Vehicle Style: Large performance sedan
Price: $54,690 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 335kW/570Nm 5.0 supercharged petrol V8 | 6sp auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 13.7 l/100km | tested: 17.7 l/100km
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the last V8 Ford Falcon ever. You know it, I know it, we all know it.
And when it is lead to the knackery in 2017, so too goes a lineage of bent-eight Falcons that stretches back just shy of 50 years.
Will we miss it?
That depends on what replaces it, if anything. All indications are that the Mustang will take over the V8 RWD mantle in Ford Australia, and sedan options might only get as hot as a forced-induction V6.
So if you have a fondness for V8 Aussie sedans - particularly one with a blue oval on the snout - get one while you still can.
- Leather upholstery, power windows, dual-zone climate control, electric driver’s seat, rear air vents, dusk-sensing headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, trip computer.
- Infotainment: Sync 2 touchscreen display with sat-nav, digital radio, AM/FM/CD, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming. USB and 3.5mm AUX audio input.
- Luggage: 535 litres with rear seats up.
Ford’s development budget for the FG X Falcon clearly didn’t have much left over for the interior. As such, the XR8’s interior fit-out is pretty much the same as what you’ll find in any FG-generation Falcon.
And that’s a disappointment because if anything needed improvement on the Falcon, it was its ho-hum cabin.
There is an out-of-date look to the surfaces and build-quality is less than stellar (loose plastics in the footwell and a mystery rattle in the test car) and the centre stack cubbies are hard to access and very small.
There’s electric adjustment for the driver’s seat only, not the passenger, and only the driver’s window has an auto-down feature. The generously padded, monogrammed leather seats though are very comfortable.
Certainly, the Sync 2 infotainment system is a big step up from what the Falcon previously had - and comes with some impressive high-end features - but while its voice command system is cool, we found it had difficulty playing audio over a Bluetooth connection.
We also found that scrolling through digital radio channels was unnecessarily cumbersome.
The key features though, like sat-nav and emergency assist, and the ease of finding and calling a number from the phone - you can just ask and your SYNC 2 assistant will find it for you - are very welcome inclusions to the standard feature list.
However, where this car wins hands down is in the space it offers; it’s hard to beat a big Aussie sedan like the Falcon, much less find a European or Japanese competitor with such space and such performance.
Three adults can fit across the rear bench easily (though the middle one has to straddle the transmission tunnel), and leg, foot and headroom is plentiful for all.
The boot is also very big, measuring 535 litres against rival Holden’s 496 litres. The Ford’s rear seats also fold down, a feature unavailable in the Commodore.
ON THE ROAD
- 335kW/570Nm 5.0 litre supercharged petrol V8
- 6 speed automatic with manual mode and sports mode; rear-wheel drive
- Brembo brakes with ventilated discs
- Hydraulic power steering
- FPV R Spec suspension with specific damper and spring rates
If you’re thinking the final iteration of the XR8 is just like those that came before it - all about beefy engines and little else - you’re wrong.
Since FPV has disappeared, Ford has taken all of the mechanical smarts that underpinned the previous-gen FPV GT R Spec and applied them to the XR8.
That means a track-honed suspension package, proper brakes and big, wide rear tyres.
And, of course, a 5.0 litre supercharged V8 with 335kW of power and 570Nm of torque. All of that torque, by the way, is spread between 2200 and 5500rpm. Tractability, thy name is XR8.
The result, predictably, is a car that drives very much like the R Spec did - except costs $24,500 less.
The optional six-speed auto of our tester is also a gem, with clever shifts in Performance mode that minimise the need to manually change gears.
But that doesn’t mean the XR8 is perfect.
It turns in better than any XR8 before it, but it still feels nose-heavy compared to the XR6 Turbo. The brakes are strong yet the pedal lacks feel, and the steering doesn’t feel as accurate as the Holden Commodore SS.
The chassis is also quite taut and resistant to roll (impressive considering the XR8 weighs over 1.8 tonne), but it’s too tail-happy.
Some may see that as a positive attribute for brutish machine like the XR8, but the shortage of traction under full-throttle acceleration just results in the XR8 being slower than it could be.
And it can be a real handful in the wet, even with traction control switched on.
It seems even the 9-inch rear wheels simply aren’t enough to contain the supercharged V8’s impressive torque. You'll also be taming the tail on tight switchbacks and choppy roads.
Some will also find the taut suspension a chore on longer trips. Though the engine barely notices steep hills and loves to lope along at triple-digit speeds, the suspension is very firm and can be wearing after an hour or two in the saddle.
That and the fuel consumption. At 100km/h on level ground, that 5.0 slurps around 12-13 l/100km.
And all this means that the environment for TRULY enjoying the XR8’s capabilities is probably a racetrack, or a skidpan. Preferably one next to a petrol station.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.61 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: ABS, EBD, traction control (switchable), stability control (switchable). Dual front, front side and full-length curtain airbags are standard.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
However, in terms of REAL rivals the XR8 has just two: the Holden Commodore SS, and the Chrysler 300 SRT8
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
An interesting thing happened while driving the XR8.
The ABC’s Triple J was celebrating its 40th anniversary and broadcasting its first-ever hour of airtime.
So I found myself listening to rock music from 1975 on a digital radio, while cruising in a car designed to a formula that harks back to the same era.
But like some of that music, the Falcon hasn’t aged all that well. While its main rival the Commodore SS has evolved into a well-honed sports sedan, the XR8 feels decidedly old-school.
It’s a fun car, don’t get me wrong, but it just feels like it belongs to another era. There’s plenty of bang-for-buck, but finesse is a little lacking.
It’s a bit sad that the last V8 Falcon isn’t quite as well-resolved as it should be. In fact, that other V8 performance bargain - the SS, especially the Redline - ticks a few more boxes.
Which knocks half-a-star off the verdict for this reviewer.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
2015 Ford FG X Falcon Sedan
- Falcon 4.0L Petrol, 4.0L EcoLPi or 2.0L EcoBoost (auto) - $35,900
- Falcon XR6 4.0L Petrol (manual) - $35,590
- Falcon XR6 4.0L Petrol (auto) - $37,790
- Falcon XR6 Turbo 4.0L Petrol (manual) - $42,990
- Falcon XR6 Turbo 4.0L Petrol (auto) - $45,190
- Falcon G6E 4.0L Petrol or 2.0L EcoBoost (auto) - $40,110
- Falcon G6E Turbo 4.0L Petrol (auto) - $46,550
- Falcon XR8 5.0L Petrol (manual) - $52,490
- Falcon XR8 5.0L Petrol (auto) - $54,690
Note: EcoBoost four-cylinder engine is a no-cost option on Falcon and Falcon G6E
Options - Falcon XR8
- Prestige Paint - $385
- Matching Alloy Spare - standard
- Leather Seat Trim - standard
- Tow Pack (1600kg rated) - $550