HSV GTS 2014 review
The HSV GTS has become an instant classic. The fastest car designed, engineered and built in Australia has a waiting list that stretches three months and beyond.
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The Ford Falcon GT-F marks the beginning of the end for the Australian manufacturing industry. It is the first model to be dropped from the line-up before Ford closes its car assembly line in Broadmeadows and Geelong engine factory in October 2016.
Fittingly, the GT-F (the “F” stands for “final edition”) will leave the Ford Falcon range on a high note. Ford has thrown every piece of available technology into its performance-car icon. The only tragedy is that all these changes didn’t happen years ago. Perhaps then we wouldn’t be writing an obituary for such an iconic car in 2014.
The price of $77,990 plus on-road costs for the Ford Falcon GT-F is academic. All 500 cars have been wholesaled to dealers and almost all of them have names on them.
It’s the most expensive Falcon GT of all time, but it’s still close to $20,000 less than the Holden Special Vehicles GTS. To be frank, Ford should be commended for not charging more for it.
Numbers 1 and 500 will be auctioned for a charity which is yet to be decided. Number 14 (for 2014) will also be up for auction. For the car geeks: numbers 1 and 14 are the media test cars (001 is a blue manual and 014 is a grey auto). Number 351 went to a customer in Queensland after the Gold Coast dealer, Sunshine Ford, won it in a dealer ballot and gave it to one of their eight GT-F buyers.
Don’t believe the hype about the 400kW engine. The GT-F has 351kW when tested to government standards that all car makers use. Ford says it is capable of 400kW in “ideal conditions” (such as cool mornings) in what is known as “transient overboost”. But, in such conditions, all engines have the ability to produce more power than their published claims. It’s just that they choose not to say so.
The Ford bodies who let slip about the 400kW were told by Ford PR minders not to go there. But their passion got them better of them in the moment. I can’t blame them, to be honest. They should be proud.
The GT-F is based on the R-Spec released in August 2012, so the suspension is the same, as is launch control (so you can get the perfect start). But Ford engineers refined the software to make it launch better.
It has a G-force meter for the first time now that a new engine control module has been introduced. The GT R-Spec used the Bosch 9 stability control system but Ford says the new ECU opened up more possibilities for the GT-F. The build number now also appears on the centre screen on start up.
Styling is the only disappointing part for diehard fans. It’s fair to say they, and the rest of the industry, were expecting more visual impact on the Ford Falcon GT-F. The design changes are restricted to black stripes on the bonnet, boot and roof, and a black flash down the doors on both sides. And special stitching on the seats.
At least the stickers had input from the Ford Shelby team in the US. Broadmeadows sought advice on how to best apply the stickers without having them peel prematurely in the hot Aussie sun. True story.
Thankfully Ford went to the trouble of getting badges made for “GT-F” and “351”, rather than stickers. To keep the power output a secret, Ford told badge suppliers the figure was 315 and then changed the order to 351 at the last minute.
The wheels are painted charcoal (the same as they were on the previous Ford Performance Vehicles F6 turbo sedan) and the mirror scalps, rear wing and door handles are painted black. There are also gloss black highlights in the headlights and front bumper. A "shark fin" aerial mounted in the roof improves reception (the aerial was previously embedded in the rear window).
Six airbags and a five-star safety rating and, erm, plenty of power for overtaking. Ford says the engine hit its straps above 4000rpm in every gear except first (it would just wheel spin otherwise).
To improve rear end traction, Ford has fitted “staggered” wheels (the rears are wider than the front (19x8 versus 19x9 in case you’re wondering). It has also wisely fitted six-piston Brembo brakes to the front, and four-piston Brembos on the rear, as standard.
Ford V8s have always sounded glorious, and the same is true of the Falcon GT-F. It sounds incredible, even if it’s not the quickest car ever made in Australia.
At the media preview inside Ford’s top secret test track between Melbourne and Geelong we had one of the company’s test drivers make about two dozen attempts at a 0 to 100km/h time (with and without me as a passenger).
The best we could get -- repeatedly -- was a time of 4.9 seconds after cooling the engine and warming the rear tyres and loading the throttle by holding the brakes before take-off. This makes it 0.2 seconds slower than the HSV GTS, its arch rival.
But this deficit is academic. Ford fans rarely consider Holdens and vice versa, and this is the fastest and most powerful Ford that Australia will ever create.
The GT-F continues to deliver the aural delight and the driving thrills. The brakes never give up, just like the engine, which seems to have no limits to its power.
In automatic and manual guise it just wants to run free. If you’re ever lucky enough to get it on a race track (Ford has added adjustable rear suspension for track fanatics) you’ll find its top speed limited to 250km/h. In the right conditions it could do much more than that.
The suspension is still tuned for comfort rather than handling but the target audience won’t mind that. In the end, the Ford Falcon GT-F is a fitting full stop. It’s just a pity this is the last of its type. The people who built it, and the fans who collect them, don’t deserve to have cars like this taken away from them. But the sad reality not enough of us are into V8s any more. We’re all buying SUVs and family-friendly utes, says Ford.
It should look more special than this but it is without doubt the best Falcon GT ever. May she rest in peace.
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