Although the new Ford Falcon won't swoop into showrooms until May, Ford has released some details to keep us going but has stopped short of releasing full specifications and pricing.
According to Ford the upcoming Falcon's model code, FG, is a memorium, of sorts, to the Fairmont and Ghia marques which are heading to nameplate heaven. The cynical side of us, though, thinks that this code was chosen in the hope of getting the headline "Effing Great Falcon" into print.
Kicking off the lineup is the fleet fodder and, no doubt, future taxi favourite XT. As always this model runs with steel wheels and plastic hub caps. The long lived straight-six engine gets a slight boost -- up to 195kW of power and 391Nm of torque, if you must know. However the headline news is the adoption of a five-speed auto as standard in petrol powered editions. The old four-speed unit, will still do duty on the lower-powered LPG model. Economy is slightly improved with the engine drinking an official 10.5L/100km with the five-speed auto, or 10.1L/100km with the six-speed auto available on higher priced models.
For protection there's electronic stability control and front airbags, including a set of head and thorax bags. Standard equipment includes climate control air-con, power driver's seat, a larger LCD screen for controlling in-car functions, cruise control, folding rear seats and a four-speaker sound system with single CD (no word on whether this will read MP3 files though).
Falcon G6E Turbo. European, ne pas?
What's Australian for fillet mignon?
Now that luxury-minded Falcon buyers can no longer opt for a Fairmont or Fairmont Ghia, Ford is hoping they'll warm to the G-series, which, in order, are the G6, G6E and G6E Turbo. As their names suggest, it's six cylinders or, well, too bad.
The G-models get a chromier design akin to that of top shelf Mondeos, alloy wheels (17-inches on the G6 and G6E, 18s on the Turbo) and "luxury sports" suspension. If you go for the G6E -- the E's for Europe, natch -- you get the highly regarded ZF six-speed auto box, Bluetooth hands-free for your mobile, reversing camera, side curtain airbags and an improved audio system with subwoofer and CD stacker. You'll have to pay top dollar for the "fully integrated" iPod interface, it only comes on the G6E Turbo.
The power and the passion
If you like to shift your own gears and don't mind the odd twisty road or two, the XR-series -- in order, the XR6, XR6 Turbo and XR8 -- are probably more your go. Externally they're distinguished by their complement of spoilers and the, now signature, double bubble headlamps. Inside there's huggier seats to hold in you during tight corners, sportier looking instruments and metal bits adorning gearlevers and pedals. Naturally there's sports suspension fitted and the choice of either a six-speed manual, five-speed auto or the aforementioned ZF six-speed auto.
The performance engines are hand me downs from FPV's range of modded Falcons. That means that turbo models (namely the XR6 Turbo and G6E Turbo) get 270kW of power and 533Nm of torque on tap, while the "Boss" powered XR8 has 290kW and 520Nm.
The FG ute gets most of the improvements seen in the rest of the range, including the new skin. Trim levels broadly follow that of the sedan, with the base-level ute, the R6, XR6, XR6 Turbo and XR8.
The Falcon wagon carries over largely unchanged and now only comes in base XT trim powered by either the petrol or LPG six-cylinder engine; only the four-speed auto is offered. The wagon's primary update is the standard inclusion of electronic stability control.
The, umm, distinctive AU Falcon
How new is new though?
Although it is not a clean sheet design like Holden's VE Commodore, the forthcoming Falcon's body has been redesigned. It's now 25mm longer than before and Ford is especially keen to highlight the improved rear headroom and improved ingress and egress, particularly for rear seat passengers -- anybody who's jumped in a cab lately will be quietly pleased to hear that.
Underneath the new body, though, much of the oily bits are carried over or updated from the current Falcon. The reason for this partly lies with the AU Falcon, which was released in 1998. This radically styled model -- derided by most as being unbearably ugly -- turned buyers away in droves. To remedy this Ford gave us the significantly updated and much more refined BA Falcon in 2002. To do so the company spent around AU$500 million, which is an unprecedented amount for a mid-life refresh -- remember that the current Commodore cost AU$1 billion, and its only major carryover components were the engines and some transmissions.