56 FG Falcon G6E Turbo
Like a Great White hunting hapless seals, the G6E Turbo, is just about invisible in traffic but can rise up and pounce without signalling any evil intent. Theme song : Metallica ‘Of Wolf and Man’.
Like a Great White hunting hapless seals, it was just about invisible in traffic but could rise up and pounce without signalling any evil intent
When the team at Ford Australia was planning the FG Falcon fightback in the mid ‘noughties’ they knew they had to inject something special into their family car mix.
The Holden Commodore VE was running hard and fast in showrooms, providing driving enjoyment that the Falcon could not match and a design advance that re-wrote the standard for Australian-made cars.
After the disaster of the AU Falcon, no number of taxi sales in Melbourne was going to repair the damage to the image of Ford’s frontline fighter and the blue oval brand.
Ford already had its XR sports sedans, as well as the headliners from Ford Performance Vehicles, and there was no chance of a fuelmiser diesel model. So the focus shifted to something that combined sports with luxury to reinvent the appeal of the long running but rundown Fairmont Ghia.
What Ford needed was a headliner that could run stealthily in commuter traffic with a flagship package of luxury-safety-technology, then deliver a playtime payload on target for weekends.
Trevor Worthington and his engineering crew got to work and when the FG Falcon went public on Sunday, February 17 of 2008 the Fairmont was history and the three-model G6 crew – starting with a unique face on the front – had taken its place. Sitting at the top, looking more like a condensed Fairlane than anything related to the latest XRs, was the badly named but beautifully conceived G6E Turbo.
Many people overlooked it in the rush to check the starter car with the all-new body structure, class-leading safety package and revitalised cabin layout. They were measuring everything against Holden’s latest V8-powered VE heroes and the only successful full-sized turbo had been way back in the 1980s, when even the police had been won over by the VL Commodore.
But Ford was committed and convinced it had a potential star.
“The introduction of the all-new G6E Turbo will create excitement and provide the perfect balance of sports luxury performance for customers who don’t wish to compromise on either sports or luxury options,” the very shortlived president of Ford Australia, Bill Osborne, claimed at the time.
The American import got a lot of things wrong during his time at Broadmeadows, but Osborne was right on this one and the G6E Turbo became the stealthy star of the FG range.
It was, and still is, a car that could romp when required but was just as happy to cruise for comfort. It’s a combination that suited a lot of people, including the older blokes who were looking for something without the trousers-down impact of an XR but still capable of punching beyond its badge.
Much like that Commodore Turbo from the 1980s, which reserved its best work for the times when the turbocharger on its Nissan six was delivering maximum impact, the G6E had plenty of top-end rush. But since it was a new-age turbo with a chubby bottom-end it could also torque away from the crowd at almost any time and incite blistering overtaking runs.
Ford also got the tuning of its six-speed ZF auto spot-on, including a touch-change set-up that matched race practice – pushing forward for a downshift, pulling back for an upshift – at a time when few companies were prepared to gamble on a diversion from the American-centric practice of pulling back to slow, like the days of two-speed T-bars.
It’s hard to rate the success of the G6E Turbo by its sales, because the Falcon was already in decline by the time it hit Australian showrooms. The FG did a little to close the gap, and generated lots of interest within Ford families, but it was never going to be enough when the Falcon had also conceded its place as Australia’s favourite used car – a crown carried proudly even by lemons like the ugly but bulletproof AU line-up – to the red team.
Even so, by March in 2014 a total of 3898 G6Es had been delivered. That’s not bad for
a car that started with a premium pricetag of $54,990 at a time when the bottom line for the basic Falcon XT – a name that never worked – was $36,490.
The pricetag for a showroom-shiny G6E had only risen very marginally to $56,235 by May of 2014, a reflection mostly of the price pressures across the car business, but the car had also been diversified with an EcoLPi model for gas fans and even a EcoBoost four-cylinder model priced from $46,735.
At the same time, secondhand prices now start from just under $20,000 for a passable 2007 original, with a lot of cars from the sub-2010 bracket hovering at value prices around $25,000.
When the G6E first hit the road there was nothing visual to suggest it was packing 270 kiloWatts and 533 Newton-metres in the engine room, but it was more than good enough – with that six-speed auto and sports-tuned suspension – to claim a Car of the Year award from the News Limited motoring team at the end of 2008.
As one of the judges on that COTY panel, I can clearly recall romping through some great driving roads inland from Sydney in a car that was like a Great White hunting hapless seals. It was just about invisible in traffic but could rise up and pounce without signalling any evil intent.
It was almost the complete opposite of the XR Falcons, which were always capable of triggering an unwanted arms race with someone piloting an SS Commodore.
Ford never talked official 0-100km/h times, however the G6E was clocked at an impressive 4.9 seconds and twisting the speedometer around to 200km/h and beyond was effortless on deserted back roads.
It always felt a bit more hefty than an XR in tighter turns, although it still responded well to the steering. That was mostly down to the car’s weight, as well as a combination of tyres and ride height that were chosen so they would not compromise comfort or road noise.
But the G6E was also more compliant than an XR, which meant it could actually be quicker – and far less tiring – on a twisty road with lots of bumps. And there was nothing wrong with the auto gearbox, since a self-shifter is better at keeping a force-fed engine loaded and delivering boost from relatively low revs.
Looking back at the official Ford launch package for the FG, the G Series range was identified by a unique front bumper, grille and front fog lamps, while the cabin was treated to a rear centre armrest with cup holders, Bluetooth phone integration – a big deal in the day – and a seven-inch colour infotainment screen that was a first for the Falcon.
Stepping up into the G6E brought the bonus of 18-inch alloys – there were also optional 19s – a small boot spoiler and chrome around the headlamps. Add a reversing camera, side-curtain airbags – the car also had stability control and ABS brakes – leather seats including eight-way electric adjustment for the driver, and dual-zone auto aircon and the car was good buying.
Because the G6E combined performance with luxury, it was never as popular with buyers as an all-out XR. But the cars are generally treated well and it’s not too difficult to find one in good condition, at an affordable price.
It has yet to reach the cult status of the VL Commodore Turbo, and it’s been over-run and overlooked by the focus on the V8s from the Holden side of the shed, but there is a growing appreciation for its strengths. And Ford plans to continue the G6E Turbo right to the bitter end, and the time when the final Falcons run down the production line at Broadmeadows.
In issue #75 we turn the tables by nominating five Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing. These are macho-looking machines that were more ‘show’ than ‘go’. Issue #75 is on sale July 24.