What’s hot: Superb power & handling, brilliant Sync2 system, comfortable ride.
What’s not: Interior fit-out is a generation adrift, lost some V8 aural excitement.
X-FACTOR: One for the cognoscenti, those who understand just how much quality and performance you get at such relatively modest dollars.
Price: $52,490 (manual, plus on-roads); $54,690 (auto, plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 5.0 litre 32-valve supercharged V8; six-speed manual or six-speed auto
Power/torque: [email protected]; [email protected]
Fuel consumption listed: 13.7 l/100km | tested: 14.4 l/100km
The reborn 2015 Falcon XR8 is the best handling V8 Falcon ever. It turns in better, and sits flatter than any before it.
It also feels alive at the wheel - alert in the degrees away from the straight-ahead - and yet manages to provide the compliant, comfortable ride that big Australian sedans have made an art form.
The thumping power is still there, that Boss 5.0 litre 32-valve supercharged alloy fist, but the boy-racer stripes are noticeably absent, as is the big wing, and there is a subdued restraint to its on-road presence.
And it is very fast. It is, in fact, a hot rod.
The reborn XR8 is the headline act for the 2015 Falcon range. At $52,490 (six-speed manual, plus on-roads), it goes eyeball-to-eyeball with the Holden Commodore SSV Redline.
The six-speed auto adds $2200 (again matching the equivalent SS V Redline auto, dollar-for-dollar).
With the new XR8, Ford Australia has taken all the best bits from FPV’s GT RSPEC, and tucked them under the new Falcon shape.
But where the GT RSPEC carried a price-tag of $76,990 when released in 2012, the XR8 is more than $20k less.
It is essentially the FPV at a bargain-price, and handles even better.
The biggest story for the accommodation in the XR8 - and, in fact, for all of the new Falcon and Territory range - is Ford’s SYNC 2 communication platform.
It is brilliant. Incredibly easy to use, it releases you forever from fiddling through screens, fiddling with buttons, trying to remember instructions and forward and back buttons... it removes it all, packaging everything into a single split eight-inch touchscreen.
Whatever you want displayed, or played, or dialled, you simply ask. And SYNC 2 will give it to you.
If it doesn’t understand your instruction immediately, it will ask you - in a soothing non-descript accent - to clarify.
And whether you want to plot a route via the sat-nav, phone a friend, or adjust the temperature settings, all you have to do is ask.
Better still, as part of that SYNC 2 platform (and like others in the Ford range), if you happen to have an accident, the emergency assist feature will dial 000 and report your location.
Otherwise, the interior of the XR8 is comfortable, well put-together and spacious.
The XR8 gets some ‘dullish’ carbon-fibre and brushed metal highlights, and, certainly a strong point, very nice perforated leather sports seats.
The leather is supple, the shaping is very good - front and rear - and there’s electric adjustment on the driver’s seat.
There is also a new multifunction leather-stitched wheel (it feels smaller in the hand), and ‘XR8’ monograms to remind you where you are.
Other interior features include DAB+ digital radio and WiFi hotspot, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, alloy scuff plates, dual zone climate control, satellite navigation with Traffic Message Channel and XR sports-instrument cluster.
ON THE ROAD
If you love a high performance V8, and a platform that can wrangle it to the tarmac and keep it pointed where you want go, you will love the XR8.
Like the GT RSPEC before it, this is a beautifully engineered chassis and suspension.
And what more can be said of the Boss 5.0 litre 32-valve V8 sitting proud in the snout? The same unit as found in the FPV, it is one of the world’s great V8 engines.
With 335kW and 570Nm lurking under the toe and ready to leap at the slightest provocation, it will spin effortlessly and in perfect wailing balance to the 6200rpm redline.
While perhaps a little more muted than we would like when poking around at lower revs, the sound it makes under the whip is glorious.
Better still, carry a trailing throttle into a corner and it crackles wickedly on the overrun.
We put the XR8, both manual and auto models, through their paces at the foothills to the Victorian high country. We also had an afternoon putting it sideways at Winton Raceway.
Most noticeable when you revisit this model - and I’m thinking here of the GT RSPEC - is how civilised the XR8 is on-road, and how well-tuned is the sports suspension for the vagaries of Australian tarmac.
It is firm, but not jarring. There is also enough initial compliance - ‘give’ at the front end - to easily absorb broken tarmac and mid-corner corrugations.
Where a European suspension can be firm to the point of unpleasant on ratty roads, the big Falcon is untroubled by second-rate tarmac and is unusually quiet and refined.
‘Turn-in’ for the XR8, always a Falcon strongpoint, is very good. And we thought the new XR8 sits just a little flatter the GT RSPEC. There are the smallest of margins in it, but it can be felt at the wheel.
It is a sensational drive, especially when scything through the six-speed manual transmission.
It takes a firm hand, this is a performance ‘box’ after all, but the way the big XR8 slams through the gears is neck-tingling.
It is also very, very rapid; overtaking, for instance, is simply a matter of “point and fire”.
But it is no mad edge-of-the-seat brute. You can, as we found at Winton, easily balance it on the throttle for power-on oversteer (traction control off).
Launch control with the auto six-speed (a carryover item for the XR8, others in the new Falcon range get a new lighter ZF unit), is simplicity itself.
Foot on the brake, flatten the accelerator - it holds at around 2000rpm - then slide the foot to the left. The trans, according to a Ford engineer there, is “strong enough to do this all day”.
Other performance features include Brembo brakes all round (four-piston calipers up front), a high-specification cooling fan, limited slip differential, heavy duty battery and sports steering.
There’s also a quad-tipped exhaust system and five-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels - eight inches wide at the front and nine at the rear.
High performance drives don’t get much better. Especially at this price.
You might also look at the Chrysler 300, but finding another high-powered V8 with the potency and features of the XR8 (and SS-V) will have you spending vast sums more than the asking on the two Aussie contenders.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The 2015 XR8 is a solid ‘four-star’ performance drive. It doesn’t matter that the interior is a little dated for style, it is comfortable, quiet and very well put-together.
And it has Ford’s brilliant SYNC 2 system, which is as easily used as any you will find in any premium German.
By rights, the new Falcon XR8 has the kind of ‘executive poise and power’ that should have it competing with the premium Europeans, but that probably won’t happen.
It is not the fault of the car, this is a magnificent sled, it is more to do with where the market has gone. Some years ago, Australian buyers became blind to the value and capability in our local home-grown products.
Or you can be among the few that realise just what a car this new XR8 is, and what a V8 performance bargain.
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