Ford Falcon's EcoBoost just might save the big Aussie sedan
Ford has nailed it with its first four-cylinder Falcon.
Purists might scoff at the thought of a four cylinder powering one of the most revered nameplates in Australia’s motoring history.
However, the 2.0-litre turbocharged unit might just be the engine that saves the demise of the big Aussie rear-drive sedan.
Let’s hope it’s not too late after my drive of a G6 Limited Edition last weekend revealed a very fine family car.
The Falcon and its arch rival Holden Commodore remain among the best large rear-drive sedans in the world but Australian buyers are shunning the cars as they downsize to smaller vehicles and SUVs that are seen to be greener and more economical.
The Falcon and Commodore still remain the best vehicles to drive across our big country in comfort and with plenty of room.
They absorb and cover our second-rate country roads at ease on bitumen, dirt and gravel.
They provide torquey engines which allow for fast and safe overtaking, whiz up hills and cruise quietly and comfortably.
Can a turbocharged four cylinder replace Ford’s iconic straight six? Yes, it can.
The review vehicle was a G6 Limited Edition with desirable goodies such as leather trim, a reversing camera and screen, carpet mats, special colour accents and a rear lip spoiler for $36,490 drive away. Extremely good value.
Other standard gear includes 17-inch alloy wheels, iPod, Bluetooth and USB integration, cruise control, Dynamic Stability Control, four-way power driver’s seat, automatic headlamps, prestige audio system, leather-wrapped steering wheel and front fog lamps. Airbags include side curtain, driver and front passenger, and front seat side thorax.
The model sits in the middle of the EcoBoost range with the XT below and the G6E the flagship.
Pricing is the same as the six cylinder despite the imported engine being one of Ford’s most advanced powerplants.
While the EcoBoost is half the capacity of the six, it gives almost nothing away in terms of real-world performance.
Maximum power of 179kW, which is 30kW more than the same engine produces in the Mondeo EcoBoost, arrives at a high 5500rpm, but maximum torque of 353Nm is at a low 2000rpm.
The engine is well matched to the lighter and smooth-shifting six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission, which is quick to downshift or hold gear past 5000rpm.
Ford has been at pains to emphasise the closeness in performance of the EcoBoost and six in order to convince buyers of its claim that they need not sacrifice performance to gain better fuel economy.
The 4.0-litre straight six delivers 195kW and 391Nm and the EcoLPi (liquid LPG) engine has an impressive 198kW and 409Nm.
The asking price for the six and the EcoBoost four is exactly the same, making the decision easier, but the LPG model is $2500 more.
Nothing has changed much apart from the centre computer screen which is larger and has been relocated to the top of the dash. The big touchscreen is a waste of space without sat-nav although it was great for the reversing camera.
The steering wheel controls for cruise and audio need to be backlit because they’re invisible in the dark. The driver’s window does not automatically go up, you have to hold the button down.
The first thing that struck me when starting up and heading off in the Falcon Four was how refined and quiet it was.
Indeed some Trinity Ford customers were not told it was four cylinder until after they had completed a test drive and were taken aback.
Ford Australia has taken many steps to improve noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) on the smaller-engined car, including more sound deadening, an acoustic windscreen (similar to the diesel Territory) and engine cover tweaks with the four-cylinder almost as refined as its big brother.
It doesn’t appear to lack much in performance, not quite having the initial get up and go of the six, reaching 100km/h in less than 7 seconds, only two-tenths slower than the bigger engine.
The four-cylinder is 74kg lighter than the six (in base XT), most of which sits over the front axle, and this coupled with the stiffer springs and lower ride height gives the EcoBoost a more agile feel.
Turn-in is sharp and direct, while the retention of hydraulic power steering, although slightly less efficient, ensures the big car provides plenty of feedback and feel through the steering wheel.
There are some things the iconic Aussie still does better than most. For long-distance cruising, the big Falcon remains one of the best.
The Falcon simply ate up the kilometres on my drive down the Bruce Highway to Innisfail, via the back way to the Palmerston Highway through Wangan and up and across the Tableland.
It soaked up the bumps with consummate ease. Indeed, the ride quality is not noticeably compromised despite the suspension tweaks, giving plenty of travel over corrugations before settling quickly back into place.
Even the awful sections of patched up bitumen between Gordonvale and Babinda were not a problem.
It’s quiet, too, with little in the way of road, wind or engine noise at highway cruising speed.
Indeed, dare I say it, it was quieter than a $114K BMW 335i I drove the weekend before.
The gentle climbing gradients of the Palmerston Highway were a cinch for the Falcon Four and it cornered confidently with good grip.
It could be punted energetically over my favourite 10km of road between Walkamin and Dimbulah, easily handling the tight turns and the undulations.
Inside, the EcoBoost is identical to other Falcons with heaps of room both front and rear, very comfortable seats and a voluminous boot.
However, the cabin plastics are a bit cheap around the fascia and transmission tunnel.
Overall, I was impressed with the EcoBoost Falcon and it really lacks for nothing when compared with the six.
Unless you need the bigger towing capacity (2300kg compared to 1600kg for the EcoBoost), why choose the six-cylinder?
It’s lighter and is better to steer and point.
It costs less to register and insure, uses less petrol and there’s less tyre wear.
I’m absolutely kicking myself for failing to reset the trip computer after the tank was topped up.
I started in the high 13s and managed to bring it down to 12.4L/100km but that is not a fair indication of its fuel use.
The car had been mainly driven around town before I picked it up and I’m sure the overall figure during my weekend would have been well below 10.
Colleagues down south have achieved 8.3 litres/100km which is pretty close to the manufacturer’s claim.
The EcoBoost is a pleasant reminder that there still should be a place for the big Aussie sedan, if not the big six, then a peppy four.
What I’d like to see is an XR version, after all, the XR6 is the most popular of all Falcons.
Traditionalists might not like the thought of a Falcon four cylinder but reality shows they have nothing to fear.>> TEST CAR COURTESY OF TRINITY FORD, MCLEOD ST, CAIRNS CBD.
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Powerful four: While the EcoBoost is half the capacity of the six, it still has real-world performance generating 179kW of power and 353Nm at 2000rpm.