DRIV­ING

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test -

AUS­TRALIANS are spoilt with two lo­cally made utes that feel more like cars than work­horses. The Ford and Holden haulers are so much more comfortable than im­ported haulers that they sit in their own class.

The Holden is a good thing and looks great, but the FG up­grades give the Fal­con a clear edge. One of the best bits is the en­gine, which has al­ways de­liv­ered the type of low-down torque needed for a worker, but is now smoother and hap­pier to rev.

Fuel con­sump­tion is also eye-open­ing. A run from Broad­mead­ows to Gee­long used 6.9 litres/100km. This is re­mark­able.

City driv­ing, in­clud­ing some pretty lively ac­cel­er­a­tion, meant the av­er­age at the end of the week was 9.8 litres/100km.

The five-speed auto worked well and shifted cleanly and quickly. It would be nice to have the op­tion of the bril­liant six-speed ZF, but the stan­dard auto is still pretty good.

All of the sus­pen­sion and steer­ing re­vi­sions have paid off and the R6 is quite a sharp tool, es­pe­cially given it has a leaf-spring rear end.

The R6 Fal­con ute’s ride is nice. Its 16-inch wheels, with their rel­a­tively high-pro­file rub­ber, give a com­pli­ant ride and th­ese tyres are also qui­eter than those on the XR mod­els.

It isn’t per­fect. You can pick up some light jig­gling through the body, pos­si­bly be­cause it’s made up of two pieces (the body and the tub) rather than be­ing a sin­gle body like the Holden’s. But this fea­ture is what al­lows the Ford to be of­fered as a cab-chas­sis.

In terms of prac­ti­cal­ity, the Ford is sim­i­lar to the Holden. The new snap-lock ton­neau looks so much bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous elas­tic loop and stud set-up, and the ad­di­tional clip- down points are use­ful. The move­able tiedown hooks that slot into the rim of the tub are great but could eas­ily be stolen.

A stan­dard plas­tic tray liner is also wel­come, pro­tect­ing the tray from in­evitable gouges.

The Ford’s in­te­rior looks great and you have to re­mind your­self you are in a ute.

An iPod con­nec­tor and Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity were added to the test car (a $450 op­tion).

Be­ing able to con­trol your iPod on the cen­tre screen in a $30,000 work­horse ute is quite some­thing and is es­pe­cially ap­pre­ci­ated on long trips.

There is am­ple space in the cabin and Ford has kept the con­sid­er­able space be­hind the rear seats.

A silly tray that sits off the back of the cen­tre con­sole bin might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but gets in the way if you try to store things be­hind the seats. Luck­ily it can eas­ily be re­moved.

The Fal­con ute also ben­e­fits from all the fea­tures that go with a lo­cally de­signed car, in­clud­ing strong ra­dio re­cep­tion, ex­cel­lent high­beam spread and pow­er­ful air­con­di­tion­ing.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

FG up­grades make this a class-lead­ing all-rounder. Has the tra­di­tional strengths of a ute but raises the bar in terms of com­fort and cabin re­fine­ment.

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