Drive - Tough Torque: LS2 Holden HSV Senator vs Chrysler 300 SRT-8

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, May 29, 2006.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,716
    Likes Received:
    1,558
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    A new American performance sedan aims to knock the local hero off its perch. JOSHUA DOWLING steps in to adjudicate.

    [​IMG]

    Joshua Dowling, 26/05/06

    Australian performance sedans are like football players in suits. They are big and a little rough around the edges, but they spruce up all right.

    Holden Special Vehicles has refined the formula over the past two decades. After starting out by simply adding a bodykit (the shoulder pads of the automotive industry) and wheels (shiny shoes), the cars have reached a new level of refinement. It is as if they have gone to finishing school.

    HSV has long been regarded as the benchmark of the locals. Ford has made three attempts - under three brand names - at the Australian performance sedan formula over the past 10 years, Ford Performance Vehicles has finally turned the corner and is building some world-class cars (of particular note is the turbo charged and appropriately-named Typhoon), but HSV still has the bragging rights in outright power and acceleration.

    Which is why HSV has been able to hold its head proud and walk around with its chest out and arms bent out - ape-like - as if carrying invisible parcels. But HSV's bullish demeanour could be about to change. There is a new bloke in town. HSV isn't the type to show its nerves, but it is fair to say that it has been keeping an eye on the new challenger.

    There is good reason. If HSV is a rugby league star, the new bloke is an American gridiron player trying to make a name for himself.
    As with many out-of-towners, there is a fair amount of interest from the punters in this bulky looking fella with the funny accent called the Chrysler 300 SRT-8. That name means nothing now, but give it time.

    The backgrounds of both players are similar. Both started life as everyday sedans that went to training camp to get match-fit.


    In many ways, bringing the HSV Senator face to face with the SRT8 is like putting Anthony Mundine and Danny Green in the boxing ring together. One is the underdog who fought his way to the top after surviving on scraps, the other is the offspring of a much bigger budget allocation, with impeccable form. Game on.

    Chrysler 300 SRT-8

    If you have not heard of the Chrysler 300C before, chances are you have seen one in music videos and movies. It is a "pimp-mobile", and it has hip-hop artists and Hollywood actors in a spin.

    When the 300C was released in the US two years ago, rap artist Snoop Dogg was so keen to jump the six-month waiting list that he directly approached the CEO of Chrysler at the time, Dieter Zetsche.

    He left a voicemail message on Zetsche's phone to offer his endorsement of the car in return for getting one early. Chrysler later released the transcript: "Yo, what up? This is big Snoop Dogg, trying to put these new legs down for this new 300C. What I gotta do to get that brand new 300 up outta you? Get back in contact with my nephew so you can make it happen, then it's official like a referee's whistle. If you want this car to blow, give it to me. This is Snoop Dogg. Preach!"

    Two years on the car is still selling strong in the US, and in Australia it has sold strongly in the six months it has been on sale. The target market is slightly different here (the 300C is wooing buyers away from the Holden Statesman and Ford Fairlane), it is apparent that not everyone in the conservative car class wants a conservative-looking car.

    Bold proportions are part of the 300C's attraction. The big Bentley-like nose says "luxury", the bulging wheel arches add a muscular dimension and the sleek roofline and high waist imply athleticism, like a sprinter on the starting blocks. And that's just the base model.

    What we have here is the SRT-8 (Street and Racing Technology) version. Instead of the 3.5-litre V6 or 5.7-litre V8 that power the regular 300C, Chrysler has squeezed a 6.1-litre high-performance V8 under the bonnet. In a segment of the car market where engine capacity measures manhood, this thing is best described as a thumper.

    Chrysler has revised the bodywork to make it even bolder. A discreet wing on the boot lid, flares on the wheel arches and a deeper front bumper are the cufflinks of the 300C's black suit. The huge 20-inch wheels stand out like hand-tooled cowboy boots.

    Behind the 10-spoke polished alloy wheels, the almost as massive brake discs have race-bred Brembo calipers. In Bloke's World, what Prada is to women's handbags, Brembo is to brakes. The only difference is these (the brakes, not the handbags) have the ability to save your life.

    Inside, the 300C's retro-themed interior is much the same as in regular models, except the SRT-8 has bulging black sports seats and subtle changes to the instrument cluster.

    The seats are superb, big enough to slip into and out of without breaking a rib, but capable of supporting the driver's mass when exploiting the SRT-8's cornering prowess.

    The most intoxicating aspect of the SRT-8, though, is the engine. Chrysler has extracted 317kW and 569Nm from the V8, which is 6 per cent more power and 7 per cent more torque than the local hero, the HSV Senator.

    The engine sounds like a powerhouse. And that is just on idle. Its subtle whirr becomes a roar as the accelerator moves closer to the floor. So powerful is the engine that Chrysler limits the amount of power below 30kmh. It takes a while to get used to, but it also helps preserve the tread on the rear tyres. Squeeze the throttle beyond this point and all hell breaks loose, like a front-row forward at full tilt, ready to crush all before it.

    Other than the extra power and torque, the biggest advantage of the Chrysler in this company is the five-speed gearbox, borrowed from Chrysler's parent company Mercedes-Benz, which happens to make the world's fastest sedan in this class of car, the E55.

    Despite the Chrysler being 230 kilograms heavier than the HSV Senator, the extra gear ratio helps the SRT-8 move smartly off the line and respond quickly once on the move. Our testing showed the SRT-8 was in fact quicker than the smaller, lighter HSV.

    The SRT8's automatic gear shifts are smooth and assertive, and if you so desire you can flick the lever away from the driver to shift down a gear or towards the driver to change up.
    Around town and in most daily driving, D is fine. However, why Chrysler has elected not to mount the shift buttons behind the steering wheel (standard on the Mercedes E55) is a mystery. Chrysler's local spokesman suggests price could be one reason. The Benz is more than triple the price of the Chrysler, which means you could have three SRT-8s (one in each colour: silver, black and mineral grey) for the price of an E55.

    Chrysler conservatively estimates a rest to 100kmh acceleration time of 5.5 seconds, but we squeezed a time of 5.2 seconds. This is what's known as quick. It's also not far off the benchmark for this size and class of car, the Mercedes E55.

    It took us a while to get fully acquainted with the SRT-8's idiosyncrasies so we could get the most out of its acceleration - and to figure out that the "torque demand" system restricts the full potential of the engine at low speeds. The SRT-8 is generally reluctant to change down to first unless you push the accelerator to the carpet. But squeeze the throttle (so as not to trigger any electronic nannies) with increasing pressure as the speed rises and the SRT-8 goes like a bullet.

    Thankfully, the race-bred brakes are well and truly up to the task, pulling the car up repeatedly with zero fade. The most surprising aspect of the SRT-8, though, was its on-road composure.
    Usually, the combination of 20-inch wheels and low-profile tyres lead to a bone-rattling ride. But the more we drove the SRT-8 on Sydney's roads - including the jigsaw puzzles of joined-up concrete in the inner-west and eastern suburbs - the more we were amazed at its remarkable ability to soak up bumps and thumps.

    The ride is firm, but not uncomfortable. The grip in corners is astounding for a car of such weight and mass. It steers with a precision that American cars are not known for. Perhaps, finally, the influence of Mercedes ownership has started to shine through.

    This also explains why Chrysler has a queue of buyers for the SRT-8. Australia was allocated just 200 cars this year but the boss of Chrysler Australia has already been on the phone to HQ to secure another 100 cars to meet demand.

    There is a three-month wait, and many buyers are trading in their 5.7-litre V8 versions of the 300C. And, Chrysler says, the remaining customers mostly come from HSV and Ford. Who's worried now?

    HSV Skaife Senator

    The price, size and power of these two sedans may be similar but in many ways the playing field is not level. The Z Series HSV range is nearing the end of the road. After nine years, the last of the current generation Commodores is going down the production line. A closer battle will be with the next generation E Series Senator, due September.

    Then there is the issue of pedigree. The Senator starts life as a Commodore before getting a makeover. It is a capable package but it is fair to say that Chrysler had deeper pockets when investing in its car.

    HSV has a loyal band of followers but the promise of performance and a similar price tag are temptations that enthusiastic drivers can find hard to resist. And that is why HSV is nervous. Chrysler has already reported several HSV trade-ins on the SRT-8, and HSV doesn't want any more.

    For the last Z Series Skaife Senator Signature series (to give it its full name) HSV has loaded it with all the bells and whistles. In addition to the Senator's superbly soft nappa leather and the soft-glow interior lighting, HSV fits four-piston AP Racing brakes (painted black with gold HSV logo), well-regarded high-intensity xenon driving lights (which are three times more powerful than regular beams) and an on-board tyre pressure monitoring system.

    However, one simple exterior touch is likely to appeal most to buyers: the Skaife badge on the boot. This is the first time HSV has named a model after the five-times Australian touring car champion and five times Bathurst winner. And in case some people think it's just a black Senator, HSV has added a polished alloy "flash" on the lower flanks and a chrome grille mesh. Only 50 Skaife Senators will be built and most are accounted for. Many enthusiast buyers will hold out for the much anticipated E Series HSV, but this model ensures the Z Series bows out in style.

    The Z Series Senator is no slouch. Weighing in at about 140 kilograms lighter than its Ford equivalent, it is a rocketship. Powered by the LS2 6.0-litre V8 from the latest generation Chevrolet Corvette, it has grunt to spare. Indeed, at times it has too much strength for the 245/35 19-inch Pirelli tyres to handle. When the tyres are cold, a full-throttle sprint off the line will prompt a little wiggle from the tail as the Senator's four-speed auto shifts from first to second.

    The gearbox is the Achilles heel of the Senator for a couple of reasons. Because HSV needed something to handle the LS2's enormous power, the gearbox is borrowed from General Motors truck division, for which shift quality was not a priority. HSV realised this, and so turned it into an advantage. Rather than try to make the four-speed shift smoothly (a difficult feat) it made the shift points more abrupt, effectively slamming the car into the next gear.

    This explains why automatic Z Series HSVs are faster in a straight line than the six-speed manual versions by two-tenths of a second in the 0-100kmh sprint. Unlike the Chrysler, the HSV's four-speed auto does not have any user-friendly override, only the slow and cumbersome detent button. This issue is likely to be addressed with the new model, which is believed to have a six-speed auto, with manual shift control.

    But back to the current car. Given that this is HSV's luxury model, it has opted for slightly softer suspension and tyres. The result is a comfortable ride but the car is not as composed in corners. HSV has switched to Yokohama tyres for the Clubsport and handling improved overnight. However, HSV decided to stay with the Pirellis for the Senator, given the target market. Thwarting that aim, Chrysler has shown that it is possible to deliver comfort and handling.

    Verdict

    [​IMG]

    To continue the football analogy, the Senator is a player who has come from the little league to the big time. It has no shortage of grunt and it plays hard. But the SRT-8 is a more polished and better prepared opponent. The SRT-8 is the result of a much bigger development budget - a footy player with a tertiary education, a complete package. The good news is that the SRT-8 is a worthy benchmark and can only serve to make local performance car makers raise their standards in every area. The real test will come with the next-generation Senator later in the year. Bring on round two.

    Chrysler 300 SRT-8
    Price: $71,990
    Engine: 6.1-litre V8
    Power: 317kW
    Torque: 569Nm
    Gearbox: Five-speed automatic
    Weight: 1965 kg

    Claimed 0-100km/h: 5.5 seconds
    Test: 0-100kmh 5.2 seconds
    Fuel rating label: 14 litres/100km

    HSV Skaife Senator
    Price: $72,390
    Engine: 6.0-litre V8
    Power: 297kW
    Torque: 530Nm
    Gearbox: Four-speed automatic
    Weight: 1735 kg

    Claimed 0-100km/h: 5.3 seconds
    Test: 0-100kmh 5.5 seconds
    Fuel rating label: 13.5 litres/100km

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  2. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    132,716
    Likes Received:
    1,558
    Location:
    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    SRT > FPV and HSV
     
  3. LowkeyG

    LowkeyG OT Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2002
    Messages:
    29,188
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Toronto
    well written review!
     
  4. zaink

    zaink OT Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2004
    Messages:
    25,566
    Likes Received:
    0
    4 speed automatic?! wtf .. still in the 80s or what
     
  5. LOUDSYSTEM

    LOUDSYSTEM New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2004
    Messages:
    68,890
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Peoria, AZ
    i hope those prices arent american
     
  6. HisXLNC

    HisXLNC ๑۩۞۩๑ Hot ๑۩۞۩๑

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2000
    Messages:
    137,235
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Island of Electronicus
    Such a wonderful article with such shitty pictures. They might as well have taken the pictures in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
     
  7. Mitchj

    Mitchj OT Supporter

    Joined:
    May 2, 2005
    Messages:
    112,064
    Likes Received:
    76
    The 300c's ugly, its downtown US looks dont look very subtle here.

    Give me the holden. The VE will definetly > *.
     
  8. HisXLNC

    HisXLNC ๑۩۞۩๑ Hot ๑۩۞۩๑

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2000
    Messages:
    137,235
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Island of Electronicus
    Nah. My 86 Monte Carlo had 3 speeds, with an over drive. :noes:
     
  9. Light Speed

    Light Speed Guest

    300 looks awsome. 20 inch wheels :bowdown:
     
  10. wangatang

    wangatang backing it in your mom

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2001
    Messages:
    38,913
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    erf
    australia uses dollars like canada :hs:
     
  11. BLKDVLGSX

    BLKDVLGSX OT Supporter

    Joined:
    May 2, 2002
    Messages:
    40,415
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Buford, GA
    i'll take the HSV please
     
  12. LEGbEND

    LEGbEND .

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2001
    Messages:
    23,269
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Shitcago
    Needs a manual transmission.
     

Share This Page