If the new-car sales charts are anything to go by, the Ford Falcon has been all but forgotten by Kiwi buyers. Unfair? We test the XR6 and G6E paternal twins to find out.
Base price: $54,340 (XR6) and $59,340 (G6E).
Powertrain and performance: 4.0-litre petrol six, 195kW/391Nm, 6-speed automatic, rear-drive, Combined economy 9.9 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4970mm long (4967mm G6E), 1433mm high, 2838mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 505 litres, fuel tank 68 litres, 19-inch alloy wheels on 245/35 tyres (XR6) and 18-inch alloy wheels on 245/50 tyres (G6E).
We like: Chassis, a lot of metal for your money, an iconic model.
We don’t like: High driving position, dated cabin, lack of refinement.
How it rates: 6/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? It’s a shame about the Ford Falcon. While the large-car segment is diminishing overall, its arch rival the Holden Commodore is still relatively strong: the number-two selling passenger car in New Zealand for the first half of the year. Falcon, by comparison, doesn’t even figure in the top 15.
Perhaps that’s as it should be. Holden has invested many millions in the Commodore, including the massively upgraded VF model launched last year. Ford has done the bare minimum to Falcon and there are bits of the current FG model that date back to last century. Quite literally.
The biggest advance has been the addition of the excellent EcoBoost four-cylinder engine to Falcon, but even that has failed to make much of an impact.
But perhaps Ford is having the last laugh, because as we now know, both Aussie machines will cease to exist by the end of 2017.
There’s another minor update for Falcon, launching here in early-2015, and there will no doubt be a series-two version of Commodore VF before it bows out.
For now, let’s revisit the penultimate Falcon. We test it here in both sporting XR6 and luxury G6E guises.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? Why put the XR6 and G6E together? Because they are essentially the same car. They share a 4.0-litre straight six engine in identical tune and a six-speed automatic gearbox.
In terms of the driving experience they differ only in running gear. The XR6 has what Ford calls sports suspension on 19-inch wheels, while the G6E runs with luxury-sports underpinnings on 18-inch rims.
Ford’s six is ancient in automotive terms, so don’t expect the last word in refinement. But it’s still a strong engine and while it sounds a bit wheezy when you’re working it hard, it still delivers relaxed performance.
The chassis is still impressive. Creaky yes, with odd noises from the front suspension intruding into the cabin from both cars over bumps and through tight corners. But Falcon has always been a highly entertaining car to drive and still is, with lively steering and a rear-drive chassis that flows very nicely over a winding road. It’s not as sophisticated as the VF Commodore, but the raw-feeling Falcon is arguably more fun.
The difference between XR6 and G6E is incremental only. Ford Australia has always had the knack of combining sporty handling with excellent ride and even the XR6 retains a comfortable gait in ordinary driving.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? One of the bugbears with the FG Falcon has always been a driving position that’s too high, even with the seat on its lowest setting. It feels especially odd when the steering wheel is sports-car small.
The Falcon’s cabin architecture looks dated by 2014 standards, although the layout is still nice and simple. The model’s big burst of high-technology was in 2008, when the then-new FG gained an infotainment system with a colour screen and full iPod integration. A full sat-nav system is standard on both models.
The system all still works well, although it’s way behind more recent developments (including Holden’s MyLink). Expect a further upgrade to Ford’s Sync voice-control technology when the final Falcon is launched next year. Both XR6 and G6E have leather upholstery, although the former has sports-style front chairs while the latter’s are more comfort-oriented. The G6E driver’s seat also has a greater range of power adjustment for the driver, including memory settings.
Other equipment items exclusive to the G6E include daytime running lights, an alarm system, auto-dimming rearvision mirror and a passenger-side door mirror that dips when you select reverse.
The XR6 has alloy pedals and some extra exterior enhancement, including a rear spoiler and front foglights. Naturally, the Falcon still boasts a vast cabin more than capable of carrying five adults. For passenger accommodation, it’s still superior to many of the SUVs that have largely supplanted this type of car as family and business transport.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? A distinct lack of development since 2008 has left the Falcon feeling pretty dated these days. The facelift model coming in 2015 will certainly address some of its shortcomings, although it won’t be a major change: remember, the Falcon bows out completely in 2016.
Still, the car is not without its charms – especially for the enthusiast driver looking for one of the last chances to really enjoy a genuine Aussie rear-drive sedan.
For our money, the XR6 carries off the role of sporting sedan (even if there’s no extra performance) a bit more convincingly than the G6E plays luxury-car.
As this is being written, Ford is advertising an official nationwide ‘hot deal’ on XR6 for just $44,990. At that kind of money, you’d have to give it serious thought.
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Audio: CD, iPod compatible
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/No
- Blind spot warning: No
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Cruise control: Yes
- Driver footrest: Yes
- Head-up display: No
- Heated/ventilated seats: No
- Keyless entry/start: No
- Lane guidance: No
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Parking radar: Yes with camera
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Power seat adjustment: Yes, four-way (XR6) or eight-way with three-position memory (G6E)
- Rear ventilation outlets: Yes
- Remote audio controls: Yes
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Seat height adjustment: Yes
- Self-parking technology: No
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
- Steering reach adjustment: Yes
- Stop-start: No
- Trip computer: Yes
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