Car ReviewsFirst Drive

2015 Ford Falcon XR8 review

Isaac Bober’s 2015 Ford Falcon XR8 review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.

IN A NUTSHELL: Fast and furious but also very tired feeling, the Falcon XR8 FG X is not the swan-song this beast deserves.

Editor's Rating

How we rated the 2015 Ford Falcon XR8
PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS: I’m torn over how to summarise the XR8. This should be the high-note for the XR8, the one that corrected the wrongs of the past and left us devastated that it would be no more. And it kind of does that, but there are just too many niggling little problems with it for it to be the epic, collectors item that, say, a GT-HO is. Sure, we’ll always remember this last-ever V8 XR8, but it just won’t always be for the right reasons. That said, would I advise you not to buy one, er, no. If you’ve always hankered after an XR8 then this is the one to get, it’s got the good engine, brakes and suspension.

FORD MIGHT BE about to close its doors on Australian manufacturing, but the Falcon isn’t dead just yet. And, to ensure it goes out with a bang, Ford has shoe-horned a V8 back into the thing, for a last-ever return of the iconic XR8 variant. Indeed, this FG X XR8 marks the first time since 2010 that the XR8 has run a performance engine – more later.

No, I’m as blue-blooded as the next bloke and, so news of a V8-powered Falcon warmed the cockles of my heart. And the launch-based first drive review of the thing by our Paul Murrell had me thinking this might be a final ray of sunshine on the sorry story of local automotive manufacturing. But, sadly, after my week in the thing I didn’t feel like that at all. Not completely anyway.

Sure, there were some moments where I felt happy to be behind the wheel of the thing, but most of the time I was lamenting that this beast would be the way I remembered the XR8. Fast but tired and still not ergonomically great. Cue the hate emails.

Falcon1

Our test Falcon XR8 came equipped with the six-speed manual and so lists from $52,490 (+ORC) while the six-speed automatic variant lists from $54,690 (+ORC). As mentioned, this FG X XR8 is the first time since 2010 that the XR8 has run a performance V8, meaning it’s borrowed the Boss 5.0-litre supercharged V8 from the FPV GT meaning it barks out 335kW at 5750rpm and 570Nm between 2200-5500rpm – that’s a thick slab of torque for sure. Fuel consumption is 13.6L/100km.

More than that, Ford’s boffins have dipped deeper into the FPV parts bin for the XR8 and fitted it with the same suspension as the FPV GT RSPEC, and that means retuned rear dampers and springs; larger rear stabiliser bar (up from 18mm to 19mm); retuned front dampers; stiffer front upper spring mounts; stiffer front upper control arm bushing; front and rear suspension geometry adjusted to complement 275 rear tyres. The brakes have also been beefed up, steering tweaked, heavy duty battery, a new, stronger cooling fan and the new Victory Gold paint.

All of this reads like the recipe for something epic. And, indeed the XR8 is an epic machine, but it also just feels a little tired because of the things that haven’t changed, and we’ll get to that shortly.

So, let’s talk about the engine, because what an engine it is. Key the thing into life and it awakens with a roar that quickly settles into a purr. Prod the throttle and the engine note rises but with the radio on those inside will barely notice it, and that’s a shame because it sounds delicious.

2014 Ford Falcon FG X XR8 review

Pull away from the kerb and the XR8 feels effortless no matter the hill and no matter the gear, thanks to 570Nm of torque from 2200rpm this is a vehicle that defines the word effortless. Drop a cog or two, though, and give the accelerator a stomp and the XR8 will push you back into the seat as it reels in the horizon – indeed, it’s utterly impossible to explore this vehicle’s potential on a public road, but suffice it to say that even as you move through the gears it feels like the thing will just keep on accelerating.

But that was in the dry. Part way through my week with the XR8 it rained. A lot. And that meant tip-toeing the big beast around every single corner, because even the slightest whiff of throttle on a slow wet corner could prompt the back-end to step out. Sure, it’s gathered up quickly by the electronics, but… arriving sideways into a school zone is not the best look.

Part of the problem is a lack of sophistication to the steering, brakes, gearbox and throttle. And I mean, that while they all do exactly what they’re meant to, there’s very little feel or progression to their action, and that particularly applies to the brakes which are either on or not, as is the throttle.

falcon_xr8_5

The gearbox is typically agricultural if its rushed, just as the manual in the Falcon always has been, and the Commodore is no different. Slow down your shift, though, and the thing becomes much smoother with a short throw and while you’re less likely to get caught up between gates on the two-three shift (as in the old Falcon XR8) you’ll still get caught out if you try and bang through the gears like a loon.

The steering is direct and meaty feeling in the hands but there’s zero feel through the wheel which means you’re constantly having to adjust when pushing on a tight and twisting stretch of road. I will couch my comments by saying that the things I’m picking on would likely settle down with familiarity, if you know what I mean.

In our week with the XR8 we travelled across all sorts of surfaces from torn-up roads (roadworks) to smooth highways, around town roads, and rubbish inner-city roads. Both in the wet and dry. Other outlets have claimed the XR8 can become a little jiggly on rough surfaces (like roadworks), well of course it can, it’s a performance-oriented vehicle with low-profile rubber … name a performance vehicle that doesn’t prefer a smooth surface to work on (WRX and WRX STi excluded for bilious reasons) – so that’s a stupid criticism to level at the thing.

Away from roadworks (99% of the time) the XR8 rides beautifully with the sort of body control that encourages you to push harder through corners (in the dry). And despite the performance oriented suspension and low-profile rubber, expansion joints in the road are smothered as well as any family-sized sedan should.

Falcon4

Possibly the XR8’s biggest fault, and it’s a long-time issue with the breed, is the seating position and steering wheel adjustment. It’s just all wrong. You sit up too high in the car and the steering wheel sits too low, even at its highest setting I had to slide my legs underneath it with the feeling that the wheel was sitting in my lap. Right now I’m in a Fiesta ST and the driving position is excellent, the point being that Ford does know how to get this stuff right…

Continuing with the seating. Despite being a large car, the Falcon doesn’t actually feel all that big on the inside. With two child seats fitted in the back, it actually felt quite small and both kids claimed they didn’t have much legroom – they didn’t. Certainly nowhere near as much as in the Subaru Liberty we tested a few weeks before.

2015 Ford XR8 review

So, Australian auto manufacturing is just about no more (and that’s a shame) and dying along with it will be the notion of needing a large car for a large country – not when a medium-sized car offers more interior space. Anyway, I digress.

Back inside, and the Falcon XR8’s interior feels tired. The plastics and the quality are okay, but the buttons all just look and feel a little clumsy. The seats are overly padded and the rake on the rear roofline robs headroom, especially when booster and child seats are in place. The boot offers 535 litres of storage space.

The XR8 does get an eight-inch touchscreen boasting Ford’s SYNC2 (SYNC3 is already available in the US) and while there’s plenty of functionality imbedded in the unit, and the voice recognition works okay, although I still feel like a dill using voice activated systems, but the unit itself is fiddly to use on the fly and does take a while to get the hang of.

Falcon2

On the outside, most of the tweaking went into the snout and the ‘power bulge’ and those two things give the Falcon XR8 real street presence. Forget the nonsense about it looking like a Mondeo because it doesn’t. Beyond this, though, the looks are as they were.

In terms of safety, the Falcon XR8 gets a five-star ANCAP rating as per the rest of the Falcon range, the usual traction and stability aids, a limited slip differential, reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors and rain-sensing wipers.

2015 Ford Falcon XR8

Price from $52,490 (+ORC) Warranty three years, 100,000km Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 5.2-litre supercharged V8 Power/Torque 335kW/570Nm Transmission six-speed manual (standard); six-speed automatic Body 4949mm (L); 1868mm (W); 1494mm (H) Weight 1861kg Thirst 13.6L/100km

Comprehensive Car Insurance

 

 


11 Comments

  1. rosco
    July 4, 2015 at 11:12 am — Reply

    Congratulations on a well balanced article. I have driven Fords all my adult life, and only weeks ago purchased my first Holden; an SSV Redline. and purely for the reasons you have stated in your review. In isolation, it’s a great car, and a demonstration that we are more than capable of building great cars.
    Holden took the current series of Commodore to the next level, one could say to world class standards. In my mind, had Ford continued on in this country, I have no doubt whatever that they too, would have produced a motor car way beyond the realm of the face lifted FGX Falcon.
    The saddest part of driving my Redline is this: while many of us are buying Asian or European cars, we have something here on our doorstep that can hold its head up high, that being the current Commodore range.
    But I guess we live in a whole new world now, and patriotism and commitment to our own, are now outflanked by being spoilt for choice and badge snobbery.

    • July 4, 2015 at 11:25 am — Reply

      Thanks Rosco. How did your friends and family take the change of brand?

      • rosco
        July 4, 2015 at 11:48 am — Reply

        Hi Robert,
        No it wasn’t really a problem. We had in fact had an XR8 on order prior to purchasing the Redline. Having owned a 50th Anniversary turbo XR6 prior leading up to the latest purchase, it felt a little like groundhog day when we test drove the XR8.
        After driving the Redline, both cars felt a world apart. The holden product feels a generation ahead. So for my family, it was a no brainer. The XR8 is a wonderful car, fun to drive with real presence. But at the end of the day, with Ford winding up local production here in Australia, it was never going to be more than a respectable facelift. So we received a deposit refund from a very gracious Ford dealership, and purchased the Redline.
        As a footnote to this, we had the Redline fitted with a Harrop performance kit, and still came in the equivalent price wise to the XR8
        I think if you invest in either product, you’ll enjoy ownership
        Cheers

        • Munro man
          August 20, 2015 at 10:42 pm — Reply

          A really well balanced article, in depth and articulate. I have been driving my VF SSV for 2 years and have owned 3 SSV VE variants since the VE launch, and a VT SS before them. I also own 2 HQ Monaro’s. You could say I am a V8 Holden man. I have also driven a few Euro’s over the years. However I could not go past owning the last ever V8 falcon and I look forward to the delivery of my FGX XR8 in Dec. I wanted to experience for my self the last of the modern Aussie muscle breed, with all it’s faults and it’s awsome abilities. I am saddened to see the end of an Aussie icon, as I will be when the Commodore reaches the same fate in 2 years time. An end of a fabulous era of our motoring history.
          Cheers

          • August 21, 2015 at 3:42 pm

            Hi Munro man, thanks for that. Let us know how the Falcon goes. Cheers Isaac

  2. Old Fart
    July 4, 2015 at 3:17 pm — Reply

    Basically, XR8 buyers are mechanically getting a FPV GT R-Spec, in plain clothes, but with a discount of over $20K. You’d think they’d be pretty happy about that!?
    I think the issues is as stated below – its all relative and the VF commodore has set the bar so high
    If you were comparing the XR8 to imports from Euro or even Chrysler 300C, it would probably start to look pretty good.
    We will certainly miss both of them when they are gone

    • July 5, 2015 at 7:48 am — Reply

      Hi Old Fart, yes, technically you’re correct. But that still doesn’t change the fact that the XR8 just doesn’t feel special enough. And as for us being sorry when both Falcon and Commodore are gone, hmmm, I’m not so sure. I do see where you’re going, but I think the flood of Euro and Japanese cars at prices and quality points nether car can hit has really knocked them for six. There will be those who can remember the names, and the legends who drove them in motor racing but for the majority of the unwashed the two iconic names will likely slip from dealership without notice. It’s a real shame. The only upside is that hopefully our clever engineers and designers will be put to good use working on global models, or will find work with other brands. As for the thousands of workers who tirelessly screw the things together, well, they’re the ones who will really lose in this. Shame.

      • Rosco
        July 5, 2015 at 8:55 am — Reply

        Hi Practical Motoring.
        Yes, when we drove the XR8, it lacked the finesse and finish that turns a good car to a great car. I certainly see where Old Fart is coming from as well.
        I guess for me, I lament the bigger picture I see unfurling before me. I’m in my early fifties, hardly old. But I’ve lived long enough to see the huge transformation this country is undergoing . As the world has got smaller, we have opened the floodgates to imports of all descriptions. I get that life goes on, and we all certainly benefit from diversity of choice, but at the same time, little by little, as manufacturing closes its doors in this country, we lose a little more of our identity.
        Re imported car being a better proposition? Well, you are probably right in some ways. But to use the Commodore range as an example, other motoring journalists have given the product fantastic reviews. I guess it’s all about perception . We probably all have a different perception on what makes a great car.
        Cheers

  3. Allen
    November 4, 2016 at 8:05 pm — Reply

    Every man and his dog praised the GT r-spec. The xr8 It’s the same car! It’s also a muscle car and that means grunt. The commodore is the car short on grunt (relatively speaking) and try’s to hide this fact with silly trinkets.

    Shows how people don’t know about cars. Look under the hood for what your getting! Instead people rank cars in how quick it can charge their Apple iPhone. Like buying a house based on the colour of the door handles

    • November 5, 2016 at 6:47 am — Reply

      Thanks Allen, and you’re right. A lot of car buyers have a different set of guides which they use when buying a car… enthusiasts look at a car differently than someone upgrading their small car to something that’ll carry an extra child. Sadly, the grunts Falcons and Commodores are engine cars rather than chassis cars. Meaning they’ve both got great engines but are let down by handling and the quality of the interior which, for the money can’t match many cheaper cars. That said, if you’re buying for the engine alone then it’s very very hard to go past.

  4. Tim phips
    November 16, 2017 at 12:58 pm — Reply

    Look at any car manufacturer.. to get the big bruiser motor you have to pay top dollar

    Thats what your buying with the xr8. If it had all the little fancy trim bits it would be $100k plus.. its a basic motorcar with the big bruiser motor. That has been falcon since 1965

    The commodore has the fancy trim but not the horsepower. If you want the holden with the proper motor its hsv gts at $100k.

    Xr8 is hsv gts like performance for $52k. What more do you want?

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.