A Falcon with attitude
You have every right to be bemused by the wide array of Falcon and Fairmont variants on offer at your local Ford showroom. Unless you’re a dedicated Falcon fan, sorting out the number of models is not so much confusing as bewildering.
Joining 19 BF Falcon and Fairmont models are a dozen versions from the Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) division. So with 31 different Falcon models, Ford works on the theory that there will be at least one or two to suit your preferences and budget. Beaten by both the Holden Commodore and Toyota Corolla in the New Zealand market last year – and slipping to fourth in January 2006 – the Falcon is, nonetheless, still a real Kiwi favourite. The FPV models have special appeal, particularly if you’re a petrolhead, because they offer a lot of performance for a reasonable amount of money.
With the arrival of the BF series, the performance options have become even greater. When the BA Typhoon version of Falcon arrived early last year, it was only offered in manual form at $69,990 because the six-speed ZF paddle-shift auto wasn’t available until the BF came on line. The previous auto transmission wasn’t up to coping with the massive torque of the Typhoon, but now Ford offers all FPV models with the choice of manual or auto.
Today’s BF Typhoon F6 lists at a slightly higher $71,990, and the auto is the same price, so buyers need to do some soul-searching to decide which is best for their needs. The Typhoon’s claim to fame is its remarkable torque. At a massive 550Nm, it’s even higher than the 520Nm turned out by the naturally aspirated 5.4-litre V8-engined Falcon GT.
Torque is the key to the intercooled turbo 4.0-litre, double overhead camshaft, straight six-cylinder engine, rather than the fact that the Typhoon covers the ground at a similar velocity to the GT while using less fuel. It’s still not a V8, of course, but are you really going to worry about that while savouring the superb flexibility and sheer delivery of power from the Prodrive-tuned 270kW turbocharged six?
What the GT is to the V8 Falcon, the Typhoon is to the XR6 turbo. Question the idea that anyone needs more power than an XR6 and miss the point that some of us like the idea of a little more, even when enough may be enough.
Though the Typhoon is unlikely to become the company car for members of the Green party, it still averages 14 litres/100km (20.2mpg) in the Aussie ADR fuel test. At the same time, this sports Falcon emits a far from green 332 grams/km of CO2. Typhoon owners are less likely to be perturbed by high emissions or hefty fuel bills because it’s performance and image that they’re seeking.
If you were being sensible about things, the prospect of a $14,000 penalty to put you behind the wheel of a Typhoon would swing you into an XR6 Turbo. But FPVs are not about being sensible. Power goes from 240kW to 270kW (just 20kW less than the GT V8) at 5250rpm, and the careful tuning elevates torque by a hefty 100Nm between 2000 and 4250 revs. This is not merely a class-leading amount of torque but the highest of any Australian production car engine.
The BA version I’ve been driving packed so much urge and was so responsive that the lack of an auto gearbox didn’t even come into the equation. You can drive the manual Typhoon like a manual. Well, almost, given the sheer flexibility and wide power delivery.
Driving normally, the driver can miss gears, or simply bang the reasonably-slick close-ratio Tremac T56 six-speeder into fifth or top and be amazed by the way the car responds. Compared to the XR6 Turbo, Typhoon has more turbo pressure, and zips to 100km/h in 5.7 seconds. Gearing is matched to performance rather than economy, but is still leggy enough to make this a grand long-
distance cruiser. At 100km/h the engine is spinning at around 1900rpm in sixth, increasing to 2500rpm in fifth gear. The way the Ford accelerates at mid-range speeds is impressive. The Typhoon pulls out and passes other traffic both quickly and effortlessly. It storms up hills as if they weren’t there.
Into heavy Auckland traffic and the 240mm British AP racing clutch is a bit of a handicap simply because of high pedal pressures. This is the only Aussie car with a twin plate clutch but that item is clearly essential to accommodate the high volumes of torque. Although the idea is to provide good feel, the assisted steering is a shade too heavy for many drivers. Steering weighting also varies, and at times the car feels over-sensitive. Double wishbone front suspension and the effective control blade independent rear set-up offer good handling and a surprisingly compliant ride given the low profile tyres.
Any car that accelerates with such vigour needs heavy restraint, and FPV has engineered a lot of time into developing the Typhoon’s braking system. Twin grooved 325mm ventilated front and 303mm solid rear discs have twin-piston front and single-piston rear callipers, and the ABS system is a four-channel arrangement. Cross-drilled and ventilated Brembo brakes are optional, packing 355mm discs up front and 330mm at the rear with four-piston callipers.
The Typhoon comes with switchable traction control and 18-inch diameter 10-spoke alloy wheels that are eight inches wide. The wheels have polished spokes and black shadow rims with 235/40 ZR Dunlop SP9000 tyres. All serious stuff that adds up to an exciting sports sedan.
Spot the Typhoon by the gunmetal highlights in the front splitter, driving light surrounds, side skirt flutes and rear valance. A chrome grille mesh sets the car apart, but it’s a pity the larger bootlid spoiler impairs visibility. Inside, the twin-pod sports instrument gauges are exclusive to FPV. Dials include turbo boost-pressure and oil pressure gauges. Leather upholstery is extra, but this speedy Falcon does have suede-feel seat bolsters, automatic lights and a handsome thick-rimmed steering wheel. Though a dash-mounted starter button is a signature of all FPV models, it’s more a gimmick than a useful feature.
Measuring almost five metres, the Falcon Typhoon is, of course, a large car, and trims the scales at 1776kg. But you would never know it, the way the Ford skips along. This is a Falcon with attitude and individuality, and an answer for those who think a V8 is maybe a little over the top.