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Car reviews - FPV - GT - sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Tremendous performance, evocative noise, chassis poise, lighter nose for improved steering and handling, understated styling, cabin comfort, usual Falcon sedan practicalities
Room for improvement
Annoying push-button start, silly remote GPS control, runaway cruise control, no steering wheel button illumination, some cheap cabin detailing, overly understated styling, sub-standard rear head restraints

30 Dec 2010

CAUSE and effect is a curious phenomenon that comes into sharp focus while driving Ford’s new FPV GT-E.

For example, sitting on the back seat of this superman-in-a-suit GT, any average sized adult will discover that the integrated “head restraint” is no such thing since it barely reaches neck height as your body is pinned back by the ferocious acceleration of the supercharged V8.

Unrelenting in its forcefulness, a 4.9-second 0-100km/h sprint time will do that.

Then there’s the spouse/kid/dog that is always waiting for you by the door even before you reach the driveway, because of the V8’s incredible baritone burble.

It is part of an electronically controlled active exhaust system that opens valves in response to certain throttle applications to increase the sound density. Addictively bombastic, it’s what buyers want, apparently.

More cause and effect stuff includes less beer money because of 18L/100km fuel consumption – yet more free drinks all round because your mates will love you for your GT improved map-reading skills because that infernal remote control GPS system is rubbish to use and a real appreciation for the local car industry because nobody else in the world produces cars like this or Holden’s HSV equivalent. Go Aussie, go!

Of course, this is a bleeding American heart of a V8 we’re talking about.

A first in a local Ford, the supercharged V8 is from the Coyote family of engines originally devised for the MY11 Mustang, but thoroughly revamped at Broadmeadows by Ford's FPV partner Prodrive.

It is all part of a $40 million investment that also sees new alloys, a stripe kit reminiscent of the 1970 Boss Mustang and FPV logos for the steering wheel and key fob.

Under that comically bulbous bonnet is a 4951cc 5.0-litre (or 302 cubic-inch, for old-school Ford fans) double overhead cam 32-valve V8 delivering (in GT-P and GT-E spec) 335kW of power at 6000rpm and 570Nm of torque from 2200rpm to 5500rpm. An Eaton TVS supercharger similar to that used by Jaguar and Audi is employed.

For the record, folks, the HSV GTS’ naturally aspirated 6162cc unit pumps out 10kW and 15Nm less respectively.

Yet FPV says it cut fuel consumption by four per cent (14.2 to 13.6 litres per 100km), due partly to a 47kg lighter front-end as a result of going from a cast-iron to alloy block.

In turn, the lighter nose – aided by an engine that is fitted further back from the front axle – brings improved steering turn-in, for a less ‘lead arrow-like' feel from the wheel.

All these factors – engine, exhaust, mass and weight redistribution, as well as revisions to the ZF six-speed automatic transmission – result in an FPV with a subtlety different character to before.

Not quite as aurally gnarly or instantaneous in initial acceleration as the old Boss V8, it instead astounds with a turbine tidal wave of motion just a split-second later. That’s when the supercharger really makes its mark felt, reeling in the distance dramatically while offering performance that seems to verge on excessive.

But while the blown Coyote V8 is a blinder right up past the 6000rpm power ceiling, bounding forwards with unbridled energy by merely tickling the throttle, the standard six-piston Brembo brakes are up to the task of stopping the GT-E without breaking a sweat.

In the wet, though, the tail will wag even with all of the traction controls on… from 0km/h, 40km/h and even 70km/h. Yes, it is contained, and the chassis does feel like it can handle the tumultuous power, but there’s a torrent of torque being generated by a supercharger that even finely tuned electronics cannot quite harness.

What the GT-E does, though, is make light work of long distances. ‘Grand Touring’ is what this car is all about, after all.

But thanks to that lighter front-end, the steering is more responsive and the movements are more linear than ever when the roads get twistier, with the force-fed Falcon tracking confidently on its 245/35 ZR19 tyres.

Yet the ride quality is heaps better than the low-profile rubber suggests, dealing with urban road irregularities without a problem while having enough spring travel to take on the larger stuff as well. Firm yet comfy best describes it.

Being picky, we’d complain about a tad too much road noise intrusion on coarser bitumen, but, really, the peace is neither compromised nor under threat from the overall mechanical package – malevolent as it may appear to refinement levels.

However – and keeping in mind that this car costs northwards of $82K – the interior lets the FPV down… albeit just a little.

Positive points first.

Entry and egress is easy in today’s Falcon. The sports front seats do a brilliant job og keeping you comfortable yet firmly in place while battling G-forces. And if you’re not too tall, the driving position is excellent, with an easy reach to all controls, in a spacious and accommodating cabin.

Insufficient head restraints aside, the rear bench is set at a perfect pitch, providing hours-long comfort for three (or more accurately two regular sized adults and a smaller child in between), while a long and wide boot behind them can easily carry lots of gear, and is facilitated by a split-fold backrest – something Holden’s VE equivalent cannot match.

The quality of our car’s fit and finish was also surprisingly top notch – nothing squeaked or rattled - and the cabin feels as airtight and free from wind noise as any sedan of its size anywhere, due to some very diligent sealing.

Thumbs up, too, for the suede-effect lower door coverings, white-stitched leather trim, chunky steering wheel and classy wood spears all try valiantly to convey a more upmarket image for the FPV brand.

But then there is the centre console.

Its sat-nav’s Atari-era graphics and ridiculous remote control operation are crude, ugly and counter-intuitive. So is the unnecessarily complicated turn-key/push-button starting regime.

In fact, that whole stack – with its glossy silver paint finish – looks and feels like a ‘90s mobile phone, detracting from an otherwise attractive interior package.

Plus, the FPV’s instrumentation deserves a more bespoke look – it’s still too Falcon XT-esque for our liking, while the multitude of identical buttons for the audio and climate control settings can be confusing.

The GT-E’s exec-express subtlety works too well in blending it with the $58,990 G6E Turbo the wheels look too similar, for instance. Ford could have gone a bit lairier or just more different with this model’s visual execution.

More serious are the limited front seat travel for taller people and a steering wheel that needs more height adjustment. We’ve been banging on about this since the FG Falcon’s early 2008 intro.

But there’s no denying that all of the above criticisms are relatively minor. Even without the Coyote V8, the GT-E is as good-looking, comfortable, safe, refined, practical and dynamic as you would hope an Australian-built five-seater sedan to be.

Add the new supercharged V8 and the FPV is catapulted to the pinnacle of Aussie muscle-car performance. There is something wildly addictive about the thunderous way this sedan blasts down the straights yet dances through the bends.

Which brings us to the question of value – and the same applies exactly to the HSV GTS as well. Yes, $82,540 is not cheap.

However, to enjoy similar sub-five-second 0-100km/h performance and space for five people in a BMW, you need the $178,900 550i. The equivalent Audi (S6) costs $199,814. Jaguar charges $204,990 for the Jaguar XFR. The Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG will set you back $238,060, while the Porsche Panamera 4S and Maserati Quattroporte GT S will set you back $282,400 and $328,900 respectively.

Even in the presence of such stars the GT-E’s performance and dynamic abilities are epic. Throw in the price diff and the FPV’s value makes it seem supernova.

And here’s another GT-E cause and effect scenario: support your local hero instead of going Euro and Ford Oz plus seven other related components industry jobs involved in the making of this world-class Aussie supercar sedan are just that one bit more secure.

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