Car reviews - FPV - GT - FG range
Storming F6 engine, improved handling, relatively comfortable ride, premium-feel interiors, brilliant auto transmission, top refinement, exclusivity of F6
Room for improvement
GT doesn’t feel as fast as it should - nor as loud, F6 engine gone in two years, carry-over wheels
16 May 2008
TOYOTA uses the tag line “the game has changed” to promote its Aurion.
No offence to the company or the car, but that slogan better applies to the Australian muscle car class. The car changing the game is the FPV F6.
There will always be people who have to have a V8, but for drivers who simply want the biggest rush and the fastest getaway, the F6 is the king.
We will have to wait for final performance figures, but the F6 is not only likely to be far quicker than the GT, but also the HSV cars that pack a 6.2-litre V8.
While the HSVs wobble and carry on at idle and always sound like a V8 Supercar, the F6 is a Jekyll and Hyde character with a Blue Oval badge.
It can behave like a true gentleman when the accelerator is treated accordingly and could drive Miss Daisy without complaint.
The idle is gentle and the exhaust reveals a slight hint that the car has something a bit special under the bonnet. But when you open the throttle wide, all hell breaks loose.
There is the smallest hint of lag and then... The power delivery reads like a Superman comic – ‘Bang’, ‘Kapow’ and ‘Wham’ as the turbo does its work.
The Geelong-made powerplant starts turning on the show at about 2000rpm and it doesn’t stop until the redline.
A loud turbo whine accompanies a mix of intake and exhaust noise that sounds good, although it will never match the guttural quality of an angry V8.
What does sound fantastic is the pop of the exhaust when ignition to three cylinders is cut to help the automatic transmission change quicker.
Unless you are on a racetrack, you won’t get to hear this more than twice before you reach the legal speed limit. And with torque reserves this deep, the F6 will be an awesome track car.
The urge just keeps coming and coming until you try and beat the redline and grab the next gear.
Of course, with all that grunt, the F6 is a handful. The rear will step-out quickly if you press hard, when the road is wet or dry, causing the stability control earns its keep.
We drove the F6 in wet conditions near Coffs Harbour this week and can admit, without feeling any shame, that the stability control stayed on.
It has been calibrated to allow you to have a bit of fun and allows for a bit of slip before it kicks in to protect your investment and yourself. Given the massive rush of torque than can be unleashed when this engine is provoked, we pity the fool who would turn off the ESC in this car in the wet.
Even so, FPV has implemented a system that turns on the ESC system, even if it has been switched off, if the driver hits the brakes mid-corner.
It’s a good idea, because if someone is jumping on the anchors mid-turn, they are likely to need all the help they can get.
We only drove the automatic F6 on the launch, so we are yet to experience the launch feature that Ford is talking up.
The ZF automatic is such a good transmission and paired well to the turbo six unit. Its changes are quick and seamless.
All of the major suspension and steering architecture changes have had a good effect on the F6, which is a cracker on twisty roads.
It turns in very well, sits flat and is easy to place where you want it given the accurate steering that is now well-weighted without the nervousness of the last FPV cars.
The F6 feels far more nimble than the GT and also the HSV V8s and is likely to have the measure of those cars on twisty runs.
While FPV is quite sensitive about this, the fact is that the I6 turbo engine only has two years to run. Just what will replace it is unlikely to deliver the same experience.
That will create a problem for FPV and owners who have become hooked on the F6, but it also creates an opportunity.
Given the limited amount of F6 cars that will be produced before now and mid-2010, and given their performance characteristics, there is a good chance these cars will become collectable in time.
Who knows how much some Ford fans might pay for an FG F6 in 20 years? Of course, there is no way to pick the market, but there are key indicators to suggest that a limited numbers of cars delivering this type of performance could be valuable in years to come.
The V8 in the GT is also a lovely engine - and a completely different powerplant to the F6.
When you drive the two powerplants one after the other, the GT doesn’t feel as quick as you would expect.
We have had several Ford V8 fans contact GoAuto to say that Boss engines loosen up after 10,000km, which we don't doubt, but we can only test the cars we have access to.
It may well be that the GT engines get better with age, but on the launch they didn’t feel as awesome as the figures suggested.
That’s not to say the GT engine is not fast or impressive. It really gets going at about 3000rpm and revs sweetly to the (now higher) redline.
There is a nice V8 noise, but it is more refined and sedate than the raucous HSV V8 which makes you feel like you are really in a V8 Supercar.
The Falcon GT V8 sounds more like a performance V8 from a Jaguar or other Euro prestige brand. It’s muscular, but not as guttural as the 6.2-litre HSV.
While the HSV is noisy all the way through, the Boss V8 is relatively quiet down low and builds to an impressive crescendo higher up in the rev range.
Another difference is the idle quality. The Boss sits happily and serenely, hardly moving the car at idle - as opposed to the HSV engine that shakes and carries on as if it is angry that it's not being revved out.
This is a good or bad feature depending on what you want from your Aussie muscle car. Many customers will appreciate the reserved nature of the FPV unit, while others want the rough and rugged racecar feel of the HSV.
The ZF gearbox is also a better transmission that the HSV auto, which has improved but still lags behind. Just like in the F6, it feels intuitive, doesn’t go hunting for gears and makes quick and crisp changes.
A manual version of the GT also felt quite good. This transmission is more refined than previous chunky manuals and the clutch is relatively light.
You can have a lot of fun moving through the gears, but many city slickers who may tire of doing so in stop-start traffic are likely to opt for the auto.
The fact that the auto is the same price as the manual makes it an easier decision to make.
It doesn’t feel as nimble as the F6, but the GT does feel keener to turn in than the previous model. The suspension changes do make the front of the car feel like it is sitting up a bit more and is more lethargic about cornering.
The ride in the FPV sedans is relatively good considering the 19-inch rims and sportiness of the suspension settings. A run in a Pursuit ute was enjoyable, but there is no doubt the back-end is more skittish when tackling corners with a bump or two.
It bounces around a bit more than the sedan on poorly-maintained roads, but Ford has still done a good job to make the leaf-spring rear-end behave this well. Even so, the HSV Maloo felt better tied down over similar roads.
The FPVs cabin are quite refined. There is a mix of toned-down materials that deliver a real sports-luxury tone. FPV has resisted garish colours for the fabric and the dark surface colours give the cabin an elegant mood.
The central information screen looks like it could have come from a far more expensive European model, with crisp resolution and vivid colours, while most of the plastic surfaces feel good and look the part - but the power button is a feel-good feature.
The FPVs may miss out on the dash-mounted dials that many customers want, but the FPV cabins, in all models, looks a class above what is on offer from HSV.
The GT-E moves the interior ambience even further upmarket, but the fake woodgrain is far from convincing. The instrument clusters in the FPV cars, which share some parts with the Falcon G6-E, looks a little too sedate during the day, but at night, as Rod Barrett puts it, they light up like Las Vegas, with blue hues.
While the cabin is nicely finished, the serenity is spoiled by a lot of tyre noise. Of course, the aggressive tyres used on such a vehicle are not expected to be whisper quiet, but the tyre roar is not good.
Some customers might not care, but others simply would not be happy with this, especially if they have to do long runs. This is not a feature unique to FPV as the HSVs sound similar.
The exterior styling of the range has been well executed and the grey under-eye patches and bold grille surround make these cars clearly visible as FPV models.
The GT-P looks quite restrained in contrast, with the bulging bonnet the main giveaway that it is muscle car.
One downside is the fact that the wheels have been carried over. Who introduces a new model without new wheels? Obviously one with not all that much money to spend. It’s a shame, because wheels are so important to a car’s look - and because the XR5-style wheels available on the Falcon XR range actually look better.
Fuel consumption is not a deal maker or breaker according to people in the muscle-car industry, but the relatively miserly fuel use of the FPVs will no doubt be appreciated at the bowser.
All of the cars on the media launch this week were given a flogging, and despite a fair chunk of highway kilometers, they were expected to drink like fishes. That simply was not the case.
Average fuel consumption figures by the end of the run stood at around 12 litres per 100km for two F6 cars, while two GTs showed figures of 11.3 and 13L/100km.
That, given the performance of these cars, is remarkable.
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