SAYING FAREWELL TO A FAMILY MEMBER, A HERO, AN ICON, WAS NEVER GOING TO BE EASY FOR FORD AUSTRALIA. But a fitting tribute, in the shape of the Ford Falcon XR6 Sprint and XR8 Sprint, will help numb that pain.
These two cars aren’t simply sticker packs with new wheels and run-out pricing. They’re re-engineered, tweaked, enhanced, and uprated - two of Ford Australia’s best ever cars, in fact.
The two fittest Falcons to ever roll out of Ford’s Australian factory are ready to rumble, and we journeyed to Tasmania to salute this Aussie hero on its farewell tour.
Vehicle Style: Large sedan
XR6 Sprint $ 54.990 (plus on-roads)
XR8 Sprint manual $ 59,990 (plus on-roads)
XR8 Sprint Automatic $ 62,190 (plus on-roads)
XR6 Sprint 325kW/576Nm 4.0 6cyl turbo petrol | 6sp auto
XR8 Sprint 345kW/575Nm 5.0 8cyl supercharged petrol | 6sp manual, 6sp manual
Fuel Economy (XR8 Auto) claimed: 14.0 l/100km | tested: 14.3 l/100km
“We could’ve simply used the ‘310’ but we wanted to do something more” David Burn, the head of Sprint development enthused, trackside at Baskerville raceway.
The 310 he’s referring to is the 310kW FPV F6 engine. Instead, a series of unique calibrations and upgrades sees the XR6 Sprint in the fittest form Ford’s Aussie-developed 4.0 litre inline-six has ever been.
But the numbers alone tell a happy tale, the XR6 Sprint provides 325kW of power and pushes a monstrous 576Nm of torque. Then there’s an overboost function that shoves those numbers up to 370kW and 650Nm for up to ten seconds.
Same goes for the XR8 Sprint, with a baseline of 345kW and 575Nm and the joy of overboost lifting the outputs to 400kW and 650Nm, for up to ten seconds.
But that’s not all. Tweaked handling changes the on-road feel, a sharper transmission tune makes it feel more lively, and a set of grippy Pirelli P Zero tyres give the Sprint twins a whole new attitude.
While some previous XR6 and XR8 Falcons have been a little more daring when it comes to styling, the Sprint offers a more subdued look - think of it as a 21st century ESP of sorts (that’s 1980’s ‘European Sports Pack’, not a reference to any form of stability control) with a subtle look that cloaks an almighty powertrain wallop.
- 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
Familiar to anyone who has experienced the FG X Falcon, the interior is much the same but with a few minor tweaks to finishes, colours, and trims.
Sprint enhancements include black carbon fibre-look trims across the doors and dash, unique leather and suede seat trims with double-stitched seams, Sprint logos in the instrument cluster and embroidered on the seats, Sprint scuff plates, and black headlining.
The standard Falcon spaciousness is unchanged, so despite the serious performance, there’s still more than enough room to fit five adults in the cabin and their luggage in the boot.
Likewise, Ford’s impressive SYNC2 infotainment system allows quick and easy access to navigation, climate, and entertainment options via the 8.0 inch touchscreen, or voice commands.
Unfortunately some of the Falcon’s foibles, hardpoints that can’t be changed, have also carried over including the high driver’s seat, and low steering wheel, which won’t offer the kind of low-set sports car feel some driver’s might crave.
Trainspotters will note the addition of small touches like the auto dimming rearview mirror and a sunglass holder - no big deal, sure, but new to the XR twins.
Overall the interior finish is subtle and sophisticated - while it can’t match the fresher feel of the VF Commodore, there is little to complain about with the interior presentation.
ON THE ROAD
- XR6 Sprint: 325kW/576Nm 4.0 litre turbocharged inline six-cylinder
- XR8 Sprint: 345kW/575Nm 5.0 litre supercharged V8
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic or six-speed manual (XR8 only), rear wheel drive with limited slip differential
- Suspension: Aluminium double wishbone front, multi-link control blade rear
- Brakes: Brembo, six piston calipers with 355mm ventilated front discs, four piston calipers with 330mm ventilated rear discs
- Steering: Hydraulic power assisted
- Towing capacity: 1600kg (auto)/1200kg (man) maxiumum
Changes to the XR6 Sprint are perhaps the most obvious on the road compared to the standard XR6. With an engineering goal of making low-speed handling more agile, the XR6 Sprint really does feel alive at speeds under 80km/h.
A more accessible mid-range also means that on-demand performance is just a toe-dip away, and the Falcon’s turbocharged inline six responds with crisp immediacy.
While the 325kW peak power figure at 6000rpm and monster 576Nm of torque at 2750 rpm are very handy figures (outgunning the Holden Commodore SS by 21kW and 6Nm), it’s the 370kW and 650Nm on overboost that really blur the scenery.
Ford won’t reveal official times for 0-100 km/h and the 400m dash, only to say that the move to Pirelli P Zero tyres alone is enough to trim 0.1 to 0.2 seconds off acceleration times.
But the lift from a standing start is nothing compared to rolling acceleration, which can sling you from well under the legal limit to well beyond it in a few short moments. It is deliciously fast.
Paired exclusively with Ford’s ZF-sourced six-speed automatic, the XR6 Sprint features a unique transmission calibration, making it more responsive and quicker to downshift.
Then there's the explosive XR8 Sprint. Under its bulging bonnet peak power jumps to 345kW at 5750rpm and peak torque to 575Nm from 2200rpm to 6250rpm.
Overboost brings a furious HSV LSA rivalling 400kW of power, matched with and 650Nm of torque.
The XR8 Sprint offers a choice of six-speed manual, or six speed automatic. While the manual remains pretty much unchanged, the automatic, like the XR6 Sprint, has had its mapping tweaked for performance.
The result is 'electric' kickdown and a greater willingness to hold gears longer.
Suspension of both has also changed, the XR8 Sprint getting the R-Spec suspension tune created by FPV, with a few small adjustments, and the XR6 Sprint scoring new front and rear springs and dampers.
The end result in the XR6 is a vehicle that offers agile steering and engaging road holding, without sacrificing comfort. In the XR8 the ride isn’t quite as pleasant, but taming the extra torque, and balancing the heavier front-end brought some compromises.
Grip in both is phenomenal, sticky Pirelli P Zero tyres having been selected for their high grip characteristics, and the handling has been fine-tuned to match. The only downside is a higher level of cabin noise, but a trade-off that’s well worth it for the added grip.
Each of these engines produces a shower of torque, particularly if you tap into the overboost reserves. When it 'comes online', it arrives with an almighty shove in the back (and your ten seconds of overboost resets with each gear change), but the ability to get that power down in dry conditions is certainly impressive.
All the power in the world counts for little without the ability to rein it in, and there’s no lack of stopping power from the Sprint’s upgraded Brembo brake package: six-piston front calipers clamp 355mm ventilated discs, with four-piston rear calipers operating on 330mm ventilated discs.
And the hardware itself is provided by Brembo. To ensure the calipers don’t go unnoticed behind the black alloy wheels, they wear a gold finish.
Stand on the brake pedal - really mash it - and the Sprint twins will wash off speed with spectacular urgency. Although our track sessions at Baskerville raceway were broken into sections, we have no doubt the Sprint twins will bear the weight of track day use without a problem.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - the FG X Falcon 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.
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
The XR6 Sprint and XR8 Sprint won’t have any rivals in the eyes of their intended buyers. Falcon fanatics sweating on getting their hands on Ford’s greatest, and final, Falcon won’t look past the blue oval - and nor should they.
Of course there are other low-cost high-performance V8s available in the shape of the Holden Commodore SS Range, or even HSV’s Clubsport R8 LSA, as well as the Chrysler 300 SRT.
As for fast, affordable six-cylinder sedans, nothing else comes close for the money, so the XR6 Sprint sits in its own unique niche.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It’s safe to say that when the last Falcon rolls down the Broadmeadows production line later this year there won’t be a dry eye in that factory. When you see the passion behind the Falcon Sprint you can understand why.
Each of these Sprint twins has an entirely unique feel, and are, without question, two of the best Falcons ever in the model's 56-year history.
Alive on the road and the track, the XR6 and XR8 Sprint prove that there’s life left in the old girl yet.
Yes, it will be sad to see the Falcon go, but what a joy it is to see Ford Australia see out the Falcon legacy with a bang, not a whimper.
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