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Ford Falcon EcoLPi 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
7

Regular readers will be aware that one of our constant gripes is that Australian governments of all persuasions are making little or no attempt to encourage us to switch to low-emission vehicles. So the cancellation, in mid-2014, of the previous $2000 federal government grant on private-use LPG vehicles – including this week's test car, the Ford Falcon EcoLPi – while disappointing, should come as no surprise.

The change means that buyers must now pay the full $2500 surcharge if they opt for the cleaner burning LPG fuel over the equivalent petrol-fuelled Falcon. Based on previous calculations by Ford Australia it will take about two and a half years to recoup this amount. In the unlikely event of the current low petrol prices continuing for any length of time then it will take even longer.

Unless Ford changes its mind and follows the lead of Holden, who have decided to retain the Commodore name post-local production, then this will be the final generation of the Ford Falcon. And a sad day it will be with more than 3.5 million Falcons being sold since its debut in 1960.

The EcoLPi is now available in the entry level Falcon and XR6 models with both sedan, cab-chassis and Styleside ute bodies. Our test was in the XR6 sedan.

RELATED: 2015 FG X Ford Falcon six-cylinder vs EcoBoost

MORE: 2015 FG X Ford Falcon XR8 review | first drive

ALSO: 2015 Ford Falcon FG X | the story behind the story 

The most obvious exterior change is the new global Ford signature trapezoidal grille, which to my eyes doesn't work anywhere near as well in the big Falcon as it does in the smaller Fords. There's also a new chiselled headlight treatment and smoother, wraparound tail-lamps with LED technology on high-end models. The EcoLPi XR6 gets daytime running lights where the standard Falcon doesn't.

There's little to distinguish it from the petrol XR6

The first thing that you'll notice when you get into the EcoLPi Falcon is a delay of a second or so between pressing the start button and the engine firing up. Indeed, apart from the screw-in fuel cap and a slightly smaller boot (down 71 litres to 464 litres) there's little to distinguish it from the petrol XR6. That boot space is helped by the absence of any sort of spare tyre. A repair kit is supplied.

Engine

The EcoLPi six-cylinder engine generates 198kW and 409Nm at 3250 rpm, marginally higher (by 3kW and 18Nm) than the same engine when operating on 95RON unleaded petrol. EcoLPi's power peaks at 5000 rpm, 1000 revs lower than the petrol, and so can run out of steam a bit early.

Fuel consumption from the Ford Falcon EcoLPi is about 25 per cent higher than that for the equivalent six-cylinder petrol model. The 120-litre gas cylinder can only be filled to about 93 litres as space must be left for expansion of the liquid into gas form. In country running the fuel range can be over 700 kilometres, around town this will drop to about 400-500km.

The EcoLPi shares a five-star ANCAP safety rating with the whole FG X Falcon range.

Official ADR 81/02 testing with EcoLPi on the combined urban/highway cycle produced figures of 12.6L/100km on the EcoLPi XR6. On a 400km round trip to the NSW South Coast we averaged an acceptable 13.6L/100 km.

Similarly, CO2 emissions from the EcoLPi are 204g/km compared with 225g/km from the petrol XR6.

Safety

In addition to the standard safety features both Falcon EcoLPi models get a driver fatigue warning system; reversing camera; front and rear parking sensors; front seat side-thorax airbags; and with its dynamic stability control recalibrated to match the Ford EcoLPi engine, transmission and suspension.

The EcoLPi shares a five-star ANCAP safety rating with the whole FG X Falcon range.

Features

We found Bluetooth pairing to be frustratingly complex to such an extent that we almost went to the last resort and consulted the owner's handbook!

While such things are an annoyance to motoring journos who change cars every week they will easily become second nature to 'real' buyers and Ford's Microsoft-based Sync2 system certainly offers plenty of leading edge technology including emergency assistance and voice commands to control telephone, music, radio, air conditioning and satellite navigation (package option in XR6).

The system is accessed through a high-resolution 8-inch colour touch screen with four large colour-coded quadrants. It's easy to use with minimum distraction time.

The driving dynamics so much better than any of the SUVs

There's also digital radio, that is if you live in a city.

Driving

Coming off a succession of SUV road tests we found Falcon slightly more cramped on entry with the steering wheel needing to be set high and the seat low to avoid knee-scraping. Once underway all that was forgotten with the driving dynamics so much better than any of the SUVs. But that's the practicality vs performance trade-off battle that SUVs are clearly winning and contributing to the Falcon's demise.

Out on the open road Falcon EcoLPi XR6 is indistinguishable from its petrol-fuelled partner. Its quiet and comfortable when cruising and with excellent turn-in, plenty of rear grip and minimal body roll even under hard cornering.

Unlike other alternative fuels, LPG is readily available right across Australia

Verdict

The EcoLPI Falcon offers power, torque and engine performance coupled with the space, comfort and towing capability of a family sedan. Best of all, it brings down fuel costs and emissions levels to those normally only seen in a much smaller car.

Unlike other alternative fuels, LPG is readily available right across Australia and with the Ford EcoLPi system offers significant savings in vehicle running costs and immediate advantages in treatment of the environment. Both are becoming increasingly important factors when it comes to buying a family car.

The myFord Capped Price Servicing program now runs to seven years and 135,000km, whichever comes first and includes brake pad replacements albeit up to a maximum amount.

Pricing guides

$29,995
Based on 184 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$13,500
Highest Price
$65,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 4.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,100 – 13,750 2015 Ford Falcon 2015 (base) Pricing and Specs
(LPI) 4.0L, LPG, 6 SP AUTO $10,900 – 15,950 2015 Ford Falcon 2015 (LPI) Pricing and Specs
Ecoboost 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,100 – 13,750 2015 Ford Falcon 2015 Ecoboost Pricing and Specs
G6E 4.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $15,400 – 21,780 2015 Ford Falcon 2015 G6E Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Pricing Guide

$13,500

Lowest price, based on 175 car listings in the last 6 months

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