Car reviews - Ford - Falcon - XT 5-dr wagon
Acres of interior space, towing ability, 4.0-litre engine smoothness and power
Room for improvement
It doesn’t look like the latest Falcon it’s expensive transmission lacks smoothness
16 Dec 2009
By PHILIP LORD
YOU can’t really blame Ford for not giving the Falcon Wagon the full update treatment with the sedan and ute last year.
Why would they, when the private market is catered for with Territory (and with the recent introduction of the Mondeo wagon) and the only market really interested in a large passenger wagon is the fleets. And they appear quite happy with Falcon the way it is.
So the BF Mark III Wagon is the most up-to-date Falcon Wagon but it’s not the latest in Falcon design or engineering. There is no new bodyshell, no new higher-output 195kW engine, no five- or six-speed transmission auto.
Instead, Ford treated the wagon to a mild update, calling it the BF Mark III, and offering it in only one grade, the entry-level XT with the 190kW six mated to the old four-speed auto. This may be the last Falcon Wagon because its version of the 4.0-litre six won’t meet Euro IV level emissions requirements due next year.
There are a few private buyers (most of whom wait until the fleets eventually offload them at a heavily discounted price). Caravan owners, for example, love ‘em because the Falcon Wagon is one of the best passenger-based trailer towing wagons. Its long wheelbase, live axle, leaf spring rear suspension is as basic as they come, but it is also one of the best load-carrying designs for a towing vehicle.
The Falcon costs $41,220 (manufacturer’s list price) and this is a bit of a sticking point. Probably the fleets get a discount so who knows what they pay, but for Joe Average wagon buyer fronting at a Ford dealer ... well, you can see why they’d be jumping straight for a much, much cheaper Territory RWD or Mondeo.
If you thought that Ford’s base spec Falcon, the XT, sudden became a sumptuous package in the wagon to justify its steep asking price you’d be wrong: the XT features list is not by any means expansive.
The Falcon’s interior is just as roomy and comfortable as ever, even if it looks old hat. That new charcoal colour carpet will never be enough to hide the seven long years the rest of the interior has been around for. Even though Ford did a brilliant job with the BA Falcon interior on which this BF MkIII is based, so have other manufacturers on theirs, and with the benefit of having done so far more recently.
Old is not always bad where new cars are concerned, but dated designs are usually justified because they are also cheap. The Falcon isn’t.
Yet the front seats are supportive, the instruments simple for the most part to find and use and aside from the view back from the small side mirrors, vision out of the wagon is expansive.
Rear seat occupants are treated to ample leg, head and shoulder space but not increasingly common features such as separate head restraints integrated childseat anchor points (one floor-mounted point is fitted and the thread is in place to bolt in two more).
The cargo area is wide and deep but not as tall in the load space as other wagons, especially the 4WDs.
This engine has plenty of low-rev torque, and unlike the coarse Falcon sixes of yore, it can handle being revved against its red line. There are no obvious soft spots in the power and torque bands, and not bad on fuel for its relatively large displacement.
With a mix of light urban running and freeway cruising we achieved 9.8L/100km on test. In the worst-case scenario, you won’t do much if any worse than our 17.0L/100km achieved in short-distance urban running almost exclusively in traffic.
Four-speed autos, however, are becoming obsolete. Although it could do with a few extra ratios (like the five- or six-speed transmissions available in the FG sedan) and there are times when the transmission doesn’t shift gears totally smoothly, overall it’s not a bad auto that if you don’t provoke it will change gears without fuss and it has an easy-to-use manual mode.
The independent coil-spring upper and lower arm front suspension and live axle leaf-sprung rear is almost as old as the ox and cart, yet is handles and rides surprisingly well.
Although the rear can step out if the road surface is crumbling, generally it does not put a foot wrong. The standard traction and stability control comes in handy, though, as we found out when taking a 90-degree corner in the wet.
The rear stepped out a surprising amount before the electronic wizardry stepped in to sort it out, but the wayward rear was brought into line.
Steering feel and precision is not on par with Commodore, but it is not far behind. For all its aged feel, this is a nice wagon to steer and it would have to be one of the best rear live axle designs to punt around corners.
There may be more sophisticated and less expensive wagons, but for a regular carry-all that can cope with big loads, tows really well and just gets on with the business of eating big miles with plenty of passenger comfort, the Falcon wagon does a remarkably good job.
It’s just a pity that its appeal is going the way of the panel van – into obscurity – and so this dated and expensive wagon was good in its day, but that day appears to be drawing to an end.
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