Ford Falcon 2005 Review
All four big local guns are fighting back. The new Mitsubishi 380 has already hit the street. Next year Holden will launch the VE Commodore and Toyota will release the Avalon replacement. Ford is also fighting back, but with a different approach.
Improvements under the skin of the Falcon range include a new six-speed automatic and fuel savings across the board.
Ford's approach with the BF has been heavy on engineering and light on styling.
It's no surprise, because the BA was a big body switch from the unloved AU Falcon.
But it also gives Ford the chance to reply to Holden's new VE Commodore.
Though Ford is yet to confirm it, we can expect to see a BFII in the second half of next year with some styling changes.
A key part of the BF upgrade is the new ZF six-speed automatic transmission that is optional on some models and standard on the top-end cars.
This self-shifter is the same unit, with some small changes, that is used in the top-shelf Jaguars and the BMW 7-Series.
The base Falcons will continue to use an upgraded version of the four-speed automatic.
The Barra 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine was significantly upgraded when the BA hit the road, adding dual camshafts with variable timing, but new camshaft phasers can now operate independently.
The camshafts can be controlled more accurately to reduce fuel consumption as well as to improve torque delivery.
Power lifts by 8kW to 190kW at 5250 revs and there is 3Nm more torque for a total of 383Nm that kicks in at 2500 revs.
Ford promises fuel consumption improvements of about 5 per cent on Falcons with the four-speed automatic and up to 11 per cent with the six-speed auto.
Styling changes have been limited to new bumpers, tail lights, new wheels and some interior seat and centre console tweaks.
The XR6 is available with a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic as standard. The six-speed auto costs an extra $1250.
It has 17-inch alloy wheels, colour trip computer and sound system control screen, airconditioning, cruise control, XR sports seats, body kit with front fog lights, electric windows and rear split-fold seats.
Standard safety gear includes driver and passenger airbags, anti-skid brakes and traction control.
Electronic stability control has been introduced for XR6 Turbo, XR8 and Fairmont Ghia models.
ON THE ROAD
You won't pick how much Ford has improved its new Falcon unless you drive one.
Only Ford fanatics would pick the different BF front bumper or tail lights.
The new paint range, including the loud Menace coat of the XR6 test car — a bright shade of plum — helps some of the new XRs to stand out. But all this is minor.
Slide inside and there is not much to indicate the improvements either, except for the number six on the new automatic gearshift. That is the biggest news about the BF upgrade.
The transmission is terrific and has put a gap on its Australian rivals.
The ratios give a great spread, allowing punchy take-offs yet still quiet cruising, and the actual shift is smooth and refined.
The touch-change manual mode really encourages you to take control, with almost instant shifts and full manual control.
Unlike a lot of cars, including Tiptronic Porsches and the Audi S4 we have just driven, the Falcon will hold right to the red line without making an unwanted automatic upshift.
And Ford sets the touch-change lever for push-forward downshifts, the choice of BMW and other driver-focused companies.
It is well worth the $1250 over the regular four-speed automatic.
The power pack in the latest Falcon is as impressive as most European cars.
This engine is much sweeter than we expected and has been well matched to the new transmission.
The combination is also economical.
There is torque from little more than idle and the in-line six is eager to rev to its red line, unlike earlier Falcon sixes.
The development of the 4.0-litre engine just shows how quickly car companies can move.
Only five years ago, you had to buy a V8 to get such punch.
The upgraded Falcon engine is smoother and more refined at all engine speeds.
One of the first things you notice about the BF is how quiet it is inside — a big improvement.
The XR6 is still as much fun as ever to punt along a twisting road and has good steering feel and little body roll in turns.
The ride is quite comfortable and absorbs most of the bumps and lumps with little fuss.
The seats are good, but the steering wheel still feels clumsy.
The centre console and dashboard were upgraded substantially from AU to BA in 2002 and is still a local leader with its quality colour screen and good plastics. But the stereo buttons feel a bit light and cheap.
It is also a bother that some of the buttons are hidden behind the steering wheel.
These are small gripes in a car that is very impressive and a cut above its opposition.
Range and Specs
|Classic||4.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO||$4,290 – 6,270||2005 Ford Falcon 2005 Classic Pricing and Specs|
|Futura||4.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO||$2,495 – 5,990||2005 Ford Falcon 2005 Futura Pricing and Specs|
|Futura (LPG)||4.0L, LPG, 4 SP AUTO||$3,999 – 5,990||2005 Ford Falcon 2005 Futura (LPG) Pricing and Specs|
|SR||5.4L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO||$3,990 – 4,999||2005 Ford Falcon 2005 SR Pricing and Specs|
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