Ford has given its Falcon more refinement, minor power and torque upgrades, subtle restyling and - perhaps most significantly in a time of high petrol prices - improved fuel economy with the new BF range.
There are also some wild new colours for the XR range, including Toxic, a lurid yellow/green (our cover car is an XR8 finished in Toxic), and Menace, a purplish shade which changes colour according to the light, and carries a $2000 premium.
The big news, though, is the six-speed ZF automatic gearbox which replaces the old four-speed on selected models. It's a particularly smooth-shifting unit, and adds a very real improvement to the Falcon and Fairmont.
An upgraded version of the four-speed continues to soldier on. Five-speed and six-speed manual gearboxes are also offered on selected models.
Ford says the changes introduced with the BF mirror customer wants discovered in clinics with BA and BA MkII Falcon/Fairmont owners. Four key areas stood out: better economy, more performance, and greater refinement and safety.
They were tough calls for engineers - delivering motors with more power and torque, better fuel economy and the ability to meet strict Euro 3 emission requirements.
Ford says the engine changes, combined with the upgraded four-speed automatic or new six-speed automatic transmission, can deliver fuel economy improvements of up to 11 per cent.
Engineers reworked the Barra 4.0-litre six-cylinder motor, increasing power to 190kW and improving its refinement and torque.
Safety enhancements include adding Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), a system developed for the Territory SUV, to selected Falcon models, including the first DSC application on a V8 sedan, and the first use of DSC on a manual gearbox car.
Traction control is standard on all petrol sedans and wagons and, for the first time, on XR Utes.
Changes to the body car that reduce the overall sound level in the cabin while retaining the engine note customers said they love to hear.
BF Falcon styling
Changes to exterior styling on the BF Falcon include new front and rear treatments, new alloy wheel and wheel cover styles. Inside the cabin there are new fabrics, trims and finishes.
Ford calls the BF Falcon "a refined evolution" of the BA. Design chief Simon Butterworth says the range gets "a more dynamic, powerful and exciting front graphic."
The rear end gets improved, dynamic taillights. XR high-performance models pick up cues from the Falcon V8 Supercar racer. The new sports front bumper has a deep, wide central opening and GT-style foglights, recessed in a more angular surround with pronounced fluting.
The Fairmont Ghia gets chrome details and new foglights that replace the cornering lamps on BA MkII. "The new Fairmont Ghia exterior design features chrome highlights across the front and along the side, which give the luxury sports model a level of jewellery and sophistication usually reserved for more luxurious European vehicles," Butterworth said.
A chrome strip encircles the car, running through the front and rear bumpers, and along the side profile courtesy of new inserts in the bodyside protection mouldings. In the front bumper, a full width chrome strip segments the lower grille opening and foglight surrounds.
On the inside
Falcon and Fairlane models equipped with the new six-speed automatic transmission feature a new shift lever, making it immediately distinguishable from the four-speed automatic.
"The gearshift on the six-speed automatic combines a crisp, accurate throw with a more detailed appearance, while the leather-look gearshift boot reinforces the sporty nature of the new Falcon models," Butterworth said.
New door handles with satin chrome insert and soft feel hand grip are fitted to all Falcon, Falcon Ute and Fairlane models.
The Interior Command Console (ICC) and centre console surround is now finished in Titanium Stone Metallic on XT, Futura and Fairmont, as well as XL, XLS and RTV Falcon Ute models.
Falcon XR6, XR6 Turbo and XR8 sedans and Utes, as well as Fairmont Ghia, feature a new Liquid Metal finish on the ICC and centre console. Fairmont and Fairlane Ghias get new Ruby Mahogany woodgrain finishes, and the Fairmont Ghia and LTD have Rabbit Rose woodgrain finishes.
The Fairmont Ghia now has an eight-way power driver's seat with memory, as fitted to the Fairlane models. The Fairmont gets the six-way power driver's seat previously fitted to Fairmont Ghia.
Falcons and Fairlanes get a new-design ignition key. It offers a greater range of security code combinations for improved vehicle security, while eliminating the complexity of multiple keys for ignition and glovebox locks.
A common key, featuring a two-wave external track key design, now provides access to all ignition, door and glovebox locks.
Bold colour additions
Paint colours on the new Falcon range, include the first use of PPG-developed ChromaFlair paint by an Australian manufacturer: The shade, Menace, is a bold purple with an intense blue highlight, and is only available on Falcon XR and FPV models.
Toxic goes beyond the Citric Acid hue available on the BA MkII. It's a new acidic yellow green that is only available on Falcon XR and FPV models. Bionic is a striking new blue that is also only available on Falcon XR and FPV models.
New alloy wheel and wheel cover designs have been introduced across the BF Falcon range. The XR6 and XR6 Turbo have five-spoke, 17-inch alloys, while the XR8 sedan has a new 18-inch alloy wheel as standard.
All Falcon models get new wheel designs, and Fairlane Ghia and LTD wheels increase in size from 16-inch to 17-inch.
The base model XT gets 16-inch steel wheels with a seven-spoke wheel cover in a twin-spoke style that has been designed with new resin technology and Computer Aided Engineering to deliver high strength and stiffness.
The Futura rides on nine-spoke, 16-inch alloys.
XR6 17-inch alloys have a bold Tuning Fork design, and the XR8 gets a five-spoke, 18-inch alloy wheel with an aggressive Boomerang spoke design and machined Boomerang features on the spokes (the wheel is optional on all other XR variants).
Fairmont wheels are a 10-spoke, 16-inch alloys, and the Fairmont Ghia gets a nine-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheel with a machined front face and Ghia script on the centre cap.
The line-up and prices
BF XT Sedan and Wagon
4.0-Litre 190kW, 383Nm DOHC, dual independent VCT inline six-cylinder. Uprated four-speed automatic transmission. Optional 5.4-litre SOHC V8 engine with ZF six-speed automatic transmission, Optional LPG E-Gas 4.0-litre engine. Traction Control System (not available with E-Gas). ABS brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. Sedan with five-speed manual gearbox, $44,790. Wagon with four-speed automatic, $45,790. E-gas engine, $1500 on each model.
BF Futura Sedan and Wagon
Reverse Sensing System (sedan only). New 16-inch alloy wheels. Optional Tremec T56 six-speed manual transmission. Optional ZF six-speed automatic transmission. New 17-inch alloy wheel. Optional 18-inch alloy wheel. Sedan with four-speed auto, $47,490. Wagon, with four-speed auto, $48,490.
Six-speed automatic gearbox: $50,990
BF XR6 Turbo
Optional ZF six-speed automatic transmission. Dynamic Stability Control. Performance brake package. New 17-inch alloy wheels; 18-inch optional. Six-speed manual and auto versions each cost $57,990.
Optional ZF six-speed automatic transmission. Dynamic Stability Control. Performance brake package. New 18-inch alloy wheels. Six-speed manual and auto versions each cost $64,290.
New 16-inch alloy wheel. Six-way power driver's seat. New shifter with optional V8 engine and ZF six-speed automatic transmission. Ruby Mahogany woodgrain finishes. Price $50,690
BF Fairmont Ghia
Dynamic Stability Control. New 17-inch alloy wheel and sport/luxury tyre. Chrome strip in body-side protection moulds. Foglights (replace cornering lights). Chrome foglight surrounds. Chrome strip in lower grille. Eight-way power driver's seat with memory. Rabbit Rose woodgrain finishes. Price $61,990
Variable Camshaft Timing
The Double Overhead Camshaft Barra 190 inline six spearheads the BF Falcon engine range. It has 24 valves, increased compression ratio for a more fuel efficient burn, and dual independent variable camshaft timing.
The VCT phasers can rotate each camshaft independently to maximise power, torque and fuel economy. Ford says dual independent VCT delivers a significant low speed torque enhancement and sustains it throughout the engine speed range. And it cuts fuel consumption, especially at part throttle.
In highway cruising where throttle openings are reduced, the system can retard the timing by as much as 50 degrees. The VCT phasers also retard the camshaft angle at part throttle loads and advance the angle for higher loads, or under wide open throttle applications. That optimises the cam timing for the range of engine conditions enabling maximum low speed torque and best high rev power.
Ford says that cuts fuel consumption as well as providing internal exhaust gas recirculation that helps lower tailpipe emissions. The dual independent VCT system and variable intake system provide purposeful torque from very low revs.
Adding a second knock sensor to the sixes enabled engineers to deliver fuel economy benefits by taking advantage of an increased compression ratio which rises from from 9.7:1 to 10.3:1 on the Barra 190.
A six-cylinder Fairmont we drove during the BF's media launch in Australia, returned an outstanding 10.4 litres per 100 kilometres in a very brisk run along quite demanding roads, economy that would have been virtually impossible to obtaqin in Falcons before the BF.
Falcon BF engines
Barra 190 4.0-litre DOHC inline six. 190kW at 5250rpm; 383Nm at 2500rpm. The standard six-cylinder motor.
Barra 245T 4.0-litre turbocharged DOHC inline six. 245kW at 5250rpm; 480Nm at 2000rpm.
Barra E-Gas 4.0-litre DOHC inline six powered by LPG. 156kW at 5000rpm; 374Nm at 2750rpm.
Barra 230 5.4-litre SOHC V8. 230kW at 5350rpm; 500Nm at 3500rpm.
Boss 260 5.4-litre DOHC V8. 260kW at 5250rpm; 500Nm at 4000rpm.