2010 FPV F6 E Road Test Review
WHEN WE REVIEWED FPV’s F6 sedan in June, we marvelled at its effortless ability to slip between relaxed, everyday cruising and full-throated hammer.
‘Jekyll and Hyde’ was the analogy used (cliched, we know).
Now FPV has wheeled out a new version, the F6 E, based on that ballistic F6; a version that, on the face of it, also leans more to tyre-shredding nastiness than niceness. But does it? What would emerge after a week in the saddle of FPV’s newest luxo-express?
The F6 E is the newly-minted partner to the GT E, the V8-powered executive cruiser based on the GT that sits at the top of FPV’s price list.
Like the GT E, the F6 E wears different clothes, sports a different interior and is marketed as a more sophisticated vehicle. But with Ford’s brutal FPV-enhanced turbocharged inline-six under the bonnet, is the F6 E just a more exclusive, but equally mad, F6?
From the outside, the F6 E is more subtle than the in-your-face F6. The front and rear bumpers are the same, but the ‘raccoon eyes’ and rear quasi-diffuser that are blacked out on the F6, are colour-coded on the F6 E.
The F6’s rear wing has also been turfed in favour of a discreet lip-spoiler, and the chrome window mouldings add a touch of class to the E’s body.
A chrome garnish on the bonnet’s leading edge crowns a different grille mesh design (the same hexagonal mesh used by the GT E), and the lower bumper opening is now a single unified aperture.
The F6 E shares the design of its 19-inch wheels with the F6, however they’ve been painted in Shadow Chrome to match the E’s more subdued body-colours.
Our test car looked great in its navy blue-ish ‘steel’ paintwork, and, although it lacks the visual punch of the F6, it’s still a suave looker. Externally understated, the F6 E is a sleeper: a performance car whose appearance belies its abilities.
Still, give it a second glance and you’ll spy those enormous brake rotors, the fire engine red Brembo calipers and that truck-sized intercooler. The business-class dressing isn’t quite enough to hide the F6 E’s origins.
Inside the F6 E’s cabin, it’s a slightly different affair. The same cabin plastics used by up-spec Falcons are present here, except FPV has elected to dress them up with dark walnut woodgrain trim, a sports leather steering wheel and alloy pedals.
Befitting its upmarket positioning, the F6 E’s seats, centre console lid and door cards are trimmed in leather as standard, with the F6 E logo embossed onto the front seat headrests. Our car was decked out in black leather, but red hide is an option for some exterior paint colours.
Some low-key FPV badging is smattered about the cabin, with the FPV-branded instrument cluster and a build plate mounted on the centre stack garnish being the most noticeable examples.
Those familiar with the FG Falcon will feel at home here, and it’s pleasing to see that FPV chose not to mess too much with the FG’s nicely laid out and high-quality interior.
The seats are supportive, plush and comfortable. The pampered posteriors of the executive classes may have dictated style here. While generously shaped, they lack a little of the bolstering required to hold the driver in place during spirited cornering – at least for smaller folk like yours truly.
The range of adjustment to the driving position is excellent however. Thanks to the reach/rake adjustable steering wheel, electric driver’s seat and fore/aft adjustment on the pedal box, it’s a cinch to tailor the F6 E to suit any driver.
There’s room aplenty in the rear of the cabin too, and back-seat passengers are well served by generous legroom, a fold-down centre armrest and rear air-conditioning outlets.
Equipment and features
The F6 E comes loaded with standard gizmos: with cruise control, power windows, electric driver’s seat with three-position memory, Bluetooth phone integration and those adjustable pedals - all factory-issue.
An auto-dimming rear-view mirror is also standard kit, and the wing mirrors are electrically adjusted. Dual-zone climate control is also included, and, while the centre stack-mounted starter button is a little gimmicky, it’s at least nicely integrated.
An oil temperature gauge and boost gauge are incorporated into the instrument cluster, and both are handy for keeping an eye on the F6 E’s vital statistics.
It also comes with a punchy premium audio system which incorporates an AM/FM tuner, six-CD in-dash stacker, iPod integration and a subwoofer bolted to the parcel shelf.
The system perhaps lacks a little of the high-fidelity clarity and ‘imaging’ found in some of its upmarket competitors, but, we’re splitting hairs, it’s more than adequate to get the neighborhood hopping.
Our test car was fitted with the optional satellite-navigation system. It’s a tad disappointing however to see FPV persisting with Ford’s remote-control sat-nav interface. It feels like an aftermarket addition, and compared to more well-integrated systems, it feels a little cheap.
Still, the SUNA TMC traffic warning system is a godsend during peak hour periods, and also gives advance warning of roadworks. The ability to calculate a detour around obstacles of this type on-the-fly definitely compensates for the sat-nav’s low-rent interface.
In terms of safety equipment, the F6 E comes well-equipped.
Front and side-airbags for the front seats are standard, as are full-length curtain airbags, electronic stability and traction control, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, and a standard-fit reversing camera.
No surprises here. The F6 E is mechanically identical to the F6, sharing its turbocharged 4.0 litre inline six, six-speed automatic gearbox and independent suspension hardware.
That means output still stands at 310kW at 5500rpm and a hefty 565Nm of torque spread between 1950rpm and 5200rpm. That’s five kilowatts less than the V8-powered GT E, but 14 Newton-metres more torque – arguably the more relevant metric for performance driving.
Unlike the ‘regular’ F6, though, the F6 E is only available with the six-speed ZF automatic transmission.
A manual transmission won’t be offered, but it’s no big loss – the ZF-sourced ‘box has already won critical acclaim from many publications (not just this one), and an engineer involved with the F6 program tells us it’s his personal choice for performance driving.
With an intelligent ‘sport’ shift program and a tiptronic mode, the ZF makes fast driving easy. Left in Drive, it’s just like any regular automatic slushbox. But knock the lever over to the side and it holds gears longer (to the redline, if need be), and downshifts sooner, keeping the engine on boost.
The suspension is also, as mentioned, shared with the F6. Spring-rates, damper valving and sway-bar thicknesses are unchanged.
Brakes, however, are slightly different. The base brake package of the F6 is skipped in favour of the bigger 355 x 32mm front rotors and 330mm x 28mm rear rotors of the F6’s optional big brake package.
Not only are the rotors bigger, but the Brembo six-piston front calipers and four-piston rear calipers allow a larger brake pad to be used, further improving stopping power.
A quartet of Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres grip the tarmac and are tasked with transferring the inline six’s substantial grunt to the ground. A limited-slip differential helps a little, but, as we found out, keeping all that power in check is a pretty big ask for the rear rubber.
So, with the same engine, same gearbox, same suspension and same brakes as the F6 we tested earlier this year, you’d expect it would drive exactly the same, right?
You’d be on the money there. Behind the wheel, it’s hard to pick a dynamic difference between the two.
Like the F6, it’s the character of the engine that gives the F6 E its split personality. Off boost, it’s quiet, smooth, and reasonably tractable. In fact, the most noise you’ll hear comes from the gearbox – it makes a faint mechanical whirl during gentle acceleration.
Mash the throttle though, and all hell breaks loose. Thanks to the engine’s four-litre capacity, the Garret turbocharger begins stuffing the F6 E’s six cylinders with positive pressure from just under 2000rpm, and full boost arrives in an enormous rush.
The gearbox detects ‘spirited’ driver behaviour and starts slamming through the ratios later and with more authority. Before you know it, the F6 E has whistled its way to somewhat (very somewhat) illegal speeds.
Lift off the accelerator and the plumbed-back blow-off valve issues a sharp sneeze as it vents pressure from the plenum chamber. Keep hard on the gas and the fuel cut produces a satisfying “whump” from the tailpipe as the ‘box swaps ratios during gearchanges.
It’s a wheezing, snorting masterpiece of an engine, and it’s very much at odds with the F6 E’s executive image.
On the one hand, it’s too docile at idle and during gentle cruising for people to notice it. On the other, it’s borderline scary when being punted hard. If an executive took a client for a ride in this machine, his passenger would either return yawning from the plush comfort inside and sedate noises from under the bonnet, or require a change of pants.
Thanks to its immense spread of peak torque, traction is perhaps the biggest issue for the F6 E.
Accelerating off the line, the traction control system does its best to keep the rear tyres from exploding into a cloud of rubber vapour. But there’s still ample amounts of wheelspin and tyre squeal.
Try the same stunt on a wet road, and you may as well not bother. The traction control kills the party quicksmart. Turn the traction control off while on a wet road, and you’re certifiably insane.
If there’s one thing the F6 E is good at, it’s powerslides. Throughout the 1990s, both Nissan and Toyota made a number of powerful RWD sedans for the Japanese market powered by turbocharged, iron-blocked in-line sixes.
Those cars are still immensely popular in the burgeoning sport of drifting. The FPV F6 E shares an eerily similar mechanical layout; it’s easy to see why our home-grown offering is so good at getting the tail out.
It’s a great trick to pull on a racetrack, but not particularly advisable on a public road. The traction control allows a little leeway in terms of slip angle; so, our advice - considering the F6 E’s prodigious grunt - is to leave the traction control on at all times.
The immense power of the F6 E, and the rush with which it arrives, means discretion is the better part of valour here.
Provided you’re not ham-fisted (that would be ham-footed) with the accelerator, cornering performance is outstanding.
The iron-block engine and all of its turbocharger hardware hangs a fair amount of weight over the front axle, but the nicely controlled front-end, balanced chassis setup and grippy Dunlops, endow the F6 E with brilliant turn-in.
It can generate quite considerable lateral G-forces without feeling things are going to come unstuck.
The steering rack rate is reasonably direct but feels a little isolated from the road surface. Roll though is kept tightly in check, and there is enough compliance to deal with off-camber undulations and mid-corner bumps (what is it with so many Aussie roads?).
When placed in sport mode the ZF gearbox will automatically hold the right gear to keep the engine on boost during neutral-throttle cornering, meaning there’s minimal delay between hitting an apex and getting that torquey six back on song. Hit the throttle too soon though and you’ll find yourself in a world of oversteer.
Again, be careful with this beast’s accelerator.
Remove the helmet, take off the racing gloves, get back on the highway and the F6 E assumes a more sensible demeanor. It’s a comfortable cruiser, and the car’s damping ensures you won’t have a bone-rattling ride back home.
It’s not as soft as the GT, mind you, but it’s not go-kart stiff either. In anyone’s language, the F6 E is a cracking drive.
Lastly, while it sits low to the road, you can negotiate most urban driveways and speed bumps without issue. That said, a little care is needed to avoid scuffing the bumper lip while parking.
It requires a deft touch to drive fast, it is not especially noticeable and the only time it’s aurally impressive is when you’re about to break the law.
At $79,740 it’s also the equal-most expensive FPV on sale. So, is the F6 E worth the extra money over the $65,990 F6?
The V8 burble and bulging bonnet of the GT E (the other range-topping FPV model) does a better job of impressing onlookers, but it’s nowhere near the fleet-footed sportscar that the F6 E is.
Spec an F6 to the same level as the F6 E (big brakes, big wheels, leather interior) and the price gap closes to around $4000. But is it worth an extra four grand to have a less extroverted version of the F6 in your driveway?
It comes down to your priorities and how much you value exclusivity. If you like your missiles understated and you don’t want to sacrifice on creature comforts and the trappings of success, the plush but scorching F6 E makes its own strong case. It is in fact a superbly executed car.
But if you just want to go fast, buy the F6.
[Photography by Joel Strickland]