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Car reviews - Ford - Falcon - EcoBoost

Launch Story

24 Apr 2012

FORD Australia has launched its long-anticipated EcoBoost Falcon, which for the first time introduces a four-cylinder engine to the iconic locally built large sedan.

The company is promising its new addition – designed to address concerns over the existing line-up’s fuel efficiency – will offer substantial improvements to economy without compromising performance.

EcoBoost models will be sold alongside existing six-cylinder petrol and gas-powered EcoLPi variants, which recorded a record low 18,741 sales in 2011 as family buyers continued to flock to small cars and compact SUVs.

As promised, the four-pot version delivers efficiency improvements of up to 18 per cent over current six-cylinder models, making it Australia’s most fuel-efficient locally made large car.

However, Ford Australia has provided fuel economy and performance figures for cars running on 95 RON premium unleaded rather than regular 91 RON petrol.

Upper-level G6 and G6E variants achieve official combined-cycle economy figures of 8.5 litres per 100km, compared to 9.9L/100km for those powered by the 4.0-litre inline-six.

The base XT version favoured by fleet buyers achieves an even lower figure of 8.1L/100km courtesy of new Goodyear low-rolling-resistance tyres.

Carbon dioxide emissions have also been slashed, to 201 grams per kilometre and 192g/km respectively, compared to 236g/km for the inline-six.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged direct-injection powerplant produces 179kW at 5500rpm and a healthy 353Nm of torque at 2000rpm on the high-octane fuel, matched to a lighter version of the ZF six-speed automatic transmission from other Falcons.

This gives it more torque than the most potent six-cylinder used in the Holden Commodore range – the 210kW/350Nm 3.6-litre SIDI V6 – as well as the 200kW/336Nm 3.5-litre V6 used in the new Toyota Aurion launched here last week.

It falls short of the 195kW and 391Nm produced by the existing Geelong-built 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine, however, as well as the even more potent 198kW/409Nm produced by the same engine when fuelled by liquid petroleum gas in the EcoLPi model.

This is countered by the EcoBoost’s lighter kerb weight than the inline-six as the all-aluminium construction of the four-cylinder helps cut the weight of the base XT by 74kg.

While Ford Australia did not provide official acceleration figures, it promises six-cylinder-like performance and off-the-line characteristics of a turbo-diesel, courtesy of its high torque output.

GoAuto sampled a prototype EcoBoost in December last year and witnessed a best 0-100km/h sprint time of 7.5 seconds, half a second slower than the best by a six-cylinder model.

The engine is built to local specification at the Blue Oval’s plant in Valencia, Spain, before being shipped to Australia for fitment.

Despite the extra freight costs, EcoBoost Falcons cost no more than their I6 equivalents.

Pricing therefore kicks off at $37,235 for the XT, climbing to $40,838 for the better-equipped G6 and $46,735 for the flagship G6E.

The engine is not available in the Falcon Ute.

The 2.0-litre turbo in the Falcon marks the first rear-wheel-drive application for the Blue Oval’s global EcoBoost turbocharged engine family, which also includes a smaller inline-four, a larger V6 and a 1.0-litre three-cylinder.

The company plans for an EcoBoost engine to be available in more than 90 per cent of its global nameplates by 2013, and expects to be producing 1.5 million units annually around the world by next year.

Ford says the development of EcoBoost for Falcon was a key plank in its $232 million investment in “sustainability initiatives across all local vehicle lines”, alongside the addition of diesel power for Territory and the high-tech EcoLPi liquid-injection LPG system in the Falcon.

As well as its own input, the project also benefitted from a $42 million investment from the federal government’s now-defunct Green Car Innovation fund, as well as co-investment from the Victorian government.

Ford Australia president and CEO Bob Graziano said: “We greatly appreciate the assistance of the Australian and Victorian governments towards the development of Falcon EcoBoost.”

While fundamentally a more highly tuned version of the 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine found locally in the Mondeo mid-sizer, Ford Australia undertook a three-year development program to get it right for a larger car like the Falcon.

The car-maker claims its testers spent thousands of kilometres behind the wheel of prototypes in central Australia, as well as conducting cold weather trials in Victoria’s alpine regions that included repeatedly towing a trailer up and down Mount Hotham.

Ford Australia powertrain development manager David Mitchell said a few tweaks were made to the Falcon to accommodate the EcoBoost engine.

“It wasn’t just a case of dropping an EcoBoost engine into the Falcon body,” he said.

“We want the Falcon EcoBoost to be competitive with the best four-cylinder vehicles in the C/D segment from Japan and Europe, but we also want it to be a game-changer in the large-car segment.”

These changes included a modified air-conditioning system to suit the different location of the compressor, new mounting points for the smaller engine, a more complex cooling system, a new power steering pump and a quieter exhaust.

Ford has stuck with hydraulic power steering rather than adopting the electric system introduced on the Territory.

Ford Australia also added more sound-deadening insulation as well as the ‘acoustic’ windscreen from the Territory diesel to reduce NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels from the revvier turbo engine.

To cater for the EcoBoost’s lower weight, Ford Australia fitted a larger front stabiliser bar, lowered the ride height by 13mm and retuned the spring and damper rates.

All EcoBoost models feature the same levels of standard equipment and safety features as their six-cylinder equivalents, each of which received updates in the move to FG MkII.

All but the XT models therefore feature the Territory-style eight-inch in-dash ‘command’ touchscreen as standard while the base XT now comes with a USB port.

The four-cylinder also features the same redesigned front end as its six-cylinder siblings, and gets standard side curtain airbags and rear parking sensors across all variants. FG MkII Falcons all feature a new ‘Generation 9.0’ electronic stability control system and ABS brakes with emergency assist.

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