For years people have poked fun at Australian
built cars for their lack of sophistication. But here is a car that must be
taken very, very seriously – the BF Ford Falcon is the best Australian built
family sedan and, even when compared to cars costing almost five times as
much, in some aspects it can hold its own...
Such lofty levels of refinement and sophistication
have never been so affordable.
The BF brings a number of changes to reduce NVH
levels - and the on-road result is stunning. Over Sydney’s abysmal urban roads
(surely the worst in Australia), the BF glides along with minimal vibration,
minimal noise and a seeming disinterest in potholes and broken bitumen. Make no
mistake, this is a very smooth and quiet car – in fact, over the same roads,
we’d rate the BF ahead of the Volvo XC70 and mega-dollar Audi A8...
And the cabin is plenty comfortable as well.
There’s truly huge space for front and rear passengers; the seats are very
comfortable; the trim is (mostly) tasteful and everything operates logically.
In base XT models you get front power windows, cruise control, auto headlights,
powerful air conditioning, electric driver’s seat adjustment and a decent
sounding single CD/tuner. Twin airbags also come standard. The BF cabin is
differentiated from earlier models by its new soft-feel door grab handles with
satin chrome inserts, new seat fabrics, a new finish on the interior command
centre panel, centre console and rear vent surround. It’s all very upmarket in
appearance and comfort – you’re never conscious you’re riding in a base
The Falcon is a big car but it doesn’t feel
cumbersome, largely thanks to its steering. Like most family cars, there is a
‘sneeze factor’ in the steering at straight-ahead but off-centre response is
crisp – a characteristic that can take some getting used to. The steering also
has plenty of weight.
Under the bonnet you’ll find the same DOHC 4-litre
six introduced in the BA series - but with some extra sophistication that brings
it up to world standards. By adopting independently variable cam timing, revised
cam profiles, twin knock sensors and a higher compression ratio (10.3:1) the
Falcon six is damn-near as sophisticated as any other six-pot on the market. It’s smooth,
effortlessly torquey and the electronic throttle control strategy gives smooth,
One of the trumpeted breakthroughs in the BF
range is the availability of a six-speed ZF automatic transmission.
Unfortunately, you don’t get the six-speed in the XT Falcon but the carry-over
four-speed transmission does have some upgrades and a remote transmission fluid
cooler (which should extend the life of the transmission if you plan to tow a
heavy load). The transmission is smooth, adaptive and well suited to the
characteristics of the big six. There is also the sequential gear selection mode
which gives full driver control.
With 190kW at 5250 rpm and 383Nm at 2500 rpm, the
Falcon offers more than generous performance and Ford claims a 5.2 percent
improvement in fuel consumption over the BA. We recorded in the low twelves (litres per
100km), though before being
confronted with heavy traffic, the displayed trip average hovered in the low 11s. And, despite its newly increased compression
ratio, the big six is happy to drink normal unleaded fuel without sign of
The XT gets its grunt to the road safely and
without drama – there are no concerns handing over the keys to this 190kW
rear-wheel-drive sedan. The double wishbone front and Control Blade IRS give
good stability and a safe bias towards understeer. Power-on oversteer is
eliminated by the effective traction control system – and, even when switched
off, the Falcon has no problem with traction. The brakes feel relatively soft
but offer good stopping power with the assurance of the latest Bosch 8.0 ABS and
Visually, the BF Falcon XT is almost identical to
the previous model. There are subtle changes to the front bumper, taillights,
new 16 inch wheel trims and some new colours - nothing adventurous here. Build
quality - a gripe we’ve had with earlier models – seems improved judging by our
test car. However, the boot floor is still poorly finished and the boot lid of
our particular car was difficult to close.
Retailing for AUD$35,800, the Ford BF Falcon XT is
not the cheapest in the segment (it’s dearer than the base Holden Commodore and
Toyota Camry V6 but cheaper than the Mitsubishi 380) but its wonderful
refinement, sophistication and practicality make this an exceptional vehicle.
Hands-down our pick of the base-model family cars.
you have reservations about buying a 1700-odd kilogram sedan powered by a large
capacity petrol engine, you should take a close look at Ford’s E-Gas option.
Although adding AUD$1400, reducing boot space and being less powerful than the petrol
version, the LPG powered Falcon is claimed to save up to 47 percent in fuel
savings calculator can be found at http://www.ford.com.au/landing/egas/egascalculator.asp
The Falcon was hired for this test.