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Used Ford Falcon review: 1998-2000

The XR6 has been a stunning success for Ford since its introduction in 1990. It was a bold move by Ford and Tickford at the time to build a six-cylinder sports sedan for a market that was brought up on a diet of performance V8s, but it has been a shining star through the tough times that Ford has recently endured.

Much has been said and written about the AU’s edge styling, much of it justified, but the XR6 was a tough looking car that didn’t deserve the same criticism as the mainstream AUs.

With a sharp body kit, hot motor and sports handling the XR6 is one AU you’d be proud to park in your driveway.

MODEL WATCH

The XR6 had the same edgy lines as the other AUs, but with some clever reworking of the front and rear cosmetics it took on an aggressive look that clearly separated it from the rest of range.

A unique grille and four headlamp treatment and a lower lip that evoked images of the AU V8 Supercar distinguished the XR6’s front end. Out back the spoiler was larger and was claimed to generate greater down force.

There were two 4.0-litre single overhead cam six-cylinder engines available, the High Performance HP engine fitted as standard to the XR6, and the optional Variable Camshaft Timing VCT engine, which was fitted to the XR6 VCT.

Both were virtually new from the sump plug up. They had a new stiffer block, new ‘high swirl’ cylinder head with higher compression, new crankshaft, con rods, pistons, gaskets and a cross-bolted alloy oil pan, and that was on top of sequential fuel-injection and new lightweight valve train.

Power of the HP six was up to 164 kW at 5000 rpm with torque peaking at 366 Nm at 3150 rpm. The VCT version developed more, 168 kW at 5300 rpm and 370 Nm at 3500 rpm.

Compare that to the VT II V6 Commodore S with 147 kW at 5200 rpm and 304 Nm at 3600 rpm and it’s clear the XR6 is a barnstorming sports sedan.

Many of the changes were aimed at making the Falcon six smoother, something that was desperately needed. With the extra block stiffness, along with the rigid cast aluminium sump and a new eight counterweight crankshaft that was both stiffer and lighter the AU’s Intech engine was much smoother than any previous Falcon six.

Transmission choices were a clunky five-speed manual or a four-speed adaptive shift auto.

The XR6’s suspension was a combo of double wishbones at the front and Watts Multilink live axle with coil springs at the rear, all of which was retuned for sportier handling with revised springs, shocks and anti-roll bars, and a lower ride height. Double wishbone IRS was an option, but standard on the XR6 VCT.

Braking was by discs all round with ABS standard. Alloy wheels, 16-inch five-spoke, were standard, and there was a 17-inch option available.

Inside was typically Falcon with lots of cheap looking plastic components made to look even worse by the styling which was mix of edge and the oval as previewed on the Taurus.

That aside there were plenty of features to satisfy, including a leather-wrapped Momo steering wheel, air-con, remote central locking, immobiliser, six-speaker sound, and sports seats.

IN THE SHOP

The Falcon generally stands up reasonably well, but not as well as some others that have better build quality. Every car maker has build quality problems, but Ford does seem to suffer its fair share.

Electrics are a problem, particularly things like the electronic control modules, which are expensive to replace.

Expect to replace brake rotors between 50,000 and 75,000 km depending on the type of driving you do. Smart mechanics will skim the rotors when they change pads to extract extra life from them and save you some money.

Watch the temperature gauge for any tendency to climb into the upper range. Also keep an close eye on the coolant level for any loss of coolant, and make sure to use the correct coolant as the alloy head can give trouble if not looked after.

Check service records, as Falcons are typical of cars that are neglected by uncaring owners, although XR6 owners tend to be more caring in the way they maintain their cars.

OWNERS VIEW

Holden fan Steve Phillips had his heart set on a V8 Commodore when a dealer suggested he drive a white AU XR6 manual he had on his lot. Steve says that after driving it he couldn’t get the smile of his face. “As a Holden man through and through, and having owned a couple of XF Falcons and knowing that they rust and have major problems here I was in love with a Ford,” he says. The XR6 has been on many XR club outings, up and down the coast, drive-in nights, dyno days. Even though he spends a lot of time on the roads he says it's still great to get in the XR, even if it's to drive to the shops for milk.

LOOK FOR

• Distinctive styling with an aggressive body kit including rear spoiler that sets it apart from its rather drab AU cousins.

• Heavily modified six cylinder engines delivers both performance and smoothness in a package that easily overpowers its main Holden rival.

• Great road manners means sharp responsive and well balanced handling along with a firm but comfortable ride.

• Forgettable interior with awful plastic parts that make it feel cheap. Coupled with the overuse of oval shapes in the fascia make it one of the worst interiors in recent memory.

• Stiffer engine block and new cylinder head with improved gaskets made significant inroads into Falcon head gasket problems, but basic design of water passages in head can lead to pockets of steam and potential blown head gaskets.

 

Pricing

Year Price From Price To
2000 $2,310 $7,150
1999 $2,420 $7,700
1998 $2,640 $7,590

View all Ford Falcon pricing and specifications

Pricing Guides

$1,995
Based on 19 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$800
Highest Price
$4,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GLi Longreach 4.0L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $3,190 – 4,950 1998 Ford Falcon 1998 GLi Longreach Pricing and Specs
GLi Longreach Tradesman 4.0L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $4,730 – 6,930 1998 Ford Falcon 1998 GLi Longreach Tradesman Pricing and Specs
Forte 4.9L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $2,970 – 4,620 1998 Ford Falcon 1998 Forte Pricing and Specs
Futura 4.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $800 – 4,990 1998 Ford Falcon 1998 Futura Pricing and Specs
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist

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