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.


Comments

    That interior, particularly the steering wheel is (and always has been) such a pig!

      Yeah that interior is just atrocious. The steering wheel controls, main console and cluster are just a mess. Looks so late 90%

      looks so dated, one of the reason I stay away from Falcon and Territory.
      The interior designer(s) needs to be shot.

      If you look Holden interior, it so much nicer and you feel like you are inside the luxury car not a taxi.

      Exterior, front is ok, looks more like Aston Martin styling, and rear like Jaguar but side... looks like a taxi lol

      Last edited 28/04/15 1:05 pm

    I've always been a Ford fan probably because that's what I grew up with, but my god why are they so vanilla compared to the Holdens. People who own a car with a supercharged V8 are I would think going to want a car that looks the part as well. May as well have put that motor in a Camry.

      I agree with this, wish it had some of the HSV aggressiveness.

    I know it's superficial, but I don't like the new radiator grille. I liked the old smiley one with the rest of the lines much better. Also I feel the fact that "the front grille and body kit genuinely makes the car look smaller from the outside" is true, and is a bad thing. It's no AU, but this is not the best looking falcon.

      It's the Aston Martin influence.

        Yeah, I think Aston's are beautiful, but they have a different aesthetic and it doesn't translate well to the falcon. Just my opinion though.

    I've always liked Falcon interiors, much better ergonomics & materials than the Japanese based companies manage but I wish they through a bit more colour in the FG-X. The BA model particularly had a colour match for most of the exterior colours available.

    I think there's a transient overboost that runs the engine at 375kw for 7 seconds at a time, rarely gets mentioned.

    When the Coyote motor first appeared in the FG GT, wheels took one GT and one GTS (7L 430kw one) with an engineer from each respective manufacturer to oversee a dyno shoot out. They took both cars, same dyno same day and then crossed town to another and repeated the process to see which of the two was Australia's most powerful production car.

    The end result, the 335kw GT mate 10% mroe at the rear wheels than the 430kw HSV... both times.

    The reason? Transient over boost in the GT added 15% more power and torque for 6 seconds at a time. The truth is it added a lot MORE than 15%, and it hosed the HSV for output.

    Pretty embarrassing for HSV, but I'd still have one over the GT - still too much Taxi cab for me.

    How much is a 340kW Audi? Imagine the Falcon they could build with that money! There'd be no more complaints about the interior quality that's for sure.

    I drive an FG X XR8. Let me be clear, when you pay $50-60k for a car that can nearly match some of the best performance cars to leave Germany with get up and go, you've got a bargain. The interior is actually rather good, I drove a Mercedes A200 CDI last week as a loan car while I had my mothers CLS500 in for its first service. The A200 feels very similar to the FGX in terms of its interior. Infact it feels worse and lacks a touch screen as with most Mercs. So heres an option for you spend $50-60k on the XR8 or $50-60k for a new A Class? I'd prefer the XR8.

    The fuel bill isn't noticeably different, I used to drive a 2010 Ford Falcon XR6 50th Anniversary Sedan on regular ULP. I use 98 octane in the XR8 and the fuel bill for similar kilometres each week is actually less believe it or not.

    so when are we going to see any amendment to the import laws and taxes on cars since the local industry is wrapping up....?

      Hopefully never. The 5% import duty hardly makes any difference to the price of a new car but undoubtedly generates billions of dollars in government revenue every year. If they take it away, they'll just gouge us all somewhere else to get it back. I think if you can afford a new car, you can afford to pay a bit of tax to the govt, don't you?

      In any event, the govt is only talking about easing restrictions on brand new cars and we generally pay a lot less than a lot other markets anyway. Seriously, go to mazda.co.uk and see how much a 2.0 litre Mazda3 costs or toyota.co.uk and check the price of a 1.8 Corolla over there. It's eye-watering. Given that we live in a RHD country, there are only a handful of countries we could import from anyway and, for all the effort involved, it will really only make sense for really expensive cars.

    I bought one of these too. Very happy with it. The interior is fine. I actually like the minimalism. I've also grown to like its looks enough (originally I wasn't crazy about the grille).

    It's a little thirsty but not ridiculous. Uses about 50% more petrol on the same trip as my Honda which is a bit smaller and lighter.

    The ride is surprisingly good.. as long as you don't hit any potholes. It sounds good too and not overly loud. Handling is great on the road and on the freeway.

    I must say it feels very solid, planted and I think it's pretty well built. I think this shows that Australian cars are world-class. Pity we aren't going to be making them for much longer...

    well said Alchemistifical!
    I'm sick of the negativity, bang for buck, comfort, and drives nicer than a Holden. The interior is not out dated, no more outdated than the $60k VW convertible we traded in! Unfortunately Australians have their heads up their rear end now days, and think European is better. We'll take this from someone who has owned 12 new cars and had more recalls with the imports than local, including transmissions, and electrical systems to name a few. Yes I love. Mercs, but they come at a price.! As far as the commodore interior, yes nice but looking more European and really no better equiped so big deal, I'd rather the comfort and drive. Oh year, one commodore ute in the fleet and so far 5 recalls........just saying

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