New Models - Ford Falcon
Ford fights back with XR8
Ford's performance flagship now has the mumbo to mix it with its Holden counterpart
5 July 2001
FORD has fired a volley across the bows of Holden's performance arsenal by releasing a 220kW, V8-powered XR8 - a move that signals the beginning of the Blue Oval's fightback against the SS Commodore's dominance in the local sports sedan market.
DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:THE minute one fires up the XR8 220, it is apparent this is no garden variety XR.
While the raucous, lumpy idle seems to have been tamed somewhat - thanks in part to better engine calibration and the iron heads - there is no escaping the fact that under the XR8's bonnet lurks one of the most powerful production engines ever from Ford.
Yes, the 220kW XR8 is a classic case of competition improving the breed. The Blue Oval's newest performance flagship approaches the straight-line performance levels of Ford's legendary V8 sports sedans during the power wars of the 1970s but, more importantly, should match its opposite number at Holden, the SS Commodore, for acceleration.
Independent testing has yet to verify just how fast the 2001 XR8 is, but should it fall short of Holden's flagship sports sedan, it will not be by much. Moreover, its combination of a lower first gear ratio and more effective independent rear suspension means realising the XR8's potential will be a far easier, more consistent and more mechanically sympathetic affair.
Plenty of grip, realistic gearing and bags of low-end torque not only make for quick, easily repeatable acceleration times, but the 220 XR8's real forte is in-gear flexibility.
Mash the throttle and even from idle the Ford will respond crisply, surging forward as it rides a wave of torque that extends far beyond previous 185 and 200kW iterations of the XR8.
In fact, while its predecessor ran out of puff and became coarse around 5000rpm, the 220kW version remains composed and effective all the way to redline. The extra urge is noticeable throughout the rev range and adds welcome spice to a well balanced chassis that delivers unrivalled driving dynamics.
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