Car reviews - Ford - Falcon - XR8 sedan
Terrific engine a fitting send-off for the Falcon
Room for improvement
Budget issues have lift the interior way too underdone for the money
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17 Dec 2015
By TIM ROBSON
Pricing and equipment
The XR8’s entry-level price of $52,490 (before ORCs) for a six-speed manual version is reasonable in itself for a large five-seat rear-drive sedan that’s powered by a sophisticated supercharged V8 engine. A six-speed ZF auto is a $2200 upcharge.
When you consider that the XR8, not seen since 2010, is essentially a mechanical carbon copy of the now defunct Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) GT RSPEC, which cost more than $75,000 before ORCs when new, it’s even better value.
It’s what is not included in the sticker price that’s more enlightening, though. Blind spot monitoring? No. Radar cruise control? Nope. Multiple driving mode program? Bzzt. Push-button start? Uh uh.
It’s a fair ask in 2015 to buy a modern car worth more than fifty grand without some of the more modern safety technologies on sale today in cars costing half as much.
Sure, it’s got seven airbags, a reversing camera and sensors, but passive and active safety has come a very long way in the last decade, and the Falcon hasn’t come along for the ride.
It does come standard with leather trim, auto lights and wipers, satellite navigation and Bluetooth streaming functionality, as well as two USB ports, an SD card slot and a phone holder in the centre console bin.
Rivals for its dwindling market share include the Commodore SS V Redline at $52,490 plus ORCs – which, it must be said, has done a much better job of keeping up with the times – along with Chrysler’s 300 SRT8 Core at $59,000 plus ORCs.
We were actually shocked when we slid behind the wheel of the XR8 it’s as if we’d jumped aboard a Falcon from the earlier part of the century. Sure, the new Sync2 head unit is there, the trims and colours are somewhat updated, but the basics have really not changed in any meaningful way over the last three models.
The driver’s seat is still too high for taller drivers, the steering wheel is still canted at an unusual angle and mounted too low, and the general ambience is more akin to something you’d hail to take you to the airport.
A car in the mid-fifties dollar-wise is starting to stray into entry-level prestige car territory, and the Falcon is just not prestige. At all.
Rear seat room, of course, is excellent so much so that my young children, who’d never ridden in a Falcon, were astonished at just how much room there was back there.
There is 535 litres of load space in the boot, with a pass-through access hatch for curtain rods and the like. It’s big enough to cart a lawnmower, for example, though the load lip is a little high for easy loading. The floor isn’t perfectly flat, either, with a wheel well dip in the centre.
Engine and transmission
As a farewell gift, Ford has endowed the FG X XR8 with its finest engine yet – the Miami 5.0-litre supercharged V8 first seen in the FPV GT R-Spec. Making a chunky 335kW and a healthy 570Nm, it’ll do the 0-100km/h dash in 4.7 seconds, thanks to a clever launch control function that you’ll use exactly once to impress your mates and never access again.
Ford engineers reckon there’s a limited ‘overboost’ function that scoots power up to 385kW in short bursts, too.
It’s backed by ZF’s faithful six-speed automatic box that – you guessed it – debuted in the BA. At the time, it was a revelation, and even today, it’s still a good, honest toiler, if a little conservative in its shift map in normal mode.
No steering wheel paddles here, though – you can use the auto stick sequentially if you like, but shifts are slow and tiresome.
Advertised fuel economy isn’t exactly great at 13.6 litres per 100km (13.7 for the auto), but saving fuel is hardly the point of the XR8. Not now, anyway.
Ride and handling
All of the hardware from the FPV GT RSPEC has been used under the XR8, including tuned dampers, lowered and stiffened rear springs, thicker rear anti-roll bar and redone front bushings. Tyres are 275/40 ZR19s all round, and the brakes include big, chunky four-piston Brembo one-piece callipers up front.
In isolation and at civil speeds, the Falcon is well tied down, if a little brittle around town on those low profile tyres. The steering is well weighted, though, and the auto box lets you waft along on prodigious amounts of torque up to the national limit in relative peace.
Turn up the wick, and the XR8’s mass – all 1860kg of it – becomes all too apparent, with the elderly chassis really not up to the job of providing a stuff, stable base for the trick suspension and big engine to do their best work. Driven back to back with anything even vaguely contemporary, and the performance gulf is even more glaring.
It still bats above its average, but only up to about seven-tenths of its ability. Much past that – say, on a track – and it all becomes a bit of a handful.
In its correct environment, though, the XR8 is still a very able tool there are few cars around today at this price point that can do multi-hour trips over long distances with four people aboard so comfortably and so easily.
Unfortunately, the Falcon has suffered at the travails of its performance in market it doesn’t sell, so no money is spent on it, so it doesn’t sell. The dated chassis and interior contrasts markedly with that of the Commodore’s, for example, so much so that it’s more than a bit sad to compare the two once-mighty foes.
Ford has doubled its production estimates for the FG X XR8, though, as Falcon fans and savvy collectors understand the relevance of the car and the importance in which it will be held in the coming decades. Pragmatically speaking, though, there are far more savvy ways to spend $55,000-odd on a car in today’s burgeoning market.
Holden Commodore SS V Redline from $52,490 plus ORCs
Another big Aussie car that’s on the final march – only this time, Holden has kept the Commodore fresh, relevant and exciting. In VF II spec, complete with a monster 304kW/570Nm 6.2-litre LSA V8 plucked from HSV and a homegrown exhaust system to rival that of any Aston Martin on the planet, the Commodore makes compelling buying.
Chrysler 300 SRT8 Core from $59,000 plus ORCs
Outpriced by its local rivals in this category, the SRT8 Core comes close in ability and sentiment. Powered by a 6.4 litre HEMI V8 engine that offers 347kW and 631Nm, the Core eschews many of the luxuries that are standard on its rivals – leather seats, auto lights and wipers and the like – to keep its price down.
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