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Road Test: HSV GTS vs. FPV GT-P

Review by Feann Torr - 3/September/2008

HSV GTS vs FPV GT-P reviewIn another life, the GTS and GT-P could have been best mates.

The range-topping Holden Special Vehicles and Ford Performance Vehicles models have a similar background: both trained to be top form athletes, both have 8-cylinder engines, 6-speed gearboxes and rear-wheel drive layouts.

Most of all they've got similar attitudes and are highly adept at the forbidden art of the doughnut, but what makes these duels most interesting is the history.

There's a long running family rivalry that stretches back decades, and has been immortalised by the likes of Brocky, Moffat, Skaife and Lowndes, screaming down Mount Panorama's conrod straight.

It was started by their Ford and Holden ancestors more than half a century ago... And this rivalry has never been so intense.

A handful of months before Ford Performance Vehicles released the details for its second generation FG Series in 2008, Holden Special Vehicles revealed that its new models would output 317kW of power; HSV's spies knowing full well that FPV had tuned its V8s to belt out 315kW. 

Guess who gets bragging rights for the next 12 months? Not FPV...

While the fans from both sides of this decades-old war will claim victory for myriad reasons, we're impartial judges, and our aim is to find out which car is faster, which one is more rewarding to drive, and ultimately which car is the best. Let the trials begin...

Make: Holden Special Vehicles (HSV)
Model: GTS
Price: $78,170
Transmission: 6-speed (automatic or manual)
Engine: 6.2-litre, Vee 8-cylinder, petrol
Seats: 5
Safety: 6 airbags (driver and front passenger front + side, plus curtain airbags) ABS, ESP, T/C
Car SupplierHolden Special Vehicles

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Engine 
Exterior 
Interior 

Make: Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV)
Model: GT-P
Price: $77,190
Transmission: 6-speed (automatic or manual)
Engine: 5.4-litre, Vee 8-cylinder, petrol
Seats: 5
Safety: 6 airbags (driver and front passenger front + side), ABS, DSC, T/C
Car Supplier: Ford Performance Vehicles

Drive: HSV4.25/5 FPV4/5

HSV GTS vs FPV GT-P review

Holden Special Vehicles GTS vs Ford Performance
Vehicles GT-P : Australia's pre-eminent muscle cars

HSV GTS vs FPV GT-P review

The HSV GTS packs 6.2-litres of in-your-face muscle,
and thanks to Magnetic Ride Control it handles well

HSV GTS vs FPV GT-P review

FPV's GT-P doesn't have the advanced chassis of
the HSV, yet often felt more balanced at the limit

HSV GTS vs FPV GT-P review

HSV GTS vs FPV GT-P review

The big guns of the Australian motoring landscape
make their way cross country like asphalt assassins

HSV GTS vs FPV GT-P review

The HSV GTS relies on brute force to go fast

HSV GTS vs FPV GT-P review

Both cars get performance body kits, and in the
straight line drag the HSV wins - but only just

HSV GTS vs FPV GT-P review

HSV GTS vs FPV GT-P review

HSV GTS vs FPV GT-P review

The HSV GTS has bigger lungs and likes to run,
but the FPV isn't far behind (and sounds better)

Let's face it, HSV and FPV have made their reputations on their high performance powerplants, so the most important criteria when conducting a comparo between two of Australia's most powerful performance sedans is straight line speed. 

But which car can claim traffic light bragging rights?

The HSV GTS is slightly quicker in the sprints, and ends up almost half a car length in front to an indicated 100km/h from standstill.

HSV claims the zero to 100km/h dash takes less than 5.0 seconds, but in reality its more like 5.7 seconds. FPV doesn't supply any figures, but around 5.8 seconds is where it ends up.

Ford Performance Vehicle's GT-P is the newer of the two rivals so you'd reckon it should be faster. It nips at the HSV's heels, but isn't quite as forceful. When you consider the HSV has almost a full litre of engine displacement over the Ford, it puts things into perspective somewhat.

Both cars weigh around 1.8 tonne, and the FPV is equipped with a 5.4-litre donk and the HSV gets a 6.2-litre mill. At the end of the day size does matter.

First stop: HSV - 15.5L/100km | FPV - 16.5L/100km
On our way to the hills, the FPV appears to be less efficient.

Okay, straight line performance is one thing, but the real test of a performance car is the way it reacts round corners. 

Cut to the chase, and the HSV is again slightly faster through corners, but it isn't quite as rewarding to drive.

Both cars track adroitly through corners at speed, but the FPV GT-P is a touch smoother and the front-end feels a bit keener when push comes to shove. It's also less affected by uneven road surfaces.

If you're a racetrack regular however, then the HSV would probably be the weapon of choice, and it's MRC (magnetic ride control) system that allows you to harden up the ride and reduce body roll at the press of a button is an incredibly useful tool.

Still, there are things about the HSV GTS that make it less desirable to drive than the FPV GT-P. 

Take the steering for instance. The HSV has decent feedback and the power steering system is fairly precise too which allows you to guide the car through corners cleanly and accurately, but when you jump into the FPV you realise that there's a more progressive and more involving drive on offer.

That said, the FPV did suffer from the same steering rack rattle that affects the new BF range, but only through bends with really rough patches of asphalt.

HSV's GTS feels tied to the road and has plenty of rear end grip, but the vehicle's most impressive aspect it the way it accelerates. 

When the tachometer needle dances above 4000rpm, the GTS is like a missile, pinning you into your seat with calculated vehemence, while the deafening engine roar in the cabin only adds to the sensation.

Not half as loud from the drivers seat, the FPV nevertheless has a sonorous engine note, and though it doesn't accelerate quite as vociferously, it's still a very angry street machine with plenty of menace. 

While the HSV is more powerful and feels well planted through corners and changes direction with less body roll, the FPV felt like it had a stronger mid-range and also took less effort to drive at a similar level.

The FPV feels like a slightly quicker vehicle point-to-point mainly because of its less abrasive power delivery and as such you won't burn as many kilojoules cranking up the wick on this one.

HSV's chassis engineers have done a good job with the suspension, because the front end tucks in nicely (when using the track mode MRC) despite the huge weight of the LS3 hanging over the front axle. 

But while the HSV is decisive, the FPV is intuitive. It's nose feels a tad lighter and it also exhibits similarly impressive turn-in characteristics, even without MRC magic. The FPV does have a touch more body roll however.

Second stop: HSV - 17.9L/100km FPV - 19.2L/100km
Early into the performance testing and the smaller FPV engine is drinking yet more fuel.

The FPV GT-P comes across as the smoother vehicle overall, and more refined. It has a more sophisticated feel to the way it drives - both at the limit and when cruising. 

There's also quite a bit of difference in the seating positions which makes a bit of difference to how you pilot these muscle cars. In the HSV you feel as though you sit on top of it, while the FPV has a higher window line and you feel as though you sit in it instead of on it.

Personally I preferred the FPV's seating position, but this will come down to taste and shorter people will probably gravitate towards the HSV.

Overall I think the Ford Performance Vehicles GT-P is a more involving drive, despite the lack of a dual stage dampers. The steering has a bit more weight, a bit more feedback, and is slightly more direct.

Third stop: HSV - 20.2L/100km FPV - 20.5L/100km
After several hours of full throttle driving, the difference is less apparent.

The FPV's rear suspension is better too, particularly under part throttles mid-corner. It's rear end is more talkative and you can feel what it's doing and even what it wants to do when you're setting a cracking pace, whereas the GTS is slightly harder to read.

When it comes to blasting out of corners under full throttle however, the FPV has grip issues. Or rather it doesn't have enough of it! Sitting on big 19-inch alloy wheels, the FPV comes standard with 245/35 aspect ratio tyres front and rear, which is not quite enough tyre width to contain the 551 Newton metres of torque slamming their way along the prop-shaft.

The HSV meanwhile 20-inch alloy wheels shod with 245/35 front and 275/30 rear tyres, which gives the rear end more traction when charging out of corners.

However, the story  rear-end grip doesn't end there... Not yet. The final part of the story comes down to stability control, and in this respect the FPV takes the honours. 

Though the FPV GT-P's traction control kicks in more often when you're going at it hammer and tong, the software is more advanced and this means it's more subtle when it does kick in, and half the time you can't even tell it's working, even under full throttle. 

Some of our performance testing took place during wet weather, so the stability control systems became a vital part of the test, and the HSV didn't score as highly in this respect. 

Even though the GTS's traction nannies don't fire as frequently because it has more rear wheel grip, you are made well aware when they do and the traction control intervenes with less subtlety, hampering your rhythm when you're really pushing it.

Of course there is the option to switch off stability control, and at this point it's a much closer race. Both cars can be steered with the throttle, but again the FPV has a bit more balance, a bit more poise at full tilt.

Fourth stop: HSV - 19.2L/100km FPV - 19.1L/100km
We've slowed the tempo slightly after lunch (full belly syndrome), and for the first time in the test the FPV is averaging lower fuel consumption.

The story so far? Straight line speed goes to the HSV, overall cornering goes to the HSV, but driver involvement and satisfaction go to the FPV.

Brakes? HSV again, but only by a hair. Our GTS test car had a bit more initial bite with its AP Racing brakes, and though the Ford model gets high quality Brembo calipers, it has smaller discs.

The HSV GTS is fitted with visually appealing vented and slotted 365mm front and 350mm rear discs, while the FPV GT-P gets vented 355mm fronts and 330mm rear discs.

Both brakes have a so-so feel, mainly because they're large cars carrying a lot of bulk, but in terms of stopping power they both decelerate relatively rapidly and do instill confidence.

Ford Performance Vehicle's GT-P is a better cruiser because finding its torque peak doesn't require as much courage. 

While the HSV has a larger lung capacity, you have to work it harder to get the power out of it; strangely the larger engine is the revvier of the two. Go figure...

Final stop: HSV - 18.7L/100km FPV - 18.4L/100km
It started well for the HSV, but the FPV walked away with the economy trophy.

On paper the HSV GTS bests the FPV GT-P in most respects, but on the road it is a much tighter ball game, and during our test neither car left the other in its wake.

While HSV is slightly quicker and feels hunkered down when cornering, the FPV takes less effort to drive at a similar level. It feels like a slightly quicker vehicle point-to-point mainly because of its smoother power delivery and though there is more body roll in the FPV the weight transition as it changes direction is more progressive.

It really is a tough call between these two cars as to which one is a better drive. Ultimately I think it comes down to your definition of 'better'. If better means fastest and loudest, then it's the HSV. But if you're idea of better means a progressive and satisfying drive, then you'll want to test drive the FPV first.

Indeed, version 2.0 of the FPV GT-P is hard to fault, making significant and numerous improvements over the model it replaces, and in many ways it's a better car to drive than the HSV. But in terms of pure performance, the HSV GTS is still king of the hill. But only just...

Engine: HSV4/5 FPV4/5

Fuel prices may never fall to the levels we we were accustomed to in the past, but that doesn't stop these V8 beasts from being any less enjoyable. Just more expensive to run...

Socially acceptable they may not always be, but there is something primordially satisfying opening the throttle from 60km/h.

Roll on acceleration in both these 8-cylinder brutes is sensational and makes overtaking a form of stress relief, able to rocket past slow moving vehicles in seconds.

Though the HSV has a few more herbs, there's very little between then in terms of real-world performance, but there is a lot of difference in how they feel and how they sound. 

HSV's Generation IV engine is a 6.2-litre V8 that adheres to the old school ethos of more cubes = more power. It's got rudimentary engine technology, using push rods with just 2-valves per cylinder, but it's such a large block that it doesn't really matter, and at full tilt shifts the GTS's weight with ease.

The FPV's Boss 315 engine has a much smaller capacity, just 5.4-litres, but because it uses contemporary components (except for the cast iron block...) such as quad overhead camshafts instead of push rods, and 4-valves per cylinder instead of 2, it can generate just as much poke from smaller pistons.

The HSV's 6.2-litre engine has effortless torque right across the rev range, as does the FPV's engine, but the latter has a more accessible midrange punch that helps it slingshot out of corners with less effort.

You really have to rev the HSV to get the same kind of propulsion out of corners, and it's not until the engine speed reaches 4000rpm that the HSV begins to pull away from the FPV.

We did some inside-outside sound tests and the results were surprising.

The FPV sounds like a toned-down V8 Supercar from the cabin, quite smooth and slightly electronic and fairly resonant when the revs rise, while the HSV is just plain loud and lumpy right from early in the rev range.

Yet from outside the difference was almost completely the opposite. On approach you can hear the deep rumble of the HSV's engine with a fair bit of induction roar, but as it passes you the exhaust note is flat and overly silenced.

The FPV meanwhile makes the most of its SAM system, or semi-active muffler. This system uses pressure to compel a valve to open in the rear muffler when the revs pass a certain point, which then changes the exhaust note.

It's not as loud as the HSV upon approach, but as it passes you the exhaust note is almost twice as loud, with a powerfully sonorous exhaust note as it passes you under full throttle. It sounds very aggressive, and barks angrily between gear changes, particularly 1st and 2nd. 

With an after market pair of headers, the FPV would sound mightily impressive, and a new set of freer flowing silencers would do the HSV a world of good, giving voice to its hard charging LS3 engine.

While neither of these cars is particularly fuel efficient, 

In terms of fuel efficiency, neither of these cars is frugal. In fact their pretty costly to run, but such purchases are usually made with the heart, not the head. 

When cruising on the freeway at 100km/h in 6th gear, both engines tick over @ 1600rpm, which can result in half decent mileage on long hauls. It's when you start attacking corners and whacking the loud pedal repeatedly that things get expensive.

If you're a true-blue Aussie patriot, you can't go past the FPV though. It's 5.4-litre 'Boss 315' V8 is made in Australia, and the HSV's LS3 is imported from North America.

Engine: GM Holden LS3 6.2-litre V8

Engine: Ford Boss 315 5.4-litre V8

The longitudinally mounted 6.2-litre (6162cc) V8 engine has an aluminium alloy cylinder head and engine block. The valve-train includes 2-valves per cylinder (one inlet, one exhaust) actuated by gear-driven push rods (OHV). 

The engine prefers 98 RON high octane petroleum fuel, and the HSV GTS has a 73 litre fuel tank capacity.

Fuel consumption: 14.3L/100km
CO2 Emissions: N/I

Max Power: 317kW @ 6000rpm
Max Torque: 550Nm @ 4600rpm
Max Speed: 280km/h (approx.)
0-100km/h: 5.7 seconds

The longitudinally mounted 8-cylinder engine has a 5.4-litre (5408cc) capacity, with aluminium alloy cylinder heads and cast-iron engine block. Chain-driven quad overhead cams (DOHC) actuate a total of 32-valves (4-valves per cylinder). 

The engine will accept 95 RON unleaded petrol (but prefers high octane 98) when filling the 68 litre fuel tank.

Fuel consumption: 14.0L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 334g/km

Max Power: 315kW @ 6500rpm
Max Torque: 551Nm @ 4750rpm
Max Speed: 280km/h (approx.)
0-100km/h: 5.8 seconds

Exterior: HSV4.25/5 FPV4/5

HSV GTS vs FPV GT-P review

HSV GTS vs FPV GT-P review

The orange GT-P attracted the most attention
at first, but overall the HSV was more appealing

HSV GTS vs FPV GT-P review

The FPV GT-P has a high quality feel to the
interior, with all the mod cons you could want

HSV GTS vs FPV GT-P review

The HSV GTS has a bit more of the bling effect,
but overall its not as well crafted as the GT-P

There's a man on the street. He's looking intently at the HSV GTS but doesn't have a moment for the FPV GT-P. At the time I was curious about this bloke, because I thought the new FPV was miles ahead of the HSV in terms of exterior design.

It's the newer car after all, it has black appliques on the front apron, it has a power bulge on the bonnet, and the HSV GTS hasn't really changed since it came in 2006.

But at the end of the test, I think my curiosity for this random bloke on the street, besotted with the sight of the GTS's hexagonal 20-inch rims, LED brake lights and pumped wheel arches, was nothing more than a misplaced assumption.

The FPV GT-P is not ugly, it's no bag of smashed crabs, but overall I think the HSV does indeed have a more appealing aesthetic. It's got a lot of machismo, while the FPV is more smooth style and substance.

It's actually quite impressive how the visual styles of these cars mimic how they drive: the HSV is big and bold, and attacks corners like jackhammer, while the FPV is more progressive and perhaps even a bit snobbish.

But hey, that's just my take.

I really do like what FPV has done with the new FG Series, and the decals on our orange test car were especially attention-grabbing, but overall I think the HSV does a better job of communicating its performance credentials.

Both models have dangerously body kits that do have a tendency to scrape on the driveway, and these are comprised of unique front and rear aprons, stylised side skirts, rear wings and also bespoke exhaust pipes.

The FPV sits on 19-inch alloy wheels which suit the car well, but it's the HSV's dynamic 20-inch hoops that really catch the eye and set off the car's aggressive style.

Interior: HSV3.5/5 FPV4/5

There is no ambiguity, no blurring of the lines when it comes to interior fitouts. The FPV is the clear winner in this category.

Simply put, it's the car that everyone wanted to sit in and drive at the end of the test.

You feel like you're driving a higher quality car; the way everything feels and the way things move, from the electric windows to the electric seats, the indicator stalk and even the hand brake, everything feels a bit more refined.

The HSV GTS is by no means a sloppy mode of high octane transport, with all the sports and comfort features you could want - it's just that the GT-P does it better.

If there's one criticism to be levelled at the FPV, it's that the cabin feels a little tighter than its rival and not quite as airy. Though there's plenty of room for larger drivers, the steering wheel feels a bit lower and doesn't extend as high as the HSV's.

There are a couple of other areas where the HSV comes up trumps, such as the performance pods (battery charge, oil pressure etc) that are mounted on top of the dashpad that add a keen performance to the cabin. The FPV's 'sports' instruments are located within the main instrument cluster.

The HSV GTS's horn is also a lot louder, and it has better steering wheel controls that feature intuitive scrolling wheels and buttons. The FPV has only buttons, and takes long to cycle through menu options and radio stations etc.

But overall the FPV GT-P is a comfier and more impressive vehicle to spend time in. 

You don't get the perched-up feeling that the HSV sometimes conveys and the FPV's in-car systems are streets ahead of its rivals, starting with things like the reversing camera - which comes in very handy thanks to the large rear wing - and the intuitive menu system.

Granted, both models feature high resolution colour LCD screen integrated into the centre consoles, with secondary information screens tucked away in the instrument clusters, but the fact of the matter is that FPV's equipment is newer and better.

The FPV has better trim levels, slightly better ergonomics overall, better placement of controls, and it also has the superior stereo system.

Seats? The FPV GT-P wins again. While both cars could do with more lateral bolstering, (or a pair of Recaros) especially considering how much lateral G-forces they can generate, the FPV GT-P's seats are more snug than the HSV, and a bit deeper too.

The FPV's seats and door trimmings look pretty spiffy with exposed stitching and while the HSV features coloured coded interiors, which may look cooler in some instances, it doesn't have the quality feel of the FPV model.

Both cars have huge amounts of interior space, enough to transport five people and their luggage in comfort, and with safety systems like stability control, six airbags and the biggest brakes

Overall: HSV4.25/5 FPV4/5


 

This was one of the closest comparos we've ever conducted at the Motoring Channel. It was a very close call, but at the end of the day the HSV GTS nosed ahead.

Though the Ford Performance Vehicles GT-P is newer and in a lot of ways more satisfying to drive, the HSV has the edge in terms of outright performance. And ultimately, that's what we're judging these cars on.

If you couldn't get on the waiting list for the W427, don't fret because the GTS is almost as good, minus a few ponies.

The MRC system is one of the keys to the Holden Special Vehicles GTS's success. Being able to switch between 'normal' and 'track' modes at the touch of a button is a huge boon for the HSV, giving it a smooth ride for cruising, and also a much stiffer, more responsive feel when you want to blast away the cobwebs.

What we have learned from this comparo is that Ford's Boss V8 still has a lot of life left in it, and can compete closely with HSV's Corvette-sourced LS3 engine, which is incredibly impressive.

This clash of the titans showed that both cars are at the top of their game, and for what you pay you get a lot of performance equipment. 

At the end of the day, neither the FPV nor HSV muscle car will disappoint.

Pros:

Cons:

HSV GTS
  • Magnetic Ride Control (MRC)
  • Exterior Design
  • Brutal V8 Power
HSV GTS
  • Fuel Economy
  • Light Steering
  • Seating Position
FPV GT-P
  • Progressive Performance
  • Upmarket Interior
  • Involving Handling
FPV GT-P
  • Slight Body Roll
  • Fuel Economy
  • Steering Rack Rattle

Comments on the review? The Car? Your Car? Email us.

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