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Ford Falcon XT EcoLPi 2011 review

EXPERT RATING
7
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  • Rear leg
  • Head room
  • Clever boot
  • Safety gear
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  • No USB jack
  • No satnav
  • looks nothing special

FAMILIES wanting a big, comfortable and economical car - that's most of us - are ideal buyers of Ford's new LPG Falcon. So why isn't there a queue outside the Ford factory for a big car that costs $7.50 to drive 100km (compared with a petrol Falcon's $13.36) and will travel a similar 700km before running out of juice? Or gas. 

It should be a no-brainer for households but instead, Ford is reporting much greater interest from corporates and government authorities. The EcoLPi sales represent 18 per cent of total Falcon sales, so interest is relatively strong. Now, private motorists will have to get behind the wheel to witness the benefits.

Value

On paper it looks good. The dedicated LPG-engined Falcon is $2500 more than its petrol sister at $42,790. Government rebate applies to private buyers of a new car and is $2000. So, the LPG effectively costs $500 and - compared with an equivalent petrol-fuelled Falcon - the car's economy makes the gas car's price equivalent at seven months and produces a potential annual fuel saving of $880 after that. The XT EcoLPi tested had all the comfort, features, handling and even a bit more performance than the petrol model. Yes, the boot is slightly smaller but the difference is marginal.

Design

Looks exactly like a petrol Falcon. Only a boot badge indicates its fuel type. The Falcon looks better each year and the latest is a neat big car that, by virtue of clever body tapers, doesn't look big and bulky. In fact, it's only 171mm longer than the "mid-size" Ford Mondeo.

Though the underpinnings and the body have lots in common with the AU model of 1998, the intervening years have smoothed out the roof to make easier entry via the rear doors, bulked up the AU's "organic" look, refined the drivetrain and greatly boosted build quality. If one thing stands out, it's the excellent occupant comfort.

Technology

LPG as a vehicle fuel produces 35 per cent less CO2 emissions than petrol and has an octane rating of about 100. So it's green and powerful - like the Incredible Hulk, actually. But it's not as fuel efficient - the EcoLPi gets 12.5 L/100km and the equivalent petrol Falcon gets 9.9 L/100km.

The saving is in the purchase price of the fuel, about 55c/L for LPG and $1.40/L for petrol. Ford's liquid-injection of the LPG replaces the temperamental vapour-gas delivery to make impressive improvements to starting performance, power and torque, reliability and economy. LPG now stays in liquid form from the tank to the combustion chamber.

Other than the pause when switching on the engine, you wouldn't know this runs on LPG. Ford has included a priming system so much of the LPG is automatically sent to the engine as you open the driver's door. The boot remains pretty big - helped by the split, fold-down rear seats - and the only intrusion is the side-mounted high-pressure fuel pump box.

Safety

LPG vehicles came in for some slamming after a bus fire earlier this year, but it's regarded as being no more a danger than a petrol-fuelled car. The Falcon  has a five-star crash rating, six airbags and all the electronic aids. It is a sure-footed car with excellent dynamics, quality steering and brakes. We can get overwhelmed by imported cars but really the Falcon equals or betters most.

Driving

Previous LPG-only tests were okay, but other than the savings at the bowser, nothing to write home about. This new one is very different. There's a two-second pause between turning the ignition key and the starter motor engaging. You get used to it. But there's virtually no engine cranking - the engine fires up immediately.

The EcoLPi feels every bit as smooth as the petrol - which is far better than the Falcon's main rival - and is both quiet and responsive. It is listed as having the same power and torque as the petrol, but is more responsive and is likely to be quicker in acceleration.

Perhaps Ford has dumbed the LPG engine down to match the petrol. The six-speed auto dovetails perfectly with that engine delivery. Great handling, excellent comfort and low noise from the drivetrain and suspension make it such an easy car to operate. It works well in the city but show it an open road and it excels.

Verdict

This is such a surprisingly good drive that the fuel saving is only the icing on an appetising cake.

Pricing guides

$14,888
Based on 248 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$6,500
Highest Price
$34,888

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
G6 4.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $6,900 – 10,670 2011 Ford Falcon 2011 G6 Pricing and Specs
G6 (lpg) 4.0L, LPG, 4 SP AUTO $6,500 – 10,010 2011 Ford Falcon 2011 G6 (lpg) Pricing and Specs
G6 (lpi) 4.0L, LPG, 6 SP AUTO $7,200 – 11,220 2011 Ford Falcon 2011 G6 (lpi) Pricing and Specs
G6 50th Anniversary 4.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $6,400 – 9,900 2011 Ford Falcon 2011 G6 50th Anniversary Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$6,500

Lowest price, based on 229 car listings in the last 6 months

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