FPV GTF 351 REVIEW
What’s hot: Rip-snorting performance, great handling and wailing supercharger.
What’s not: Looks similar to other GTs (no unique body parts), dated interior, limited technologies.
X-FACTOR: It’s the last ever GT and there will only be 500 made - a high-performance rarity and a line in Australian motoring history.
Vehicle style: Large performance sedan
Price: $77,900 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 351kW/570Nm 5.0 SC V8 petrol | 6spd auto/6spd manual
Fuel economy claimed: 13.7L/100km | tested: 14.9L/100km
So, this is the last ever GT.
Only 500 GT F 351s will be made for Australia before the Ford Performance Vehicles brand and the GT badge will be retired. And a page of this country's motoring history will be turned.
All but a handful have been sold, despite the $77,900 asking price.
Many of those customers will expect them to be worth more in the future as collectibles. So most will likely be tucked away and given just the occasional airing.
But a performance car is to be driven, and the GT F is neither short on power nor performance.
FPV has introduced a range of small changes, including a new engine map that pushes the official power figure up from 335kW to 351, neatly matching the size, in inches, of the famous GT Falcons of the 1960s, 70s and early 80s.
So, is the GT F a fitting tribute to the GT name or a mere marketing exercise to sell one last batch of 500 cars?
The answer is: both.
The GT F comes with some minor interior changes and some extra visual enhancements.
These include GT-orange seat-stitching, a unique instrument backing plate, custom black plastic trim-sections and horizontal grey and black patterns across the dash that has a sort of carbon-fibre appearance.
They are not heated, which is a shame. Unfortunately, the driver’s seat also sits higher than many would like (as is the case with all Falcons)
There is an eight-inch centre touchscreen, which shows GT F-only digital dials as well as a G-force indicator, which is a bit of fun (for the passengers).
But, despite the special instrument cluster background, the GT F dashboard is very dated. This is no surprise as it is a facelifted version of something that came out in 2008.
The Start button can also be frustrating. Unlike most ignition buttons, the Start button only works after you have placed the key in the barrel and twisted it. And it doesn’t kill the engine either.
It is fun to get the big 5.0-litre engine going with the press of a button; it creates a sense of performance anticipation when it fires up with a throaty growl. But it feels dated in the GT F with so many keyless entry and start systems around.
The steering wheel is well designed and sits perfectly in the hands. There are no paddle gearshifters in our car, which is the automatic - you’d have to think that’s a glaring omission at this price point.
No complaints with the room nor accommodation however. There is heaps of space in both the front and rear and a big boot (as you expect from any Falcon).
The rear seats are very comfortable too, and nicely shaped if things are becoming hectic at the wheel.
Radio reception is improved thanks a roof-mounted antenna (instead one built into the rear window).
The only other new feature is the addition of wide windscreen wiper-blades, which are also being added to the regular Falcon range.
ON THE ROAD
FPV had a tight budget, but it threw everything it could at the GT F.
This includes a track-ready suspension package, wider rear tyres, potent Brembo brakes and, of course, a power boost.
It makes for an incredible drive. The acceleration is remarkable off the line - this is a big car but it can really bolt - and you’ll feel those big nine-inch rear boots at work as the nose rises and surges forward.
Ford says, off the record, that it will do 0-100km/h in just 4.7 seconds.
While we didn’t do an accurate timed run, I have no reason to doubt that (on our looser in-car tests).
The 5.0-litre supercharged Miami V8 is a ripper.
Can you notice the extra power? Well, not really, not on this ‘seat of the pants’ impression. Of course, it may be more apparent if we were to test the GT F and a regular GT back-to-back.
The 351kW number gets a lot of attention, but like all Miami supercharged V8s, it can produce 15 percent more power for short bursts. In this case, that means more than 400kW is generated.
That is a big number, and, whichever way you look at it, this new GT F is one very quick car.
It sounds great too, with a mixture of supercharger whine and exhaust howl, and it crackles and pops on the over-run when you lift off.
Despite this lusty V8 chorus, the GT F is however quite refined at cruising speeds and the road noise is surprisingly low.
The sticky Dunlop rubber and firmer suspension means the grip is excellent in the dry.
FPV recalibrated the engine’s computer, to work with the latest Bosch Electronic Stability Control.
It is a smart system with enough ‘latitude’ to satisfy the sporting driver. You can hang things out before it intervenes, but you can still get caught out in the wet if you push too hard.
Spend time at the wheel however and one thing is clear: the GT F, along with the 2012 GT RSPEC, will go down in history as the best handling Falcons ever.
This is because they share firmer springs and dampers, a stiffer anti-roll bar, the 9-inch rear tyres (up from 8-inches) and stiffer suspension mounts.
The upside is far superior turn-in and direction change. The GT F sits flat and feels much more agile. It turns in so easily that you forget there is a big supercharged V8 sitting in the nose.
The downside is the firmer ride. Some people might find it slightly uncomfortable and it certainly isn’t plush, but it is no kidney whacker either.
Thankfully, the GT F also gets six-piston front Brembos and four-piston units at the rear, which help pull up the big Ford very quickly.
ANCAP rating: The GT F 351 has not been tested, but the Falcon it is based on gets 5-Stars.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist are all there as are six airbags including front, side and full length curtain bags. A reverse camera and sensors are standard.
However, the GT F misses out on the latest safety technology such as auto safety brake functions (that sense objects in front), blind-spot assist and adaptive cruise control.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The only real rival is the HSV GTS, which has a bit more power, and the benefit of all the Holden VF facelift upgrades.
Chrysler’s 300 SRT8 is also a powerful V8 rear-driver but can’t compete when it reaches the corners.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The GT F 351 is a cracking muscle car at a very good price. Those 500 owners certainly will be happy to have secured one.
The extra power is not overtly noticeable and it is easy to think the 351kW number was all about the marketing opportunity (which appears to have worked).
But that doesn’t really matter because this is still a fearsomely fast car.
The exterior styling tweaks and interior elements are minor, but add some nice touches nonetheless.
It is a shame the interior is dated, and the car is missing some of the latest tech, but it is largely based on a 2008 car after all.
It’s also a shame that FPV, and the GT, have to die. A more unique GT, with a fresh nose and perhaps a more special interior would have been great - but that was never going to happen, it would have been too expensive.
As it stands, the GT F 351 is the pinnacle of FPV’s work, a great handling car with a fantastic engine. That makes it a fitting send-off for an Australian icon.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- FPV GT F 351 manual $77,900
- FPV GT F 351 automatic $77,900
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