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FPV GT 2005 Review

The GT has been a strong performer for FPV since it was born again for the noughties.

The F6 is one of the most significant newcomers of the year and we had planned to give you the verdict today on the start of the turbo era at FPV, but that was before clutch troubles hit the fast Falcon division.

All 80 Typhoons delivered to owners are about to get a new clutch and, to make sure there are no further mishaps after a pair of clutch failures during testing by Motor magazine, all company cars have been parked.

That's why our test this week is a Mark II Falcon GT.

It's a nice enough car, and has the six-speed manual gearbox the GT always deserved, but it's not a Typhoon. And we're also waiting for our first run in the F6 Tornado ute, also hit by the clutch drama.

The GT has been a strong performer for FPV since it was born again for the noughties and it has been one of our favourites since John Bowe first showed us what it could do in 2003.

Since then it has been our first choice among the Aussie muscle V8s, ahead of anything from Holden Special Vehicles and also up and away from a bunch of other performance cars, including a range of Alfas and even some of the Audi-BMW-Volvo hopefuls.

It is good value in the $60,000 bracket and has hit the sweet spot with a bunch of customers who dreamed about a GT in the 1970s but were too young or too poor.

Slipping into the GT MkII instantly reminds you of the strengths of the car: fine engine, well-balanced chassis, cushy seats. It is a top drive.

But we were also struck by the lacklustre steering wheel and two cheap-looking gauges on top of the centre console, copying the cabin work in the latest HSV cars.

The work on the MkII is a curious combination of engineering refinement and tweaking.

The main mechanical upgrade is on the close-ratio, six-speed manual transmission. It's more than just a standard Tremec T56, and has been reworked by Prodrive engineers and given a direct-linkage shifter, linear bearings on the shift rail and unique ratios for the GT.

The objective was six usable gears, without the "moon shot" top so common in six-speeders, and a smooth shift that doesn't require Popeye biceps.

The suspension has come in for work, too, partly thanks to advice from Bowe.

He thought the original GT front suspension was too soft, so the car is now 14 per cent stiffer in the front springs and 10 per cent in the rear. And the GTP model gets 19-inch alloy wheels.

Inside, the MkII pack includes dual-zone automatic airconditioning, a large colour screen in the centre of the dash for sound and climate readouts and oil temperature and pressure gauges. A sound upgrade is courtesy of a 100-watt amplifier, subwoofer and six-disc in-dash CD player.

Outside, the car is a bit more obvious in traffic, thanks to a Boss 290 Hood Decal and the new GT body stripes, which have a thinner strip over the fat base. It's a change from the double-banger stripes on the original GT, which were a big hit with owners.

THE MkII is a sweeter GT to drive, thanks partly to the gearbox and partly to the suspension.

Its ride is still impressively smooth and jar-free, and it stands up better in corners. It doesn't turn as instantly and enjoyably as the SV6 Commodore, our benchmark for locally made response, but it has a sharper feel than anything from the HSV family.

The gearbox is really good, with well-chosen ratios and a slick shift. The clutch is still heavy, but the gear lever is light and easy to use.

The six speeds mean it is easier to keep the quad-cam V8 running hard, which is part of the reason for buying a GT.

It doesn't have the big holes between gears of some of its rivals and the cruising gait is nice and relaxed. It usually takes only a single downshift to turn more than 3000 revs for instant overtaking and access to the real power beyond 4000.

The engine is a highlight, despite the recent introduction of a 6.0-litre Holden grunter in the HSV Senator, Grange and GTO Coupe.

The Ford motor is keen to spin and that's why it has a rev limiter and a warning buzzer to stop the action at 6000 revs, a mark we're not keen to explore with the rival Holden motors.

Our test car was fitted with the costly optional Brembo disc brakes, which add close to $6000 to the bottom line. They should be standard on any car with this pace, not just the GTP version.

We also enjoyed the fuel economy, which was pretty good at 13.7 litres/100km. The result is better than FPV's tests at 15.3 litres, but we did a fair bit of highway running when the engine was barely working and consumption was better than 10 litres/100km.

But we could never get really comfy in the seats, the extra dials on top of the dash look like a lash-up from Super Cheap and the steering wheel is a disgrace in a GT.

It should look different and make you feel special, but instead it's a reminder that the GT is really just another Falcon.

It's not just another Falcon when you turn the key and sample the lovely lumpy idle and gruff exhaust note, but the car deserves more.

Still, there are people who want a Falcon GT and only a Falcon GT. What they will find in the MkII is a car that is even better and still a benchmark for local performance cars.

THE GT is even nicer to drive but we think the cabin looks cheap and the steering wheel has to go.

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(base) 5.4L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $20,000 – 25,995 2005 FPV GT 2005 (base) Pricing and Specs
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