THIS IS THE XR6 SPRINT: 370kW OF POWER, 650Nm OF TORQUE, AND A GLORIOUS INLINE-SIX SOUNDTRACK. It's a last-hurrah effort from Ford’s local operation and the last all-Australian Falcon to be built before the Broadmeadows factory doors slam shut on October 7.
Yes we know the XR8 Sprint also exists, but that car’s 5.0 litre V8 is sourced from the ‘States. The XR6 Sprint’s inline six, however, was forged just down the road at Ford’s Geelong foundry - it’s thoroughly true-blue.
And the XR6 Sprint is properly intriguing on paper. The stats promise big thrills, and its importance as the last of a long line of Australian-made big Fords means it occupies a special place in Australia’s automotive history. Collectibility is guaranteed.
Is it any good though? The architecture is verging on prehistoric, and the poor Falcon has more than a few wrinkles in evidence. Let’s check it out.
Vehicle Style: Large performance sedan
Price: $54,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 370kW/650Nm 4.0 turbo petrol 6cyl | 6sp auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 12.8 l/100km | tested: 16.9 l/100km
Built to send off the Falcon as local production winds down, the XR6 Sprint and XR8 Sprint are limited-edition specials of Ford’s six- and eight-cylinder fast sedan range.
They hide their specialness well. Ford either didn’t have enough left in the moneybox to splash out on unique bumpers and other body bits,or it’s a massive fan of low-key exteriors.
Whatever the case, the external differences between the XR6 Sprint and a regular ol’ XR6 Turbo are limited to a subtle stripe package on the rear quarter, a pair of Sprint-branded front-quarter accents, 19-inch black alloy wheels, reshaped foglamp surrounds, and a bootlip spoiler.
The more substantial differences are located under the bonnet. Ford raided the leftover parts cache of FPV (may it rest in peace) and applied the FPV F6’s intercooler, turbocharger and injectors to the XR6 Turbo’s powertrain.
That isn’t all either - a comprehensive retune sees power jump from the F6’s 310kW to a hefty 370kW with overboost, or 325kW in ‘normal’ mode.
Power freaks aren’t the only ones who’ll be salivating over the XR6 Sprint - collectors should take note that Ford will build just 550 of them, while the V8-powered XR8 Sprint will have a larger production run of 850 cars.
- Standard equipment: Leather and suede seat trim, four-way power adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, self-dimming rear view mirror, cruise control, multi-function trip computer, staggered 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch Sync 2 touchscreen, satellite navigation, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, single CD player, USB and Aux inputs, six-speaker audio
- Cargo volume: 535 litres
It says it’s a sports sedan on the wrapper, but the interior doesn’t quite match that promise. Sure, there’s part-leather, part-suede upholstery on the seats and strips of faux carbon-fibre trim on the dash and door cards, but that’s about all you get.
The XR6 Sprint still has the high-set front seat position of every other FGX model, which, combined with the relatively low steering column, puts the driver in a decidedly un-sporty posture.
The leather-trimmed steering wheel is also huge and identical to a regular FGX, and the wheel-mounted buttons still don’t illuminate - a pain when trying to set the cruise control at night.
The absence of shift paddles is another black mark for an automatic performance car in this day and age - even Holden relented and eventually put them on its SS V Redline
Combine that with the flawed ergonomics of the FG/FGX interior (such as that useless tray at the base of the centre stack, and cupholders that get in the way of your elbows) and the poor XR6 Sprint suffers.
That said, it’s as roomy as any other Falcon, and the seats are comfortable and well suited to long hauls.
The boot is capacious (though we never understood the reason for the FG/FGX’s lumpy boot floor) and the rear seats fold down, which gives the XR6 Sprint a load-carrying edge over any V8-powered competitor from Holden.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 325kW/576Nm 4.0 litre turbocharged petrol inline six. 370kW/650Nm with temporary overboost (ECU controlled)
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
- Suspension: Double-wishbone front, multi-link rear.
- Brakes: 6 piston Brembo front calipers and 355mm rotors, 4-piston Brembo rear calipers and 330mm rotors.
- Steering: Hydraulically assisted power steering.
Nothing compares to the surge of torque from a turbo, and when it’s coming from a silky-smooth inline six with a massive huffer and four litres of displacement, it’s all the more awesome.
The XR6 Sprint’s 4.0 litre turbo donk is the ultimate evolution of the Australian-made Ford straight six, and with 370kW of power and 650Nm of torque (when in overboost) it is incredibly muscular.
It’s the best part of the XR6 Sprint, but that’s the problem. The rest of the package doesn’t match up to the engine’s prodigious performance, and the car suffers as a result.
Power delivery is horrifically unrefined thanks to a traction control calibration that struggles to rein in all of those ponies.
Change gear at full-noise and there’s no torque management in play to ensure a smooth transition to the next ratio - the gear changes, the torque to the rear wheels is instantly magnified and wheelspin is the predictable result.
Leaving traction control on just highlights the overzealousness of the electronics.
Sure, in a car with this much twist it’s probably prudent to shut down any tail-out shenanigans early, but if you want a bit of a play every now and then you’re fresh out of luck - losing traction even for a brief moment results in the power being abruptly cut, then restored almost as suddenly.
Disable traction control and ludicrous wheelspin is the result. Unless you’ve got a highly disciplined right foot, it’s a hard car to drive fast.
I’ve no doubt some of you will love the XR6 Sprint’s ability to immolate its rear tyres at the flex of an ankle, but smoking tyres just means you’re going much slower than you could be.
It makes it hard to drive this car smoothly. Indeed, the only place a car can get away with such spiky behaviour is a racetrack. Is a racetrack part of your commute? I didn’t think so.
Then there’s the wooly steering and ultra-jiggly suspension tune - the Falcon is both sharp and soft at the same time. As a package, it just doesn’t gel.
It’s an on-paper beast, but get your head out of its spec sheet and slide behind the wheel and it starts to look a lot less impressive.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - the FG X Falcon scored 34.61 out of 37 possible points in ANCAP testing.
Safety features: ABS, EBD, traction control (switchable), stability control (switchable). Dual front, front side and full-length curtain airbags are standard.
Front seatbelts feature pretensioners and height adjustment. Ford’s Sync system also includes Emergency Assistance, which will contact emergency services via a paired Bluetooth mobile in the event of an accident.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
There’s really just one direct rival for the XR6 Sprint, and that’s the Holden Commodore SS V Redline.
It loses the power war with “just” 304kW and 570Nm, but thanks to a better balanced chassis and more permissive stability/traction electronics, it’s a lot less hairy to drive fast than the Falcon - and $500 cheaper too.
In terms of turbo sixes, you could also consider another Holden model - the Insignia VXR. It’s cheaper than the XR6 Sprint by $3000, but substantially less powerful at 239kW/435Nm. That said, with all-wheel-drive grip and decent dynamics, it’s not a bad option if you’re not too fussed about having the fastest car in a straight line.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
I’ll miss this turbo six. It’s a deeply impressive motor from a performance point of view, but sadly its ancient architecture means it won’t survive incoming emissions legislation - never mind the fact that the only vehicle it’s offered in is also about to shuffle off this mortal coil.
Speaking of which, it’s a shame the rest of the car can’t quite contain the massive performance churned out by that engine.
Were it more driveable and more agile it would issue a serious challenge to self-styled “driving machines” like the BMW M3, and that’s no exaggeration. It’s a cracking motor.
Instead, love the XR6 Sprint for what it represents - the culmination of Ford’s presence in this country, and the last Ford to be entirely designed by Aussie brains and entirely built by Aussie hands.
It’s a poignant symbol of what we as a nation are about to lose, but as a performance car the XR6 Sprint disappoints.
It is yesterday’s hero. While those with a nostalgic eye or an affinity for home-grown muscle cars will forgive its many foibles, for the rest of us the Falcon XR6 Sprint is just the last burst of dim light from the fading star that is domestic car manufacturing.