If you ever get to take a trip Down Under one thing that you’ll notice pretty quickly is that it’s a nation of petrol heads. Few places in the world can have such a large percentage of ‘muscle’ still on the road. Nor are there many countries where having your car tuned and lowered before it leaves the garage is the norm. Then again, few countries have roads that seemingly go on for eternity in the same way Australia does. It’s a country crying out to be driven. Here are our a handful of interesting cars on the Australian road that you won’t find in the US:
Ford Falcon FPV GT
The Ford Falcon is, unquestionably, Australian muscle car royalty. Many would call it King. But no matter how glorious its past might have been, the Falcon is not a car that can be accused of resting on its laurels. The 5.0 liter V8 Coyote engine has been developed by Prodrive, majority owners of Ford Performance Vehicles. These are the guys that are responsible for building McRae’s Subaru, so they know what they’re doing (it could be interesting to see them do something like a Ford Focus) The result, as you can imagine, is a car that is seriously quick.
But the true wonder of the FPV GT is not its speed, but its finesse. For a car that looks as downright aggressive as it does, it has a remarkable lightness of touch. The steering is airy, with plenty of feel; the chassis balanced to perfection; the 6 speed automatic gearbox psychic-like in its intuitiveness. In all respects it is a serious piece of engineering. It may bear the most American of badges but the Falcon is an Aussie through and through.
Toyota 86 GT
As Toyota continue to churn out bland best-sellers, it’s easy to forget that they have, in the not too distant past, produced some of the roads most recognizable sports cars. It might not have been everyone’s cup of tea but who can deny that the Supra added more than a little pizzazz to any dreary road it might have been driving along? And pizzazz is something the GT 86 has in bucket loads.
Subaru, part owned by Toyota, were closely involved in the engineering of the GTb86, its engine being based on the Subaru FB20 block – and the collaboration has paid dividends. The 2.0 liter, 197bhp engine is capable of 0-60mph in around 7 seconds, with a top speed of 143 mph. But all of these figures need to be viewed in light of the most astonishing figure of all. The price. For less than 30K Australian dollars you can buy yourself a car which some have compared to the Porsche Cayman in terms of driving experience. And that’s pretty high praise.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for American drivers- the Scion FR-S, available in the US, is the GT86 in all but styling. And although in our opinion that styling isn’t quite as thrilling, it’s still a heck of a car.
Holden SSV UTE
It might be made by General Motors, but there’s nothing more Australian than a Holden, and there’s no Holden more Australian then the SSV UTE. Holden’s are very much a love them or hate them vehicles – and the SSV UTE is no exception. Many complain about the heaviness of the clutch and although the steering is an improvement on past models, it’s still not refined enough for everyone’s taste. But this is to miss the point. The SSV UTE is not about refinement- it’s about flexing those muscles without breaking a sweat. It’s the automotive equivalent of the Aussie that has a swig of beer before taking to the playing field and winning.
Make no mistake about it, it might be designed to lug equipment about, but in its heart this car is on the race course, not the farm. It’s quick, and unless you’re alongside an M series (or a new Falcon) you’re likely to be long gone before anyone gets to appreciate the sound of that V8. And what a sound. Like a bull bellowing into the wind; there are few experiences which better sum up the Antipodean love affair with automotive engineering.