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First drive: FPV's tempestuous ute

HSV beware: Like the Typhoon sedan, the Tornado ute is powered by a 270kW 4.0-litre turbo six-cylinder producing 550Nm, the highest torque output of any Australian mass-produced engine.

Clutch problems swept aside as Tornado ute finally hits town

4 May 2005

FORD Performance Vehicles was back with a vengeance last week, launching its Tornado ute and resurrecting its Typhoon sedan after a damaging clutch problem sidelined the high-performance turbocharged F6 models for more than four months.

Like the Typhoon sedan, the Tornado ute is powered by a 270kW 4.0-litre turbo six-cylinder that produces 550Nm, the highest torque output of any Australian mass-produced engine.

FPV managing director, David Flint, believes the high-performance Tornado will offer a new wave of customers an entry ticket into the FPV range.

Importantly, the $51,950 Tornado – $7000 cheaper than the sedan – now comes with a new hand-built, close-ratio Tremec T56 six-speed manual gearbox.

Like the sedan, the Tornado uses similar exterior design cues, including exclusive gunmetal highlights in the front bumper, chrome grille mesh, ‘F6’ badge in the upper air intake, sports side skirts and aggressive 18-inch, double five-spoke alloy wheels with black rims.

The sports theme carries over into the cabin, which boasts sports seats with suede-like bolsters, Technik fabric trim, silver stitching and FPV logos embroidered into the headrests.

The dashboard features the chrome starter button, individually numbered build plaque and supplementary twin sports gauges on top of the centre dash pod displaying oil pressure and turbo boost pressure.

Standard equipment runs to a six-speaker, six-disc CD stereo, dual airbags, drilled alloy pedal covers, cruise control, remote central locking, air conditioning and power windows and mirrors.

Upgraded high-performance brakes are part of the F6 package. These consist of twin-grooved 325mm ventilated front discs and 303mm solid rear discs with twin-pot front callipers and single-pot rear callipers.

Buyers can also specify an optional $5950 Brembo brake package, which offers cross-drilled and ventilated 355mm front rotors and 330mm rear rotors with four-pot callipers.

The Tornado misses out of the sedan’s traction control system, although both brake systems have standard ABS, as well as a limited slip rear differential.

As ever, the Tornado’s main focus is under the bonnet. The F6 270 turbo delivers 270kW at 5250rpm and peak torque of 550Nm is delivered from just 2000rpm and remains constant through to 4250rpm.

The F6 engine is based on the same engine used in the XR6 Turbo. Increases in power and torque are made through the fitment of a larger 12-core front-mounted intercooler, dual-entry ram airbox, oil cooler and special engine management calibration.

The modifications also lifted peak turbo boost pressure by 50 per cent to 0.64bar.

The new FPV-developed Tremec T56 close-ratio six-speed transmission utilises a 240mm twin-plate design engineered by AP Racing in the UK.

The clutch has been extensively re-engineered for durability and reliability. To enhance shift quality and everyday useability, it has double synchromesh on all forward gears, linear bearings on the shift rail and a direct linkage shifter. An electronic lockout prevents reverse being selected above 5km/h.

FPV has also incorporated an audible shift alert function that chimes around 6000rpm and alerts the driver that the engine is approaching the electronic rev limiter.

FPV’s Mark II range has received strong support. In December, 2004, it had a record month, selling 213 cars. In four successive months, December to March, 2005, it claims to have outsold rival HSV with its short-wheelbase sedans.

"For a company that was written off by our competitor we have got ourselves into a pretty strong position," Mr Flint said.

19 center imageFPV sales and marketing manager, Roger Gray, said the Tornado would lure a younger buyer demographic. He also said the company had received a strong response to its performance driver training program, which comes with every new FPV vehicle sold.

FPV is the only Australian manufacturer to offer a tailor-made driver education program with every car bought.

FPV expects to sell about 800 Tornado and Typhoon models this year and about V8-powered 300 Super Pursuit and Pursuit utes in total.

With a broader range and renewed marketing vigour, the bulk of the expected 2800 sales are likely to be V8-powered GT and GT-P sedans. Last year, FPV sold about 2000 vehicles.

FPV will also ship about 100 vehicles to New Zealand, which is an emerging market for the brand.

In the longer term, Mr Gray said there was also an “opportunity” for the high-performance range to be sold into South Africa.

Ford president, Tom Gorman, said the F6 would regain momentum after the clutch issues and was philosophical about the dramas of the past few months.

"The strength of a team is what they do with failure, not success," he said.

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