Car reviews - Ford - Fairlane - sedan
Space, durability of design, towing ability
Room for improvement
Quality never a strong point, thirsty engines, still a little tank-like to drive, unsophisticated dynamics
7 May 2003
THE Ford Fairlane was able to trade on its big car image without a direct rival until the arrival in 1990 of the Holden Statesman.
Along with its generous interior space, especially in the rear, the comprehensive equipment list was one of the Fairlane's strong points. Air-conditioning, electric windows, cruise control, central locking and four-speaker AM/FM radio were all standard equipment.
To meet the challenge of the Statesman, Ford upgraded the NA Fairlane, providing it with a four-speed automatic transmission instead of three and equipping it with improved anti-theft security.
The 3.9 litre, in-line six was the first overhead camshaft engine used in a Fairlane. Power output was 130kW with very strong low-speed torque.
The four-speed automatic improved acceleration and fuel consumption, along with providing much smoother gearshifting.
The Fairlane's suspension is by wishbones and coil springs at the front and live axle with coil springs at the rear.
With a car the size of the Fairlane, fuel consumption is very dependent on road conditions and driver technique.
Peak hour traffic can see consumption as high as 16.0L/100km while legal highway cruising can return a reasonable 11.0L/100km.
The Fairlane engine is happiest below 3500rpm. At higher engine speeds it begins to become harsh and noisy. But the combination of a big torquey engine and high gearing makes for relaxed, long-legged highway performance.
Ride and handling are good at the speeds most people travel. At high speeds, the live rear axle and the Fairlane's size make their presence felt.
Engine, transmission and running gear enjoy a good reputation for durability provided they are serviced at the recommended intervals.
Service and spare parts are economical due to the ease of repair and relatively cheap spares. Long life and low running costs are one of the reasons Falcon and Fairlane models are popular with fleet operators.
Early production cars suffered minor niggling complaints and doubtful quality in paint and trim finish.
This rapidly improved and by the introduction of the Series II Fairlane, build quality and finish was much improved.
The Fairlane represents good value for money in terms of equipment and size. The suspension and engine lack refinement but the big Ford's redeeming points are strength and durability.
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