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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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