Anything but subtle
Boy does this car polarise people. From deepest, soul-souring-green envy to finger-pointing hilarity, I got it all. The latter folk were more verbal. I was asked where my medallion was; told I need a rod in the trou to drive this car; or was driving it to make up for the lack. A ludicrous suggestion – what would I do with one? No, don’t answer that…
It’s not so much that this sedan is big. Or blue, or those headlight enhancements give it Alice Cooper eyes. No, it’s the massive bonnet nostril, the racing stripes, the spoiler with its winglets each side – subtle it ain’t. FPV’s GT says ‘I’m big, bad and fast’ before you’ve thumbed the start button.
After? Initially, a tad disappointing. Outside, the V8’s purposefully lumpy idle is audible enough, if a tad quieter than expected. Inside it’s disappointingly muted, that sideways rumpy-pumpy barely felt, the engine housetrained to a fault. And at first it stayed that way.
Those deeply sculpted seats were in character, without proving too firm for comfort. The interior’s sporting accents looked just right. The big nostril dominates the view forward and this car, unlike most of the Falcon range, actually does feel big. It just didn’t sound the part as I idled through town, and up the motorway. It didn’t sound it as I cruised north through heavy rain, feathering the throttle.
But when I turned back later, and floored it out of the drive, my God did it sound good – and boy, did it feel good too. The rear snapped round before the ESP cut in so smoothly I almost thought I’d rescued it myself, then we were howling up the straight, spearing to 100 in a blink. Erk; cut back. Cruise control for the big open roads, then detour through some swervery.
This is a big car. It’s raining and clouds of spray obscure the rear view. But goodness, is this GT fun.
That 5.4-litre quad-cam 32-valve V8 offers 315kW at 6500rpm, and 551Nm at 4750rpm – at least, it does when measured on 98-octane. There’s 95 in the tank right now, but it doesn’t seem to care. The gear lever needs firm action but the six well-spaced cogs and a shorter final drive ratio mean it’s easy to pick a gear that suits this powerplant – though third proved flexible enough for almost anything, provided you like hearing that engine working. And oh yes, I do…
That extra power came via numerous detail changes – a new cam profile and cam timing, a stronger piston assembly and higher compression ratio; even changes to the water pump. Most effective were changes to the torque delivery, with plenty of it available over a broader range; it’s this that seduces one from the detail, and into pure enjoyment of the car.
The slick roads only enhanced the experience, for the ESP is tuned to allow some shimmy before it’ll cut in – and in third, with torque pouring to those wheels, some shimmy is guaranteed.
It’s lucky, then, that this car is so predictable, and predictably good at what it does. Ford used the XR independent double wishbone front, control blade rear set-up as a base for the suspension design, retuning the springs and dampers and using a Sachs mono shock to tune for comfy ride without compromising dynamic feel. There’s not much roll and turn-in is incisive, the briefly lazy slide of those rears before the ESP dynamic stability control gathers her in just squaring off those wetter corners.
Turn it off? You’ve gotta be kidding – not in this weather. Though if you do, a ‘watchdog’ stays on, to trigger when you use the brakes. Those are 355mm cross-drilled and ventilated Brembo four-piston babies up front, 328mm drilled and ventilated out back, and they do an excellent job of hauling in the big sedan.
Down-sides? Well, it is big. It is thirsty – Ford claims 14.2l/100 in manual form; it swung from 15.6 to 16.8 for me.
But you don’t buy an FPV GT because you’re worried about fuel use. You don’t buy it to be practical – though it’s spacious enough to fit a clutch of All Blacks and their kit. You buy it because you want the visual muscle of a big sedan, V8 performance and the handling skills to make the most of it.