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Used car review Ford Falcon XR6/XR6T 2002-2004

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Graham 'Smithy' Smith reviews the used Ford Falcon XR6/XR6T 2002-2004, its fine points, its flaws and what to watch for when you are buying it.

The sporty XR models have been a raging success for Ford since they were first introduced with the EB Falcon over a decade ago, but the surprise story in that success was the six-cylinder XR6. The sporty XR models have been a raging success for Ford since they were first introduced with the EB Falcon over a decade ago, but the surprise story in that success was the six-cylinder XR6. For the first time there was a local muscle car that didn’t have a V8 rumbling under the bonnet.

In the years that have elapsed since the XR6 first debuted it has become even more popular, to the extent that it can now be considered an icon of local performance.

The BA brought more refinements for the XR6, a logical extension of the six-cylinder sports sedan theme, but it also brought a new dimension in the form of the XR6 Turbo. If there was ever any lingering doubts about the XR6 as a muscle car they were blown away by the sizzling hot turbocharged model.

MODEL WATCH

In a country conditioned to believe that performance was only possible with a V8 under the bonnet the XR6 was a bold move by Ford and its performance partner Tickford Vehicle Engineering.

When Ford was the leader of the go-fast pack it’s hottest cars had big and brawny V8s, and the company was being run by men from Dearborn where the V8 was king. Today, Ford is run by meeker men, from other parts of the world where power doesn’t necessarily come from the barrels of a big bent eight.

They’ve been brought up on a more subtle diet of overhead camshafts, fuel-injection, and latterly turbochargers.

That’s the reigning philosophy at Ford today where the XR6 and XR6T are the tearaway kings.

In the BA range the XR6 builds on the XT Falcon base model. It has the same 182 kW 4.0-litre straight six engine with double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. It also boasts variable camshaft timing that not only gives it a powerful punch at the top end, but it also gives a smooth purposeful flow of torque across the rev range.

Performance peaks are put at 182 kW at 5000 revs and 380 Nm at 3250 revs.

The XR6 also has the same transmission choices as the XT, a five-speed manual ’box or a four-speed sports shift auto.

The essential differences that mark the XR6 out from the base model are in the fine tuning and the appearance.

Underneath it boasted sports tuned independent rear suspension.

Inside it had sports seats with sporty XR trim, a sports instrument cluster with XR graphics, and there was a nice leather wrapped steering wheel.

Outside there was a sporty body kit with unique front-end styling, a boot lid spoiler, body coloured mirrors and side protection mouldings, a single chromed exhaust tip, and 17-inch alloy wheels.

There was no doubt the XR6 was a nicely balanced sports drive with enough street cred to be respected on the road.

For more mongrel bite there was the new XR6T, which took the six cylinder sports sedan to a whole new level. With the blown motor under the bonnet the XR6 became a new car, even though it had much in common with its normally-aspirated cousin.

The XR6T had everything the XR6 had, but in addition it came with the turbocharged engine, a limited-slip diff, plus power rear windows, rear grab handles, and traction control as standard.

The Barra 240T version of the 4.0-litre DOHC six has a Garrett GT40 turbocharger with an air-to-air intercooler to increase the charge density and thus maintain boost pressure for maximum power and torque.

Inside the engine there are new pistons and rings, with a lower compression ratio of 8.7 to 1, down from the standard engine’s 9.7 to 1, and high temp exhaust valves.

The result is a massive 240 kW surge at 5250 revs, with 450 Nm of torque on tap between 2000 and 4500 revs.

ON THE LOT

The XR6 is a popular model so look to pay between $28,000 and $30,000, add $7500 to step up to the more desirable turbo model.

Resale will be strong on both models, the Turbo retaining its value a little better because of its appeal to enthusiasts.

IN THE SHOP

Before buying an XR6, even more so an XR6T, check with other owners because they do have a few problems worth knowing about.

Some owners are reporting an overboost problem with the turbo engine, which feels like the engine is surging almost out of control.

The diffs are noisy and it’s not uncommon for low mileage cars to be on their second or third diff.

The other problem is brake wear and shudder. Some owners report that brakes are needing attention, rotor machining etc., at every service.

Both problems are possibly the result of hard driving, although some owners deny they drive their cars hard, so if you’re intent on an XR6T look for one that hasn’t been thrashed.

Be aware that BA Falcon brakes hoses fail, said to be because they were too short and fail after being stretched and restretched in use. Replace the hoses, front and rear, as a matter of caution as the service replacements are about 2 cm longer and don’t have the problem. The failure seems to occur around the 75,000 km mark.

They go hard which means that they’ll be driven hard by enthusiast owners. It’s almost impossible to drive an XR6T slowly, they want to go.

IN A CRASH

BA Falcon was too new to make the recent real world used car safety survey, but increased body stiffness and dual airbags should mean state-of-the-art crash performance.

Sports suspension tuning, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and traction control add up to an impressive primary safety package.

OWNERS SAY

Chris Elliott is a dedicated Ford fan who reckons his 2003 XR6T is fantastic, a joy to drive despite a couple of problems. He bought it with 15,000 km on it knowing the previous owner had a noisy diff replaced at 14,000 km, and now at 32,000 km is facing the same problem. It has also suffered severe brake shudder at around 28,000 km, which he says was fixed. Other than those the biggest other fault has been the stitching in the rear seat squad has come undone. Against that he was pleasantly surprised by the low service cost, and the fuel consumption, which averages 15.2 L/100 km around town and 10 on a trip.

Andrew Kiejda owns a 2004 BA Falcon XR6, which has already done 25,000 km. He chose the XR6 for its superior suspension, seats and resale value. The car has handled its duties quite well with no rattles or squeaks despite occasional dirt road use and the traction control works extremely well. Only problem has been the loss of cruise control and sequential function of the auto trans due to a wiring loom fault at 18,000 km.

LOOK FOR

• sporty styling

• great handling from sports tuned suspension

• smooth powerful engine

• relatively high fuel consumption

• sizzling performance of turbo engine

• good resale value

• noisy diffs

• brake noise and shudder

• brake hose failure

RIVALS

• VY Commodore S – 2002-2003 – $30,000-$35,000

• Toyota Camry Sportivo V6 – 2002-2003 – $29,500-$32,000

• Subaru Liberty B4 – 2001-2003 – $40,000-$43,000

THE BOTTOM LINE

Great high performance sports sedans, but avoid cars that have been given a hard time.

RATING

70/100

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 12 comments

  • Just purchased and XR6 with 140,000 on clock. Has noisy diff so am wondering where to take it in hamilton to be checked out. Not that keen on ford dealership as they so expensive. Also does anyone know what would be reasonable price if I have to replace or repair diff. Also considering transmission cooler as use car for towing horse float. any comments appreciated.

    liz lee of Hamilton Posted on 10 January 2013 7:05pm
  • Hi, I live in Auckland New Zealand, I am 56yrs old, unfortunenately I am not mechanically minded, I am interested in buying a 2004 falcon xr6 turbo, like I said I am not mechanically minded, but, I read a lot of reviews about the xr6 turbos & quite honestly, are lot of the reviews don't look good about this type of car, thou I do like FALCONS & FORDS. One owner had sed, that he could drive on a full tank in his xr6T 600KMS & then refuel..depending he drove at a speed of 100kms an hour..does that look true to you & other owners have said, that the common problem with these xr6t are the brake rotors, Diff problems & turbo actuator problems, a transmission cooler needs to be added to the gear box..I mean, thou, these cars look very nice in detail specs..just seeing these reviews & all the problems that these owners have had more or less the same problems, I'm starting to wonder whether I shouldn't waste my money on buying an XR6T & it doesn't really look all that good for a straight V6 4.ltre XR6 as well. Can some one please give me an HONEST ANSWER in whether I should buy, an XR6T or what. Regards Sullivan Brell

    Sullivan Brell of New Zealand Posted on 24 December 2012 9:44pm
  • Great review Smithy, I have own my xr 6 for 2 years it had 80,000 on the clock. i have now around 150,000 km,s know .the brakes were a problem ,i replaced the rotors and all good. Also a transmission cooler should be fitted .

    Mick Monaghan of Fennell Bay Posted on 16 November 2012 7:06pm
  • XR6 turbo 2003 mkII stock, had a few problems with it. Has 135k on the clock, owned it for four years and never thrashed it. Fuel tank cracked at around 100k, diff bush required replacement at same time. Gearbox required rebuild at 125,000k, engine mounts replaced around same time, high pressure fuel hose replaced same time, 135000k turbo actuator failed causing overboosting requiring turbo rebuild and actuator replaced. Had a few problems with wheel noise etc. Great car to drive but has cost me almost 8k in the last two and a half years.

    Out of pocket of Sydney Posted on 22 March 2012 3:10pm
  • Mine had 136,074 when I brought it in May 2011. XR6 BF 2007 mode I have never had problem with run real well

    susan appleby Posted on 19 January 2012 6:39pm
  • Bought my XR6T for $15,000 with 155000km. Now I have almost 180,000km now. I found the lack of power from dirty fuel lines and so forth. Had the heads done and fuel problems fixed and had it tuned. I have now 272.3 rear wheel, aproxx 16% and I have 315kw flywheel. Best car ever ESP a ute!

    Damien l of Sydney Posted on 04 August 2011 1:30pm
  • I have a 4speed auto ba xr6t 04 on 150000km and problems since 80000km have been rear break lines burst both sides, stuffed the front rotors from heavy breaking from gunning it. And wheel bear in front have gave way. Not massive problems but mainly breaks and wheels stuff. Engine is obviously strong if its always serviced which i do, i got it dynoed recently and it has 190rwkw still so it's going fine. My mate has a bf xr6t and it feels like a better gear box the 6speed but the ba 4speeds not crap either

    Andrew of Melbourne Victoria Posted on 06 July 2011 8:34pm
  • Any problems with big end bearing failure?

    Phik W of Vic Posted on 31 March 2011 8:58pm
  • I bought my XR6T with 220k on it, no problems have come out so far but there is a bit of a lack in power, maybe blocked cat or turbo needs a recon, great family car.

    james.d Posted on 17 October 2010 9:41am
  • Mine had 498,942 when i got it in Feb 09 from auctions for $900, was a 2002 Turbo model, car was literally brand new with a new auto done at 450,000 according to the service papers, currently i did some work to it, just a slightly bigger intercooler, a tune and it kicks at 346rwkW with stock engine internals! what a great car! 0-100 in less than 4.5 seconds in first gear!

    Serkan Sarbalkan of Perth Posted on 18 August 2010 7:51pm
  • My BA XR6 2003 has 79,000km on it. I never had a problem with it . Always serviced at Rally Motors

    BK Posted on 18 January 2010 11:53am
  • What is it with diff problems in these late Falcons? is it only the independant rear end jobs, diff problems in earlier models were a real rarity.

    Graeme Davenport Posted on 02 January 2010 11:48pm
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