2016 Ford Falcon XR8 Sprint

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“Kick her in the guts Barry! She’s the last of the V8s”. A classic line delivered in the dystopian Mad Max. A line that references a supercharged V8 Falcon. The last one in fact. When it was originally written, it posed a far flung future in which Aussie muscle cars were celebrated for their rarity. Well, with Holden and Ford both set to close their doors, we’re here now.

So how does the reality live up to the fiction? Answer : This is the best V8 Falcon ever.

 

A statement that is only made more amazing by the extremely limited resources left for Ford Australia to produce it. The guys and gals in Geelong pulled it off though. With a couple of caveats.

That limited production budget does mean that compromises were made technology-wise. You won’t find any of the features that a lot of modern consumers find ubiquitous in a modern performance vehicle.

There’s no heads up display, nor will you find shift paddles on the auto version. Also missing from the list are things like a modern electric steering system (thank goodness), no fancy brake influenced torque vectoring systems etc.

It’s a simple device, by both price and design, and in my opinion is a better representation of Aussie muscle for it.

Turning your eyes to the exterior, and the Falcon is a great looking car, albeit not a lot different from the ordinary XR8 that we’re already used to.

Ford have run the thing through the paintshop twice to add a black roof and added a minimal lip wing to the boot, plus they’ve thrown on some some smoked 19″ rims from the now defunct FPV operation. A subtle nod to fast Falcons past.

Overall, the design is subtle, a sleeper like affair. It doesn’t immediately sear into your retinas the way, say, a wings and things AU XR8 might have. Nor does it have the presence of say, an FPV GT. Mind you, there’s something about that lack of bluster that makes the XR8 Sprint somehow more solid. More sure of what it is, and less reliant on over the top gags. It’s a business man in a tuxedo vs previous models that were dressed as clowns and shouting for attention.

The XR8 Sprints’ mechanical changes over and above an ordinary XR8 are relatively minor.

In the engine stakes, power has been lifted from the base FG-X XR8’s 335kW/570Nm to 345kW/575Nm. Mind you (as with the base XR8), with the
transient overboost, these are just the minimum starting points. Given the right conditions, 400kW and 650Nm will be seen. The engine is capable of even more than this, but Ford’s engineers worried about the strength and durability of the transmissions given any more.

Given that the transient overboost is only inactive when the hottest of engine and ambient air temperatures are reached, the full 400kW and the full shove of torque will be available more often than not. Only after multiple race pace laps at a track, or on the hottest days in Alice Springs, are you going to have any less.

The rubber underneath the XR8 Sprint (and that of it’s XR6 Turbo Sprint brother) has been changed from the Dunlop tyres we’re used to on hyper Falcons to Pirelli P-Zeros. The P-Zeroes fitted are 245/35/ZR19 fronts and 265/35/ZR19 rears.

Some of you might be scratching your heads(like I was) and trying to work out why a car that was already in desperate need of more rear grip should have narrower tyres fitted to the rear than before. Never fear though, driving it confirms that the compound difference from the new tyres well and truly makes up the difference, and then some.

Along with changing the tyres, Ford Australia has also reduced spring rates and increased the rebound stiffness of the dampers. This has led to a calmer, more comfortable and more stable experience than that offered by the base XR8 model (which tended to feel fussy and flustered when encountering bumps, especially mid-corner). The difference seems subtle on paper, but pretty amazing in execution. You can get on with driving hard, whether the road is straight or deeply bendy, without worrying about being knocked off your line.

The car also turns in a lot more easily than it did previously. Perhaps this is purely an effect of the new suspension and tyres, although it so profound a change in effort required that I almost wonder if Ford didn’t play with the rack settings (can’t get any confirmation from them on this). Either way, it’s an impressive improvement.

The engine is as roary and as punchy as ever. The supercharged 5.0L delivering torrents of grunt from way down in the depths to 6000 revs with nary a gap anywhere. It sounds fantastic doing it too. Get up it from low revs and there’s the sweetest supercharger whine which steadily transitions into a raucous, throaty V8 exhaust note.

Unlike Falcons in the past (particularly in the last couple of generations), the XR8 Sprint is a vehicle which can put that prodigious power down to the ground and make use of it. Nail the throttle and there’s hardly a trace of
wheelspin before the thing launches for the horizon ferociously. You can expect to hit 0-100kM/h in 4.5 seconds or less, while 400m is done and dusted in 12.7.

Like other supercharged versions of locals we’ve tested, the in gear acceleration is impressive. It’s incredibly effortless to make an overtaking move on a country road. You can be cruising along at 2-2.5k revs and still be smashed into
your seat with accelerative forces when you plant your foot. The scenery and that slow bloke in a caravan that you’re passing both blur and disappear.

I didn’t get to try an automatic version of this car. The 6 speed manual variant offers a reasonably heavy clutch with a typical-for-Falcon long pedal movement. The bite from the clutch is quite progressive from the take up point,
which makes it easy to drive, but could also lead to some people riding it. The gearchange itself is solid and short, with deliberate effort needed at the gate ends to push the lever in.
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There are a couple of negatives here. Ford have done next to nothing with the interior of the XR8 Sprint and it is becoming very long in the tooth, we’ve had essentially this same dash to look at since the BA Falcon launched in 2002.
Plus, the steering wheel still doesn’t lift as high as it should for the taller of us (a Falcon issue since 1988’s EA), and they’ve done nothing about the slight seat to pedal offset.

These annoyances aside, this is an amazingly competent effort. A more polished version of an already pretty accomplished all-rounder. Family carrier, weekend warrior, tow vehicle, long distance tourer and drift machine.
All at a very reasonable price and put together by Aussies proud to be part of it all. It’s a great combination. One that is seen in cars like this one and Holden’s SSV Commodore. A combination that we’ll be sorely lacking come
the end of local manufacturing here in Australia.

The 2016 XR8 Sprint is the not only the last of the V8s, but the best V8 Falcon ever made, and one that Max would have been proud of.

Mike Adams