Car reviews - Ford - Falcon Ute - range
9 May 2008
FORD Australia is balancing work and driving pleasure with its new Falcon Ute range. Holden no longer offers a one-tonne Ute and Ford is keen to continue its role as the heavy hauling specialist.
Payloads remain the same or increase slightly across the range, with a hefty maximum of 1240kg and a towing total of 2300kg able to do plenty of work. But with the FG Falcon sedan's cracking new 270kW turbo six and a 290kW V8, the new Falcon Ute also a cracking drive.
The new Falcon Ute benefits from all the improvements introduced with the FG sedan range, including the Virtual Pivot Control Link front suspension, engine upgrades, new interior and exterior styling, revised steering set-up and new base automatic and manual transmissions.
There are also some unique changes that make the Ford workhorse more appealing, including an innovative tonneau cover system.
Ford has maintained the leaf-spring rear suspension set-up from previous Falcon utes, deciding against a switch to a coil-sprung rear-end like the Commodore-based Holden Ute.
It says the leaf springs are simply better for big loads, with the one-tonne Falcon Ute able to carry and tow 465kg and 700kg more respectively than the most capable Holden Ute.
Ford engineers have made changes to the rear suspension system, with stiffened three-pin shackles for better control, with all models except the one-tonners being fitted with new monotube shock absorbers.
The only reason the special shocks aren’t used at the rear of the one-tonne models is that they are longer than the twin-tube units and don’t fit with that model's extra suspension travel.
Monotube shocks, introduced on the FG sedan, are also fitted to the front suspension of all models.
The base model, simply called Falcon Ute, the R6 (which replaces the XLS) and XR6 are available with a styleside-box (steel tub) or as a cab-chassis. The XR6 Turbo and XR8 are only available with the styleside box.
Ford has replaced the traditional exterior plug and elastic loop securing system for the tonneau cover with a snap-lock style system comprising a plastic seal that clips into place.
This is similar to the Holden VE Ute, but has one significant difference. It features a unique secondary fixing system which allows for the tonneau cover to be partly in place to allow longer items to protrude.
There are several clips located around the edges of the tonneau cover and they can be clipped onto the edge of the styleside box. Ford said it developed the system because many owners like the clip-in tonneau cover, but this system doesn’t stay in place when partly open.
A new hard-tonneau cover has also been developed with a sturdier single lock replacing the flimsy twin locks of the previous models. All styleside-box models come standard with a plastic tub liner and moveable tie-down points.
The base Falcon Ute is available with an optional centre seat (at no extra cost) which comes with a removable head restraint when a four-speed column shift is selected. A Falcon Ute with the column shifter is the same price as one with a regular floor-mounted gearshift, which is $1000 more than the manual.
As far as powertrains go, the FG Ute is the same as the sedan except that the optional six-speed automatic can’t be optioned on models other than the XR6 Turbo and XR8.
The standard engine is the 4.0-litre in-line six-cylinder with dual overhead camshafts and a raft of revisions which allows it to produce 195KW and 391Nm.
It comes standard with a new Tremec (TR6060) six-speed manual, while the new Ford-sourced five-seed automatic transmission is an option.
The stunning XR6 Turbo is poised to become hero in Ute form as well as sedan, with that engine pumping out 270kW and 533Nm. It comes with either the six-speed manual or six-speed ZF automatic.
And what would a Ute range be without a V8? The XR8 Ute runs the FG sedan's 5.4-litre Boss V8 which churns out 290kW and 520Nm, linked to the same transmissions as the XR6 Turbo.
Ford continues to offer the E-Gas single-fuel LPG option at a cost of $2400, which drops to $1400 when the government subsidy is applied. Around 50 per cent of Falcon Ute base models are powered by the E-Gas engine, which generates 156kW and 371Nm and features a range of component upgrades to run properly on LPG.
The E-Gas engine, which is paired to the old DSI four-speed auto, is available on the Falcon Ute, R6 styleside box and cab-chassis, as well as XR6 cab-chassis models.
Ford has not yet finalised fuel consumption figures for the Ute range, but fuel economy is expected to be similar if not slightly better than the models they replace.
Ford is launching the Falcon Ute without electronic stability control on any models, due to a development delay, although it says the potentially life-saving feature will be available by the end of the year. It is not yet clear whether Ford will follow Holden’s lead and fit ESC across the entire range or make it optional on the lower-spec Ute variants.
Traction control is standard on all XR utes, but is surprisingly absent from the lower-spec cars and E-Gas models. It is a $750 option for the petrol powered model, but not available on E-Gas Utes.
Anti-skid brakes are standard on all models, as are driver and passenger front airbags.
Head-protecting side airbags are available for all Falcon Utes, something not yet available on the Holden Ute, in a Safety pack that also includes a perimeter alarm, for $600.
Ford has also designed a new secured foam box that holds the jack and tools securely in the cabin behind the driver and passenger seats, which could previously come loose.
Four new Dunlop tyres have been developed for the new Falcon range and one was specifically designed for the R6 Ute.
Ford has also changed the radio receptor set-up of the Ute, moving away from the in-glass antenna that was introduced with BA to a roof-mounted stick antenna like the system on the Territory.
The company says the new system, with is actually more expensive than the in-glass version, is better at picking up FM in built-up areas and AM in the bush than the system it replaces.
The new FG Ute comes with the same interior upgrades as the sedan including the dashboard and centre console, which now includes a 5.8-inch information display screen and new instrument cluster with another central info display.
The FG Ute is 10mm longer than the model it replaces, plus 63mm wider and 38mm taller, while the styleside-box tray is slightly shorter at 1843mm long. But the width between wheel-arches grows slightly to 1224mm.
Standard gear in the base Falcon Ute includes air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows/mirrors, automatic headlights, temperature display, MP3 input jack, steering wheel audio controls, trip computer, single-CD sound, four-way power adjustable seats (with lumbar support adjustment) and sits on 16-inch steel wheels.
Stepping up to the R6 adds XR sports suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, front foglights, a mild body kit, fabric tonneau cover, sports seats with special trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel and a remote flip-key
XR6 models also add 17-inch alloy wheels, traction control, an XR grille and bodykit, unique headlights, larger front foglights, climate-control, sports steering wheel and XR seat trim.
Apart from their different powertrains, the XR6 Turbo and XR8 add a limited-slip differential, performance brakes, dual horn and dual exhaust outlets, while the XR8 also has a ‘power bulge’ bonnet.
Prices for some Ute models are up by around $300, but the XR6 Turbo and XR8 have dropped by around $2000 and $3100.
The base Falcon Ute Cab Chassis costs $27,795, the R6 Cab Chassis is $29,795 and the XR6 Cab Chassis is $34,090. Optioning these models with a styleside-box tub adds $320. The XR6 Turbo and XR8 are only available with a styleside boxes and cost $38,490 respectively.
All prices are for manual models - adding an automatic costs $1000.
Other key options include one-tonne suspension for $495 and a 1600kg tow pack for $495, besides the four option packs available.
The $450 Techology Pack includes Bluetooth phone preparation and iPod integration, while the $600 Safety Pack includes head-protecting side airbags and a perimeter alarm.
Two option packs are available for XR models, including the Sports Pack that includes the Technology Pack and 18-inch alloy wheels for $1000, while the Luxury Pack adds leather seat trim, dual-zone climate-control, a premium sound system, sporty interior trim touches and 19-inch alloys.
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