Car reviews - Ford - Falcon - XR6 sedan
Performance, looks, driveability, dynamic improvement over regular EF
Room for improvement
Fuel consumption, some noise/vibration/harshness issues
7 May 2003
EVERY serious car company needs an image builder - a model that offers some excitement, that lifts the mundane family machine to another level.
BMC and Ford in the UK did it with the Cooper Mini and the Lotus Cortina, and Ford led the way in Australia with the Falcon GT in the 1960s.
General Motors followed with its XU1 Torana and in later years the Holden Special Vehicles organisation began the production of well engineered, exciting Commodores.
Not to be upstaged by HSV, Ford fought back in 1992 through an alliance with the British Tickford engineering company. The company developed the Falcon XR range, built in a special plant not far from Ford's main Broadmeadows operation.
With technical input from former Ford and Nissan motorsport guru Howard Marsden, Tickford's XR range of Falcons, including the XR6 (six-cylinder) and XR8 (V8) are impressive cars.
The XR6 is derived from the Falcon sedan, taken from the production line and re-engineered and re-styled to produce a distinctive, upmarket vehicle. The EF model under review here was introduced in August, 1994.
Powered by a modified version of the regular Falcon in-line six- cylinder OHC unit, performance is improved to the point where the XR6 is as fast as many V8s. In fact, contrary to Ford's expectations, the XR6 model outsold the V8 XR8 version four to one.
The 4.0-litre, in-line six, overhead cam, alloy head engine was modified by Tickford Engineering in the UK.
Larger exhaust valves, reworked cylinder head, camshaft, valve springs and a re-tuning of the engine management system have achieved a remarkable performance improvement.
The torque curve is almost flat from 2500 to 4000rpm. The XR6 is actually faster over the standing 400m than its V8 brother.
The engine is matched to a five-speed manual gearbox or four- speed automatic, driving the rear wheels.
Suspension refinements match the increase in engine performance, the twin wishbone front suspension and rather archaic coil sprung solid rear axle fine-tuned to provide excellent handling and ride. Special sway bars and bushings up front and relocated four- link pivot points at the rear make the difference.
Brakes are discs all round, with ABS standard, and steering is power-assisted rack and pinion.
The XR6 is attractively styled with a new four-headlamp front panel, spoiler, distinctive badging and attractive alloy wheels.
The interior is colour co-ordinated, with cloth trim, sports seats and plenty of room for five adults. The rear seat back has a 60/40 split fold down facility.
A distinctive soft-rimmed sports steering wheel completes the driver package.
Standard equipment includes driver's airbag, full instrumentation, adjustable height steering column, power rear view mirrors, central locking and quality sound system with optional CD player. Air-conditioning is an option.
On the road, the XR6 shows why it is the fastest Australian-made six-cylinder car.
The engine produces enormous torque and is beautifully matched to the five-speed gearbox. The auto is also well tuned with shifts occurring faster at high revs in the normal mode.
Acceleration is outstanding. The suspension is exceptional - the front of the car turns in precisely on sharp turns, more like a nimble sports car than a large sedan, and the well located rear axle has no vices.
Brakes are powerful and fade free.
The XR6 Falcon is a popular and successful model. Designed for the sporty sedan market, it combines genuine performance with outstanding handling, a good features list and excellent build quality.
It is an ideal choice for the buyer who needs large sedan room but is looking for sporty performance.
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