Latest Fal­con is

Ford’s GT Fal­con can con­fi­dently take on the Com­modore, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

FIRST im­pres­sions last­ing im­pact. And Ford is hop­ing buy­ers’ first im­pres­sion of the new FG Fal­con will be so strong they’ll want to put hard cash down to own one.

Af­ter an all-too-brief run in the new XT, G6, G6E and G6E Turbo, the Ford fam­ily can breathe easy.

If deal­ers can get prospec­tive buy­ers into cars for a long drive over a variety of roads, they’ll be sold.

The es­ti­mated $750 mil­lion spent on the new car has been worth ev­ery cent.

This car is ar­guably Ford’s big­gest gam­ble to keep its large-car pro­duc­tion alive in this coun­try.

The se­lected mod­els we drove have im­pres­sively sturdy bod­ies, im­pres­sive dy­nam­ics and com­posed rides.

The big­gest sur­prise was the sub­dued noise lev­els in the cabin at high­way speeds and over­all build qual­ity of th­ese early cars.

Not­with­stand­ing mi­nor trim glitches, such as the A-pil­lar cover trim and head­lin­ing in some cars, all ve­hi­cles are well put to­gether.

The base fleet spe­cial XT’s 4.0-litre six­cylin­der proves there is life in this age­ing en­gine be­fore it is re­placed by a V6 in sev­eral years.

With 195kW on tap and 391Nm at 3250 revs, the smooth six has plenty of urge and the slick five-speed se­quen­tial au­to­matic will ap­peal to Com­modore Omega buy­ers want­ing more.

With 2.6 turns lock to lock, the Fal­con’s steer­ing is a mas­ter­stroke of feel, feed­back and ac­cu­racy. For a big sedan, the steer­ing feels hot-hatch pre­cise.

The new tyres, de­signed to be qui­eter and im­prove han­dling and ride, also do their bit in mak­ing the FG a pleas­ant place to be.

En­try car the XT may get 16-inch steel wheels and a more som­bre in­te­rior pack­age, but, like the whole range, it is roomy, has comfy front seats and ex­cel­lent er­gonomics.

The G-Se­ries range, slightly up­mar­ket and with more kit, should ap­peal to mid­dle man­agers.

With the avail­abil­ity of the hot G6E Turbo, en­thu­si­ast driv­ers are well catered for with plenty of power and a classy in­te­rior.

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The G6E Turbo is the sleeper, a wolf in sheep’s cloth­ing.

It may look rea­son­ably tame, but un­leash the car’s 270kW and 533Nm from a low 2000 revs and own­ers who love driv­ing will be re­warded.

All G-Se­ries cars ben­e­fit from a slightly firmer sports-tuned lux­ury sus­pen­sion, but not to the detri­ment of the ride or han­dling.

If any­thing, the G-Se­ries cars turn in more sharply but, like the hum­ble XT, have a chas­sis that is lively and re­spon­sive.

Based on ini­tial im­pres­sions, the en­gi­neer­ing team has hit its tar­gets — and then some.

Ford Aus­tralia pres­i­dent Bill Os­borne reck­ons that if he can get bums on seats, the Fal­con will sell.

Af­ter only 180km, we were left want­ing more of the same.

Ford has built a car that can con­fi­dently tackle the Com­modore and Au­rion. All it has to do now is con­vince large-car buy­ers.

Per­haps the last word should be left to Os­borne: ‘‘The most ef­fi­cient way to sell this ve­hi­cle is to let peo­ple drive it.’’

THE big ques­tion about the new Fal­con is why doesn’t it come with stan­dard cur­tain airbags? Af­ter Holden tried to spoil the FG’s launch by an­nounc­ing the stan­dard fit­ment of cur­tain airbags, Ford has been caught on the hop, be­cause its cur­tain airbags are a $300 op­tion on lower-spec cars.

Toy­ota’s Au­rion has stan­dard cur­tain airbags, leav­ing the Fal­con out in the cold with­out this safety fea­ture.

But if Ford is wor­ried by the mar­ket­ing am­bush, it’s not show­ing it. The base XT gets side and tho­rax bags for the driver and pas­sen­ger, a fit­ting Ford pres­i­dent Bill Os­borne says is in keep­ing with the car’s high lev­els of safety.

Pri­vately, Ford ex­ec­u­tives an­tic­i­pate the Fal­con will score a max­i­mum five-star crash rat­ing when its tested. ‘‘It’s our safest Fal­con ever,’’ Os­borne says. Tak­ing a swipe at the Aus­tralian New Car As­sess­ment Pro­gram, Os­borne says pub­lic crash test­ing is de­signed to stan­dard­ise a test for many dif­fer­ent ve­hi­cles.

‘‘But how rel­e­vant it is to real-world safety is de­bat­able,’’ he says. ‘‘We have not de­signed our car for a rat­ing, we have de­signed it so peo­ple can walk away from a crash.

‘‘We have de­signed it for real-world sit­u­a­tions, not mar­ket­ing.’’

Apart from the ul­tra-rigid body, the car uses some nifty door sen­sors that trig­ger the side airbags, tech­nol­ogy bor­rowed from the XF Jaguar and used in the Mercedes-Benz S-class, as well as boron steel in the B-pil­lar, one of the tough­est met­als avail­able.

Ford also con­ducted 5000 crash sim­u­la­tions and 90 real crash tests on the car and used the latest Ford crash-test equip­ment in Detroit and Volvo’s equip­ment in Swe­den to fine-tune the body struc­ture.

Ford is so con­fi­dent of the car’s in­te­gral crash safety it says oc­cu­pants in the front could po­ten­tially walk away from a 50km/h side im­pact by virtue of the side/head airbags and with­out the cur­tain airbags.

Up­mar­ket: FG Fal­con G6 and (be­low) G6E in­te­rior. The G-Se­ries range has more kit than XT.

Pleased as punch: the FG Fal­con G6E Turbo may look rea­son­ably tame, but it is a sheep in wolf’s cloth­ing, re­ward­ing own­ers who love driv­ing.

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