Ford says its new XD Falcon shouldn’t be compared to Holden’s VB Commodore — “they’re in different size classes” — and Holden gives a subtle plug for the Commodore’s sophistication by agreeing that, “to be fair to Ford”, the Falcon should be compared to its older-design Kingswood. Nevertheless, the XD and the Commodore are by far the best cars ever produced in Australia, to the extent that they stand apart from virtually anything else available here. And the majority of buyers, whose needs may well be fulfilled by either car, will be better off if they ignore the manufacturers’ advice and select the vehicle they really need. Which one is that?

   THE ARRIVAL of Ford's XD Falcon close on the heels of Holden's VB Commodore has sparked off unprecedented rivalry between supporters of Australia's Big Two. The fanaticism of Ford and Holden followers peaked around the time of the XD launch with some crazy incidents illustrating the intensity of the conflict ... and loyalty to the product.
   In Hurstville, a southern suburb of Sydney, a group of after-dark commandoes struck the first blow for Holden just a few days before the official release of the XD: Dominelli Ford's two-metre tall mascot and advertising gimmick, the Ferdi Bird, was found in the early hours ingloriously strung up by its toes outside the showrooms of nearby Nyhus Holden . . .
   A message traced out by an anonymous finger in the dust on the bumper of our test Falcon summed up the attitude of a vast number of Ford fanatics in Australia who had been marking time awaiting the launch of the XD: "Go get 'em, Fordie" was the terse instruction . . .
   Clearly, the scene is set for the biggest dust-up between Holden and Ford since the release' here of the original Falcon in September 1960 — and the fact that the XD has hit the marketplace four months later than the Commo-dore may not necessarily be to Ford's disadvantage.
  The Commodore was launched without a wagon version — it won't be seen until around July — and with a shut-out on fleet sales. On the other hand, Ford has made no bones about chasing hard after fleet sales from the outset, and the company is expecting to chalk up plenty of Falcon wagon orders before the Commodore wagon hits the showrooms.
   And coming in later than the opposition has enabled Ford to alter — if and where necessary — its options packs. In other words, Ford is in a position to capitalise on Holden's marketing and merchandising weaknesses . . . and no doubt it has.
   Both Ford and Holden are counting heavily on their new weaponry bringing home the bacon. With so much invested in the XD and the Commodore, neither can afford a flop.
   Ford marketing men don't entirely go along with the idea of putting the Falcon directly up against the Commodore: if vehicles from Ford and Holden are to be compared, put the Kingswood side by side with the Falcon, they say. Some leading Ford dealers have even been running newspaper advertisements inviting the public to compare the Commodore with . . . the Cortina!
But the fact remains that the Commodore has replaced the Kingswood as Holden's principal weapon, while the Falcon XD, undeniably, is the car in which Ford's future hopes of market dominance are placed.
   It will boil down to what the Australian motorist really wants — a slightly smaller family car like the new Falcon, or a more dramatic downsizing like the Commodore.
   History records that Australians have shown a distinct preference for five- and six-seaters powered by six- and eight-cylinder engines, a la Kingswood and XC Falcon. With the Commodore and the XD, Holden and Ford have stayed in step with a worldwide trend to smaller and lighter vehicles, while retaining six-pack and V8 dinosaurs.
   But as cars for the Eighties, the present XD and Commodore are compromises, and will remain so until those antiquated, gas-guzzling, inefficient iron monsters up front are replaced with engines that are sympathetic to the motorists' wallets. With petrol the price it is, cars that drink at the rate of between 12 and 31 litres per 100 kilometres are just not on.
   Those more efficient, and more thrifty, engines will come, but meanwhile Ford and Holden are counting on the winds of change coming slowly to the Australian motorists. They'll be pounding home other technical innovations and the virtues of the new-breed cars, virtues like the greater utilisation of interior space, better handling and so on. Holden's controversial witches' hats television commercials — perhaps little more than a carefully-devised indoctrination campaign — nevertheless got the masses attuned to thinking about handling and safety.
   For the first time in Australian automotive manufactur-ing history, the motorist has the choice of two fine cars from the Big Two. The Commodore and the XD are not perfect — far from it — but they are quite easily the best attempts by Holden and Ford to market a world-class car. But which car best meets the motorists' needs — which car is the better?

   TO FIND OUT, Modern Motor put an example of each through an exhaustive 10-day comparison programme encompassing city and country driving, timed cornering and acceleration tests, braking trials, a side-by-side look at interior and boot space, fuel economy and finish.

   Then, after we had done all that, we asked Australia's leading motoring journalists for their opinions and finally we took the cars into the streets and invited the

general public to record its thoughts on the XD and Commodore.

   The cars we chose for the comparison were the 4.1-litre Falcon GL sedan with S (for Sport) Pack, and the Commodore equipped with a Sport Pack. We opted for these combinations in order to get two cars with virtually the same-size engines . . . important in any performance evaluation we were to tackle.
   However, because of large differences between the Ford S-Pack and Holden's Sport Pack, the Commodore ended up a more expensive (but better-equipped) buy. The Falcon came with a four-speed floor shift linked to the bigger of the two sixes available. The S-Pack included distinctive paint treatment, slotted steel wheels, comprehensive instrumentation (tachometer, fuel, temperature and oil-pressure gauges, Volt meter, trip meter, low-fuel warning lamp and digital clock), intermittent wipers, striped wool seating material, left-hand-side remote-control exterior mirror, front spoiler and long-range driving lights. A laminated windscreen ($106), tinted side and rear glass ($35) and 70-profile tyres ($70) took the test Falcon to an all-up cost, before registration, of $7479.
   Its Commodore (base price $6710) rival came with a lavish $1293 Sport Pack — 4.2-litre V8, four-speed manual transmission, rear discs, 15 inch cast-alloy wheels, 60-series tyres, remote-control left-side exterior mirror, dual exhaust and tachometer. Total cost: $8003.
   The Commodore and the XD Falcon sedans each come at three levels, with the buyer also getting a mammoth choice of options.
   Ford offers its extras in the usual manner: a lengthy list of engine, transmission, suspension, comfort and appearance alternatives which the buyer ticks off as he wishes. To make things easier, there is also a restricted number of options packages — the S, Fleet and Outback Packs — plus kits for towing, police and taxi use.
On the other hand, Holden has parcelled up its options into neat categories: Sports, European, City, Country, Personal and so on. Apart from extras such as air-conditioning, metallic paint and choice of trim, the Commodore buyer takes his options in large servings. There's a further catch: the packages alter depending on the level of car purchased, and not all the packs are available right across the range.
   The range of engines for the XD consists of 3.3- and 4.1-litre sixes, and 4.9- and 5.8-litre V8s, while Holden also has a choice of four: 2.8-, 3.3- (sixes), 4.2- and 5.0-litre (eights).
   There isn't an unrestricted choice of engine, however. For instance, the base Commodore and mid-range SL cannot be had with a 5.0-litre engine, no matter what option packs go with them. And while the cheapest Falcon — the GL — can be ordered with the biggest V8, the 5.8-litre, you can't get four-wheel discs in the six-cylinder guise.
   There are other Catch 22 situations surrounding the Falcon options alternatives. For instance, the digital clock is mandatory when the S-Pack or comprehensive instrumentation is specified, but it is not available when the front bench seat is nominated. And power windows are not available when manual or automatic column-shift transmission is specified.
   AFTER THE new-car buyer has struggled through the options list and signed on the dotted line, it's downhill all the way: both the Falcon XD and the Commodore are great road cars and, despite their inadequacies, the big Falcon six and the small-block Commodore V8 get up and go when the hammer goes down.
Revisions to the six-cylinder Falcon engines have improved air flow through the combustion chambers by around 10 percent, giving a significant increase in power and torque.
   Because of this improved engine performance, Ford has chosen to fit a taller axle to all 3.3-litre models and the 4.1-litre manual, with a resultant drop in engine revs.
   On the Vane dynamometer, the six-cylinder Falcon came up surprisingly well against the Holden V8, particularly lower down in the rev range. However, the Commodore — with a more "revable" engine — attained high power figures at the top-end.
   The Falcon peaked at 3500 rpm with 72.9 kW, while the Commodore's maximum power figure — 73.4 kW — came at 4000 rpm. The torque measurements were a revelation, the Falcon returning 238 Nm at a very low 2000 rpm and the Commodore a best of 208 Nm at 3000 rpm.
   The XD simply loped around town, its impressive torque enabling it to handle the varying traffic conditions with a minimum of gear shifting, and the Commodore, lower-geared but still very flexible, would move away easily in top gear at speeds as low as 25-30 km/h. But changing gears in the Commodore required some effort; the Falcon box, even though it dips out on a spring load, is far more pleasant and easier to use.



What the motoring writers say...


Bryan Hanrahan
The Herald, Melbourne

THE COMMODORE is a motor car; the XD Falcon is family transport. They can't be compared directly. So I would have a Commodore even if surplus kids had to be shut into the boot (what an ideal location for ma-in-law, anyway). It's a pity about the engines, though —the V8s, like big engines everywhere, are on their way out, but both the Holden and Ford small straight sixes are still hobbled by exhaust-emission controls and too dated to ever respond completely to treatment. The cars are too thirsty and too slow with small engines — which are the engines of the future. As things are, first sales prize will go to the Holden, until Ford comes up with a fuel-efficient and lively small engine. And let us pray for a Broadmeadows-produced V6 to match the Opel-based straight six that is incubating at Fishermen's Bend.


Peter Gavaghan
The Sun, Melbourne
CHOOSING a new car usually depends on need, rather than desire. The XD Falcon is still a large car in the traditional Australian mould, with superior interior and boot space. Sure, it's not as advanced technically as the Commodore but in some areas it is certainly as good as, or better than, the Holden. The Commodore is more economical in 3.3-litre six-cylinder form, but both the Ford and Holden have very thirsty larger engines. I prefer the Commodore's handling on rougher roads, but there is little between the two at high-speed cruising on good bitumen. Given a choice, I'd go for the Commodore because my space needs are not paramount; I also appreciate the Holden's modern technology. However, the Falcon is still a good buy.

Mark Fogarty
Radio 2SM, Sydney

WHILE the Commodore and XD Falcon have chassis and suspensions of the Eighties, both are still powered by engines of the Sixties — they lack the smoothness and efficiency of the packages they power. But given what they've got, both represent a quantum jump in Australian automotive technology. Neither is by any means perfect, but both are too good to be compared in any way with what we'd been getting beforehand. From a driver's point of view, the Commodore is superior — and markedly so — in two areas: handling and driving position. And its boot, though smaller in capacity, is a more practical, usable shape. The XD top-scores on interior space, particularly in the rear. The gas-strut bonnet stay is ingenious, but the odd driving position, the continued use of a dash-mounted hand-brake and recirculating-ball steering are let-downs. Commodore or XD Falcon? I go for the Commodore because it's better than good, and I believe it is the right size for Australia.

Paul Harrington
Motor Manual

I HAD VERY real hopes that the XD Falcon range would turn out to be something as startling on the Australian manufacturing scene as the Commodore was. Unfortunately for Ford, however, it would appear that the six-month lead enjoyed by Holden has psyched many people into thinking Commodore, despite the Ford's very clear advantages in terms of interior space. Taken on a model-for-model basis, the XD does not quite reach the Holden's standards as far as noise, vibration and harshness are concerned. And in the early production models driven to date, Ford has not attained its potential peak with regard to quality of manufacture. What we appear to have is a situation in which, for the urban and suburban car owner, the Commodore offers more comfort, a better ride and a feeling of more opulence. The Falcon, on the other hand, offers far better high-speed stability, and makes a better "A to B''car, which will undoubtedly appeal to the country buyers. However, until Ford's production quality is improved, I would be buying a Commodore if I were considering this segment of the market.

Jim Sullivan
Television NBN3, Newcastle

I WOULD like a dollar for every time someone has asked me about this comparison . . . then I might be able to buy one or other of the new cars. I suppose if someone gave you a Falcon or a Commodore, you wouldn't complain — they're both good cars, especially when judged against the cars they replace. Perhaps that's the key to deciding which car is actually better. The new Falcon is a better — a much better — Falcon, but the Commodore is a completely new car. The Falcon certainly scores well from the outside, but once you get behind the wheel (which is too close for comfort) — and putting the electronic speedometer, accurate fuel gauge and neat dashboard aside — it feels disturbingly like the previous model. On corrugated corners, the compromise of cart springs gives you that old familiar Falcon feel. I prefer driving the Commodore, and I like its overall concept better . . . but it's a pity that the efficiency of the Holden six-cylinder engine doesn't match the rest of the car.

David Robertson
Sydney Morning Herald

THE FALCON and the Commodore are both fine cars that raise the standards of Australian-built vehicles to new heights. I feel the Falcon scores over Commodore in terms of styling (though beauty is in the eyes of the beholder), general engine efficiency in both the sixes and

V8s, and the fact that it's a little roomier overall. The Commodore has the better suspension, offering superior handling and steering, is marginally better overall in its fuel economy (though this is an area that both Ford and Holden simply must improve if these kinds of cars are to survive) and has a tighter, more precise feel about it. The Commodore's smaller size, too, makes it easier to manoeuvre and park in our ever-more congested urban-driving conditions and it has the more usefully-sized boot. Forced to make a choice — and there's nothing in it in price — I think I would go for a Commodore.

Mike Kable
The Australian

I'VE NEVER subscribed to the practice of making direct comparisons between cars, because I prefer to assess them on their individual merits and demerits. So I'm not buying into the Commodore versus Falcon controversy — what suits one person may not suit another. But at long last Australian motorists have the choice of two locally-manufactured world-class cars, disadvantaged only by the fact that neither is as fuel-efficient as Holden and Ford would have us believe. I feel that the six-cylinder versions are superior to the V8s. The Commodore, in my opinion, is over-engined with a V8 up front and would be much better with a V6. The car as a whole, though, is an exiremely nice package, comfortable and easy to manage and possessing considerable class. The XD Falcon has certainly exceeded my expectations — and those of the public, judging by the enthusiastic reaction it has provoked. Style is a subjective thing, but the XD to my eye is a darn good looking car from any angle. It is more masculine than the Commodore and its general acceptance at this early stage is
greater than for the Holden product. The extra roominess also has not passed unnoticed, either. But the choice, really, is up to individual buyers who should drive both cars and compare the vital statistics before shelling out their money.

Bob Jennings
The Advertiser, Adelaide

THE XD FALCON and Commodore virtually categorise themselves by virtue of their size, the Falcon being bigger overall and being available with bigger six-cylinder and V8 engines. It will, therefore, appeal to the buyer who wants a larger car, though the boot space is a bit disappointing. I like the tight way both of them drive, but I'd like to see more positive steps on fuel economy, while the tender area of both vehicles is finish. Forced to choose, I'd favour the Commodore for personal reasons, in that I don't need the extra room offered by the Falcon. And at this stage of development, the Falcon's detail finish needs tidying up; it's only about on a par with the early-production Commodore.


Philip Christensen
The Sun, Sydney


BOTH VEHICLES are vast improvements on previous Australian products. The XD Falcon's use of advanced materials pays off in weight and size reductions, yet the comfort of a bigger car remains. The road balance through handling, steering and braking is at least adequate for current road conditions here, though the Commodore wins out when pushed to extremes. The big minus for the Holden is under the bonnet — the Falcon takes the points for performance at reasonable fuel costs, while the Commodore's poor engines waste the advantages of downsizing. Taste is taste in looks, but for mine the Falcon wins here by a street. The Commodore sadly retains the traditional Holden dullness.

Christopher de Fraga
The Age, Melbourne

THE COMMODORE is preferable to the XD Falcon on three counts: looks, responsive feel and fuel economy. There can be no argument that the Falcon offers more room than the Commodore, and it also offers more outright performance. Just as certain is the Commodore's much better fuel economy — rising fuel prices seem certain to make the Holden's edge here even better — and the Commodore is half a model ahead of the Ford in style. In finish, comprehensive option lists and general equipment, the cars are pretty even — but the Commodores start better equipped than the Falcons and work out cheaper when similarly equipped. I'll take the Commodore 3300 with City Pack, for I don't need five seats and I like its neat size and its blend of performance and economy.

Evan Green
The Sun-Herald, Sydney

BOTH ARE world-class cars but I prefer the Commodore. It has a marginally better ride, particularly on uneven surfaces. The finish is better and I believe its size is more in keeping with our future requirements. Mind you, the Falcon would probably appeal more to people who value size and to fleet owners — especially to company representatives who judge their progress in the corporation by the size of the vehicle they drive. Both models have long legs and are ideal touring vehicles. Each feels very strong. I can see them dominating the market, with the Falcon winning fleet sales and the Commodore appealing more to private buyers.   

   The Commodore sees off the Falcon with sheer acceleration but, by way of compensation, the Ford doesn't baulk at petrol pumps as often.
    We logged an all-runs average standing 400 metres time of 17.6 seconds in the Commodore, 0.2 seconds faster than the XD.
    The Commodore was much quicker than the Falcon in the overtaking exercises, whipping from 50-80 km/h in third gear in just 4.5 seconds. The Falcon took 5.6 seconds.
    However, there was little between the cars in top speeds: the Commodore reached 177 km/h, while the long legs of the Falcon registered a maximum of 174 km/h.
    But tallying up weekly fuel bills tends to take the fun out of driving the Holden. For every 100 kilometres, we used an average of 17.1 litres of fuel, with a best figure of 14.1.
    The Falcon, though still no miser, wasn't near as thirsty — we stretched it to 16.0 litres every 100 kilometres on an average, with one particular tankful returning 12.8 litres per 100 kilometres.
   Both cars are very safe due to their fine handling, braking and steering capabilities, though the Holden is superior here. Its five-link (two upper and lower control arms plus Panhard rod) rear suspension works better under most conditions than the Ford's leaf-spring arrangement, which, because of cost considerations, has been retained for the XD.
   The cars reacted predictably under severe braking, with the Commodore's four-wheel discs doing a better job — not surprisingly — than the discs/drums system on the Falcon. The Commodore braked from a steady 100 km/h to standstill in 39.5 metres, about three metres short of the Falcon's stopping distance.
    We subsequently put another Holden fitted with rear drums to the test, and it couldn't match the braking performance of our original test Commodore; in fact, its figures were virtually identical to the Falcon's.

BOTH VEHICLES handle and ride superbly on smooth roads, but the Falcon doesn't perform as well as the Commodore on uneven surfaces, where the rear-end tends to jump about alarmingly.
   The tail of the Commodore — particularly on the eight-cylinder models — also darts about on rough, undulating roads, but the movement isn't as uncomfortable or as dramatic as the Falcon's.
    Our Oran Park Raceway testing session confirmed our on-road impressions. There was only a hair's breadth between the two cars in all four phases of our regular handling programme, which encompasses a 250-metre slalom course, a fast and a slow corner, and a series of esses.
    The Falcon was tops in the esses with a 92 km/h all-runs average, bettering the Commodore by 1 km/h. It was also 1 km/h faster through the high-speed corner.
The cars recorded an identical 65 km/h time through the tight corner and the Commodore was marginally quicker (by 1 km/h) through the witches' hats.
    The Falcon, as close as it was to the Commodore's time in the slalom run, felt ill at ease, lurching and then propping at every directional change. On the other hand, the Commodore slipped easily into a rollicking gait, switching from left to right with little fuss.
    The Falcon's manual recirculating-ball steering — still surprisingly heavy despite its five turns from lock to lock — made the driver's life a misery during the slalom runs.

   The Commodore's rack-and-pinion system felt far more precise and required less arm movement by virtue of its more-direct steering: only 3.3 turns lock to lock. Of course, the Holden enjoyed the advantage of power steering — it is compulsory on all V8-engined models — but, nevertheless, at 4.1 turns from lock to lock, the manual versions of the Commodore still don't demand as much from the driver as does the Falcon.

   True, the heaviness in the Falcon's manual steering disappears on the highway, but around town — particularly whilst parking — it can be an aggravation. Certainly, the Commodore is far more manoeuvrable, and not only because its external dimensions are smaller. In fact, though the Commodore is narrower by 138 mm and 150 mm shorter in the wheelbase, the two rivals are virtually the same length: the Falcon, at 4737 mm, is just 32 mm longer — about the diameter of a 20-cent coin! Yet the Commodore does look considerably smaller, and this impression carries to the driving seat.
    The Falcon is still a big car with a big-car feel. With a wider, 11.5-metre turning circle to the Commodore's 10.8 metres, plus those five turns of the steering wheel, it takes plenty of effort to ease it through slow-moving traffic.
    From behind the steering wheel, all-round vision is excellent in both cars, though their sloping bonnets — more so the Commodore — makes judging the forward extremities difficult.
    Though the appeal of any car is a matter of personal taste, there's no disputing that both the Falcon and the Commodore rate highly in the looks department.
Initially, there was some consumer reaction against the Commodore's very different (for Australia) shape, but the wedge front and European look has now largely been given the thumbs' up. On the other hand, the Falcon's beefy, sharper-edged and more masculine design was well-received from the outset by a motoring public accustomed to strong, macho lines.
    Ford's greatest headache at the XD's launch time was in getting conservative motorists to accept the Falcon's mysterious new-fangled plastic fuel tank (fitted to the sedan range) and bumper bars. However, the company's consumer "education" programme has largely dispelled any doubts as to the safety of the plastic tank and the effectiveness of the plastic bumpers; in fact, many motorists like the idea of a car being able to withstand a minor shunt of up to 4 km/h without chipping or crinkling any chrome.
    But Ford has been criticised over the standard of construction and finish of the new Falcons, just as Holden was at the time of the release of thoCommodore. Holden has largely rectified the earlier quality-control problems; it remains to be seen whether Ford can follow suit — many of the first batches of XDs were afflicted with panel ripples, incorrectly aligned doors and strips, and poor finish in areas such as the boot.

THE FALCON is bigger than the Commodore inside, but the relationship of the XD's steering wheel to the driver means that much of the space advantage is lost. Because the steering column intrudes so far into the cabin, the driver must recline his seat back to a greater angle than usual in order to get his arms comfortable. This means that any passenger sitting directly behind the driver can be inconvenienced.
    This criticism aside, the XD is still a roomy package and three adults could agreeably contemplate a lengthy journey in the rear seat. The Commodore, while it will take three in the back, will do so only with some shoulder rubbing.

Power and torque figures for the Commodore and Falcon were obtained on a Vane VP-950 chassis dynamometer, built by Applied Power Australia Ltd. The VP-950 features simultaneous read-out of road power, axle torque, road speed and engine revolutions. It can be set to pre-select road or engine speeds (automatic function) or operate with variable loads (manual function). A remote handpiece controls all functions of the dynamometer, which means the operator can conduct the whole test from the driver’s seat of the vehicle.

   Headroom and legroom isn't a problem in the front or rear of either car, but the Commodore is the easiest to climb out of, the taller floor lip of the Falcon proving to be a shade awkward for long-legged passengers.
   The Falcon's see-through head restraints are fixed wrhile the Commodore's more-conventional units are adjustable for height.
   The Falcon seats, though very comfortable, aren't quite up to the standard of the Commodore's firm, beautifully-contoured buckets. Even the back seats of the Commodore appear to be better shaped than those in the Ford.
   Aesthetically, the Falcon interior is more appealing to us. The all-black dash and console doesn't leap out and shriek at the occupants, as does the Commodore's colour-keyed arrangement. But the jarring note is the Falcon's large, square, floor console, which looks cheaper and nastier than its rival's sensible unit with its rounded-off edges.
BOTH CARS offer much the same instrumentation, gaugesand warning lights, but there are disparities in the equipment levels, due in the main to the differences in the option packs fitted to the test cars.
   The base Commodore misses out on a day/night mirror (standard on the Falcon GL), yet a laminated windscreen is fitted right through the range, unlike the Ford, which has it only in the Fairmont and Fairmont Ghia models. Neither base car has a locking petrol cap.
   Both cars are well ventilated for hot Australian conditions but, because of the large glass areas, potential buyers should carefully investigate the possibility of ordering factory-fitted air-conditioning. It's the first option we'd order — it means a lot in terms of driver comfort and alleviating driver fatigue.
   The Falcon's much-heralded new electronic fuel gauge doesn't impress — not on our test car, anyway — as it still appears to exhibit all the faults of the conventional float and arm gauge; namely, fluctuations in readings due to cornering or up- or down-grades. But the gauge is at least accurate.
   Both cars come with nicely-proportioned soft-feel circular steering wheels, but the Commodore's two-spoked wheel is easier to use than the Falcon's four-spoker, which can be a trap for the driver's fingers.
   And drivers should also be wary about the Falcon's cumbersome handbrake. The majority of motorists much prefer a centrally-mounted parking brake, such as the Commodore's, yet Ford persists with the old-fashioned under-dash arrangement because, it says, a number of its fleet customers specify bench seats . . .
   Open up the two trunk lids and the XD certainly appears to have the bigger boot. And it has, too, with 0.427 usable cubic metres against the Commodore's 0.382 cubic metres. But the Falcon boot is very shallow — it's not deep enough to place suitcases upright — and another disadvantage is the location of the spare tyre and wheel . . . horizontally in a well in the trunk floor. The Holden spare is vertical to one side and is easily accessible without unloading the contents of the boot all over the roadway to change a flat tyre.
   Another disappointment with the Falcon is the discovery that some of the wheel-jacking equipment is actually held in place by . . . adhesive tape!

SO THERE it is — which car best serves your needs? Both cars come out on a par in price for, when the mysteries of the complicated options game are unravelled, the Commodore and the Falcon cost about the same. Any slight difference in price is offset by an extra gauge here or a body protection strip there. And so it boils down to personal preference . . .

The XD Falcon is a genu-ine five-seater and three adults fit easily in the rear seat. The driving position is marred by the length and angle of the steering column; the seat is right back on its runners and yet the driver’s legs are brushing the steering wheel and column.

Three across the rear seat of the Commodore is a snug, but not uncomfortable, fit. Behind the wheel, there’s ample legroom and head room and the driver’s knees don’t interfere with the steering wheel.


The most obvious diffference between the two vehicles is size, and this will influence many potential customers.
A great number of Australians still prefer big cars; indeed, many Australians need big cars (though quite a few only think they do). But the world trend is to smaller and lighter passenger vehicles, and the Commodore is plainly the trendsetter in this respect, though its fuel-consumption figures prompt us to question the validity of the downsizing argument — for the present, at least. What is the point of owning a smaller car that still guzzles as much fuel as the big cars?
Future models will answer that question . . . and for the moment, we'd buy the Commodore, anyway — it's such a delightfully-responsive car to drive, in all conditions.






Adjustable steering   
Cigarette lighter   
Day/night mirror   
Hazard flashers   
Heated rear window   
Laminated screen   
Petrol-filler lock   
Intermittent wipers   
Rear-window wiper   


























Luggage capacity














Bore x Stroke


Compression Ratio
Fuel Pump
Valve Gear
Claimed Power
Claimed Torque



93.5 x 99.3 mm

4089 cc

Single-barrel down-draught

9.0 to 1



 94 kW at 3600 rpm

295 Nm at 1800 rpm



92.0 x 77.7 mm

4142 cc

Two-barrel down-draught

9.4 to 1



96 kW at 4000 rpm

275 Nm at 2400 rpm


Driving Wheels   
Gearbox Ratios
Final-Drive Ratio


Four-speed manual
Single dry plate





Four-speed manual
    Single dry plate











Independent by coils and wishbones, with anti-roll bar
    Live axle located by leaf springs, with anti-roll bar

   6J x 14
    ER70H x 14


Independent by MacPherson struts, with anti-roll bar

Live axle located by five-link coil system, with Panhard rod and anti-roll bar

6JJ    x 15

BR60H    x 15






286mm ventilated discs

254mm drums


268mm ventilated discs

274mm discs




Turns, lock to lock

Turning Circle


Recirculating ball



11.5 metres


Power-assisted rack & pinion


10.8 metres



Front Track   
Rear Track       
Overall Length   
Overall Width   
Overall Height   
Ground Clearance
Kerb Weight

2818 mm
1559 mm
1527 mm
4737 mm
I860 mm
1374 mm
137 mm

1367 kg

2668 mm
1449 mm
1422 mm
4705 mm
1722 mm
1371 mm
152 mm

1295 kg


Fuel Tank     

Cooling System

Engine Sump



77 litres

8.6 litres

4.5 litres

12 V 61 Ah
    40 A

63 litres

12.0 litres

4.0 litres

12 V 61 Ah
    40 A

Weight to Power   
Specific Power Output

14.5 kg/kW

23.0 kW/litre


13.5 kg/kW

23.2 kW/litre



Average for Test

Best Recorded

16.0 litres/100 km
12.8 litres/100 km
17.1 litres/100 km
14.1 litres/100 km


0-60 km/h   
0-80 km/h   
0-100 km/h
0-110 km/h

0-120 km/h
0-130 km/h


5.0 seconds
7.8 seconds
11.9 seconds
14.2 seconds
16.7 seconds

20.1 seconds


4.4 seconds
    7.2 seconds
11.2 seconds
13.5 seconds
16.0 seconds
19.9 seconds

OVERTAKING TIMES                          3rd            4th 3rd             4th

50-80 km/h...
60-100 km/h..

5.6s            7.2s
7.4s         10.5s
4.5s            7.2s
6.0s            8.9s
Best Recorded
17.8 seconds
17.4 seconds
17.6 seconds
    17.4 seconds
58 km/h
    97 km/h
    138 km/h
    174 km/h
67 km/h
    91 km/h
133 km/h
177 km/h




Australia’s motoring press has had its say on how Ford’s XD Falcon compares with the Holden Commodore. But what does the public, the people who buy the cars, think?

PEOPLE, ordinary people, buy cars for funny reasons. Rarely are they objective and analytical in their approach to buying a new car.
   Prestige, fashion, price, colour or the angle of the radio aerial are more likely to influence them than the sorts of considerations which motoring writers feel are important. Handling, braking, steering and build-finish are at the top of a road tester's list of priorities — but often these areas are incidental considerations to the average driver.
   We've had our say on how we think Ford's XD Falcon stacks up against the Holden Commodore and given our reasons, both pro and con, on how we rate its performance in the most talked-about car comparison in Australia for years.
   But that's what we think. What about ordinary car-buyers who don't have the facilities to carry out lengthy and detailed comparisons? What's their verdict in the XD Falcon versus Commodore battle?
   To find out, we took an XD and a Commodore to one of the busiest shopping centres in Australia — Bondi Junction in Sydney. We invited passers-by to inspect both cars, sit in them and generally look at the same sort of things as they would in a showroom. Then we questioned them about the cars, seeking their opinions and preferences.
   In our mini-survey, we quizzed people from all walks of life; their ages ranged from 18 to 60. We asked them

which of the two cars looked better, which one was roomier, which appeared the more practical car, and which one would they buy.

   The results of the poll favour the Falcon. On the basis of the look-but-don't-drive test, the XD won hands-down on its looks and interior room. The only ones who said they prefered the Commodore were an elderly couple, who later admitted that a Chrysler Sigma was more like what they wanted, anyway!
   One man, a New Zealand policeman on holiday in Australia, was so impressed with the XD that he decided he would buy one here and take it back with him.
Then there was the little old lady who based her appraisal of the practicalities of the cars on their colour schemes. She decided that green (Commodore) was more serviceable than off-white (Falcon).
   Styling and interior room were preoccupations with our pollsters. Only two inquired about fuel economy, no one asked us about what handling or braking differences we'd found, and only one took service back-up into account. Most of the people we questioned based their choice on what we would regard as superficial items.
   So Ford wins the Modern Motor XD Falcon versus Commodore Opinion Poll. Will the result be repeated in Ford's new car showrooms over the next few months?
Not even the public can tell us that . . . yet.


Name: Francis Ford
Age: 29
Occupation: Housewife
From: Randwick, New South Wales
Own car: Ford XC Falcon


"I prefer the appearance of the Falcon. The Commodore is a little bit squashed-up — the boot is a bit scrunchy-looking and the front slopes down too much.
"The dash is better on the Falcon. The instrument panel doesn't look like a big bump on the dash like it does on the Commodore. I think I prefer the upholstery in the Falcon, too.
"The Commodore's got quite good leg-room in the back, but the Falcon looks a lot bigger inside overall.
"I don't like the glovebox in the Commodore at all. You couldn't fit a street directory or anything in it, but you can in the Falcon's.
"I think either of them would be reasonably practical cars. It just depends on what you like. I'd buy the Falcon — I prefer it."


Name: Mrs E. Franki
Age: 60
Occupation: Retired
From: Randwick, New South Wales
Own car: Morris 1100

"They're both very, very nice. For appearance, the Falcon is the best, but the Commodore is nice, too.
"The Falcon looks roomier — there's more room in the back.
"I've nothing against the Commodore, but the Falcon is the car I would buy out of the two."


Names: Tony and Judith Pitkin
Ages: Tony, 31; Judith, 32
Occupations: Policeman, kindergarden teacher
From: New Zealand
Own car: Leyland Mini

HIM: "I think the Falcon has a shape that won't go out of date so quickly. The shape appeals to me because of its ability to stay up-to-date longer."
HER: "I like the Falcon because it looks better and it's bigger inside. I like the seating because it's firm — I don't like soft seats."
HIM: "The Falcon is bigger and the seating is better, though the steering wheel is a bit too close for me to get completely comfortable. The seats are a lot firmer than the Commodore's, but that would probably mean they're more comfortable on a long trip. I know the Commodore is a break-away from the normal Holden, but I still prefer the Falcon. For general after-sales service and everything else, I think I'd stick with the Falcon."
HER: "I agree with him. The Falcon's the one I'd pick."


Name: Mario Palazzolo
Age: 30
Occupation: Hairdresser
From: Leichhart, New South Wales
Own Car: Ford XA Falcon

"I prefer the Falcon — it looks more European. You need a bigger car if you've got a family — you need to be able to put more in the car itself.
"I don't think the Commodore's finish is as good as on the Falcon. The Falcon looks much better inside.
"It's got more room. There's more space inside and the boot looks bigger.
"I'd go for the Falcon because I'm a family man. If you're an enthusiast, you'd probably go for the Commodore because it's smaller."


Name: Edward Badra
Age: 28
Occupation: Clothing salesman
Own car: None

"The Falcon looks better. There's no particular reason, I just like it better. The Falcon seems to have much more room, especially in the back.
"I like big cars and the Falcon looks like it would be more practical.
"If I had choice between the two, I'd buy the Falcon. I like its style — the way a car looks is important to me."


Names: Mr and Mrs T.A. Dwyer
Ages: Both 60
Occupations: Both retired
From: Woollahra, New South Wales
Own car: Chrysler Centura

HER: "I like the Commodore better. The styling looks neater. The Falcon seems to have more room, though, and I don't like the upholstery in the Commodore. I don't like the plastic fuel tank in the Falcon because we're always told we shouldn't store petrol in plastic containers, aren't we?"
HIM: "Both look too short in the boot — you can't see the back to park."
HER: "I don't like those two extra lights on the front of the Falcon. I think if you get hit, they'll be struck first and be broken. The plastic bumpers aren't going to stop them being broken."
HIM: "They're just ornaments, those bumpers - they're really just ornamentation! They're absolutely useless, in my mind."
HER: "The one that's got the best fuel consumption would which we'd buy. We're retired and the cost of petrol is very important. Room is important to us, but we would be willing to sacrifice some room for better fuel consumption."
HIM: "I'd have the Commodore, myself; it looks better to me. I don't like all this plastic on the Falcon, especially that plastic fuel tank."


Name: Peter Samek
Age: 20
Occupation: Shop assistant
From: Bronte, New South Wales
Own car: Volkswagen Beetle

"Actually, I think they both look very good, but I prefer the Ford even though it sits a bit high.
"It's a very hard choice. Both are very comfortable and have a good amount of room.
"The Falcon doesn't look noticeably bigger except that it sits higher off the ground. It hasn't got noticeably more leg-room in the back, though it looks wider.
"I couldn't really say which one I'd choose until I'd gone for a test drive, but on looks the Falcon's a bit more appealing."


Name: Elio Echentille
Age: 45
Occupation: Sales representative
From: Kingsgrove, New South Wales
Own car: Ford XC Falcon

"I prefer the Falcon to the Commodore, mainly on room and comfort. It looks a lot better and stands out more. It's a lot higher than the Commodore, and I've always liked a high car.
"For my purpose, the Falcon is more practical. I like big, roomy cars. To me, the Commodore is a bit too narrow inside.
"If I was choosing between them, I'd definitely buy the Falcon, no second thoughts."


Name: Stephen Roach
Age: 24
Occupation: Accountant
From: Bellevue Hill, New South Wales
Own car: Peugeot 504

"The Falcon looks better. I like its lines.
"It's obviously bigger inside. If you're a family man that would be important, but it's not particularly important to me. They're both pretty close, really — very similar in concept.
"If it was my choice, I'd buy the Falcon, mainly on its better looks and because generally I prefer Falcons, anyway."


Names: Mandy and Norm Behan
Ages: Mandy, 18; Norm, 19
Occupations: Housewife, butcher
From: Blackall, Queensland
Own car: Ford XA Falcon

HER: "The Falcon looks better. It's much wider, much longer, much higher and I think it'd be much better on country roads than the Commodore would be. The Commodore doesn't look as strong. The Falcon's got much more room inside, especially in the back. Space and the ability to take a lot of rough treatment are important in the country. The Commodore is too low for a country dirt road, far too low. I found the seats are much more comfortable in the Falcon, and the dash is much nicer, more like a Volvo. The Falcon is the one I'd buy, definitely."
HIM: "I agree with what Mandy says. The Falcon looks good, it looks solid, and has plenty of room inside. But I'd like to test drive it first to check out the suspension."


Name: Michaela Ferris
Age: 18
Occupation: Art student
From: Double Bay, New South Wales
Own car: None

"I like the Ford. It looks very solid and it's got plenty of space. There's a lot of room for the children. As I've sat in the back of cars so much, it's good to be able to have plenty of room. Normally you're crowded in the back.
"The Falcon's a super family car — it's got everything you'd look for. If I had a choice, I'd choose the Falcon."