Will the addition of a four-cylinder engine be enough to reverse a slide in large car sales? Ford hopes it will, as it rolls out its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine for the Falcon this week.
The engine, dubbed EcoBoost, uses turbocharging and direct injection to deliver an impressive 179kW and 353Nm. While this is 16kW and 42Nm less than the Falcon's venerable 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine, it is more torque than the rival V6 Commodore and Aurion, so there should be no doubts about performance.
Explore the 2012 Ford Falcon Range
Ford's in-house testing shows the EcoBoost Falcon sprints to 100km/h in 7.5 seconds, just half a second behind the 75kg heavier six-cylinder version.
Matched to the standard six-speed automatic transmission, fuel use is quoted at 8.1 litres/100km in the base XT version. This makes it the most frugal large petrol-powered car made in Australia. And, while it needs 95 RON to achieve this 18 per cent gain over the six-cylinder version, Ford says it will run on 91.
The same engine is used by Volvo in the S60 and V60 but the Falcon produces 2kW more power and 30Nm more torque yet is a similar weight. Ford also uses a 144kw and 300Nm version of the EcoBoost engine in the mid-sized Mondeo.
Price and models
The EcoBoost engine is available on the XT, G6 and G6E at the same price as the 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine, starting at $37,235. The cooling system includes twin fans and the intercooler has been adapted to suit rear-wheel drive.
The six-speed automatic transmission has been tuned to deliver linear response and new 16-inch low-rolling resistance tyres are fitted to the XT. Side curtain airbags and rear parking sensors are now standard.
Previous experience with the Volvo and Mondeo shows the engine to be punchy, elastic and refined. After a slight pause as the turbo spins up, the thrust is strong, smooth and linear all the way to the red line. Rolling response is instant and willing.
Ford engineers travelled thousands of kilometres in EcoBoost prototypes during outback and cold-weather testing, including altitude testing towing a trailer up and down Mount Hotham in Victoria's high country and hot weather testing in Arizona.
Ride, handling and steering were tuned to match the lighter engine, the ride height was lowered 13mm on the XT versions and additional noise insulation was developed.