A great alternative to Vauxhall's VXR8 - but sadly not bound for the UK

What is it?

This Aussie bruiser is probably the greatest performance bargain on the face of the planet. While GM brings a re-branded Holden to the UK as the Vauxhall VXR8, Ford of Australia has no plans to put any of the new Falcon XR6 Turbos on the boat to here. Which, on the evidence of the new car, is a real shame.

The XR6 Turbo was introduced in Australia in 2002, a legacy of the late Jaguar/ Land Rover boss Geoff Polites, and it has already developed cult status there, where it’s helped Ford to regain some lost muscle car dignity.

Now there’s a new FG Falcon, with the XR6 Turbo version getting a new blower, exhaust and intake system. Granted, the 4.0-litre straight-six that all this is bolted to is a motor with more relevance to the ice age than the iPod age. But it works. The XR6 Turbo produces 367bhp and takes the Falcon to 62mph in 5.1secs.

By European standards, it’s an outrageous bargain. The A$46,990 pricetag is just £22,000 at current exchange rates.

What’s it like?

The XR6 Turbo lacks horsepower compared to V8 versions of the Commodore (aka VXR8) and its own eight-cylinder XR8 sister, but the motor makes up for the disparity with its eminently accessible torque.
There’s a hefty 393lb ft available from 2000rpm all the way through to 4750rpm.

Squeeze the throttle and there’s barely a whiff of lag - just instantly accessible grunt. Only some wheezing and whistling gives the turbo game away, but it melds perfectly with the purposeful exhaust note and subtle burble on gearchanges. It’s not as refined as BMW’s twin-turbo six, but the response isn’t dissimilar.

The XR6 Turbo comes with a standard six-speed manual box, complete with F1-style launch control. The optional six-speed ZF auto transmission is a better bet, allowing the turbo to maintain boost as it elegantly, yet briskly, shuffles through gears.

It’s an effortless cruiser and a devastatingly effective overtaking tool: tall gearing – great for motorways – means you’ll often be moving faster than the scenery and tacho suggests.

The XR6 Turbo isn’t just about straight-line performance. Double-wishbone front suspension delivers sharp but progressive turn-in, with only a hint of mild rack rattle souring the experience. The independent rear-end uses 18-inch rubber to direct drive to the tarmac, although it’s not difficult to awake the stability control.

More impressive is the composure and ability to negotiate corners briskly. Taut but progressive springs keep the 1750kg body well controlled, even over aggressive mid-corner upsets.

Being based on the fleet oriented Falcon – still one of Australia’s best selling cars, albeit with declining interest – the XR6 Turbo is made for big boned Aussies. The cabin’s now more spacious, particularly up front, while the rear seats provide above average sprawling space.

So, should I buy one?

You’ll have to emigrate to do so, unfortunately – although at current exhange rates we can see the temptation. But in the perennial Aussie automotive battle between Holden and Ford, the Falcon now holds the upper hand once again.

Toby Hagon

Join the debate

Comments
7

7 May 2008

As a lad from down under it's great to see Autocar at least giving a passing mention to the Aussie metal. The Falcon's not sophisticated inside, but it's a great performer. And you should see this same engine in the Ford Territory - an SUV that drives as well as an X5.

I don't understand why Vauxhall in particular doesn't bring over more of the Holden range. Sure they bring the HSV Commodores across as the VXR range. But a top-end Commodore (a 5-series equivalent) selling at GBP25k or so seems to me to be a much better proposition. And if the General could show a bit of joined-up thinking it could have (i) used the economies of scale to improve the Commodore's interior and (ii) accelerated Holden's introduction of the V diesel. One of those for under GBP30k should be able to capture a chunk of the 3-series market.

7 May 2008

About time the UK started to wake up to Aussie metal. How Ford can miss the trick by not exporting this car baffles me, as the Australian vehicle standards are the equal of Europe it should be a walk in the park to gain type approval. As regards the engine coming from another age, I would have thought 24 valves, dual variable valve timing and euro compliance would compare favourably with some of the asthmatic gutless wonders Europe produces

7 May 2008

Having just driven the FG on New Zealand's winding but rather lumpy roads, I would suggest Toby's "hint of rack rattle" comment is quite an understatement.

Given the previous Falcon had no memorable knocking up front the FG's annoyingly clunky steering would be a deal-breaker for me. The steering isn't as sharp as it once was nor is it anywhere as good as the VE Commodore's. Nit-picking maybe but I was also infuriated by the clearly audible intermittant wiper relay click, it was like driving a metronome.

No issues with the Turbo 6 though, an absolute stonker. But it's already engineered to within an inch of it's life. Moving forward it'll never meet European emissions standards so it's no wonder Ford Australia have no export market... Other than us Kiwis that is.

Why they didn't get the Volvo D5 engine under the bonnet of the Falcon and Territory product while they had the chance will always be a mystery to me...That surely would've been the best opportunity for entry into European show rooms?

8 May 2008

the only reason Ford sold so may Falcons in Oz is they 'gave them away' to fleet sales buyers! Hardly the best reason to give them the 'most sales' gong. Probably not a lot different to Europe, with one or two car makers providing the mechanical dross for fleet buyers, that come up as the best of a bad bunch, for all those people that have their cars bought for them. I believe the mark of a car maker is in the number of cars it sells to private buyers - people who part with their own money, and demand completely different standards and credentials. Would anyone suggest for a second that because MB sells an obscene number of cars as bog taxis in Germany, they are the best you can get? That fact merely seriously dilutes the value of the marque.

Both Ford and Holden in Oz are on real notice from perfectly legitimate, and in some respects superior, imports such as the Nissan Maxima, Toyota whatsits, the recently demised Mitsubishi 380, Honda Accord....what have I missed. All standing up as the new-breed family car, with 5 seats and 6 cyinder power. One Toyota whatsit manages 200kW from 3,5 litres, and the local new 3.8 litre whizz-bang V6 from Holden can only muster 190kW's. Sadly Ford and Holden are still trading on the 'we're local, and have been here for ages' mantra, whch is now so thin it is transparent. Ford have absolutely no choice here with the Falcon that follows the brand new[???] re-bodied FG, than to install a European V6. Clunky old agricultural straight sixes, like the Falcon, have seen their day, and no amount of polishing the turd will save that old engine. And Holden continue to sell one third of new VE Commodores with 6 litre V8's. Its got me stumped!

1 June 2008

So what evidence to you have to support your comment that engine belongs more in the "ice age than the iPod age". If you knew how to use google you'd find that the motor contains; variable value timing - independent for both inlet and outlet, dual mode split plenum composite intake manifold, use of composites to reduce weight and for the turbo a raft of improvements on the intercooler to dramatically reduce both intake restriction and weight. So I'd like to know on what grounds you stand on to defend your statement; could it possibly be that it's a straight six? Well BMW still has the straight 6 in their model line up - yet you don't hear the 'ice age' comment on their products - so where did this comment come from?

Perhaps food critic is more you’re calling ~ less technical mumbo jumbo to deal with.

31 January 2009

I purchased a Ba mark 1 xr6 turbo in New Zealand and after a lot of consideration decided to bring it back to the uk when returning after a few years. Best decision I have ever made ! , ( not the returning to the cold and wet ).

The car is fantastic fun , very reliable and always gets its fair share of admiring looks and questions about it. It has stood the test of time very well with our colder climate , has never failed me ,or cost anything other than servicable items. It is a handfull on mini roundabouts in the wet but then after modifying it to just over 420bhp , I do have to take the blame for that.

Really wish I could have a newer model now. Sure this would sell well in the uk if it got priced correctly and would definatly give a lot of the euro 'execs' a run for the money

28 February 2013

Wow i just fall in love with ford falcon au XR6 Turbo its my dream Car.

 

 

 

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