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FPV GT-P BA 2005 review


But this is the 21st century and things have changed. Today, even the born-again Falcon GT is better as an automatic. Yes, truly.

We have driven the latest car from Ford Performance Vehicles and we would choose the six-speed automatic ahead of the traditional manual.

Even Ferrari has moved away from old-style manual shifts to the latest generation of Formula One-inspired manu-matics.

Explore the 2005 FPV GT-P range

Volkswagen's Golf GTi, with its breakthrough Double Shaft Gearbox, shows what can be done when you apply technology and automatic programming to a manual gearbox.

Ford has made a similar switch with its latest ZF automatic gearbox, which is about as good as it gets in the self-shifting world.

The imported gearbox has just been fitted across the BF Falcon range, right up to the king of the hill, the GT-P.

It comes with the promise of silky shifts and the chance to still go manual with a touch-change mode. This means a forward push for a downshift and a slight backwards tug to move up a gear.

There is a lot more than the self-shifting six-speed to the BF upgrade at FPV, but the gearbox is the star.

FPV spent a lot of time, money and effort on the upgrade. Much effort was concentrated on the new-age turbo twins, the F6 Typhoon and the Tornado, but the GT and the GT-P also came in for significant makeovers.

Each has a new look with a fresh, more aggressive front, upgraded brakes, 19-inch alloy wheels, twin-outlet exhaust, extra engine electronics and even a wider selection of new-look stripes along the sides.

It's easy to see the changes and the GT and GT-P really stand out.

The timing is good because Holden is winding down its Monaro program. There will still be HSV coupes next year, but the muscle-car pacesetter is going.

FPV managing director David Flint says: "The BF FPV range represents a significant step forward in performance, safety, efficiency and, most importantly, the fun of driving.

"These cars are fabulous and continue to deliver on our brand promise of providing great-value, high-performance vehicles."

Those are big promises, but the GT has been a favourite of ours since it returned to the Ford catalogue, and we were keen to get into the '05 update car.

On the Road

WE WERE so impressed when we first drove the GT that we gave it a score of 19/20.

And there is still a lot to like in the latest FPV GT-P.

The engine is eager and has more than enough go for any job, the ride is sublime, and the new look makes a suitable impact.

It is a great car to hustle down through a favourite set of curves, and the brakes — now with six-piston Brembo calipers from Italy inside the front alloys — are great.

The gearbox is just plain fantastic. It means you don't have to suffer a series of leg-press exercises on the clutch in traffic or fight with a heavy manual shift.

Yet it still has six well-spread ratios and the chance to take full manual control. Sweet.

It should be the first choice with every Falcon buyer, from the XT right through to the GT-P. But . . .

The GT-P was a disappointment in several areas and the car has slipped back on our ratings scale, despite the latest improvements.

How can that be, particularly when it has so much good stuff?

First, the GT-P test car had totally unacceptable tyre noise. At first we thought the boot was open, because there was so much drumming, but it seems to be a reaction between the grippy Dunlop rubber and coarse-chip country roads.

John Bowe, who has done a lot of development driving for FPV, believes that earlier harsh treatment — which would have "feathered" the edges of the tread blocks in the tyres — could have caused the problem.

We also found the driver's seat was set far too high, even on the lowest setting.

FP-V says this is a problem, and believes it could be down to the six electric motors used for seat adjustment in the GT-P, which has a noticeably higher seat position than the GT.

We also missed the raunchy rocking at idle, which has been tuned out of the quad-cam V8 to meet new emission regulations, and found the fuel consumption was far too easy to push beyond 17 litres/100km with keen driving.

Still, the GT-P is a very good car and the six-speed auto makes it more enjoyable for more of the time.

But we came to the hot Falcon at the same time that one of the last Monaro coupes was running through the test garage — and the Ford did not match the Holden for feedback and seat-of-the-pants driving enjoyment.

It is a sublimely enjoyable muscle car, and never better as an automatic, but it just didn't ring our bells.


The Bottom Line

SOMEHOW, the Falcon GT is not as good as it was, even with the marvellous new six-speed auto.

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Range and Specs

(base) 5.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $13,000 – 18,810 2005 FPV GT-P 2005 (base) Pricing and Specs
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