FORD is sending its 54-year-old Falcon nameplate out on a high note, with the final Australian-built family favourite the safest and most technologically advanced car to wear the famed badge.

Highlighted by a major facelift over the FG that brings with it Ford’s current global design language, the swansong Falcon also benefits from fuel efficiency gains, price reductions – depending on the variant – and the return of the iconic XR8 performance flagship.

Speaking with GoAuto at the FG X Falcon and SZII Territory launch in northern Victoria this week, Ford Australia president and CEO Bob Graziano said there has been excitement around the reborn XR8, but added it was difficult to predict whether the initial interest would continue for the remaining two years of production.

“What we are hearing already is a lot of enthusiasm in the marketplace around the return of XR8,” he said. “We saw that at the ‘Outside the Oval’ gallery event, we have seen it with the Falcon fanatics’ event.

“Some of the dealers I have been talking to have indicated to me that they have got customers coming in really talking about XR8 because of some of that early work that was done.

“The real test will be how long does that last over time, but we are so early in it’s tough to gauge that. We have got our estimates on what that mix will be for the balance of our production and I am comfortable that the team have called that correctly.”

Arriving in Ford dealerships next week, the last-ever Falcon before Ford pulls out of Australian manufacturing in October 2016 will feature the latest-generation version of the Blue Oval’s Sync connectivity system, Sync2, marking its first application in an Australian-spec car.

Sync2 includes upgrades over the original and even features an Australian English vocabulary and accent recognition.

The new Falcon gains a high-resolution eight-inch colour touchscreen housing controls for climate, navigation, telephone and infotainment systems.

The voice recognition software that allows for hands-free control of various functions in the FG X uses a female Australian voice, dubbed ‘Karen’, which the company says provides drivers with “a more natural conversational experience with their Ford vehicle”.

When using the navigation system, Ford says drivers can use voice control to tell the system the address in one shot, and by saying something like “I’m hungry”, it will bring up nearby restaurants.

Ford has included – as standard – its Emergency Assistant system, which contacts emergency help with either the press of a button or automatically after an airbag has deployed or the auto fuel-pump shut-off has been triggered in a crash.

All variants of the final Falcon also now come with front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, adding to an already high list of standard safety equipment.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) recently announced that the FG X Falcon achieved a five-star crash safety rating with an overall score of 34.61 out of a maximum 37 points.

Ford has streamlined its variants with the mid-spec G6 dropped for its final iteration, while prices have been cut across the range by as much as $9685.

The base variant – now simply called Falcon – starts the range at $35,900 plus on-road costs, representing a $1335 saving over the outgoing entry model, and is $410 dearer than Holden’s Commodore Evoke.

The standard powerplant in the Falcon and G6E is the venerable 195kW/391Nm 4.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine.

Next up, the XR6 in six-speed manual guise is $35,590 – $4400 cheaper than before – while the XR6 Turbo with the more potent 270kW/533Nm 4.0-litre turbo-six costs $42,990 for the manual.

The luxury G6E and G6E Turbo are priced at $40,110 and $46,550 respectively, with the latter priced $9685 lower than the model it replaces. Holden’s Calais and Calais V carry a slight premium over their Blue Oval rivals.

Returning after a four-year hiatus to top the FG X range, the XR8 is priced at $52,490 and is powered by the familiar ex-FPV 335kW/570Nm 5.0-litre V8 supercharged engine – the most powerful XR8 engine yet – with its main rival being the 6.0-litre V8 Holden Commodore SS-V Redline that starts at $56,690 and offers 270kW of power (260kW as an automatic).

The inclusion of a six-speed auto as standard on the base Cab Chassis and Styleside Box Ute has lifted the price by $800 apiece to $29,390 and $29,790 respectively, while the XR6 Styleside Box XR6 Turbo tops the range at $39,810.

Only the XR6 sedan, XR6 Turbo sedan and ute and XR8 sedan are available with a manual gearbox, and replacing it with the six-speed auto pushes the price up by $2200.

Choosing Ford’s frugal 179kW/353Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost engine instead of the six-cylinder unit is a no-cost option and available only in Falcon and G6E sedans, while opting for the LPG-fuelled 198kW/409Nm 4.0-litre EcoLPI adds $2500 to the price of base Falcon and XR6 sedan or ute.

Ford Australia’s engineers have managed to make slight fuel efficiency gains with the FG X, with lightweight construction of the ZF 6HP21 six-speed automatic transmission and a redesigned valve-body and shift calibration specifically tailored to the 4.0-litre inline six.

Fuel consumption in the base variant drops from 9.9 litres per 100km on the combined cycle to 9.0L/100km, while the sporty XR6 and G6E variants have also improved from 9.9L/100km to 9.5L/100km.

Ford says changes it has made to the suspension set-up has made for a sportier driving experience and better cornering without affecting ride comfort.

The G6E and EcoLPi Falcons gain a larger front stabiliser bar, retuned springs and dampers, new geometry to optimise the new Michelin tyres and a reduction in rear stabiliser bar thickness for better rear-end grip, while the EcoBoost gets a similar suspension retune and geometry update but gains a 14mm rear stabiliser bar where it previously had none.

In terms of exterior design, Ford’s local designers have slapped the Blue Oval’ s trapezoidal grille found on the forthcoming Mondeo, facelifted Focus and Fiesta on the front with bold slimline headlights, while at the tail end the wraparound LED units are reminiscent of classier models such as the Jaguar XF.

All Falcon variants feature new seat fabrics, finishes and detailing as well as updated instrument cluster graphics, with the XR series getting new 3D rings.

Higher end variants gain new seat fabrics and leather, while a tan trim option is available for G6E and G6E Turbo.

Standard gear on the Falcon includes Sync2, DAB+ digital radio, Wi-Fi hotspot, single zone climate control, cruise control with steering-mounted controls, power windows/mirrors, four-way power adjustable driver’s seat, Bluetooth connectivity and 16-inch alloy wheels.

Inside the XR6 there is a sports instrument cluster, sports cloth seats and a six-speaker sound system. The standard XR6 runs on 18-inch alloys while the Turbo is fitted with 19-inch rims.

G6E similarly has 18-inch alloys on regular G6E and 19s for the Turbo, while features include eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat with three-position memory, nine-speaker premium sound system, electro-chromatic interior mirror, puddle lamps, dual-zone climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel with stitching, leather park brake handle, leather-trimmed seats and satellite navigation.

The Falcon palette offers 10 different colours, with all except the Winter White being classed as ‘prestige’ paint colours.

Ford Falcon sedan pricing*

Falcon (a) $35,900
Falcon EcoBoost (a) $35,900
XR6 $35,590
XR6 (a) $37,790
XR6 Turbo $42,990
XR6 Turbo (a) $45,190
G6E (a) $40,110
G6E EcoBoost (a) $40,110
G6E Turbo (a) $46,550
XR8 $52,490
XR8 (a) $54,690

*Excludes on-road costs.

Originally publsihed by TIM NICHOLSON  Go Auto

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