls are simpler in relation to the centre display between the speedometer and the tacho, which is easier to navigate and use than the Falcon's, if not quite as comprehensive in terms of information.


Commodore Omega: 76/100
Falcon XT: 70/100


Price: from $39,990
Engine: three-litre 24-valve DOHC direct-injection V6
Transmission: six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power: 190kW @ 6700rpm
Torque: 290Nm @ 2900rpm
Fuel consumption: 9.1 litres/100km, tank 71litres
Emissions: 216g/km
Suspension: direct-acting stabiliser bar, coil spring (front); multi-Link independent, coil spring, stabiliser bar
Brakes: four-wheel ventilated discs, twin piston alloy front and single piston alloy rear calliper
Dimensions: length 4894mm, width 1899mm, height 1476mm
Wheelbase: 2915mm, track fr/rr 1602/1618mm
Cargo volume: 496 litres
Weight: 1690kg
Wheels: 16in alloys.


Price: from $40,290
Engine: four-litre 24-valve naturally-aspirated six-cylinder
Transmission: six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power: 195kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 391Nm @ 3250rpm
Fuel consumption: 9.9 litres/100km, tank 68 litres
Emissions: 236g/km
Brakes: four-wheel discs, front ventilated, with anti-lock, stability and traction control systems
Dimensions: length 4955mm, width 1868mm, height 1453mm
Wheelbase: 2838mm, track fr/rr 1583/1598mm
Cargo volume: 535 litres
Weight: 1704kg
Wheels: 16in alloys.

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Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist