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Falcon fightback

Future Falcon: Automotive designer BERNIE WALSH's impression of the 2002 AV Falcon.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em: come September, Ford's new AV Falcon will look more like Holden's VY Commodore

20 Nov 2001

WHILE Ford's plans for a four-wheel drive took centre stage last week, the fightback actually starts right here with the Barra Falcon, due in September.

And this is the best idea yet of what the car will look like courtesy of spy shots and insider information combined with the talent of automotive designer Bernie Walsh.

The big news is Ford has decided if it can't beat 'em it will join 'em, styling the new AV-coded Falcon to look more like the upcoming YY Commodore. It is a visual acceptance that AU's styling, which took Falcon on a very different path to Commodore, has not worked. Monthly sales figures are the obvious evidence of that.

In styling terms, AV Falcon features significantly flatter, higher, wider and more squared-off rear-end styling, along with a new, more aggressive front end that also departs significantly from the current AU design.

Its resemblance is remarkably close to the upcoming VY Commodore - due out about the same time as the AV - which is itself a big departure from the current VXII Commodore, more closely following the global GM corporate 'face' aspreviewed by Monaro.

Specifically, while XR Falcons will continue with Tickford's distinctive quad-light nose, mainstream AVs will incorporate headlights that decrease in width from the outboard cut-line to the bold new grille, similar to VY.

"It looks like it will be better looking car," Mr Walsh said.

"It's a backward step in the sense that it's a more convervative car, but it's also more contemporary looking in its appeal.

"They could have gone in another direction and polarised opinion even more." Inside the car, Falcon will go its own way with a modern, clean styling theme said to be inspired by the latest generation Ford Mondeo.

But unlike VY Commodore - which is expected to herald only minor engineering changes aimed at improving build quality and further refining Holden's ageing V6 - AV Falcon will be a showcase of advanced technology underneath its thoroughly revised skin.

In a move that will be as significant for Ford as Chevrolet V8 firepower was for VTII Commodore in July, 1999, the new Falcon is expected to debut from launch with an all-new, overhead cam, 5.4-litre V8 to replace the long-running cast-iron Windsor V8 - plus a heavily updated, twin-cam, 24-valve version of Ford's trusty 4.0-litre straight six across the range, including a wild turbocharged XR6 version.

The thoroughly modernised DOHC six is said to realise big gains in efficiency and emmisions, meeting strict Euro IV standards due in 2004. It's likely to deliver upward of 160kW as standard and at least 180kW in low-pressure turbo form for Fairmont/Ghia/Fairlane and up to 230kW in XR6 guise.

Tickford's twin-turbo six will raise the bar for future Falcon V8s but the 5.0-litre replacement should be equal to the task.

Little is known about Falcon's new modular 5.4-litre engine, but it is understood that in standard/XR8 trim the alloy bent eight will feature at least three valves per cylinder, overhead camshafts and long-stroke cylinder dimensions that should continue the current V8's low-rpm torque characteristics but offer up to 240kW.

Similarly, this week's launch of Tickford's 250kW T-Series range raises the bar significantly for FTE's AV range, whose improved, 32-valve 5.4-litre V8 is expected to offer at least 260kW via more advanced software and DOHC, four-valve cylinder-heads.

GT and GTHO versions of the AV Falcon are also due in subsequent years, producing 280kW and up to 310kW respectively. Ford's full-house Mustang Cobra R-based version of 5.4-litre V8 currently produces 285kW in standard trim.

It's not only power but chassis performance which has come under scrutiny.

All AV Falcons are expected to feature a new, lightweight rear suspension echoing the double wishbone independent rear suspension found in high-spec versions of the current Falcon.

It is believed a large chunk of the development cost of AV has gone into the new IRS for the entire Falcon range.

FoMoCo design chief J Mays said Ford's worldwide product planning and vehicle dynamics guru Richard Parry-Jones had driven AV with a view to giving it a more European flavour.

"Richard (Parry-Jones) was here last year and he spent a couple of days driving prototypes, talking to the guys about the areas he thought that Australian cars as a generic thing lacked relative to European cars," said Mr Mays.

"He encouraged them to do a few things differently, which we have done." Another chassis advantage further down the road will be four-wheel drive, with both Ford and Holden currently developing systems which will go on sale under cross-over vehicles starting as early as late 2003.

The all-paw platform technology means both Holden and Ford will have the capability to produce all-wheel drive performance versions of both Commodore and Falcon within the lifespan of AV and VY.

While Holden's current V6 and V8 engine/transmission technology is expected to continue relatively unchanged until 2004, when Holden's new engine plant is expected to begin production of Commodore's new quad-cam alloy V6, Ford will also have access to an OHC 3.8-litre alloy V6 before the all-new Falcon and Commodore are due around 2005.

WHAT'S IN STORE FROM FORD: September, 2002:
* AV Falcon upgrade
* Heavily revised front/rear styling, IRS across range
* Updated base 4.0-litre six: DOHC, EuroIV-compliant, 160kW
* Turbocharged Tickford six: 180kW standard, 230kW for XR6
* New base V8: alloy, 5.4-litre, overhead cams, 240kW for XR8
* Tickford V8: quad-cam, 32-valve, 260kW for T-Series 2003:
* GT Falcon: 5.4-litre quad-cam V8, 280kW
* GTHO Falcon: 5.4-litre quad-cam V8, 310kW 2004:
* All-new Falcon-based four-wheel drive cross-over 2005:
* All-new AX Falcon 2006 and beyond:
* Cross-over 4x4 ute, performance 4x4 Falcons

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