The Road Ahead : August September 2008
speed automatic. The low-revving attributes and extra cog enable it to lope along at the legal highway speed (100 km/h) at 1600 rpm in top gear, compared with 2100 rpm for the Honda and 1750 rpm for the Holden. This, of course, helps return the impressive cruising fuel economy. Interestingly, the Accord will cruise in ‘Eco’ mode through its automated variable cylinder management system at 100 km/h, provided cruise control is set or steady throttle maintained. The G6E’s ZF auto shifts smoothly, kicking down promptly on demand. Engine response and torque spread are impressive, and there is a surge of power at 4000 rpm when needed. Not as ‘torquey’ as the Ford, the Accord’s V6 struts its stuff more towards the top end, where it fi nds something in reserve from about 5000 rpm. An already rewarding drive is enhanced by use of the Formula One style ‘paddle’ gearshift on the steering wheel and electronic sport mode setting. As with the Honda, the Calais also has a fi ve-speed auto, but it is not as smooth. While cohesive on the up change at full throttle, it is not so convincing on down changes and part throttle. All three cars impressed in having a Capable Calais pips its rivals on price. with the occupants, being as easy to understand and use as it is on the eye. The Calais could be better. While the main display unit is thoughtfully placed in the centre of dash, the controls are not so well laid out. Another negative aspect of its ergonomics was the bulky A-roof pillar, which obscures vision. Honda has established a reputation for build quality and the new Accord upholds this standard. It has the classiest interior of the three, is embellished with good paintwork and exhibits very minor body panel variation. If the G6E is anything to go by, the new FG Falcon demonstrates considerable improvement on the previous BA/BF ranges. But, while impressive, its paint gloss could be better, with some ‘orange peel’ evident. However, the G6E presents a more inviting interior than the Calais, which appears not much different to a base model Commodore. Holden may be playing its conservative card here, but the whole thing smacks of cost containment. While some minor variations were evident, the Calais’ body gap margins were less noticeable than the Ford’s. On the road The Ford was the quickest in all six of our acceleration tests, with the Holden getting the better of the Accord, except for the 0-100 km/h and 60-100 km/h tests. While the Accord can claim the best power-to-weight ratio, the G6E wins the torque-to-weight battle convincingly. The Calais lags in both departments. Essentially, the Falcon proved the best everyday drive, largely due to its faithful 4.0-litre, long-stroke, in-line engine and six- 54 AUG/SEP 08 commendably good ride and handling package for their target market. Around town, each offers a controlled yet supple ride and feels relaxed on the motorway. But the Accord, designed with shorter suspension travel, is better composed at speed over rough roads, where the other two are somewhat under-damped and ‘fl oaty’ on rebound. It should be noted that the Falcon and Calais are rear-wheel drive and the Accord front-wheel drive. The Ford communicates through the palms of your hands and the seat of your pants that it has a beautifully balanced chassis. The steering is well weighted, allowing what is a fairly big car to change direction instantly with poise and precision. Grip levels are confi dence inspiring, in the wet or dry, and the electronic stability control intervenes subtly. The Holden is also endowed with competent chassis dynamics, balance and steering, although the latter is a tad lighter than the G6E. While essentially a neutral handler, a hint of oversteer can at times be detected on early turn-in through tighter bends, which is the opposite of the Accord. Its front feels nose heavy upon turn in. The Honda’s stability control (VSA) is also well mannered and unobtrusive, which is just as well. The wet roads gave the car’s front end a thorough interrogation, uncovering a lack of grip and a tendency to understeer. In the dry, the Accord’s grip returns, although some inoffensive understeer can still be detected. Overall the car’s WHAT THE STARS SAY (out of fi ve) Ford Honda Falcon G6E Performance Ride Handling Holden Accord V6-L Calais V6 ????? ???? ???? ???? ???? ??? ????? ???? ????
October November 2008
June July 2008