FPV GT F 351 REVIEW
What's hot: Balance, power and finesse; gorgeous blended Boss V8 howl and supercharged whine - a performance bargain.
What's not: Too bad, they’re mostly sold; visual clues too subtle?
X-FACTOR: An instant classic for ‘blue oval’ loyalists: of the 500 stamped for Australia, all but 10 are sold.
Engine/trans: 5.0 litre supercharged Boss V8 | 6spd manual or 6spd auto
Power/torque: 351kW (with 400+kW on overboost)/569Nm
Fuel economy listed: manual / automatic: 13.6 l/100km / 13.7 l/100km
Ford Australia boss Bob Graziano describes his new baby, the FPV GT F 351 as “a celebration of the best of the best”.
The celebration? It’s there in the new FPV GT F’s 351 badge.
Those numbers harken back to that most famous and desirable of Australian high-performance classics - the venerable XY GT HO Phase III with its Bathurst-winning 351 cubic-inch Cleveland V8.
But this new car is an eon removed from that raw and untamed beast. We’ve never seen such a sublimely balanced performance saloon from Ford.
But, infuriatingly, perversely, this car also carries an ‘F’ in the badge. That ‘F’ is for ‘final’: and we won’t see its like again.
Of course, we know the economic reasons for this stroke of the pen in that distant Ford Boardroom, and we know that the end had come for an orphan car on an orphan chassis, but show me anywhere in Ford’s global stable a better high-performance V8 sedan.
So, two or so years from now, the Falcon, and all its derivatives like this sensational car, will be extinct.
And the lineage of performance classics - from the XR GT, to the XY 351 GT HO, to this FPV GT F - will end on the chopping block on that dreary day ahead, red-ringed somewhere on a Ford calendar.
“We put the best of everything we have into this car,” Bob Graziano said.
It shows in even a few minutes behind the wheel (and that’s all we had).
Too bad if you’d like to jag one. By the time you read this, the production run of just 500 for Australia (our Kiwi mates get an additional 50) will all be spoken for and headed for the garages of ‘blue oval’ loyalists.
You will just have to wait till they begin to trickle back onto the market as modern day classics.
This is our report, filed through misty eyes.
- Unique build number, gear knob, and instrument cluster
- FPV starter button, GT F logos throughout
- Human Machine Interface (HMI) with Internal Command Centre (ICC)
- 8-inch colour touch-screen
- Premium 150W 8-speaker audio system (with subwoofer), AM/FM radio, CD
- Bluetooth and iPod integration, USB connectivity
- Satellite navigation system with Suna Traffic Message Channel
- Auxiliary audio plug-in (MP3 capability)
- ICC gauges:
Boost, Engine Temp, Oil temp, G-Force (Automatic)
Boost, Engine Temp, Voltage, G-Force (Manual)
- Cruise control and dual-zone automatic climate control
- Reverse sensors
- Sports multi-function leather steering wheel (with cruise control and audio)
- Alloy pedal covers
- ‘Soho’ leather inserts and bolsters, door trim inserts with suede-feel armrests
- Four-way power driver’s seat
It’s no longer a ‘new’ interior - this car, still essentially a Falcon, has been around for a while.
That said, while the FPV doesn’t have the crisply modern feel of the latest German saloons, it comes with enough premium touches to remain an appealing place to be.
The sloping centre console, low hip-point and nicely styled dashboard ‘open up’ the Ford interior, giving it a spacious and airy feel. It has always felt less-enclosed than the equivalent Commodore.
In the FPV, there is little to complain about for comfort or for the quality of materials and fit.
The nicely bolstered leather-faced seats come monogrammed and with contrasting stitching; the doors are similarly leather and suede trimmed and there are classy touches like polished metal scuff-plates and trim highlights.
The FPV GT F also comes with its own unique build number badged onto the console and repeated on the screen display.
The gearshift - we’ve driven the manual only - comes with a terrific machined knob (and perfectly-weighted short throw) and there’s a cluster screen display as well as a bespoke GT F display on the 8-inch touchscreen.
The centre screen carries four dials recording boost, engine temperature, voltage and g-forces (the auto gets a transmission oil-temperature gauge instead of voltage).
Forget about the g-force gauge. When you’ve got the ‘eyes on’, and giving things a serious belt, you’ll be too fully occupied at the wheel to be wondering about why your head feels strangely heavy.
But it will give your passengers something to look at.
And, being a large saloon, you will have no trouble loading up with three adults and their clobber. You’ve got to go to an E Class or 5 Series or A6 to get the kind of sprawling room you’ll find in the big Ford.
Plus there’s a 535 litre boot, and, should you go troppo and decide to hook a trailer up behind, the FPV also comes with a 1200kg tow rating for the manual, rising to 1600kg for the auto.
- Standard safety features of the FPV GT F include:
- Driver and front passenger airbags
- Curtain airbags plus front-seat side-thorax airbags
- Beltminder (front driver’s side)
- Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with emergency brake assist (EBA), 4-channel anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) and traction control
- Reverse parking camera
ON THE ROAD
- Boss 5.0 litre, supercharged DOHC 32-valve all aluminium V8
- 351kW @ 6000rpm / 570Nm @ 2,500-5,500rpm
- TR6060 6-spd manual; or ZF 6-spd high-torque auto with sequential sports-shift
- Automatic launch control
- Bimodal quad-exhaust system
- R SPEC suspension package with retuned dampers, increased spring rate, reinforced lower control arm, heavier anti-roll bar and revised rear toe-setting
- FPV Dark Argent alloy wheels (front 19" x 8"; rear 19" x 9"); 245/35 XL R19 Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres
- Brakes: Front - 355 x 32mm ventilated rotors with Brembo 6-piston calipers
- Rear - 330 x 28mm ventilated rotors with Brembo 4-piston calipers
To develop the FPV GT F, Ford Australia called in its former Prodrive/Premcar partners. And while it sits on what is essentially RSpec underpinnings, there are subtle performance changes below.
We had barely a drive, just a few laps of the banked circuit and straights, and then some steaming hot laps on the road circuit with two of Ford’s development drivers.
But this much is clear: this FPV GT F turns in better than any other factory-fettled hi-po Ford GT before it.
It is surprisingly nimble underfoot. The stiffened front-end keeps the nose noticeably flatter, and it points in with an eagerness that belies the weight of the all-alloy V8 and wailing supercharger sitting high in the nose.
The way it holds a tight line through an apex at speed is approaching scary. The back-end, with reinforced lower control arms and beefier anti-roll bar, just does not want to let go.
We saw some very high speeds down the long back straight. Stable, and with an almost perfect weighting through the wheel, the overwhelming impression of the handling balance of the GT F is of a European sports saloon - like a thumping German for instance.
(On a gut-feel short drive, you can consider this car in the hallowed company of an M or RS-badge. The FPV is a match for steering feel and turn-in, and will keep them honest in a straight line, just losing a little on exit thanks to a higher centre of gravity.)
Importantly, while making these comparisons, just remind yourself of the price advantage this car holds, and its classic collectability. It packs a hell of a lot of high-performance finesse into a sub-$80k price bracket.
We’ve said it before: pound-for-pound the hi-po Aussie V8s are performance bargains.
And this one - carrying that ‘F’ for ‘Final’ - is just that little more special.
Special indeed is the Boss V8 under the bonnet - this is surely one of the world’s great V8s. Smooth, with a satisfying bellow at full noise, it will have your neck hairs tingling when you hound it through the six speed box.
In anyone's hands, manual or auto, this is very a quick car. With launch control, Ford is claiming mid-fours for the 0-100km/h dash.
And it will bellow without complaint to the limiter; the cut-out is then ‘slurred’ so that you can keep momentum on the change.
The overboost function, which boosts power to 400kW+, kicks in on all gears bar first - provided conditions are right. If you’re all crossed up on exit, you won’t find it, nor if ambient temperatures are too high.
Incidentally, launch control is really simple to use (unlike some systems). Just stop, engage first, and floor the pedal. The FPV will rev up then settle back at around 4500rpm; then you simply slide your left foot sideways.
It nobbles things for the briefest moment while it gathers traction, then bolts.
So, yes, as Bob Graziano commented, “When you’re driving this car hard, you will get what you asked for.”
No argument about that.
TME FIRST DRIVE VERDICT | OVERALL
Launched to the media at Ford’s You Yangs Proving Ground, all around the new FPVs we were driving was Ford’s future in the Australia-Pacific region.
Unfortunately, for all its character and capability, we were driving Ford Australia’s past.
The FPV GT F is, and will forever remain, a classic. Exclusive, one to be enjoyed by the few, it is the last of the line. There is no room now in Ford’s transnational world for such an oddity.
Stiff, indeed, that the FPV GT F has a termination date, but stiffer that it’s quite possibly the best high-performance V8 saloon wearing a Ford badge anywhere on the planet.
It’s a beautiful car this GT F; it’s affordable and is everything a high-performance V8 saloon should be.
For this one, the FPV, it’s likely we’re all too late - check with your dealer (you might get lucky).
But you’ll get a second chance. The Falcon update will bring the new XR8 with an expected 335kW before it too then disappears.
MORE: FPV News and Reviews