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First drive: FPV lets the Force be with it

Subtle makeover: The Force 6 and 8 have toned down styling.

FPV expands its range to lure Euro and HSV luxury buyers

31 Oct 2006

FORD Performance Vehicles (FPV) is rising to the VE Commodore-based HSV E-series challenge with an expanded line-up, more value and a greater customer focus.

Leading the charge are the new Force 6 and Force 8 sedans, based on the Typhoon F6 and GT/GT-P models respectively.

Priced from $71,590, they sit on top of the FPV tree - for now.

Compared to the other BFII Falcon sedan-based FPV models they share showroom space with, the Force 6 and 8 are toned-down stylistically, and this is at the very heart of their being.

Embellished with an array of subtle new detailing, the FPV Force cars are responsible for luring buyers with “European” tastes who would not have previously considered an FPV (or HSV) because of their aggressive and/or outlandish appearance, according to managing director Sak Ryopponen.

“They’re about not making too much of a statement,” he said.

So big wings, spoilers and air dams, and lurid colours, are out.

And while the regular FPV bumper inserts stay, they are specifically colour-coded for the Force cars, while the mesh grille, exterior mirror caps, driving lights surrounds, side skirt flutes, rear number-plate valance and new badging boast a chrome finish.

A small lip spoiler extends from the boot, the ‘8’ sports a twin-exhaust system with trapezoidal outlets, and 1932 Ford V8 badge-inspired ‘Force’ script dons the back doors and rear.

Five-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels finished in a chrome shadow finish, and shod with 245/35 ZR19 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres are included. However, the F6 turbo-charger’s intercooler in the Force 6 is still visible, while nobody will miss the GT’s bonnet bulge on the Force 8. Leather upholstery, in either white-stitched black (‘Dark Charcoal’) or a new – and very Alfa Romeo – ‘Regency Red’ colour are supposed to add a more European feel, as do the dark woodgrain and chrome trim on the dash and doors.

Reflecting the Forces’ flagship status, parking radar, electric driver’s seat with memory linked to the electronic rear-view mirror dipping and pedal adjustment, a premium audio package and dual-zone climate control are part of the package.

19 center imageFrom top: Force 8, Force 6, GT and Typhoon.

Mechanically neither strays from its donor vehicle’s specification, so the Force 6’s 4.0-litre variable-valve twin-cam turbo-charged six-cylinder engine develops the same 270kW of power at 5250rpm and 550Nm of torque from 2000rpm to 2500rpm as in the F6.

Accordingly the Force 8 uses the GT’s 5.4-litre DOHC ‘Boss 290’ V8, meaning 290kW at 5500rpm and 520Nm at 4500rpm.

The only gearbox on offer is the ZF 6HP26 six-speed automatic transmission.

Fuel consumption for the Force 6 is 13.0L/100km while the 8 returns 15.0L/100km.

Four-piston front and single-piston rear Brembo brakes, sports-tuned suspension, and a limited slip rear differential are also fitted.

Unsure of how they will be received, FPV hopes around 220 to 250 Force 6 and 8 sedans, split about 50/50, will be sold in 2007.

“It is a bit of an unknown,” admits FPV brand manager Mark Behr, a pop-culture aficionado who revealed that he wanted to produce a car with classic red leather seats and chrome elements.

Along with the HSV Senator and Chrysler 300C SRT-8, buyers of the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-class are also sought. Meanwhile, FPV has massaged the rest of its range.

The previously optional $1250 ZF automatic is a no-cost option across the range leather seats cost $995 where applicable instead of $1850 and $2750 extra in utes and sedans respectively 19-inch wheels replace 18-inch units, while the price of some fancier alloys drop. The F6 models feature revised driving-light surrounds, there are new stripe designs (inspired by the XY Falcon GT on the GT/GT-P cars), and three new colours – blue, orange and turquoise.

There’s also a new steering wheel and chrome vent adjusters, and optional Bluetooth and MP3 connectivity.

Along with a free driving course, Blueprint magazine subscription, free gift and leather compendium, FPV customers will now be contacted to preview changes for new models and attend open days. Upgrades to the database should also improve communication. FPV hopes to sell 2200 vehicles this year.

2007 FPV BFII pricing:
F6 Tornado ute $54,170
F6 Typhoon $61,810
GT $62,210
GT-P $70,410
Pursuit ute $54,170
Super Pursuit ute $59,200
Force 6 $71,590
Force 8 $71,990
Six-speed auto is a no-cost option across the range.

The Force will finally be with us
FOR many car enthusiasts, the Force badge on the latest FPV offerings brings up sad memories of a promising Australian car that might have been.

Back in late 1974, with only weeks to go before the debut of the Leyland P76 Force 7V, freefalling sales and rising debt forced the once-mighty British Motor Corporation – by then known as Leyland – to quit Australia forever.

Its Italian-designed and Australian developed P76 sedan was meant to put the British on an even keel with the Holden Kingswood, Ford Falcon and Chrysler Valiant of the day, but dire quality issues and the awful publicity that followed stymied any real chances of success.

In fact, it seemed that defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory yet again for the floundering but once titan British car industry, as the P76, at its mid-1973 release, was met with widespread acclaim, strong demand and even a Wheels magazine car-of-the-year award, but Leyland simply did not know how to manage this short-lived glory.

Still, while the coupe – actually Australia’s first locally built hatchback – would have made scant difference in a market rapidly shying away such vehicles, the Force 7V was much more attractive than the P76 sedan. Perhaps it would have increased traffic flow into showrooms, helping sell more of those, along with the Marina, and in doing so pushing forward Leyland Australia’s stillborn P82 replacement for that dire little car, that was due in 1977? We can only now speculate at such eventualities.

As a driver’s car, the Force 7V showed promise. Consider that it featured a 4.4-litre V8 engine driving the rear wheels via a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic gearbox.

Leyland even started printing out Force 7V owner’s manuals, but – tragically – when the axe fell, 58 or so complete examples were reportedly crushed, leaving 10 of the P76 coupes (and a single prototype wagon) in existence.

For a few people out there with long memories and rose-tined glasses on, the FPV Force models probably owes it to the Leyland Force 7V to succeed, if only for the haunting memory of the car it evokes.

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