GIVEN THE CHOICE of keys to a new car for my first TMR test drive – exotics aside - the FG Falcon was always going to be high on my list, so I wasn’t about to complain when the keys to a Dash green XR6 Turbo were slipped under my door.
Having watched with interest the FG’s gestation over the past few years I was curious to see how Ford’s new Falcon shaped up.
Some will argue that the FG isn’t new and in the strictest sense of the word they’d be right. The FG is better described as a major rework of the BA-BF platform - an excellent platform that in BF guise was more than capable of taking the fight to Holden’s newer VE Commodore.
Now, underpinning the FG and significantly reworked, it's even better.
The initial pre-flight inspection confirmed my belief that in the flesh, the FG is one handsome car. Not everyone agrees and some are of the opinion that Ford's designers failed to do enough to separate the FG from the BA-BF series - but I disagree.
The new lines are well-honed and tight, with a dynamic swage line down the big Falcon’s flanks and distinctive scalloping on the lower part of the doors being the centrepieces of a very clean design.
There is something very feline about the FG, it looks smooth, crisp and taut. Sit it alongside the VE Commodore and the still handsome VE looks a little over-styled in comparison.
Styling aside, it was the colour that was going to take a little getting used to. Ford clearly wanted this press car to stand out in a crowd and while this particular shade of green (Ford calls it Dash) did grow on me, I’d prefer mine in silver thanks.
On the road, the FG attracted its share of attention, a fact no-doubt partially due to the vibrant exterior hue. At the drive-through (it's never too late for breakfast), two skater dudes with their arses hanging out of their pants took the opportunity to check it out, nodded and gave me the thumbs up.
The grass-roots of Australia had spoken - in their own inimitable way - and it was looking good for the FG.
Ford has addressed previous generation Falcon issues with the FG. The A-pillars have been moved forward to expand the glasshouse and the general perception is that you sit a little lower – but a perception is all it is.
Ford’s designers are a clever bunch. In response to feedback that suggested many drivers felt that they sat ‘on’ rather than ‘in’ the BA-BF series Falcons, Ford has raised the FG’s centre console along with the Interior Command Centre (ICC) screen.
To balance it all out Ford also raised the driver and passenger side armrests - a neat solution that seems to work.
I’m 6ft tall and had no issues with the driving position. The steering wheel is smaller than in the BF, the front seats are comfortable if lacking a little lateral thigh support and the new centre console is smart and functional.
I am not a fan of the XR6T’s dashboard - the fuel and temperature gauges are tiny and the numbering on the tachometer and speedometer are difficult to read easily, an issue probably due in part to the tacky looking blue background.
The look is ‘cheap’ and buyers of the XR6T deserve to have an interface with a little more style and functionality.
On the other hand, the quality of materials and dashboard plastic all appear to have been improved, with a softer feel that should be more resistant to scratching.
The rear doors are massive, the rear window and roof line have been moved outwards and gone are the days of passengers bumping their noggins when piling into the back seat.
On the road, the first thing you notice is the almost complete absence of any turbo characteristics.
Driving through the congestion of Melbourne suburbia, turbo lag is noticeable by its absence. The 'Green Goblin' pulled cleanly and without fuss. It felt strong low in the rev range and to all intents and purposes behaved much like a naturally aspirated big six. The merest hint of turbo whistle gave the game away for those with a good ear.
For the FG series, Ford engineers thoroughly revised the FG XR6T’s turbo (which now spools 30 percent faster) and fitted an intercooler whose size rivals that of the intercooler fitted to the BF FPV Typhoon.
The highly regarded ZF six-speed was as smooth as expected, handling changes up and down the ratios with aplomb. The steering (a new variable ratio Y-shaped rack setup) was well-weighted with plenty of feel, and the brakes (carried over from the BF) felt progressive and strong.
The only complaints were an excess of tyre noise from the optional 19 inch 35 series performance rubber and an odd barely-perceptible harmonic finding its way through the front end which - again I’d put down to the tyres (which on this XR6T press car had seen their share of hard kilometres).
Driving over pockmarked bitumen and the odd small pothole (short sharp bumps) revealed some suspension harshness but certainly nothing that would be a deal breaker given the FG’s handling-biased suspension and big wheels.
Train crossings were a cinch and I stopped wincing in anticipation of any suspension crash-through after the first one – kudos to Ford’s engineers. The only let-down at this stage of the journey was a rather uninspiring exhaust note that only raunched-up with a pile of revs on board.
Once out of the burbs and heading down through the Yarra Valley it became apparent where the Goblin was really at home – on the open road. The first chance to really see what the 270kW 4.0-litre six was capable of came when overtaking a bulk wine transporter and the response was instant and awesome.
The ZF kicked down a gear, the turbo spooled and the truck was left instantly in the big Ford’s slipstream. Flexing the right foot at highway speed is met with lashings of unadulterated torque – clearly this engine's strength.
With the computer telling me it had been averaging 11.4 l/100 I was left wondering why anyone would buy the V8... any V8. Incidentally, at 11.4 l/100, the Goblin was returning better fuel economy than Ford’s official 11.7 l/100 rating for the XR6T and I wasn’t just cruisin’.
Two hours of tooling around on some great country roads and my enthusiasm for the big turbo six was unwavering.
In-gear acceleration, always a turbo strong suit, is brilliant and drivetrain refinement in general is worthy of compliment. Ford Australia won’t publish the performance times for any of its cars, for fear of upsetting Australia’s vocal minority (why do we listen to them?) but recent unofficial testing by other testers has clocked the XR6T belting from 0-100km/h in a fraction over 5 seconds.
I can confirm that this car feels that strong. FPV are hinting at 0-100 in under 5 seconds for the 310kW F6 which gives you an idea what Ford and FPV are achieving with the venerable 4.0-litre I6.
Off the highway and into the hills behind Eltham and the XR6 continued to shine. You can tell a well-sorted large car by the way it shrinks around you and gives you the sense that you are piloting a smaller, lighter vehicle.
Fitted with mono-tube shocks for the first time and a new lightweight Virtual Pivot Control Link front suspension, the Goblin belied its heft and cornered cleanly.
A hint of body roll (these are public roads so this wasn’t a full-blooded session), a front end that feels light and well planted, excellent turn in and with Ford’s well calibrated DSC system keeping the back in check, this was big car nirvana. The only thing missing was a character-laden exhaust soundtrack.
Once through the hills and in defiance of Melbourne’s persistent drought, some dirty weather set in and the opportunity to find a quiet road and test Ford’s Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) presented itself.
The DSC system incorporates Traction Control and is now standard across the Falcon petrol engine range.
With the DSC on and the transmission in sports mode I launched the Goblin. The DSC immediately and unobtrusively did its job, with the FG scrabbling for grip before bolting off in a straight line, the speedo needle finding the legal limit in double quick time.
To turn off the DSC, you hold down the DSC button for a few seconds until the warning light on the dash confirms the DSC is disabled.
Another full-blooded run from standstill - DSC off - was a little more of a nail-biter with that wonderful turbo donk revealing its dark side.
With 533Nm being pumped to the rear boots, physics and a wet road took over. With the big six boosted, the rear tyres didn’t stand a chance and the rear end quickly broke loose - the only choice was to back off the loud pedal.
This car would be a hoot on a skid pan! Ford’s DSC system works well and is going to save lives. When on public roads, wet or dry, leave it on.
The new FG range is safer than ever with dual stage driver and front passenger airbags and head protecting side airbags standard on all models.
Oddly, given the performance capability of the XR6T, curtain and side thorax airbags are not standard fitment (they can be optioned), yet they are standard fitment on the less powerful naturally aspirated G6E.
With the rain now well and truly pelting down, I headed back through Eltham and into the suburbs of Melbourne where I spent the rest of the weekend punting through Melbourne traffic.
Two days behind the wheel of the FG XR6T was enough to highlight just how lucky Australian performance car enthusiasts are when it comes to the local products on offer. In this environment, the FG XR6T is punching well above its weight and HSVs – not SS Commodores - will be ducking the punches thrown by this ballsy six-pot.
The myriad changes that separate the BF from the FG range have revitalised the Falcon and it’s once again back on the pace, looking and feeling refreshed.
In XR6T form the Falcon offers something that the competition doesn’t. It is hard to believe that the heart of this car, that stunning 4.0-litre turbo engine will be killed off come 2010 when Ford switches to the imported Duratec ‘Cyclone’ V6. What a shame – and what a potential collectible this version of the XR6T becomes as a result.
The FG Falcon is the best Falcon ever – that’s a fact, plain and simple. It’s arguably the best large car ever built in this country.
Unfortunately, the biggest threat faced by the Falcon is no longer its large sedan opposition, the real threat is the change in buying habits of Australian motorists.
With SUVs, 4WD commercial vehicles and smaller more-efficient cars becoming increasingly popular, the big Aussie sedans are not enjoying the relevance they once did and it’s a situation that is not likely to change anytime soon.
If you want one of Australia’s best value for money home-grown large performance sedans that combines huge performance, outstanding handling and fuel economy (relative to its performance potential), then you will be hard-pressed to find a better buy than the XR6T.
The last word:
“What it lacks in aural character compared to a Ford or Holden V8 it makes up for with an unbeatable blend of storming performance and impressive efficiency. Smooth, refined and well sorted it represents bargain basement big car performance buying. With the imminent demise of the 4.0-litre I6, future collectible classic status is all but assured”.
- Huge performance
- Impressive fuel economy
- Sharp styling
- Hugely improved interior
- Solid feel
- Impressive handling
- Value for money
- Cheap looking and hard to read instrument cluster
- Excessive tyre roar on coarse chip bitumen
- Uninspiring exhaust note
- Curtain and side thorax airbags should be standard
What’s it Cost
RRP - $45,490
Price as tested - $52,140
Options fitted to test car:
• ZF 6-speed Automatic - $1,500
• Colour – Dash (Green) $400 optional prestige colour
• XR Luxury pack - $5,000
• Premium sports interior
• Premium audio system with colour display
• Leather trim sports seats
• Dual Zone climate control
• 19x8 inch XR-5 spoke alloy wheels – 245/35 R19 tyres
• Reverse Camera - $500
• Reverse Sensing System - $500
• Matching Spare Wheel - $250
|Engine type:||4.0L DOHC DI-VCT TURBO I6|
|Engine size (cc):||3984|
|Maximum power:||270kW @ 5250rpm|
|Maximum torque:||533Nm @ 2000rpm - 4750rpm|
|No. of valves:||24|
|Bore x stroke (mm):||92.26 x 99.31mm|
|Fuel System:||Sequential multipoint electronic fuel injection|
|0-100 km/h:||Low ‘fives’|
|Transmission:|| 6-speed manual |
(Optional) ZF 6-speed adaptive automatic with Sequential Sports Shift
|Steering:||Power assisted rack and pinion|
|Brakes:|| Front: ventilated discs twin piston caliper |
Rear: solid discs single piston caliper
|Fuel tank volume:||81 litres|