Car reviews - Ford - Falcon - Sprint range
Handling, ride, performance, value, space, practicality, design, rarity, investment potential
Room for improvement
The end of an era, usual Falcon’s flawed driver’s seat/dash relationship, likely to be thirsty, almost sold out
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17 Mar 2016
IT IS difficult to remain objective about the final-ever Falcon launch.
The last of the Australian-made Fords. The demise of the rear-drive family sedan. The end of the road for one of the world’s longest-running nameplate.
Yet we all know the FG X Falcon Sprint will suffer from a hopelessly dated and cheap-looking dashboard, awkward driving position, and maybe even less-than-stellar build quality from a workforce that must be beyond demoralised by now.
So how has it come to pass that the XR6 Sprint is perhaps the greatest handling and riding Falcon of all time, with the XR8 Sprint not far behind? After the scorching 351kW (rising to 420kW in overboost mode) FPV GT F of nearly two years ago, we’re not surprised at all to learn that both represent the fastest-ever XR Falcons in existence. After all, 325kW for the XR6 Sprint (370kW in overboost) and 345kW in the XR8 Sprint (managing 400kW in overboost) isn’t too shabby at all.
Yet it is the considerable chassis upgrades, designed to underline the Falcon’s long-held reputation as a driver’s car, that resonates most after a stint behind the wheel of both swansong speedsters.
Thinking about that, though, this ought to come as no massive surprise really, considering the 56-year-old nameplate’s “Great Australian Road Car” reputation, forged through incredible motorsport adventures, particularly in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Even from a styling upgrade point of view, the Focus RS-style black multi-spoke 19-inch alloys, blacked-out headlights, and subtle bootlid spoiler, add a classier-than-anticipated veneer to the old Falcon’s look.
Similarly, the leather/fake suede seat trim and fat steering wheel also help lift the ambience a bit, but there’s no escaping the too-low wheel, too-high seats, and cruddy plastics. Believe us when we say this… the Sprint’s performance and dynamics deserve a far, far better cabin treatment.
Speaking of how it drive, let’s begin in the XR6 Sprint – sadly an auto-only exercise as the regular 270kW Turbo’s six-speed manual cannot handle such powertrain outputs.
Weighty but not overly so at first, the steering’s measured, communicative ways is the first joy to behold, with the wheel connecting the driver to what’s going on below.
That’s momentarily forgotten, though, by the out-of-the-blue whoosh forward if you’ve foolishly forgotten you’re driving a turbocharged Falcon. The leap forward can be counted in warp numbers, thanks to ferocious acceleration that just does not let up anywhere south of… jail-bait speeds. Accompanied by the signature XR6 Turbo metallic turbo spool whine, this thing is properly superfast. Those brief 370kW sure do come on strong and fast.
Then, however, you’re back thinking about cornering, because the Sprint’s surefooted grip is out of sync with the speeds you’re doing – you ought to be slowing down, but the chassis is far more like a German thoroughbred’s and much less like a lumbering big sedan’s in the way it just carves through a turn, feedback and feel in tact and the keen driver wondering what black art is behind this Ford’s new-found dynamic finesse.
Up ahead, really craggy bumps – over snaking Tasmanian roads that ought to be on every supercar fan-girl/boy’s bucket list – that might have upset lesser Falcons’ steering and ride composure instead are soaked up with delicious suppleness and control. No adaptive dampers. No air suspension. Just properly sorted damping and rebound properties. Just wow, Ford.
By now, we’re in lust, crazy for speed and corners and bad roads that the Sprint just irons out like the way the best Audi RSs ought to do. That this is the final is like going through a heartbreak all over again.
Stopping – just as surely – later to swap into an XR8 Sprint, expectations are sky high, and by-and-large, the last Falcon V8 delivers. Rousing engine baritone, locomotive levels of shove, and effortless grand touring capabilities serve as seductive reminders that there just is never a substitute for cubic inches.
But, then, the latter’s slightly more nose-heavy feel, and heavier overall character, make us yearn for the XR6 Sprint more.
Both are planted, poised, and utterly composed (on the dry roads we encountered at least), but the terrific six-pot turbo is simply more so.
Startlingly fast, incredibly dynamic, and amazing value for money, a day behind the wheel of the glorious Falcon Sprint makes us wish that this wasn’t the very last of its breed. XR8 Sprint too. The lump in the throat is at large as the latter’s arresting bonnet bulge.
Which leads us neatly to the beginning of the story as well as the end of the Australian Falcon. Ford’s genius engineers have pulled a lion-sized rabbit out of the puny little hat that they had to work on, with performance and handling that will probably never be replicated at the same level for the same money.
The Aussie Ford is nearly gone, but this farewell Sprint gift is worthy of every evocative Falcon, including the hallowed GTs, that’s ever come before.
The end may be nigh, but the nigh is a high indeed.
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