Final Ford Falcon can still fly high
Australian motoring editor Grant Edwards says farewell to a famous Ford
The XR8 version of Ford's last Falcon has been grabbing the attention, but the entire range offers style, comfort, impressive performance and plenty of the latest technical features.
The final chapter has been written in the illustrious Falcon story but a new action-packed story is about to begin.
History was made last week when Ford launched its last Falcon range. Production will end in October 2016.
Proudly Australian-made for 50-odd years, model range FG X wears a new corporate face and welcomes back the XR8 nameplate. This model has been grabbing all the early attention, and Ford admits it may have undercooked the numbers.
While the Falcon sits in the departures lounge, poised to arrive next year to Australia and New Zealand is the new Territory and the much-anticipated Mustang.
Ford is launching the Falcon next month in New Zealand. Yet the launch of the final Falcon proved there is plenty of life left in the old Aussie icon. And those wanting a slice of history and a hefty dose of old-school muscle won't be unhappy putting their hard-earned cash into an FG X.
Traversing some wide-open spaces of rural Victoria, this was Falcon heartland.
The cavernous cabin begs for a road trip. Five adults would have few issues finding enough space, with three across the bench seat a simple proposition.
Soft-touch materials are used in the places that matter most, although there are some hard plastics on the console and at the door bases, even on the up-spec variants.
The driver has an uncluttered set-up. Two analogue instruments, techno and speedo, flank a changeable digital screen. You can flick between trip computer information such as fuel tank range, average and instantaneous fuel consumption, although probably the best option is a digits speedo to keep a close eye on things - vital, especially in the turbo and XR8 variants.
On the road
Status quo has remained across the drivetrains, with the spotlight firmly planted on an old friend. Ford has resurrected the XR8 nameplate, and dropped a tank-slapping 335-kilowatt Boss donk into the Falcon shell. And it's pure, unadulterated fun.
There was no better example of its ability than with traction control off and the wheels lit up, drifting around witches hats at Winton Raceway, steering the big sedan around an intricate motorkhana course with brute force from the rear end.
Out on the open road and its punchy ability shone there too. Overtaking can be done within an instant, a jab of the throttle accompanied by your torso being shoehorned into the bucket seats.
For those looking for something less aggressive, the straight six is still available, but anyone searching for an entry-level offering should look no further than the four-cylinder EcoBoost engine (at no extra cost). Many drivers would struggle to pick the difference between it and the six.
Ride quality is good across the range, although the quietest is delivered by those riding on the smallest 16-inch wheels.
Sync2 is the star attraction of the updated range. The 20.3cm touch-screen has four quadrants, broken up into phone, entertainment, climate and sat nav (for those models with GPS). This is one of the faster and easier to navigate systems we've used. It's also available with voice control.
We've used other systems with similar ability, such as being able to change the radio station, set the temperature, set a destination in the sat nav and call someone in your contact list, but the Sync2 can take things a step further. Say "I'm hungry" and it can give you a list of restaurants nearby or at your destination. You can then call them direct or set sail to the location via sat nav. Smart stuff. You can also turn off the often tedious voice guidance once you have the hang of things - operating everything without taking your hands off the steering wheel.
What do you get?
Little has changed in specification terms, with Sync2 added across the line-up, front and rear parking sensors, supplementary to the likes of basics, plus cruise control, air con, alloy wheels and five-star safety.
The fruit improves the further you head up the tree, with the sporty XR6 and XR8s coming with larger alloy wheels, sports bumpers and rear spoiler, while the G6E gets all the luxury trinkets, such as leather trim and softer suspension. All variants above XR6 come with sat nav.
Fuel consumption has been reduced across the range, with the base six-cylinder now achieving an average of 9L for every 100km courtesy of aero gains and a new, lighter, Chinese-sourced six-speed ZF automatic transmission.
The best of the range is the 2.0-litre four-cylinder with 8.0L/100km, while at the other end of the scale the XR8 slurps 13.6L/100km.
Within the deep centre console there is a slot perfect for mobile phones, with two USB ports, an SD card reader and an auxiliary jack.
In front of the shifter are useful storage spots next to a 12-volt plug, perfect for keys and small electrical gear. Two cup holders are in the middle console and in the fold-down arm rest in the back, while each door has space for a bottle. On the options list is a 1600kg tow pack.
You can spot the new Falcons via the bold smiling corporate grille.
The sporty models have a honeycomb finish, while the luxury variants get chrome horizontal lines.
The stand-out is the XR8, with its "power bulge" bonnet, quad pipes and unique shadow-line, five-spoke 19-inch by eight (front) and nine (rear) alloys.
For nearly 55 years, the Ford Falcon has been a part of the Australasian psyche.
Though Ford is putting on a brave face, the launch of this final model is tinged with sadness. But the local engineering team will continue making their mark, not just here but globally, and they can stand proud of this final range.
What matters most
What we liked: Old-school muscle in the XR8, impressive performance from four-cylinder derivative, tech features, prices.
What we'd like to see: Safety gizmos such as blind-spot warning and radar cruise control, more throaty soundtrack in the cabin on XR8.