2015 FG X Ford Falcon XR8 review | First Drive

2015 FG X Ford Falcon XR8 | First Drive Review

Produced byMalcolm Flynn | Carsguide

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MyDrive | Ford Australia  – The Falcon GT may be dead, but the elements we loved most live on in the new FG X XR8 which forms a new performance flagship in the leadup to the Falcon’s late 2016 end date.

Returning after a four year hiatus, the XR8 has often been a slower alternative to an SS Commodore, and even trumped at times by its six cylinder XR6 sibling.

Not so now, with all bar the extreme styling, limited-build cred and 16kW of the ‘fastest Falcon ever’ GT F being shoehorned beneath the full production XR8, and propping it well above the 270kW SS and XR6 Turbo, along with any XR8 that came before it.

The XR8 also scores the aesthetic and tech revisions applied to the rest of the FG X lineup, boosting its look and user experience well ahead of the six-year old FG design – even if it can’t match the depth of the changes applied to the VF Commodore in 2013.

VALUE

The new XR8 is basically the track-tuned GT RSPEC from 2012 wrapped in the new FG X body, making it just as quick as the limited-build GT but more than $14,000 cheaper.

The XR8 is also mechanically very similar to the FPV and GT-farewelling GT F, but undercuts the fastest Falcon ever by a full $25,500.

At $52,490 for the manual and $54,690 for the auto, Ford has priced the XR8 identically to its Commodore SSV Redline nearest rival.

The XR8’s price also sits very close to pocket rockets like the VW Golf R and Subaru WRX STI, and would likely beat their circa-5.0 second 0-100km/h claims.

The XR8’s GT RSPEC link includes 335kW supercharged V8 engine, track-tuned RSPEC suspension, Brembo brakes and staggered fitment 19 inch wheels to help put it all to the ground.

The XR8 also comes with leather sports seats, sports pedals and steering wheel, satnav with SUNA live updates, dual-zone climate control, an eight-inch touchscreen and joins the rest of the FG X lineup in being the first Australian model to come with Ford’s excellent SYNC 2 multimedia interface.

SYNC 2 brings voice-activation to the satnav and climate control systems, as well as DAB digital radio and Wi-fi hotspot connectivity.

A reversing camera, auto wipers and front and rear parking sensors are also standard.

The XR8 does lack several modern features like blind-spot monitoring, automated parking, and proximity keys that do come standard on the SSV Redline and many other cheaper imported models.

DESIGN

Like the rest of the FG X range, the XR8 scores all-new front sheetmetal along with a more discrete iteration of the XR8 bonnet bulge, new headlights and fascia, while the rear scores a new bootlid, taillights, spoiler and rear bumper. The doors, glass and body structure carried over from the FG MkII.

The overall look dovetails nicely with Ford’s current global design language, linking it aesthetically with the new sixth-generation Mustang and the upcoming 2015 Ford Mondeo.

The 19 inch wheel design is a carryover from the FG GT models though, along with the quad exhaust outlets.

Unlike the regular FG GTs, The XR8’s tyres also mimic the staggered-fitment of the RSPEC and GT F, with the rear wheels growing by an inch to 9-inches, and the rear tyres by a corresponding 30mm to measure 275mm tyres at the rear. Brembo four-piston brakes feature up front with single-piston items at the rear.

The RSPEC suspension tune means track-tuned stiffer rear springs and dampers, a thicker rear stabiliser bar, revised front dampers, stiffer front spring mounts and stiffer front control arm bushes over the already sporty previous GT setup. Helping to put all this to good use is a limited slip differential and sports steering setup.

ENGINE / TRANSMISSION

There’s nothing new about the XR8’s 335kW/570Nm Harrop supercharged 5.0-litre V8 – having been fitted to the previous GT, GT RSPEC and GT F models – but it the first time an XR8 has used forced induction, and eclipses the previous XR8 by 45kW and 70Nm.

Transmission options are unchanged, with the same six-speed manual or ZF auto boxes. The highly strung engine does leave the XR8 with relatively meagre tow ratings of 1200kg for the manual and 1600kg for the auto.

Combined fuel consumption of 13.6L/100km for the manual and 13.7L/100km for the automatic are also a consequence of the XR8’s performance capabilities, and will easily reach the 20L mark when this performance is utilised.

SAFETY

The entire FG X Falcon lineup continues with the previous model’s five star maximum ANCAP rating, but the biggest news on the safety front is that the SYNC 2 system (when paired with a mobile phone) will notify emergency services automatically if an airbag is triggered.

DRIVING

As the mechanical specs suggest, there’s nothing new about the way the XR8 drives. It is a reminder of how sharp a tool the old GT RSPEC was though, with the tight steering and suspension making the XR8 feel much lighter than its 1861kg kerb weight.

On a smooth surface, the XR8 is a genuinely dynamic machine. It stops, steers and balances its grip as well as many European equivalents at four times its sticker price.

The trade-off is a jiggly ride on rough surfaces, and significantly more tyre noise than a similarly-wheeled XR6.

It’s no worse than the similarly track-tuned SSV Redline though, which certainly hasn’t affected its sales performance or fanbase.

Also like the SS, the XR8’s same manual transmission requires more effort than most to shift through the gears, but once you’re accustomed it’s got a reasonably short throw and a precise gate. Try both options if you’re unsure, but most will likely go for the slick auto instead.

The typical Falcon bugbears of a too-high seating position and limited steering adjustment remain, and are further highlighted by a front seat design that is geared more for long-distance comfort than the more supportive seats found in GT’s that used this engine/chassis combo previously.

Saving the best for last, the XR8’s engine is a delightful indulgence that tickles something inside you that modern society is trying to supress.

From the grumble at idle, to the very indiscrete supercharger whine under heavy throttle, to the exhaust pops and cackles on liftoff, it’s the engine equivalent of a bucks weekend. How much juice does it consume? Who cares, it’s bloody good fun and you’re not allowed to do it very often.

One simple supercharger creates a similar experience to a twin-turbo unit with decades of development under its belt. Max torque flatlines from 2200rpm upwards, so it will boogie in either of three gears at any one time.

This makes the launch control system crucial for getting the best out of the XR8. Don’t try and outsmart any of the traction aids, the XR8 will easily shred those fat 275s with the systems switched off.

VERDICT

As we prepare to farewell the Falcon forever in 2016, the new XR8 makes for a very fitting swansong. It’s way faster than any XR8 before it and makes a great sound from both ends while it’s doing it.

The FG X XR8 a brilliant drive on a twisty road, and for the same price as a Commodore SSV Redline, the Holden won’t know what’s hit it.

Given the Falcon’s sales slide in recent years, nobody expected revolutionary changes for the FG X, but what Ford has managed has certainly boosted its appeal.

There’s no doubt that we’ll look back on the FG X as one of the all-time greats when they’re no longer available in showrooms. Ladies and gentlemen, get ‘em while they’re hot.

2015 FG X Ford Falcon XR8 list pricing

Falcon XR8 – 6sp manual – $52,490
Falcon XR8 – 6sp automatic – $54,690

Specifications

Price: From $52,490
Warranty: 3yr/100,000km
Safety: 5-star ANCAP
Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged V8-cyl petrol 95RON, 335kW/570Nm
Transmission: 6sp manual; RWD
Spare: 8-inch wide alloy (matched to front wheels)
Thirst: 13.6L/100km Tank 68L

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