Ford Falcon XR8: Australian Review

Ford is winding down its production run of the Falcon in Australia, and that's a massive pity, but there's a last hurrah -- thanks to an unexpected rush of demand, it has more than doubled the number of XR8s coming out of its Broadmeadows factory. This the last Falcon, and it's definitely the best of its breed. Oh, and it's supercharged, if you needed another reason.

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What Is It?

Specifications
  • Engine: 5.0-litre V8, supercharged
  • Gearbox: 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto (tested)
  • Entertainment System: 8-inch touchscreen
  • Bluetooth: Yes (phone and media streaming)
  • Fuel consumption: 13.7L/100km

The 2015 Ford Falcon FG X XR8 is the last of the V8 interceptors. That's to say it's the last Falcon to be made -- at least in Australia, and at least until Ford changes its mind. And it's an impressive final iteration, too -- to farewell the marque Ford has upped the ante on the XR8's usual specs, and in a serious way. In everything from styling to specification this is the best Falcon yet.

The 2015 XR8 -- Ford calls this model run the Ultimate Falcon -- bolts a Harrop supercharger on top of the 5-litre Coyote V8, bringing total power output to a massive 335kW and 570Nm. 0-100km/h is dispatched with in well under five seconds. Suspension is upgraded all-round, the XR8 also benefits from a big improvement in braking, with A Brembo setup sitting behind the sizeable 19-inch wheels and tyres (8-inch at the front, 9-inch at the rear). The entire setup is basically lifted wholesale from FPV's GT R Spec of a few years ago, and as a result it's a complete and holistic package rather than piecemeal changes.

The styling actually makes the Falcon XR8 look smaller than it actually is, with a smooth sloping bonnet and a high waistline that rolls away gently. It's the headlights, actually, that do the most to make the XR8 look streamlined and medium-sized. Interestingly enough, that massive piscine front grille actually makes the Falcon look quite like the 2015 Ford Mustang that'll soon supplant it as Ford's large performance car for the Australian market. In typically Ford fashion the XR8 is available in a swathe of colours; our test Kinetic blue was very blue.

Ford's latest and greatest SYNC 2 in-car entertainment system also makes an appearance in the Falcon, sitting in the centre of the dashboard to allow both front occupants to use its 8-inch touchscreen. SYNC 2 also includes Emergency Assistance, which will put in a call to the emergency services when and if you're in a serious accident -- as long as you have your smartphone connected over Bluetooth, which will also enable messages to be displayed on-screen.

What's It Good At?

This is one seriously quick Falcon. XR8s are zippy enough at the best of times, but the addition of a supercharger (from equally iconic and equally Victorian outfit Harrop Engineering) brings the 5.0-litre Coyote V8 to a solid 335kW at 5750rpm and 570Nm of torque from 2200rpm onwards. And, honestly, you can tell. If you're driving straight, on a good road, with nice warm tyres, on a freeway on-ramp, and you stamp on the accelerator, you'll reach 100km/h in well under five seconds.

I mention all those caveats because the FG X XR8 really wants to go sideways. This is not a car that you turn the traction control off lightly. It does so predictably, for what it's worth, and the traction control is cautious for the most part, but if you're in the right conditions it's really not hard to get a little bit of a chirp as you're taking off with a bit of gusto from the traffic lights. In the XR8, it's that mid-gear acceleration that makes the asking price oh so worth it.

It handles much better than its circa-1900kg weight should allow it to, as well. The last XR8 has basically the same underpinnings as FPV's old GT R Spec from 2012 -- and that means road-going race-ready suspension, ridiculously oversized brakes, and staggered rims with 8-inch up on the fronts and 9s on the rears. It's not what you'd call compliant over small bumps and potholes in the road, but makes up for it by sitting entirely flat even if you're really pushing it around a set of tight twisty corners.

The FG X XR8 also has Ford's best in-car entertainment system, the same SYNC 2 setup as the 2015 Territory MKII. In the centre of the dashboard sits the 8-inch colour touchscreen for SYNC2, equally accessible to driver and front passenger. It’s this system that gives you direct access to your phone, AM/FM/DAB+ digital radio, Bluetooth audio, satellite navigation and mapping, and dual-zone climate control, with each of the four having its own dedicated corner in the interface. It’s a nice, high-res screen, too, and colours are vibrant enough for easy reading even when you’re in direct sunlight.

And SYNC 2 is great. It’s not as feature-packed as some of its European competitors, but the colour display and touchscreen is a significant improvement over the original, smaller, monochrome, non-touch SYNC (which still appears on the current Kuga and Fiesta ST, among others). New to SYNC2 is the ability to turn a Bluetooth-connected phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot, which makes perfect sense for connecting iPads and other non-mobile-network-enabled devices on long trips to keep the kids happy. SYNC2 is easy to navigate, too, since the four segments of its interface — phone, media, mapping and air-con — are accessible through each of the four corners. Everything is simply laid out and works as you’d expect.

What's It Not Good At?

You already knew this when you clicked on this review, but the Falcon is a large car. It's big enough that it actually got me fined; there's a spot outside our offices where I usually park, but it's made for small cars and the Falcon's boot overhang was enough to piss off the local parking inspector. All credit to the FG X's styling team, though, because the front grille and body kit genuinely makes the car look smaller from the outside than it feels from the inside.

The FG X XR8 is also super thirsty. This is not a car to commute in. I did, though, so you don't have to experience that for yourself, and saw an average fuel consumption of 20.3 litres per 100km. That's twice what I saw from Ford's own Territory diesel, a similarly heavy (it's actually one or two hundred kilos heavier) large car with a six-speed auto -- albeit one being driven by a more frugal 2.7-litre turbodiesel V6. This is a car for the open highway or the drag strip.

The interior, too, is nothing to write home about. You shouldn't be too surprised about this; it's a Falcon. But it's also a $50,000-plus five-seater sedan, and the interior is quite generic for the price you're paying. You get leather, but it's just about as synthetic as it gets and it certainly doesn't feel very luxurious. To be fair, this is why you'd (used to) buy from a closely-aligned third party like FPV and its more luxurious GT F. It's worth mentioning, too, that the XR8 has quite a high seating position and limited adjustment.

In terms of safety equipment, the FG X does reasonably well with a reversing camera and parking sensors all around, but lacks any kind of collision mitigation, auto braking or blind spot notification system. You do get a fatigue warning after extended driving, and the SYNC 2 system will call emergency services through your connected Bluetooth phone if you've had a serious accident. If only that beautiful, big supercharged V8 had start/stop for stop-start traffic work.

Should You Buy It?

Ford Falcon XR8

Price: from $52,490

Like
  • Surprisingly sporty handling.
  • Massive power on tap.
  • Comfortable interior.
Don't Like
  • Bland interior materials.
  • Missing advanced safety features.
  • Incredible fuel consumption.

If you need a big sedan, and you have a preference for Australian-made, then I can certainly see why the $52,490 Ford Falcon XR8 might appeal to you. It sure is big, but it eats up the kilometres; it's made for highway cruising -- and a fair bit of highway overtaking -- and definitely doesn't struggle with the city. The only thing that struggles might be your wallet when you're presented with that weekly fuel bill.

But you're going to buy the last XR8 for its performance, and my god this car has that in spades. Even the auto, which shifts smoothly and lets you drive (relatively) sedately when you want to -- and in percentage terms, that's going to be far more of your time than all-out balls-out acceleration -- will rocket the FG X XR8 from a standstill to 100km/h in mid-five-second figures. It's a beast if you're liberal with the loud pedal, and that is absolutely great.

It's not especially exacting or premium in its construction; panel gaps and interior plastics aren't what you'd find on your common or garden Audi or Mercedes. But it's well built, and the SYNC 2 interface is more than enough as integrated systems go -- in fact, it's one of the best for its price tag and makes for easy navigation, climate control and media playback. That emergency assistance is a good idea, too, although I hope it never has to be used.

This is the best iteration of the last Falcon to be made in Australia -- it's comfortable, big, smooth, honest, straightforward and ridiculously quick. The only price of admission is a credit card big enough to swallow that supercharged V8's fuel bill. It's a swan song, and while it's not a particularly gentle or relaxing one, it is one that you should listen to if you get a chance.