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Car reviews - Ford - Falcon - G6E Turbo sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Value, dynamics, performance, gearbox, space, practicality, durability, design details
Room for improvement
Conservative dashboard, infuriating GPS, runaway cruise control, steering wheel needs more height adjustment

6 Mar 2009

IT is a scene from a countless number of movies.

The once-great hero/heroine is well and truly down on his/her luck, downtrodden and defeated by flashier and fleshier upstarts of dubious moral character, intent on snatching his/her crown and glory … until an epiphany – accompanied by a soaring soundtrack – sees said hero/heroine rise like the proverbial, snatching victory from the Jaws of Rocky and Field of Dreams and every other clichéd Hollywood feel good film. God, we have seen this a million times already.

But the grim reality for Ford (and Holden) in 2009 is that there has been no epiphany for the Falcon (and Commodore). Not by consumers seemingly hitherto blind to their outstanding value, safety and performance, and certainly not by the companies themselves, who seem increasingly out of step when it comes to “What Women (and Men) Want”.

If only that Hollywood formula could be applied right about now.

If only Australian new-car buyers could see how toweringly terrific the Ford FG G6E Turbo is.

Rewind to the beginning of the Adventures of Ford Falcon (the one without Andrew Dice Clay) and the script has this brash young American emigrating to Australia right in the beginning of the 1960s to take on the all-conquering but complacent Holden, stumbling in the early days (bad front suspension ball joints you see), before coming good with the XP (1965), achieving glory from XR (1966) to XY (1971), and then tasting leadership in ’73 (XB), ’77 (XC) and ’81 (XD) before seizing it from 1982 until 1988 (XE to EA).

The slide since then was tempered in the mid ’90s (EF/EL) and early BA years (’02) when that tough old coach Geoff Polites helped the Falcon find its groove, but the FG comeback of ’08 has not been going well, despite rave reviews … and now our hero is in mortal danger.

After sampling the G6E Turbo, and if we were screenwriters rather than motoring journalists, that long-overdue epiphany would dawn over the new car buyers of Australia like that scene where you realise the significance of Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe and Rachel Welsh in The Shawshank Redemption.

What we would do is cast it alongside something similarly priced, like the $54,400 BMW 320i Executive, and then another with power approaching the Ford’s, such as a $170,000 BMW 550i, and then sit back and watch how the G6E Turbo plays out.

Let’s see … the 550i probably has a bit more poise, certainly plenty more polish and heaps more toys than the Australian car … but there isn’t the dynamic or performance chasm that the price difference suggests.

That the Ford can shadow the 5 Series with its utterly superb steering feel and weight, coupled with precise handling linearity and response, is quite amazing.

Not that the Falcon is bad here, but the BMW would brake with more surety, we believe, and ultimately its body control in a sudden manoeuvre would probably eclipse the Australian’s, but the G6E Turbo would not be disgraced, particularly if you take into account its (significantly) suppler and occasionally quieter ride.

Now, a BMW V8 is an exquisite thing of joy, and no ancient ex-American in-line six-cylinder engine, no matter how well engineered the turbo, exhaust and twin camshaft applications, can quite match its velvety brutality.

Allied to a German (and shared with BMW) ZF six-speed automatic gearbox that is surely the best transmission of its type in the world, the 270kW 4.0-litre Falcon turbo six is explosively responsive when you want it to be, piling on the power with only mild pedal pressure all the way to the upper rev reaches with an unrelenting urge.

It is not silky smooth like a Lexus’ engine. Nor is it particularly sweet sounding in the top end. You don’t experience that cocooned-from-the-harsh-world feeling that most luxury marques offer.

But the Ford is not harsh, or raucous, and that old Falcon signature gear whine is history. Plus, the manner in which the gearbox delivers drive to the rear wheels is as effortless as turning on a high-pressure tap.

Be wary though. As progressive as the stability and traction controls are in the G6E Turbo, a determined right foot will get the tail wagging and the power delivery cutting out, while switching the driving aids off will have the tyres smoking more often than Rod Serling in The Twilight Zone.

We indulged a little, but generally kept the Ford flowing along quickly in a mostly inner-urban big-city habitat – with a couple of long-distance highway blasts – and our fuel consumption average lurked in the 13s and 14s.

This is according to the instrument readout, set among a neat but ultimately uninspiring fascia. We think the G6E Turbo’s interior presentation, while better than any Falcon before it, is too reminiscent of previous (non European) Ford offerings to really cut it on the dealer forecourt.

Sure, getting familiar with the myriad switches and controls – neatly arranged in the centre console – means that nothing is too out of reach or difficult to operate.

But, and Ford’s own Fiesta is an all-too close-to-home example of this, dashboard design has moved on in recent years. The neat and tactile finish of the Falcon’s fascia is fine, but the overall appearance is too BA/Territory-era, no matter how functional and well presented it is.

Furthermore, the satellite navigation system in our car was infuriatingly complex and laughably low-fi in its graphic presentation. Why on earth does Ford persist with the incredibly unintuitive remote control to interface with the functionality of this set-up is a mystery. It is a seriously complicated piece of kit, even with the latest traffic-report info abilities fitted to it.

And while we are at it, the cruise control cannot hold the car on even slight inclines without ‘running away’ from the set speed. The steering wheel doesn’t adjust high enough for some drivers, and the G6E Turbo logo blazed within the instrumentation, doorsills and front mudguards is tacky.

Sorry Ford, but have you sat inside a Honda Accord Euro – let alone an Audi – lately?

This may all sound like bitching, but the G6E Turbo is not cheap at $56,390. What is fine in a $35,000 Falcon XT just does not cut it, no matter how slick the materials are inside.

The cabin’s fit and finish is excellent. Refinement levels are what you expect for the money, since there is a welcome lack of wind and road noise intrusion.

The steering wheel is a pleasure to use, as are the theatre-style dimming interior lights and audio and climate switches, while the door trim and seat upholstery is impressive and all outboard seating positions are utterly first class in their comfort and support.

In stark contrast to the previous-generation big Aussie Ford, entry and egress is easy, while – for most people – finding the ideal driving position is not difficult. Ventilation is superb. Vision out is far, far better than in the Commodore – which has the driver peering out from behind those seductively racy-angled A-pillars – and there is no shortage of storage space.

Of course, being a Falcon, both front and rear seat room is ample (though forget sitting nanna in the middle centre spot since there is a huge transmission tunnel barrelling through), while the boot is as large as you want it to be, even though the floor is uneven.

In the end, we found the G6E Turbo to be a massively capable, hugely functional, and extremely enjoyable five-seater luxury sports sedan of incredible driver appeal.

Against a Calais V Series the Ford feels palpably more refined and subtly the more agile and able dynamically, though the hunky Holden is not disgraced by any means.

We grew fond of the Ford’s styling too. Like a young Joseph Cotton or perhaps James Gandolfini, there is plenty of charm in this car’s rugged good looks, against the strikingly handsome visage of, say, the VE Commodore’s Breathless-era looks of Jean Paul Belmondo.

Ah, back to film, and back to the point in the G6E Turbo’s life where things are looking grim for a hero that – by now – should be riding high on the shoulders of success.

With the benefit of hindsight, a bolder design inside and out, coupled with a name change from Falcon – a moniker that has been around since Winston Churchill was still alive – and perhaps the availability of a diesel engine might have been sufficient for the plot to change for the better.

The G6E Turbo is surely among the best Australian cars ever to star on our roads, but until consumers have that Hollywood-style epiphany and realise how toweringly capable it really it, we fear that the Ford will not have the formulaic movie ending that it so richly deserves.

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