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New Falcon: XR8 bulges with power

Tight fit: Ford says the BA XR8's bulging bonnet was necessitated by its new DOHC V8 engine

Ford's new Falcon XR8 has HSV in its sights thanks to an all-alloy 5.4-litre 260kW V8

4 Sep 2002

BRACE yourself, HSV: Ford has whipped the covers off its aggressive new 2002 BA Falcon XR8, a car that promises enough performance to threaten HSV's bread-and-butter sports sedan.

That's right, as predicted, the new XR8 will employ an exclusive, quad cam/32-valve version of Ford Australia's brand-new, all-alloy 5.4-litre V8 - an engine so physically big a bonnet bulge was required to accommodate it.

The BA Falcon XR8 will pack a big 260kW of peak power and 500Nm of torque - about 35kW more than its traditional rival, Holden's Commodore SS, and 5kW more than even HSV's popular ClubSport. Just to underescore that performance, Ford calls the new engine the "Boss".

The XR8 headlines a new engine performance package from Ford that includes uprating the base 4.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine with double overhead camshafts and variable cam timing so it produces 182kW/380Nm as well as introducing a storming turbo version of the 4.0 with 240kW/450Nm.

Ford will also offer a baseline 220kW/470Nm version of the 5.4 with BA, as well as the 260kW unit set for XR8. The new engine replaces the venerable Windsor V8, which has gone out of production.

Along with engine specifications, Ford has also confirmed a name change for the base model Falcon Forte, which will be known as the Falcon XT.

But it's the XR8 which had Ford president Geoff Polites crowing.

"There's little doubt that everyone will know the XR8 when they see it," he said. "The power bulge is a real give-away.

"And it's not just for looks. Underneath the bonnet lies a unique V8 engine that will deliver a new level of response and refinement for the Australian performance car market.

"What that means is 260kW of power and 500Nm of torque, and a new chapter in Ford rich performance history." While facelifted VY Commodore versions of both the SS and HSV's ClubSport are expected to narrow the performance gap by appearing with about 10kW more peak power, a 260kW XR8 upsets the long established rivalry between Ford and Holden's performance models.

It will be the first time Ford's XR8 has had the upper hand, in terms of performance, over Holden's SS since the Gen III Chevrolet V8 appeared in the VTII Commodore facelift of 1999.

The new XR8 was revealed to the media last week along with the BA Falcon's new interior and engine line-up.

The fifth and final instalment of the Barra Falcon's "Secrets Revealed" staggered reveal campaign, it follows the previous unveiling of BA's seats, trim, paint, suspension, exterior and other technology.

All that remains is for motoring journalists to drive Barra at its late September media launch, which will follow next week's release of Toyota's new 380N Camry and the following week's release of Holden's facelifted VY Commodore.

The BA Falcon, however, will not go on sale until October, when mainstream Falcon sedan, ute, wagon and XR6 models are likely to be offered at a premium of three to four per cent over current AU models.

But the BA XR8 will not appear until early 2003 - around the same time Ford's BA T-Series line-up is revealed.

Dubbed T4 and likely to swap Tickford badges for Prodrive ones, the new T-Series range is expected to comprise differently specified short-wheelbase Falcons delivering at least 300kW, with the revered GT set to be revived.

Ford's long-wheelbase BA Fairlane and LTD models are due to appear in the second quarter of 2003.

Ford says the XT nameplate will replace Forte in an attempt to distance the heavily updated BA from its unloved AU predecessor.

As the highest volume AU Falcon, the outgoing Falcon Forte was seen as most representative of the AU's unpopular "edge" styling, wearing a grille that Ford's design chiefs now admit was "too flamboyant".

"You haven't heard us mention the Forte name in relation to Barra," Mr Polites announced last Thursday. "That's really because there won't be a Forte in the BA Falcon range - it will be replaced by the XT.

"The new XT model designation reflects the change in character of our entry level. With all of the mechanical changes, the XT has a real sports feel to it.

"We've got 20 per cent more power than the equivalent Commodore, we've got Control Blade IRS versus what, as one of you here and I won't name him, described as an antique suspension.

"We've got sequential sports shift transmission and a cockpit-style driving environment, and the car is a very, very aggressive car on the road. So the X in XT links this car very deliberately to XR.

Ford's vice president marketing and sales Bruce McDonald said: "The X links it to our XR series which denotes the performance credentials inherent in every Falcon. The T is for Touring and represents that Falcon is Australia's premier long distance car." To reinforce the XT nomenclature some of the BA Falcon press material even refers to two new lines of Falcon in the XT and XR ranges.

"The Falcon XT and XR brands tap into Ford's rich motorsport heritage," says the media release. "The Futura and Fairmont draw down from the luxurious Fairmont Ghia." Mr Polites said: "The Futura and the Fairmont provide a more luxurious feel with added features, while the Fairmont Ghia in this new range will be a cross-over model - there's a couple of good words - combining the best of both worlds - features and performance".

On Friday, September 6, we report the full details of Ford's BA Falcon engine upgrade. More power, more torque, four-valve heads, turbos and a bigger bent eight. It's all here on Friday.
On Monday September 9 watch out for our full wrap-up of the BA Falcon's new interior.

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