Last Ford Falcon fades away

Last Ford Falcon fades away

SO, this is it: the final Falcon test.

The gates are locked at Ford’s plants in Broadmeadows and Geelong, and the Falcon is, literally, history.

We’ll send it off with a road test of the XR6, the most popular model lately.

It’s always been great value for money and Ford dealers are flogging the last examples at $38,190 drive-away.

This last of the line Falcon series, the FG-X launched in 2014, includes Ford’s family grille, giving a connection to the Mustang and Mondeo, which has now become the company’s largest sedan.

The XR6 is the Falcon with a dash of flash, so you get a dark mesh grille with fake alloy surrounds and foglights, daytime running lights, a small spoiler and 18-inch polished graphite alloys, with 245/40 Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres.

It also sits on firmer suspension than the base FG-X. Otherwise, it’s mechanically identical.

And, hey, it wouldn’t be an XR6 without a palette of look-at-me colours, including Kinetic, Smoke, Victory Gold, Lightning Strike and Emperor.

Sports pretensions don’t, unfortunately, extend to the driver’s seat or seating position.

Upholstered in tacky, mesh-look fabric, the driver’s seat is soft and unsupportive.

Even at its lowest position you’re elevated in the cabin, as if you’re perched atop a big sled, with the steering wheel down in your lap.

Apart from Ford’s Sync2 touchscreen infotainment, the Falcon’s dash layout is frozen in the mid-noughties.

Automatic emergency braking? Radar cruise? Blind spot monitoring? No.

As the Falcon has been in palliative care since 2013, Ford was never going to invest in 21st-century driver-assist safety technology.

Steeply angled to create headroom, the rear seat cushion is firm and comfortable with ample legroom and will easily accommodate three.

The boot has a large depression in the floor and a large porthole for long objects. A space-saver is underneath.

Falcon’s 4.0-litre long-stroke ‘Barra’ six is a tough, big-hearted engine, with diesel-like sluggability at the bottom end, midrange muscle that rivals some V8s and top end power that continues unabated to a 6000rpm redline.

It’s never been a tuneful device though, with a breathy, slightly strained note that belies the ease with which it shifts the Falcon’s 1.75 tonnes.

Driven intelligently, you can get 12-14litres/100km; leadfoot it and the 4.0-litre sucks regular unleaded like a V8.

The six-speed ZF automatic can be abrupt but is generally unobtrusive and efficient. Ford claims it’s adaptive.

By 2016 standards, it’s a slow learner.

And the olde-worlde hydraulic steering is heavy when manoeuvring.

At 100km/h in sixth there’s just 1600rpm on the tacho and the straight six is using 7-8litres/100km.

It’s got so much bottom end grunt it will hang on to sixth even on quite steep climbs. It will also pull up to 1600kg, or 2300kg with the optional heavy-duty tow pack.

You don’t brutalise a Falcon through a corner, otherwise it will try to turn around and bite you on the bum.

It likes being caressed around bends in stages: first you point it with indirect and slightly over-assisted steering; then the rear end does its little lurch and roll, so you straighten the wheel a touch; this gets the car back on track, nicely settled and sitting flat(ish) through the bend.

Once you get the hang of it, you can make a Falcon flow along gracefully at speed, particularly on a rough country road where ride comfort, stability and control are superb.

There’s decent grip from the Dunlops but the Falcon’s brakes are weak, wooden and inadequate for a car of this size and weight.

Verdict: I’m paid to be unsentimental about cars. In truth, it is time for the Falcon to fade away.

Still, I feel sad it’s over.