Sports sedan without peer
Deep down, I’m a V8 fan – I have to admit it. People expect it of me, anyway, living in West Auckland as I do. My being a Westie caused raised eyebrows when I singled out Subaru’s MY06 Impreza WRX as the Auto Trader Star Car of 2005. “Not a V8?” was the incredulous response from some colleagues. Did I have a fever? Ah, stereotypes.
Well, a non-V8 will be in the frame for the 2006 Star Car, even edging out a V8 version of the same model. I was never completely convinced by colleagues’ arguments that the turbocharged six-cylinder version of the Falcon XR6
outshone the V8. To me it lacked the character of the eight, not to mention that lovely beat emitting from the exhaust system. Sure, the turbo six-powered car may have felt a little less nose-heavy, a little less ponderous (though no post-AU Falcon V8 can really be called ponderous). But after a few days with the latest incarnation of the mind-blowing F6 Typhoon, I’ve revised my opinion.
Without doubt, this is the best high-performance Falcon yet, a masterpiece of intelligent engineering. It has all the Falcon sedan virtues – roomy cabin with good front and rear seat legroom and headroom. However, some front seat passengers cavil at the sloping sweep of the roof as it heads down to join the windscreen: they complain about a slight feeling of claustrophobia, of feeling the roof rail is too close to their head. Look across from the driver’s seat and there’s plenty of space between them and the rail: it’s the impression they gain, I guess. The boot is roomy, too, though the spare wheel means the floor is not flat, which makes the boot less user-friendly than the Commodore’s. There’s the excellent driving position, and the well laid-out controls and instrumentation – and the lovely, thick-rimmed and chunky sports steering wheel that makes standard XR tillers seem spindly. Add in the usual efficient and unobtrusive Australian air-conditioning settings (with a dual zone set-up that allows driver and front passenger to dial up individual temperatures for their side of the cabin), a fine premium sound system, supportive seats (leather-upholstered in the test car), and you have a very nice package.
But it’s once you get beyond that package that the Typhoon really makes its mark. The test car – finished in a fluoro-look green/yellow paint called Toxic (which replaced the BA’s more yellow but similar shade, Citric Acid) – was optioned up with the Brembo performance brake package and Dark Argent 19-inch alloy wheels with machined outer rims. Those additions push the price into the low $60,000 bracket (with standard brakes and 18-inch alloys the F6 costs $59,800). We don’t regard either as a “luxury item”. The brakes are an essential upgrade, given the Typhoon’s performance potential and 1600kg kerb weight. We weren’t completely happy with the look of the wheels – they turned the wheelarches into “black holes” but they and their ultra-low profile 245/35 R19 tyres provided stupendous grip. They’d need to because the turbocharged twin cam 4.0-litre Barra inline six-cylinder motor delivers 270kW of maximum power and a tyre-shredding 550Nm of peak torque, the latter available from 2000rpm all the way to 4350rpm. That translates to neck-straining acceleration – in the five-second bracket to 100km/h – and a top speed that’s sure to be well into the 200km/h band.
Falcon turbo sixes have always delivered exciting performance, but the F6 takes it to new heights. But it’s not the six alone that has caused me to regard the F6 as a better package than the V8 GT. It’s the match between the engine and the new six-speed automatic gearbox. They work in perfect harmony in a match made in automotive heaven. The torque is delivered in a smooth and seemingly endless stream, the changes all but imperceptible.
There’s a sequential manual shift function that you can use as a security blanket as you brake and turn into slow corners, or simply use for the sheer joy of feeling the massive torque come into play and the inline six deliver a whoop of joy from its exhaust system. You can order a manual F6 but we can’t see it having any advantage other than the sheer exhilaration of using it out of second gear corners, or for the chunky, muscular feel of the shift action itself.
The auto’s sequential shifter is so quick, so smooth and still gives you the feeling of being in command without the hassle of having to use a clutch. And, the handling and grip are near-unshakeable. Near-unshakeable? Yes, for despite the traction control the tail will step out a little if you floor the throttle out of a tight corner in second gear. There’s a momentary flick of the tail like an angry cat, causing you to instinctively wind on some opposite lock, then the rear tyres bite and you’re launched off the corner headlong towards the next, banging the lever back as the revs near the limiter in second. The chassis is beautifully-sorted and the car changes direction with real aplomb and a thoroughbred fluidity. Despite the radical wheel and tyre package, ride quality was supple, and was rated highly by passengers.
Fuel economy. Well, Ford quotes a combined cycle figure of 13 litres/100km for the auto (a slightly higher 13.5 for the manual). We achieved 15.7 in running biased more toward the city; but on the motorway the car will tick along in the high sevens to mid-eights (depending on gradient) at a steady 100km/h. Open road running yielded between 11.5 and 14 litres/100km, depending on the terrain and the amount of throttle used. Speaking of which, when you hammer the car along a demanding and winding road where second and third gears are used most, consumption climbs into the low 20s. Overall, though, given the performance available, we rated fuel use not too bad.
The acid question: would we own one. You betchalife. We love big cars – my ideal garage would include an assortment of Falcons and Holden Monaros with a Chrysler 300C added in for the sake of variety – and we think the F6 Typhoon is the finest interpretation yet of the big Aussie performance sedan. Its blend of performance, roadholding, ride and refinement is unmatched: more than that, it has turned an old V8 head into a turbo six devotee. And that’s no mean feat.