Alfa Romeo
Land Rover
Ford Falcon FG
Ford fightback
August 2008

IT is safe to say that big cars are hardly the flavour of the month, or indeed year.

With fuel costs soaring and buyers turning in droves to smaller, more economical models, the traditional family vehicle has become less popular than Tamsyn Lewis.

Earlier this year Mitsubishi was forced to shut its large car factory after the demise of its 380.

And both Ford and Holden have taken a sales hit on beefier models, including Falcon and Commodore.

However, despite all the market pressure, Ford has released a stylish new generation Falcon capable of clawing back some ground.

The most noticeable changes include increased room, better performance, smoother, higher-tech manual and automatic transmissions, European styling, and a vastly improved interior layout with superior quality plastics and fittings.

Another key focus, of course, has been fuel economy. Despite the gains in power and torque, Ford boffins have achieved a reduction in petrol consumption with the XT test vehicle averaging a little over 10 litres per 100km.

There are three families of vehicles in the FG Falcon sedan range.

These include the base model Falcon XT, which we took for a spin, the plusher G Series, incorporating G6, G6E and G6E Turbo, and super sporty XRs, which include XR6, XR6 Turbo and XR8.

XT is again going to be a hit with fleet buyers and also raises the bar for private customers looking for an entry-level car with plenty of standard features.

The XT, priced from $36,490, comes with the choice of either an in-line 6 petrol engine, or an optional 156kW E-Gas dedicated LPG engine with a four-speed auto.

The I6, which produces 195kW of power and 391Nm of torque, can be matched to a new five-speed automatic transmission with Sequential Sports Shift, or optional ZF six-speed automatic transmission that offers even better fuel economy.

There are loads of goodies, including standard automatic climate control, four-way power driver's seat, four-speaker single CD audio system, a new, larger Interior Command Centre (ICC) LCD screen, cruise control and 60/40 split fold rear seats.

All petrol Falcon sedans come with an advanced safety package, incorporating driver and front passenger airbags, front side head/thorax airbags, driver and front passenger Beltminder® system, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Traction Control (TC), and Anti-lock Brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA).

Side curtain airbags, in conjunction with front side thorax airbags, are standard on premium sedan models, but are also available as an option across the rest of the sedan range.

Ford's all-new FG Falcon earlier this month became the first Australian-built car to receive a five-star safety rating from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

In the looks department, the Falcon has improved leaps and bounds.

An enhanced track width gives the Falcon XT a stronger, more dynamic appearance and dramatically lifts its visual appearance over its predecessor.

One of the neighbours, among those who take great interest in the many weird and wonderful chariots that find their way into our driveway, is a Holden man. But even he, was besotted with its classy outline, initially mistaking it for a posh European number.

Inside, there are also many refinements.

There’s added room for five occupants and the layout is more user friendly.

Everything falls easily to hand with the wheel-mounted cruise control and audio buttons making the pilot’s job easier.

There is a cockpit feel to the driver’s position and visibility has been improved with small side mirrors replaced with larger ones.

The XT drives more like a sports sedan than a family car and is capable surging to 100km/h in around 7.5 seconds.

The 4.0-litre engine, as with the outgoing model, performs with the minimum of fuss, raising a roar only when pushed hard.

Falcon handles well for a big car with good grip and handling and the suspension cushions occupants from even the most bone-jarring of our potholes.

Ford has produced a much-improved vehicle that ticks all the boxes for family buyers.

Those who look beyond their fuel fears will see a car that offers increased style, safety and comfort.

Hopefully, the bird has not flown for Falcon.

Falcon XT at a glance

4.0-litre 195kW / 391Nm DOHC DI-VCT in-line six-cylinder engine

Five-speed automatic transmission

Optional ZF six-speed automatic transmission

Virtual Pivot Control Link front suspension

Forward mounted, Y-shaped steering rack

Variable ratio steering gear

Revised Control Blade IRS

Monotube shock absorbers

Goodyear Eagle Excellence tyres

16-inch steel wheels with wheel covers

Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Traction Control (TC)

Anti-lock Brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA)

Self-adjusting park brake

Remote with flip-style ignition key

One-touch start

Chrome radiator grille header bar

Reinforced Grille Opening Reinforcement (RGOR)

Black bezel, bright ring headlamps

Body-coloured exterior mirror scalps

Chrome rear decklid appliqué

Driver and front passenger airbags

Side head/thorax airbags (front-seat mounted)

Driver and front passenger Beltminder™

4-way power driver's seat

60/40 split-fold rear seat

Front power windows

Rear power windows

Power mirrors

Remote central locking

Automatic headlamps on/off feature

Automatic climate control

Outside temperature display

5.8-inch ICC display screen – LED-backlit LCD dot matrix mixed mode screen

4-speaker 112-watt single CD/MP3 audio system

Mid range audio adjustment in addition to bass and treble

3.5mm auxiliary audio input

Steering wheel audio controls

Instrument cluster with automatic illumination

Multi-function Display (MFD)

Digital speed display

Trip computer

Set-Point cruise control

One-touch (lane change) indicator

'Domain' cloth trim

'Metro' cloth insert trim


ENGINE: 4-litre, 6 cylinder, DOHC, 24 valves

POWER: 195kW @ 6000rpm

TORQUE: 391Nm @ 3250rpm

TRANSMISSION: 5-speed auto, tiptronic

0-100km/h: 7.4 seconds

ECONOMY: 10.5L/100km

DIMENSIONS (mm): 4955 (l) 1868 (w) 1453 (h)


TOWING WEIGHT: (max) 2300kg

CO2 EMISSIONS: 251g/km

PROS: Powerful, safe, comfortable

CONS: Door pockets too small, engine noisy when stirred

BOTTOM LINE: From $36,490