Vehicle Style: Large family sedan
Price: $42,790 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 12.5l/100km
Ford’s Falcon EcoLPi may be a game-changer for the ‘Blue Oval’. Its sophisticated Orbital-developed liquid-phase LPG injection system transcends the image of LPG as an alternative fuel and, in the process, also transcends the Falcon’s taxi image.
The EcoLPi Falcon not only impresses with a refined big-car the ride, but charges up the redoubtable family hauler with extra kilowatts and stronger acceleration than its petrol-swilling sibling.
Quality: Ford's factory-fit LPi can be optioned on the XT, XR6, G6 or G6E sedan (and XL, R6 and XR6 ute). We tested the base bestseller, the XT. This car is the big fleet market seller (taxis too) and its value-equation is the most desirable.
As the base car, the quality fitout is good, but costs are cut in the hard surfaces and hard-wearing cloth trim.
Comfort: The Falcon is nothing if not comfortable. With generously-shaped seats, it accommodates five adults easily with plenty of second-row legroom despite the rear-drive mechanicals under the seat (and the extra-large LPG tank in the boot floor).
Equipment: The FG XT is well-specced for safety and the expected everyday luxuries apply; the only options being 16-inch alloys, curtain airbags, reverse-parking sensors, and a tow pack.
Storage: This is the big question. Lift the boot carpet, and the LPG tank fills the entire space, welded and glued (rather messily, we might add) into a flat floor that cuts into the Falcon’s deep 535 litre boot by 71 litres (now 464 litres).
However, this is with the flat-tyre fix of a can of goo and an air-compressor.
In Australia, with long trips, remote stops and some truly horrid roads, you’re left with a question: do you forgo the option of a full-sized spare, which almost halves the boot space, particularly now that there is no wagon option?
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The new EcoLPi system, or Liquid Phase Injection, is a massive step-up over the old E-Gas system.
Open the door, and the new system primes itself to start almost immediately. By the time you turn the key, there is only a hint of the old gas-power hesitation on ignition. This was a big problem in hot or cold conditions in the old car.
Fire it up, and you cannot tell the difference between it and the standard car (both were on test). However, line them up together and fire off the line, and the EcoLPi model is the faster.
The improved 12.5 l/100km fuel figure (down from 14.4 l/100km) is due to a faster, hotter burn that also results in quicker acceleration and impressive power at 198kW and 409Nm.
Those figures are up 42kW and 39Nm over the B-series E-Gas version, thanks to the system keeping the LPG in liquid form right up until combustion – and hence its name.
All the while, it is burning fuel that costs a little less than half the price of ULP on average, and dropping fewer hydrocarbons into the atmosphere as well (203g/km).
So compared to its I6 petrol sibling, the performance is better, the fuel is cheaper, the car is the same – it’s a strong argument.
Refinement: The system seems infallible, and now matched to the lovely standard ZF six-speed sports auto rather than the EGas’s clunky four-speed, the leap from ‘cab to cruiser’ is complete.
Suspension: Squishy 60-profile rubber on the optional 16-inch alloys and suspension set to carry a car-full makes for an extra-pleasant ride whether the cabin is full or empty.
Braking: With meaty two-piston calipers on the front and standard traction and stability-control systems beautifully calibrated for Australian conditions, the brakes in the FG are solid and communicative.
SAFETY | RATING: 5/5 (score only applicable if it has an ANCAP rating)
ANCAP rating: 5 stars
Safety features: Front and front-side airbags, front load-limiter/pretensioner seatbelts, rear pretensioner seatbelts, brake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution, traction control, electronic stability control
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three year/100,000km with one year roadside-assist
Service costs: Not available from manufacturer, check with your dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Holden Commodore Omega SIDI - ($39,990): Holden claims that the Omega’s SIDI (Spark Ignition Direct Injection) can travel from Melbourne to Sydney on just one tank of fuel.
In the real world, its 9.1 l/100km claimed fuel figure is not quite achievable from the high-revving 3.0 litre 190kW/290Nm V6. While its 71 litre tank provides a greater range, it can’t get anywhere near the EcoLPi Falcon’s cost savings. (See Commodore reviews)
Toyota Aurion - ($35,990): The Aurion has a great list of standard goodies even in base spec, and a 200kW/336Nm six-cylinder that is more refined than the Commodore but sips more at 9.9 l/100km. But also beaten hands-down by the EcoLPi Falcon on running costs. (See Aurion reviews)
Hyundai i45 Active - ($31,990): Here’s a can of worms: a big family sedan, huge rear seat and boot (front-drive), and a combined fuel figure of 7.9 l/100km from its 2.4 litre 148kW/250Nm four cylinder… Falcon is ahead, but it’s a closer argument. (See i45 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
You can’t knock the LPi for value: take away the $2000 Government grant for factory LPG, and you have a car that will repay its $2500 LPG premium in no time – in 23.5 weeks for a 20,000km annual driving cycle (according to Ford Oz).
Greenies will love Ford’s EcoLPi Falcon for its frugal emissions, similar to that of a four-cylinder small car. But it’s one petrol-heads can also enjoy: some will get a kick out of a bog-stock gas Falcon that can beat its six-cylinder petrol-engined stablemate off the line.
For families (or fleets) looking for fuel cost savings and nearly all the benefits of a large car, the EcoLPi Falcon is a brilliant solution. The only real compromise is in the back end of things, namely the truncated boot-space.
If you haven’t considered a Falcon for a while, this one may bring you back.