THE EXTERNAL CHANGES TO THE 2016 FORD FALCON XR8 SPRINT MAY BE LOW-KEY, BUT THAT DOESN’T LESSEN THEIR IMPACT.
A suite of black highlights: roof, mirrors, grille frame, wheels, rear spoiler and exhaust tips offer a subtle hint at the most monstrous factory-built car ever to wear the XR8 badge.
But Ford fans notice, point, take mobile phone snaps. The Falcon’s days may be numbered, but its grassroots supporters remain as fervent as ever.
Vehicle Style: Large sedan
Price: $62,190 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 345kW/575Nm 5.0 8cyl supercharged petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 14.4 l/100km | Tested: 15.4 l/100km
"My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories..."
The opening narration to 1981’s Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior takes on a hazy new meaning in a modern context - as if it were some grim prediction of the future of the Australian car industry.
This time though, the Road Warrior isn’t a man, but a car - and fittingly, just like Max’s V8 Interceptor, this one is a Ford Falcon; a V8, with a whopping supercharger proudly mounted atop, ready to go into battle.
But the Falcon XR8 Sprint isn’t a survival tool for a dystopian future; instead, our gold-hued hero is offered as a final send-off marking the culmination of 56 years of Aussie ingenuity and know-how.
- 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, nine-speaker audio
- Cargo volume: 535 litres
The interior of the XR8 Sprint is classic FG X Falcon, which of course is mostly classic FG Falcon, meaning that there’s a few classic carry-overs from the BA and BF series before that.
Make of it what you will; some drivers find the Falcon fits like a glove, whereas others (myself included) would really like a lower driving position and a little more steering wheel height.
Can’t argue with the ‘big bloke’ accommodation of those front seats though, sporty in profile, but considerate enough in their bolstering to accept a hard-working Aussie frame if need be.
Thanks to black headlining, black carbon-look inserts, dark trim highlights and black leather trim, the Sprint has a dark moody feel to it. No garish red splashes, out-of-place chrome, or lairy trinkets here.
The steering wheel design is kind of ancient (imagine if Ford had snuck the retro-inspired Mustang wheel in there!) yet, it offers a nice meaty feel, and grippy perforated leather in all the right places.
No complaints when it comes to back seat space either. Forever a Falcon hallmark, the idea of fitting three adults in the rear and setting off cross country is as achievable today as ever it were.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 345kW/575Nm 5.0 litre supercharged V8 (400Kw/650Nm on overboost)
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
- 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 braked
It may not match the raw ferociousness of a proper old school V8, but the XR8 Sprint pays tribute in a bunch of fitting ways.
To bring it to life there’s no push-button starter, just the very old fashioned act of inserting a key into a barrel and giving it a twist. How retro.
From there, a lengthy starter-motor whine gives way to - well, more whining - this time from the Harrop supercharger mounted atop the 5.0 litre V8 engine.
And the results are a claimed 345kW of power and 575Nm of torque - although that’s only part of the story, with a ten-second overboost function in each gear bumping figures up to a HSV LSA rivalling 400kW and 650Nm.
To get there Ford has raided former go-fast division FPV’s goody cupboard, boosting the Sprint far beyond the regular XR8 with improvements to the engine, suspension, and brakes. It all comes courtesy of the FPV GT and its special additions.
And to drive? Well, this ain’t your standard taxicab - that swell of torque comes into play early, making the XR8 Sprint an exciting beast to attempt to sneak around town in.
But with a clear run ahead of you the Sprint just fixes a point on the horizon and screams towards it. This might be a big, roomy family sedan, but there’s plenty of muscle car in its DNA.
The best news for Aussie V8 fans is that unlike tech-fest European V8s, this one can still put the fear of god into you. There’s stability control with just one mode, but even with it switched on the XR8 rear axle has more squirm than a bag of live bait.
The end result is a car that bloody well makes you pay attention. Add a bit of loose gravel or sitting water to your favorite winding road and the exciting tail-out action will really get your blood pumping.
The suspension tune comes from FPV’s R-Spec models, with a few tiny tweaks, and you won’t mistake it for anything but a serious performance set-up.
The ride is firm, with a hard-riding consistency that can wear a little thin on big-mile cruises or rattly suburban streets. Turn up the pace, or take to the track, and the tight control, reduced body roll and faithful front-end grip are a revelation.
It’s a bit of a shame that the weighty nose of the XR8 Sprint dulls steering feel and response. It lacks a little of the 'point and shoot accuracy' of the (vastly more) expensive German powerhaus sedans, but can otherwise be easily and effortlessly balanced under full noise.
Brakes come courtesy of Brembo, and the gold calipers are easy to spot. With a big heavy Falcon to pull up, they need to be good, and thankfully they are. Use them hard and you'll feel the g-forces tugging at your face.
The particular car we drove, a pre-production vehicle with plenty of kilometres under its belt, did show a bit of brake fade after repeated hard stops - but we’d more likely point to a life of hard use and tortured brake fluid rather than any hardware issues.
But strangest of all is the soundtrack disparity between inside and outside the car.
Passengers are treated to the mournful wail of the hardworking supercharger, but the V8 burble that ought to accompany an engine of its standing is barely audible.
On the outside though the Sprint burbles, bubbles, cracks and gurgles evoking the classic soundtrack of a Phase III GTHO. A real treat for the senses, for spectators at least.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - the FG X Falcon sedan range scored 34.61 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2014.
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
Rivals for the Falcon XR8 Sprint include muscular Aussies like the SS Commodore and HSV Clubsport, both of which are available in a variety of ripped flavours. Chrysler’s imposingly styled 300 SRT is another classic V8 sedan delivering heavy-hitting thrills.
But, that’s all academic really - Ford’s limited run of XR8 Sprints is entirely spoken for, so when it comes to rivals you’ll have to fend off other buyers, collectors, and enthusiasts to get your hands on one of these rare beasts, and its accompanying mark-up.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Maybe Ford could have offered the XR8 Sprint with a more outrageous colour palette; perhaps it should’ve had a bigger body kit, different wheels, more interior changes, circular headlamps, called it something else, thrown in more gadgets…
We heard all this and more during our time with the XR8 Sprint.
Not because Ford Australia got it wrong with the Falcon Sprint, but because the Falcon means so much to so many people. Each has their own Falcon story to tell.
The XR8 Sprint, a big, bold sedan oozing horsepower from every pore is a brilliant conclusion to a uniquely Australian story.
And there wasn’t a single complaint about the performance from any of those Ford enthusiasts after a full-noise drive.
But the bitter disappointment of those who 'missed the train' is palpable, with this limited edition model already completely sold out.
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