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.