Car reviews - FPV - GT - F 351
Mucho mumbo from supercharged 5.0-litre V8, slick auto transmission, sophisticated ride-handling balance, value, collectability
Room for improvement
Let's hear more of it, only 500 available to buyers in Australia
14 Nov 2014
AS TEST drives go, our spin in the fastest and final Aussie Ford to wear the GT badge, the Ford Performance Vehicles GT F, was minimalist – two laps of Ford's high-speed test track at its proving ground in Victoria, intersected by a couple of standing starts to test the sprint capabilities.
To be fair, we also got a couple of laps of the handling course, but only in the passenger seat as a Ford test driver took the wheel of the supercharged muscle car.
The experience was so limited that we are loathe to make any sweeping judgements on the latest and greatest – and regrettably, last – local GT from the Blue Oval brand. We don't know, for example, how much faster this 351kW GT F is than the standard 335kW GT, or whether the ride and handling have been significantly changed.
However, we can tell you this: the limited edition (only 500 for Australia) GT F has all the hallmarks of a superb sports sedan, a suitable last chapter in in the Falcon GT story dating back 47 years.
Ford is claiming a possible 4.5-second sprint time from zero to 100km/h for the GT F automatic using the launch control that is standard fitment on both auto and manual. That's about 0.2 seconds faster than the 'standard' 335kW FPV GT.
Well, it felt mighty fast, with the traction control scrabbling to discipline the nine-inch-wide rear rubber when we lifted the left foot from the brake while holding the accelerator pedal literally to the floor.
In our second attempt, we did not press the brake pedal hard enough as instructed by the engineer riding shotgun with us, and the powertrain just ignored the launch control nanny and took off, post haste. We pulled up and had another go, successfully this time.
Officially, the blown V8 is good for 351kW – a nod to the 351 cubic inch GT Falcons of old – but unofficially, the engine can crank out something north of 400kW on a cool morning with all the atmospheric ducks in a row.
Frankly, we can't say if all this mumbo above 4000rpm was on duty when we went for our spin – it was certainly cool – but we did see 160km/h on the speedo in what seemed no time at all. It would have kept going a long way past that too, but we had been specifically warned to keep under 160km/h due to proving ground rules.
The tracks set aside for our test drives were relatively smooth – the handling circuit was recently resurfaced as part of a multi-million upgrade to the proving ground – but there were just enough bumps to determine that FPV has done it again – a superb blend of lateral grip without bone-jarring ride.
And this is the firmer R-Spec suspension set up that is usually optional on FPV cars but standard on GT F. Although a proper extended road test on public roads would fully confirm its suspension credentials, we would confidently predict that the GT F would be an easy car to live with, yet capable of some serious track work should the owner want to risk his collector's item.
Certainly, the Ford test driver that chauffeured us on the handling track gave the GT F some serious welly through a variety of bends featuring some bumps and dips that would upset many hard-sprung sports machines, but beyond a little squirming on the tyres, the GT F sat tidily on the road at all times.
We saw almost 1g on the G-force meter that now comes with the big touch screen – a creditable performance for an Aussie large car.
If we have one disappointment, it would be the exhaust note. Unfortunately, Mr Plod will not allow anything more sonorous, but we would have relished a heartier V8 blast from the big dual exhausts. We suspect some GT F buyers might agree, and take action to arrange same.
As a limited edition of the current FG Falcon-based FPV GT, we did not expect major body changes, but we can report that the so-called 'stealth' stripe treatment – a fat line over the length of the middle of the bonnet, roof and boot and smaller one down each flank – gave the GT F a historic air.
Yes, we can actually remember seeing that graphic element on the first Falcon GT – the 'Mustang-bred' 287 XR – in the local Ford dealership in 1967. It looked great then, and is not too shabby now.
The paint colours are mostly straight from the Falcon paint list, with some chosen because of their association with fast Fords of old. These colours can, in most cases, be matched with a choice of stripe colours such as black, white or gold. We thought the matte black stripes on gloss black paint had a subtlety that appealed.
The exterior stripe element is carried through to the interior, with the designers trying to find every possible way to work it in – seat stitching, instrument graphics, touch-screen start-up graphic, you name it. And, it works.
Orange is the key colour here, with stitching, instrument graphics and even the GT F 351 badges carrying orange highlights.
Each of the 500 GT F sedans to be sold in Australia carries its own build number which is displayed on the big central touchscreen at start-up, just to remind you that your wheels are something special. In case you forget, that number is also on a plaque fixed to the console.
The leather-clad seats have suitably high side bolsters, yet are nice and squishy under the backside for comfortable long-distance travel.
Ford says it put everything it had into this car. One engineer proudly told us that he regarded the GT F as “FPV's greatest hits”, taking the best performance technologies and mixing them with the best design qualities.
From where we sat in a handful of laps of the test circuit, it is hard to fault the description.
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