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The Ford Falcon G6E Turbo is carsguide's car of the year!


It would have been so easy for the Blue Oval team to drop the bundle as they worked towards producing a new car for a segment that was shrinking daily before their eyes.

Large family cars were dying. Holden had released the brilliant VE and Toyota the all-new Aurion into the last flush of demand as shoppers deserted the traditional market in droves searching for more fuel efficient and efficiently packaged models.

So what did Ford do as they dragged the development chain almost two years behind arch-rivals Holden?

They went ahead and built the best car ever made in Australia. Not just the best Ford... the best car.

That effort has now been recognised with a win in Australia's only nationwide newspaper best car award, the carsguide car of the year.

While the G6E Turbo is the focus car of the award, it is the entire FG range, and the dedication to detail within it, that has been recognised by the judging panel.

``Sure it's the top-end model but even the entry FG Falcon XT is a superb driver's car,'' said Neil McDonald of the Melbourne Herald Sun.

Keith Didham of the Hobart Mercury described the G6E Turbo as ``an excellent combination of power, handling, comfort and quality'' while The Courier-Mail's Mark Hinchliffe praised it for having ``all the elements of a safe family car''.

Carsguide national motoring editor Paul Gover acknowledged that choosing a COTY winner is very different to nominating the car you would like to drive home each night.

``For me, the BMW 135i is the personal best of 2008,'' Gover said. ``It is quick, comfy, rewarding and relatively good value.

``The Volkswagen Tiguan also ticks a lot of boxes for family work, and is the right size for people who really don't need to be driving trucks to collect their kids and groceries. But, at the end of the day, Ford Australia has done an exceptional job on the new Falcon.''

One huge box that the G6E Turbo ticked - as does the FG range - is safety.

It was the first Australian-built car to win the coveted five safety stars from the Australian New Car Assessment Program.

For a family car that achievement can not be overstated.

That attention to engineering detail showed through the G6E Turbo from start to finish.

The car is enjoyable to drive, both as a well-sorted chassis with balance and poise married to a ride quality you can't find in many far more expensive offerings and a drivetrain that punches far above what you would expect from a family sedan.

It has been no secret that Ford's turbocharged 4.0-litre straight-six engine is an absolute gem.

That it will continue to be made past 2010 just adds lustre to the Ford Australia badge.

The Falcon's 77 points out of a possible 80 in the final voting is a reflection of how much it impressed the judging panel. In the final count the G6E Turbo scored six top votes, one second and one third.

The Jaguar XF in second place received one top vote, three second-placed votes, two fifth and a sixth. That kept it one vote clear of the third placed BMW 135i Sport with one first place vote, one second place, three third, a fourth, a sixth and an eighth.

What the judges said

Kevin Hepworth (Daily Telegraph): The FG range is grand, the G6E Turbo sublime. Simply the best car ever made in Australia.

Paul Gover (Herald Sun): At the end of the day, Ford Australia has done an exceptional job on the new Falcon.

Neil McDonald (Herald Sun): Is this perhaps one of the best Falcons ever? Sure it's the top-end model but even the entry FG Falcon XT is a superb driver's car.

Keith Didham (Hobart Mercury): Simply the best car by an Outback mile to wear a home-grown Ford badge. Excellent combination of power, handling, comfort and quality.

Mark Hinchliffe (The Courier-Mail): Simply the best Falcon ever built and perhaps the best car made in Australia. It combines all the elements of a safe family car.

Stuart Martin (Adelaide Advertiser): Without a doubt the best Falcon to roll out of Broadmeadows, perhaps even the best-ever Australian-made car.

Neil Dowling (Perth Sunday Times): Europe would be proud to call this its own in all departments... How did this delightful family car ever rise from the bureaucratic mire of Ford?

Karla Pincott (carsguide.com.au): Not only the best Ford Australia has built, but also a contender for the best car Australia has built. Full stop.

 

But wait! There's more. The Ford has won the carsguide people's choice award too!  You love the Falcon as much as we do.  Read all about it.

How they rated

1. Ford Falcon G6E Turbo - our triumphant winner!!
Points: 77
Price: $54,990
Engine: 4L/inline 6-cylinder
Fuel: 11.7L/100km

2. Jaguar XF Diesel
Points: 59
Price: $105,500, as tested $113,845
Engine: 2.7L/V6 twin turbo diesel
Fuel: 7.5L/100km

It is a crying shame that this Jaguar  - the best thing the company has done in a generation - should finish with the runner-up laurel.

To its eternal credit the XF Jaguar makes you smile - unlike many of its predecessors that made owners cry.

There is a sense of theatre about the XF that surprises and delights in equal measure. In the modern era there are precious few cars, regardless of price, that will delight with their design, entrance with their special elements and not disappoint with their dynamics.

It is obvious that under the stewardship of the late Jaguar boss, Geoff Polites, designer Ian Callum and his team were encouraged to lighten the load of the XF's owners.

In doing that Callum set the engineers a task they met in spades. First up, there's a starter button that throbs with life, a gear-selector knob that rises from the centre-console into your hand, air vents that sweep open as the car comes to life and a touch-activated brass rondel set into the dash to open the glovebox.

Significantly, the engineering of the XF didn't stop with distractions of the cabin but flowed unabated through to the car's performance.

Cruising down the highway, attacking a twisty mountain road or defying the worst of Australia's dismal road surfaces are as one to the XF.

The twin-turbo 2.7-litre diesel V6 is no fine-tuned sprinter but it is strong and it is quick on the move; call for effort anywhere in the mid-range and the 435Nm of torque is ready and waiting. At north of $100,000 the XF is not cheap - Jaguar has never been known to underprice - but at what price fun?

The feel-good factor is so strong it can even be forgiven its greatest shortcoming: the overly light and over-assisted steering.

A tour de force for its new Indian owners and a runner-up that can hold its head high in any company.


3. BMW 135i Coupe
Points: 58
Price: $72,230, as tested $77,951
Engine: 3L/inline 6-cylinder turbocharged
Fuel: 9.6L/100km

Every so often a car company goes back to what actually made people sit up and take notice of it. BMW probably does it more often than most but with the 135i Sport those Bavarian wizards have hit the nail on the head.

This little beauty is performance driving at the very top end. It has been said plenty of times before but this car is within a shout of an M3 at around half the price.

Beat that for value.

Its small car, big engine formula equates to a whole lot of sizzle with zero to hero in a tad over five seconds. Think of V8 performance from a compact coupe and you get the picture.

The baby's Bimmer's edgy styling won't win any beauty prizes and the two-door is a pain in the practicality stakes - but, then, the back seat isn't going to get a lot of use because it's so tight for space.

This is an indulgent driver's car with a Jekyll and Hyde personality: well mannered, almost docile, when not pushed but a master blaster when you ride the turbo-packing surge of power .

Peak torque of 400Nm from the twin turbo six-cylinder is on tap from 1300 to 5000rpm.

Unfortunately, BMW were not able to meet the request for a manual version of this car for testing but the six-speed automatic is a nice package.

The 135i Sport offers brilliant performance, reassuring handling, bullsy brakes and razor sharp steering which can be controlled by the throttle.

The firm ride, a product of the sport suspension coupled with run flat tyres, is nowhere near as uncomfortable nor crude as on some other BMW models - or we may just be getting used to it.

Good enough to be a winner on any given day.


4. Audi A4 1.8T
Points: 57
Price: $53,500, as tested $57,526
Engine: 1.8L/4-cylinder turbocharged
Fuel: 7.4L/100km

Pick an Audi - any Audi- and you will find people who love them, and those that don't.

In this case it was the A4 1.8-litre low-pressure turbocharged A4 - a sweet little unit that shows the brand off to advantage.

The new styling gives the car far more presence than the previous model and there are enough delight features to keep a new owner buzzing for weeks.

It is not by accident that Audi has been steadily closing the gap on traditional rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the Australian market.

The company makes a good - and good-looking - car.

While it isn't a performance star it does get along nicely and without any nasty surprises. The tractability of the engine with its peak 250Nm on tap from 1500rpm to 4500rpm wins it plenty of bonus points.

Driving the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission which, when combined with broad output range, results in a smooth and swift (when required) journey that won't break the bank when it comes to filling up.

The CVT doesn't flare with revs like some others of its ilk, the ride quality is better-sorted than its predecessors and the overall package is one of quality, confidence and competence.

Again a space-saver spare is a drawback and the less-than-inspiring steering also came in for comment.


5. Honda Accord Euro 2.4
Points: 53
Price: $32,990
Engine: 2.4L/4-cylinder
Fuel: 8.9L/100km

The new Japanese-built Euro is a sparkler despite its rather military body styling. The engine is smooth and willing, the comfort and noise insulation up with the best and value for money makes it one of the first looked at in its class.

Replacing the first Accord Euro was never going to be easy. It was a great step forward for the brand's styling... and this one is by no means a disappointment.

Honda's clean-sheet approach created a bigger, brighter and more refined prestige family sedan that is strong on safety, comfort and quality and yet it retains all the cues of the first generation.

Though structurally fresh, Honda made only limited mechanical changes, reviving the previous Euro's smallish 2.4-litre engine while retaining the slick six-speed manual box.

This is a premium Japanese car - one of the few Hondas actually made in Japan - that rides with European solidity with predictable cornering that acknowledges its taut chassis. Some found the ride a little too plush but generally it is an impressive step forward.

The fuel economy is not top rank and the only other repeated criticism of the car was in regard to some interior plastics that belied too readily the car's sharp pricing.


6. Volkswagen Tiguan TDi
Points: 40
Price: $38,290, as tested $39,080
Engine: 2L/4-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Fuel: 7.9L/100km

It was a long time coming but when it finally arrived Volkswagen's entrant in the compact SUV market made everybody sit up and take notice.

While it may have a funny name - made up, they say, from tiger and iguana - there is nothing silly about the Tiguan.

For reasons best know to themselves VW ignored the burgeoning compact market for an unseemly time, prefering to concentrate on their large Touareg SUV.

Regardless, the Tiguan was worth the wait. This second cousin to a Golf - it rides on a platform derived from the Touran people mover, which in turn started life as a Golf - is a delight to drive, belying the fact it is a soft-roader.

With few of the vices associated with many SUVs trying to be all things to all people, the Tiguan offers a relaxed drive.

The well-proven 2-litre turbodiesel is suited to the car, with ample performance from its 103kW and 320Nm available over a reasonable spread.

Interior space is good, with room and comfort guaranteed for four adults and space left over for a child in the rear seat. Boot space is sufficient for a small family weekend away but there are better in the market.

A space-saver spare and an automatic that displayed considerable reluctance to shift of its own accord were recurrent criticisms.


7. Holden Sportwagon SS
Points: 33
Price: $48,290, as tested $52,730
Engine: 6L/V8
Fuel: 13.8L/100km

When the VE Calais won its gong as Carsguide Car Of The Year in 2006, praise for the Holden design team was unstinting. It was a superb rendition of the family sedan in the modern world.

At the time it wasn't even certain - at least publicly - that a station wagon-version was on the cards. The popular thinking at the time was that in a shrinking market, and with the popularity of the Ute, there were fewer and fewer reasons to invest in a niche model.

Thankfully, the powers at GM had kept the wagon in the plans and the Sportwagon  - in this case the SS  - proves it was not only a good decision but that those in the design team hadn't let their game slip. As was the case with the sedan, the Sportwagon loses nothing to some more expensive Euro load carriers. It is an eminently suitable long-distance tourer and hauler with an enormous flat-floored cargo area, plenty of airy cabin space and comfortable seats. Perfect for the summer driving holiday.

The V8 engine is smooth and powerful and capably interpreted by the smooth, six-speed transmission. However, the 13.9 litres per 100km thirst and an ageing interior (even after just three years), count against it.


8. Mitsubishi Evolution X
Points: 26
Price: $71,690
Engine: 2L/4-cylinder turbocharged
Fuel: 10.5L/100km

Each generation of the Lancer Evo has, to a greater or lesser degree, advanced the concept of an affordable street-performance sedan. There have been some that would be impossible to live with on a daily basis _ raw and rabid but desirable for that very character.

The Evo X, or as they insist on calling it in Australia, the Lancer Evolution, is no less desirable and a whole lot more liveable.

There is a lot more technology than ever before in the Evo - including a paddle-shift twin-clutch gearbox - but the basics are the same as always. A high-powered turbo engine and all-wheel drive in a compact four-door body draped with wings and things to advertise its place in the go-fast world.

The latest Evo is much more sophisticated, as Mitsubishi began with a bigger and more rigid body to improve everything from crash safety to cornering grip. It has great seats, great brakes and a great sound system.

It is, however, thirsty. The tank is too small, and the hard, performance edge can get tiring if you just want to dribble through the traffic to work or take a long interstate run.

People who like Evos will love the new one. But in the end, the car's appeal will be just that little bit too narrow for the average driver.


9. Mazda6 Classic Hatch
Points: 25
Price: $34,990
Engine: 2.5L/4-cylinder
Fuel: 8.8L/100km

The very fact that a car as good as the Mazda6 could only make ninth place in the final 10 is an indication of the overall quality of the new cars on the market. The general feeling of the judges was that while the Mazda6 is a quality vehicle, well engineered and nicely screwed together it just fell short on being a major step forward from the previous model.

In essence, time has caught up with the Mazda6. That may be the price the car pays for having such a watershed predecessor.

There is no doubt the original 6 was a breakthrough for Mazda and Japan as it was one of the first into the ``Euro-Jap ''world, combining European looks and driving dynamics with Japanese quality and value.

The new 6, which was totally overhauled this year, still does a great job. And it is still good value. Lots of people also like the way it looks, its taut chassis and the roomy cabin. However, there is just not the same wow factor as the original. There was some comment over the suspension package and road noise - but the real disappointment with the Mazda6 was not that it was in anyway poor but simply that having outstripped its rivals previously, it had failed to maintain that winning margin.


10. Fiat 500 1.4 Sport
Points: 12
Price: $27,990
Engine: 1.4L/4-cylinder
Fuel: 6.3L/100km

There was universal agreement that the little Fiat 500 was a sweet-looking thing and one of the better retro-styling exercises.

There was also almost universal agreement that in the world of fashion accessories, it would be one of the top-of-the-list items.

Unfortunately for the Fiat, it didn't quite score the same high acceptance as a car.

As a dinky little city runabout, the Fiat 500 Lounge ticked plenty of boxes: small enough to squeeze through city lanes; petite enough to park without stress, and fuel efficient.

However, it was the wallet pain at purchase that brought the 500 down a peg or two.

Even out of town the 500's road manners were quite acceptable. The 1.4-litre pumps out a respectable 74kW and it will happily maintain 110km/h in sixth gear, with the tacho buzzing around 3000 revs. That's enough to keep pace with B-doubles, which dwarf the baby Fiat and can buffet it around. Tackling hills, though, requires liberal use of the sweet shifting-gearbox to maintain momentum.

Cabin ambience is a plus and most drivers will find an agreeable driving position - even if the seats offer little by way of bolstering.

But luggage space behind the rear seats is minuscule - so pack lightly.

 

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