Car reviews - Ford - Falcon - XR6 Turbo sedan
Smooth acceleration, handling, ride comfort, steering, supportive seats, seamless turbo power
Room for improvement
Fussy Ghia styling changes, limited rear-door openings, uneven luggage floor, side airbags still optional on lower models
6 Oct 2006
By CHRIS HARRIS
FIRST of all, the good news we all like to hear.
Prices for the XR6 and XR6 Turbo have dropped by $2415 and $2165, positioning it smack in the middle of Holden’s sporty SV6 and SS range – on purpose we’d suggest.
It’s a strategic move, Ford recognising that to stay in the Big Four race with its now visually ageing Falcon range it has to get aggressive to fight off Commodore and to a lesser extent the Mitsubishi 380 and soon-to-arrive Toyota Aurion V6.
And the Falcon range must soldier on for another 18 months before the next- generation Ford arrives.
However, the massive changes that came from the BA in September 2002, carried through to BF and now BFII, have ensured that the Falcon has the right stuff to battle it out in the big-car segment.
Fortunately for the MkII, Ford has changed little on the XR6 turbo. The ride and handling remains the same – which is to say supremely good.
Both the Falcon and Commodore are now closer than you think in many areas ride and handling being just two of them.
In our eyes, only the Commodore’s more contemporary overall design and the fresher interior eclipse the BF MkII and that’s not to say the latest Falcon is slipping.
Ford has wisely left much of the XR6 and XR6 turbo range unchanged and gives the bulk of the visual tweaks to the Fairmont Ghia.
The Ghia gains a "European-inspired" sports luxury exterior look, tapered bonnet, chrome grille, jeweled fog lights and front bumper finishes, and new seven-spoke 17-inch alloys.
An exposed chrome exhaust, XR-style side skirts and rear bumper, new 17-inch alloys, revised "Ghia" badging complete the up-spec car’s package. IN the photos the Ghia now looks a little fussier in some of the detailing than it was before but in the flesh the car manages to carry this off reasonably well.
However, XR6 purists might grumble that the Ghia now also gains the XR side skirts and rear bumper but their interior packaging is distinctly different.
Inside, the Ghia gains a black chrome instrument cluster, "silverline" steering wheel, chrome air vent highlights and black onyx Interior Command Centre similar to the Territory Turbo, as well as China Beige leather seat trim, suede feel seat backs and door trims, and new front seat headrests.
Fairmont, Futura and XT, Ute XL, XLS and RTV also receive modest upgrades.
Only train-spotters will notice the modes changes to the XR exterior – like the new alloys, better seat trim and revised instrument cluster. The signature quad-headlight treatment is retained.
As previously, the XRs offer a more aggressive look than other Falcon models, courtesy of the deeper bumper, side skirts and large under-bumper foglights that are bigger and more imposing than the Ghia.
The good bits, that superb in-line turbocharged six-cylinder, control blade independent rear suspension and linear, communicative steering, have been left untouched.
On the road all this contributes to blistering straight-line acceleration but perhaps more importantly, smooth and effortless overtaking power. Refinement is a given and unlike some other turbos, the linear power delivering shoves you into the seatbacks but in a gentle, firm manner.
Turbo lag is virtually non-existent, and the car will deliver a tsunami-surge of boost below 4500rpm.
Like the BF, power remains 245kW at 5250rpm and 480Nm at 2000rpm and in the six- speed ZF auto, the ratios were perfectly matched to the engine’s characteristics.
The amount of torque provided by the turbo is a strong-point.
The XR6 Turbo eclipses Holden’s SV6 – admittedly not turbocharged - which develops 195kW at 6500rpm and 340Nm at 2600rpm.
To get comparable performance to the Falcon you really have to step into an SS Commodore, which produces 270kW at 5700rpm and 530Nm at 4400rpm from its 6.0-litre V8.
The XR6 Turbo has one of the sweetest engines around and because you’ll want to exploit the performance at every opportunity, economy will suffer.
Ford quotes a combined fuel figure of 12.3L/100km.
In a run through some of Tasmania’s beautifully winding country roads, at a reasonably quick pace, we had the opportunity to exploit the superb six-speed ZF auto’s sequential mode.
With liberal use of the gearbox economy was in the high 14s. But the overall combination of engine, transmission, sport suspension and crisp steering is something an XR buyer will appreciate so economy will be secondary for many performance owners.
Ford’s dynamic stability control and traction – standard on the XR6 Turbo – but a $250 "European Sports Pack" option on other models for a limited time, offers a high threshold before intervention, allowing the driver to exploit the car’s handling parameters.
You’d be mad not to specify the ESP option on lesser Falcons as it also includes 17-inch alloys and six-speed ZF automatic. Normally the six-speed gearbox is a $1500 stand-alone option.
Such is its refinement of the XR6 turbo that some die-hard SV6 and SS Holden fans could even be persuaded by the XR6 Turbo purely on its torque delivery at low revs.
The VE Commodore may just nudge out the BF MkII Falcon on looks and interior refinement but the Falcon still manages to put up a good fight in the dynamics and engine departments.
The XR6 Turbo is more than a match for the latest Commodore offerings.
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