Local car manufacturing is on the way out, and it’ll take with it two uniquely Australian vehicles in the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon - and their tasty Commodore SS, Falcon XR6 Turbo and XR8 variants.
But are sporty rear-drive four-doors really on the endangered list? Think again, there are lots of good value, dynamic, RWD sedans that cost well under a six-figure sum.
Those blue-collar Aussie heroes are, of course, on this list, but you may be surprised at the diversity of brands that have something to offer the four-door-fancying fast-car fiend. Let’s go.
Ford Falcon XR6 Sprint - $54,990
The venerable Falcon is first in line because, well, it’ll be the first to go. October 7 2016 is the date that Ford’s Broadmeadows assembly plant shuts up shop, so your window for nabbing an XR6 Sprint is rapidly closing.
Why are we focusing on the XR6 Sprint rather than its ballsier brother the XR8 Sprint? Well, with a 4.0 litre turbo inline six under its bonnet the XR6 Sprint is a fairly unique machine. Supercharged V8s like the XR8’s, meanwhile, are a little easier to come across (just peek into HSV’s stable).
And in last-hurrah Sprint form, the XR6 bellows out 370kW of power and 650Nm of torque with overboost - 39kW and 100Nm more than what a BMW M3 can generate, and not all that far off the XR8’s output. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie? Oi, Oi, Oi.
Okay, so the interior is dated and the chassis isn’t the sharpest thing on four wheels, but its big-cube turbo six is the most advanced powerplant ever designed and manufactured in Australia and it transforms “mum’s taxi” (or an actual taxi, if we’re being honest) into a fire-spitting sports sedan.
In the context of its price, the XR6 Sprint is a true bang-for-your-buck bargain.
HSV GTS - $95,990
Like the XR6 Sprint, the HSV GTS does not have a long future ahead of it. Holden will cease building cars sometime next year and when that happens Holden Special Vehicles will no longer have a steady stream of Commodore bodies to modify.
And that’s a shame, because the HSV GTS is, to use a well-worn cliche, the Mr Hyde to a Commodore Evoke’s Dr Jekyll. It is an effing monster.
Raw stats: 6.2 litres, one big ol’ supercharger, 430kW, 740Nm, 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds.
It’s staggeringly quick for a large sedan, and it also comes equipped with high-tech magnetorheological dampers, a durable nine-inch limited slip differential, torque vectoring and gigantic six-piston AP Racing brakes.
It’s a V8 Supercar that you can slap a number plate on, and we’ll be sad when it’s gone. It may be the most expensive car on this list, but the GTS surprisingly accounts for the lion’s share of HSV sales despite that.
We can understand why though - to get that level of performance in a car of the GTS’ size, your only other option is to shop for high-end Euros like the Audi RS6, Mercedes-AMG E63 or BMW M5.
Holden Commodore SS V Redline $54,490
Yes we know the GTS is a Commodore at its core, but for those who don’t have ninety grand to spare the Commodore SS V Redline will provide about 8/10ths of the performance for less than 6/10ths the price.
Now equipped with the naturally-aspirated 6.2 litre LS3 V8, the SS V Redline belts out a handy 304kW of power and 570Nm of torque, through your choice of a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto.
It’s a true Aussie hero, and one that doesn’t cost the earth either. Buy one while you still can - there will never be another Holden quite like it.
Lexus IS 350 F Sport - $71,500
With a powerful 233kW V6 under its bonnet and a chassis that’s more neutral and playful than you may expect, the IS 350 F Sport is an oft-forgotten - and criminally underrated - RWD sports sedan option.
If you can live with somewhat tight rear seat accommodation, you’ll be rewarded with a high-quality interior, one of the coolest instrument panels in the segment and a throaty V6 note that’s far more exciting than the turbo 4-cylinder options present in its rivals.
The infotainment system is a bit old-hat already, but the rest of the package is rock-solid. Its value-for-money is also pretty hard to top, as is Lexus’ reputation for bulletproof reliability.
Chrysler 300 SRT Core - $65,000
At 6.4 litres for $65,000, the 300 SRT Core delivers the most displacement in this group for a price that should be agreeable to most.
The 300 is an offering that teeters on the boundary of luxury and certainly feels a bit more posh than, say, a Falcon, but doesn’t quite challenge the Germans or Japanese when it comes delivering a truly luxurious experience.
But with 350kW and 637Nm surging from its bellowing 6.4 litre Hemi V8, do you really give a stuff?
If you’re a fan of automotive Americana you’re probably already chatting to your accountant about putting one of these in your driveway, but if you just want a big RWD four-door that goes like stink you’d be a fool not to put this one on your list too.
BMW 340i - $89,900
Equal parts luxury and performance, the 340i is the successor to the much-loved 335i and carries on that model’s formula of a turbo straight six up front, driven wheels at the rear and a comfy cabin in the middle.
For 2016 power and torque rise to 240kW and 450Nm respectively (hence the nomenclature “upgrade”), and a sportier variable-ratio steering rack and M Sport package are now standard. Even better is the fact BMW still allows you to spec a manual transmission at no extra cost - a rarity in the luxury segment.
It’ll run to 100km/h in just 5.1 seconds, which is properly swift for a luxo sedan. If you’ve got the dollars to spend and prefer your sports sedan to come with a bit of badge cred to make the neighbours jealous, look no further.
Jaguar XE 25t R-Sport - $68,900
It’s a shame the supercharged V6 XE S is priced just north of $100k, because that car epitomises the term “executive express”. Its four-cylinder sibling the XE 25t R-Sport is the next best thing.
With just 177kW and 340Nm, the 25t is the least muscular in this particular bunch. It makes up for that with a sublime chassis that rewards keen drivers and even shows the likes of BMW a thing or two about vehicle dynamics.
At 6.8 seconds 0-100km/h it’s slow, nearly a full second slower than the Lexus. Its interior also has some puzzling ergonomic quirks, but it’s a Jaguar - if there’s a brand that’s permitted to be a little bit eccentric, it’s Jag.
Mercedes-Benz C250 - $68,900
The C250 is a similar offering to the XE 25t - down on power, but still delivers classic RWD dynamics and plenty of luxury to boot.
It’s one to go for if you value comfort more than outright performance, but with a 6.6-second 0-100km/h time the C250 is no slug. It’ll keep up with the current crop of hot hatches, so don’t worry about being shamed by a Golf GTI at the traffic lights.
Infiniti Q50 S Hybrid - $68,900
The petrol-electric variant of Infiniti’s Q50 medium sedan family does things a little differently from the other cars on this list by merging a 3.5 litre petrol V6 with a 50kW electric assistance motor.
But this ain’t no Prius clone, no-siree. With a 5.1-second 0-100km/h time the Infiniti is in proper performance territory, and it achieves that while also boasting one of the better fuel economy figures of this group - 6.8 l/100km on the combined cycle.
Only the Benz drinks less, but it’s also the least powerful. The Infiniti, by contrast, flexes a handy 268kW of power and 546Nm of torque when both electric motor and petrol engine are working in unison.
There are some compromises in the boot area thanks to the lithium-ion battery pack chopping luggage space to just 400 litres, but that’s the price paid for environmentally-responsible performance.
Its electrically-assisted adaptive steering takes some getting used to as well, but the fundamental chassis it’s connected to is excellent. Like the Lexus, the Infiniti Q50 S Hybrid is a car that deserves far more attention from new-car buyers than it currently receives.
Alfa Romeo Giulia (incoming)
Okay so you can’t exactly buy one just yet, but by this time next year Alfa’s gorgeous RWD sedan should be on local showroom floors.
And we can’t wait. The M3-rivalling Giulia QV flagship is extra-tasty but certain to cost north of $100k, but a 206kW mid-spec four-cylinder engine confirmed for the US market should also make its way to our shores.
That car should hit the price/power sweet spot, and with stunning Italian bodywork encasing a promising RWD platform the Alfa Romeo Giulia is perhaps something all you RWD sedan fans should be hanging out for.
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