The best of the breed
Special Aussie-built sedans deliver more grunt per dollar than anywhere else in the world
THEY are the fastest and most powerful cars Australia has ever produced and soon they will be gone. In true Aussie spirit, their makers put the pedal to the metal as the finish line nears.
Ford has allowed its engineers to build the Falcons they always wanted to build. The turbocharged XR6 Sprint and supercharged XR8 Sprint, both powered by engines assembled in Geelong, are the culmination of decades of know-how.
Holden’s fast-car division, with a little help from a supercharged V8 from the US, has given the HSV GTS performance flagship a visual freshen-up and will uncork something truly extraordinary next year. For now, though, these cars are the best of their breed, giving mere mortals more grunt per dollar than anywhere else in the world. Ford says the Sprint siblings were “created by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts”.
The changes go well beyond the subtle black exterior highlights and badges.
The suspension and steering were recalibrated to optimise the Pirelli P Zero tyres and Ford left nothing on the spare parts shelf, fitting race-bred six-piston brake calipers upfront and fourpiston calipers at the rear — then the engineers “breathed” on the engine.
They know the 4.0-litre sixcylinder like the back of their hands — locally designed and built inline sixes have been powering Falcons since 1960.
A six-cylinder turbo debuted in the BA Falcon in 2002 and has been with us ever since.
It is faster and more efficient than a V8, and lighter over the nose, which improves the balance and feel in corners.
The best engine Australia has ever produced, it has never sold as well as the V8.
The turbo six has its own appealing note but performance-car buyers crave the V8 roar.
Slightly down on power (325kW versus the V8’s 345kW), the XR6 Turbo Sprint trumps the XR8 Sprint for torque, by just 1Nm, with 576Nm. Who said engineers weren’t competitive?
The turbo’s power delivery is more linear than the V8 throughout the rev range. There’s a subtle “brrrrp” noise between gear changes.
The occasional minor intervention from the stability control on a tight and demanding piece of road is the only thing that dares to slow it.
It’s exhilarating to drive and feels more like a sports car than a fleet sedan.
Nothing feels better than this. Until we get into the XR8. The core of the XR8 engine comes from the US but every internal part — and the supercharger — is bolted together in Geelong, alongside the six-cylinder assembly line.
It is essentially the same engine fitted to the final Falcon GT but Ford deliberately left a performance gap for its icon.
The XR8 Sprint has less power than the GT (345kW versus 351kW) but more torque (575Nm versus 569Nm).
This is a moot point, because with all the upgrades the XR8 Sprint drives better than the last GT. All it’s missing is the badge.
Aided in no small part by the superb Pirelli tyres, this one flattens bumpy roads and handles bends better than any other Falcon before it.
The supercharger howl is so gloriously loud, your spine tingles and your ears ring. The XR8 has less grunt at lower revs