The best of the breed

Spe­cial Aussie-built sedans de­liver more grunt per dol­lar than any­where else in the world

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Cover Story - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR

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

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