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