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AIMS: Hopes high for Ford Falcon XR8 return

Bent-eight: Ford's greener 5.0-litre ‘Coyote’ V8 is used in Mustang and appears in locally assembled supercharged ‘Miami’ form in the Ford Performance Vehicles range.

Ford confirms Falcon V8 still on front-burner as long-term I6 future remains unclear

Ford logo4 Jul 2011

By TERRY MARTIN

THE return of a V8 engine to the Australian-built Falcon line-up remains on Ford Australia’s agenda, raising the prospect that an XR8 performance and image-leading model could return with the facelifted 2012 range due in the final quarter this year.

Senior management has confirmed the company is continuing to study XR8’s reintroduction, while GoAuto understands that local engineering work is well underway testing a new powertrain control module (PCM) with the 5.0-litre ‘Coyote’ engine – Ford’s global V8 that is certain to form the basis of a new XR8.

Potential timing for a new bent-eight is still to be confirmed, with Ford’s current powertrain programs not coinciding with the facelift to the struggling Falcon sedan and ute, sales of which were down 45.8 and 32.0 per cent respectively to the end of May.

Following its appearance at the Melbourne motor show last week, Ford Australia will later this month launch the new EcoLPi dedicated-LPG inline-six – a much-needed replacement since the previous E-Gas bowed out in parallel with last year’s Euro 4 emissions regulations – and will follow up with an imported 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost petrol engine early next year.

Ford Australia vice-president of marketing, sales and service Beth Donovan told GoAuto that she understands “customers are counting on us” to deliver a competitive V8 for Falcon.

27 center imageLeft: 5.0-litre 'Coyote' V8. Below: FPV GS.

Asked whether a V8 would return with this year’s Falcon facelift, Ms Donovan said: “We continue to study it we continue to look at it.

“When we come to the marketplace on that we know that we need to be really competitive ... We have the opportunity with the technology that we have around the world certainly to bring that vehicle to market – and we do continue to study it.

“And I’ll just tell you that the customers are counting on us ... that we’re going to be really competitive.

“We are an affordable brand and we do want people to make sure that they understand that Ford has something unique to offer them, but also something that makes them feel really good when they’re driving it.

“So we feel really good about that prospect – it just has to have the right competitive feel to it.”

The XR8 was another victim of Euro 4 – and of Ford Australia’s number crunchers who decided it was not worth upgrading the 290kW/520Nm 5.4-litre Boss V8 or replacing it with a new bent-eight from the Blue Oval world, namely the 5.0-litre ‘Coyote’ V8 used in Mustang and which appears in locally assembled supercharged ‘Miami’ form in the Ford Performance Vehicles range.

Unless the reintroduction of a Falcon V8 forced the discontinuation of FPV’s entry-level GS model, the XR8’s performance would likely sit just below the GS-spec blown Miami V8, which produces 315kW and 545Nm.

As we have reported, Ford Australia could take a slightly detuned version of the supercharged Miami or a naturally aspirated version of the US-built Coyote.

GoAuto understands that local engineers are currently working on the naturally aspirated version for the ‘FG2’ Falcon XR8, with an upgraded PCM to allow all four cam phasers to operate and provide sufficient bottom-end torque in lieu of a supercharger.

Former Ford Australia president Marin Burela told GoAuto in October last year to “stay tuned” in relation to the return of V8 for Falcon, vowing that the XR8 “is very much a part of the Ford line-up and it will be for many, many years to come – we are working on some exciting things”.

Meanwhile, the future of Ford’s long-running Geelong-built straight-six engine beyond 2016 remains unclear amid forthcoming Euro 5 and Euro 6 regulations and the company’s global rollout of its EcoBoost direct-injection engines, which include a 3.5-litre V6.

At the Melbourne motor show last week, Ford Australia president Bob Graziano refused to confirm whether Australia would switch to a V6 for its locally produced products.

He would only comment on current offerings and the forthcoming EcoBoost inline-four engine, while continuing to talk up Ford’s global ‘One Ford’ mantra which applies to vehicle platforms as well as powertrains and is expected to see the company switch to a front-drive Taurus-based architecture in the next-generation Falcon due in 2016.

“Whether or not we put a V6 in there, what we are doing is we’re offering an I4 because, again, we are going for that fuel efficiency that customers are looking for,” he said.

“From a corporate perspective, by 2013 80 per cent of our products globally will have access to EcoBoost and we anticipate about 1.5 million units will be fitted with an EcoBoost in that same timeframe, which is up from our prior projections.

“We’ve got a very comprehensive and broad approach to sustainability across our platforms and what we’re focused on right now is delivering against that $232 million investment that we’ve made on this (current Falcon) platform – as well as all the other new products that we have coming into our showroom.

“By this time next year, 85 per cent of our showroom will be new or updated, and I’m not sure anybody else can make that claim ... and it’s demonstrative of the power of ‘One Ford’.”

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