New Models - Ford T-Series
First drive: T3 raises Falcon to new heights
Ford's go-fast family now has HSV in its sights
26 November 2001
ANY doubts that Ford has decided the T-Series performance range must go head to head with HSV have been killed off by the pricing of the new third generation range, dubbed T3, which goes on sale December 1.
DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:Wow! If the Monaro is the best Holden ever, as we reported last week, it has not taken Ford long to respond with the best - as well as the fastest - Falcon it has built.
If you have a sporting bone in your body then the TS50 in particular will move you - fast.
Yes, the engine's great - meaty power and even meatier noise as it revs up past 5000rpm, propelling the car into "license busting" territory. But there has been no sacrifice in useability to achieve this. It idles happily, does not require clutch-slipping or any silliness like that at low revs and produces a tone sure to please the ear and heart of any V8 lover.
Driving the manual is no chore either - the new gearbox is light on the shift for a car of this type and the clutch is similarly easy to operate. The ESS auto impresses as well, smoother and more reliable than early examples tried when launched with T1.
Combine that with a chassis that has always been outstanding and the short wheelbase T3s are both extremely memorable drives, although the TS's Koni set-up is narrowly but noticeably the more refined system, particularly its ability to keep the rear end firmly and comfortably under control.
The turn-in, the grip, the balance of TS are outstandingly high. But the ride too is composed on all surfaces bar the most perturbingly rough. That means you don't only have fun when you get to the windy stuff, it's pretty good on the way there too.
There is no doubt this is a big and heavy car, yet it is only the tightest of territory where it starts to feel ponderous and any sense of understeer starts to penetrate the handling armour.
As speeds rise and the road opens up, the TS is at its best, absolutely composed and unflustered with a tremendous amount of feel through both the steering wheel and the seat. Bumps and undulations do not knock it off line and there is simply no sign of tram-tracking from the excellent Dunlops.
Perhaps it is because the chassis is so well tied down, but the engine simply does not feel overwhelming. There's no scrabbling or sideways motoring. No traction control? Can't recall needing it in two days of hard driving on Targa Tasmania roads.
The optional Brembos proved to be as impressive as their price is high, and are recommended to truly harness T3.
The cabin plays a supporting role in this package. Hectares of space are a Falcon family given and it is certainly comfortable enough. But not a lot of effort has gone into making changes here.
So, does T3 meet and beat HSV on its home turf? Definitive answers require back-to-back testing but there is absolutely no doubt these cars represent a big step forward for Ford's go-fast brand.
Considering the limited lifespan and availability, and the model's significance, there's no doubt the TS in particular has a slot well and truly reserved for it in the Falcon Hall of Fame.
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