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First look: Ford BF Falcon


Ford's new BF Falcon - due to make its public debut at the Sydney motor show in October - is an inside out change

At least that how Ford Australia president Tom Gorman described the changes to the Blue Oval brand's big car. The changes include engine revisions to reduce emissions to meet the Euro 3 standard, and improve refinement, reliability and fuel economy, the last-mentioned in the face of falling sales that some Australian motor industry pundits are ascribing to rising petrol prices.

New for the BF is a six-speed automatic gearbox which replaces the traditional on some models. The six-speeder is an adaptation of a ZF unit used in the revised Jaguar S-Type. The four-speed, retained in some models, has been given a re-tune.

There are changes to the Falcon interior, including a redesigned shift lever for the automatics.

There will be other mechanical changes - some pundits suggest they will include suspension modifications - though they won't be announced until closer to the car's launch in October.

 Specification and equipment levels will also be announced closer to the car's market launch, though the cars are expected to weigh around the same as current BA Falcons. Ford engineers say they felt they could gain fuel economy improvements from engine, gearbox and aerodynamic changes without having to go on a weight-saving exercise.

Gorman's assertion that the BF is an "inside-out change rather than a radical change in the sheetmetal," is borne out by the photographs of the cars printed on these pages.

Exterior changes are minor. The most noticeable change are the smoother lines of the front bumper which now includes a trapezoidal opening similar to that found on the Territory SUV. That will now be a Falcon signature design cue. The bumper was extensively tested in Monash University's wind tunnel to find the optimum aerodynamic shape and help improve fuel efficiency.

Other exterior changes include revisions to the taillights to give them a more jewelled look, and greater use of chrome trim on the Fairmont Ghia to give it a more distinctive and upmarket look. There is also a selection of new wheel cover and wheel designs, and a range of dramatic new colours.

At the wheel
Brief drives of Falcon and Territory development mules equipped with the new ZF six-speed automatic gearbox gave a hint of the added refinement fun factor the unit will bring to the two vehicles. Shifts were particularly smooth, the kickdown especially impressive. It was quick enough to make using the sequential manual shift function unnecessary on all bar the tightest corners of the track at Ford's You Yangs proving ground in rural Victoria.

Time allowed only two laps in each vehicle, but on initial acquaintance the gearbox was very impressive and a real advance on the four-speeder.

 New Colours
Ford is taking a bold approach to car body colour with a group of new shades that will be available on the BF Falcon range. The star of the range is Fantasy which is available only on the XR and FPV high-performance sedans. It's a chameleon colour which changes from royal purple to a blue as light plays on the bodywork lines. Ford says its use on the BF Falcon marks the first time ChromaFlair paint technology has been used on a volume production car in Australia.

Other dramatic colours include Menace, a bold metallic purple with an intense blue highlight. Toxic is an acidic yellow green, and Bionic is a dramatic blue. All three colours are exclusive to XR and FPV models.

Six speeds
Six-speed ZF gearboxes will be standard on Fairmont Ghia, Fairlane Ghia, Fairlane G8, and LTD Falcon models. It will also be on all Territory AWD models.

Automatic XR6 and XR8 sedans will retain the four-speed auto but can be optioned with the six-speed.

The six-speed will also be standard on Barra 230 V8 versions of the Falcon XT and Fairmont.

- Mike Stock

Auto Trader New Zealand