FORD FALCON FGX XR8/SPRINT - FUTURE CLASSIC
By: Mark Higgins, Photography by: Unique Cars Archives
In 1966 Ford Australia plonked a V8 engine in a Falcon. Fifty years later the chapter closed with the last fast Falcon
When the lights were turned off and the door shut at Ford Australia’s plant on October 7, 2016, it brought to an end a 50 year span of V8 Falcons (with some dry spells) that started with the XR in 1966 and finished with this, the FGX XR8.
In between were many V8 Falcons that earned their legendary status along with buyers’ hearts.
Not only was the XR the first Falcon offered with a 289ci V8, but it was also offered in all models. Top of the heap was the XR GT, that won the Bathurst classic. The first V8 to do so.
Next came the XT, and its V8 power claiming glory with a third outright in the London to Sydney Marathon.
The Australian muscle car scene was in its infancy at the end of the 1960s when the XW and XY GT and GT-HO models with their 351ci V8s went on sale, with the option of a 302 if you weren’t wedded to having a GT plate.
| 2021 Market Review: Ford Falcon BA-FG XR6/EBII-FG XR8 AU
The era of the XA/XB/XC Falcons were also sold with a choice of V8 engines and somehow survived the seventies oil crisis. The GT nameplate didn’t however, dropped after the XB.
Despite government pressure and despite rising fuel prices a V8 engine was included as an option in the all-new XD range.
But it was during the run of the XE Falcon that saw Ford pull the plug on V8 passenger cars. The last production V8 (a 302ci) rolled down the line in November 1982. There was however talk of the odd V8 special being slipped through the system through to 1983.
| Read next: Holy Grail by Premcar - the modern day GT-HO
Capitalising on Ford’s folly, arch-rival Holden revived the SS badge for its Commodore range that same year.
For near enough to a decade Falcon buyers had to make do with a six until 1991 and the EB that saw a V8 slipped into the engine bay of a Falcon once more, rekindling the Holden-Ford rivalry with both having a V8 sedan once more. The EB Falcon launched the XR6 and XR8 performance models, initially marketed as six-cylinder S-XR6 and V8 S-XR8 in a joint venture with Tickford.
With the arrival of the ED Falcon a couple of years on the performance models were rebadged XR6 and XR8 and instantly recognisable by their quad headlight face. The fuel-injected five-litre V8 XR8 was putting out 165kW.
Come the debut of the EF Falcon and a power boost for the XR8 to 170kW or 230 horsepower – the same as the XT in 1968. In the case of the XR8, that number is widely believed to be an understatement. We saw that power claim rise to 185kW for the last of the EL XR8s, launched in late 1997.
Ford whipped the covers off its AU Falcon in 1998 and its polarising looks won few friends. The range hero XR8 wore distinctive alloy wheels and its quad headlights integrated into the grille and bumper. By now the five-litre V8 put out 185kW (as it had in the last of the EL XR8s), giving it a 0-100km/h time of 7.1 seconds and a top speed of 233km/h.
| Read next: Ford Falcon ED XR8 Sprint
After the AU debacle the BA Falcon saved Ford’s bacon. The more conventional-looking car was a milestone XR8 introducing an alloy head 5.4-litre Boss 260 (for 260kW) engine and a handling upgrade with control blade IRS now part of the sport suspension.
To accommodate the engine, a power bulge was added to the bonnet and the signature XR8 quad headlights continued. The BA II got a six-speed manual gearbox.
The BF from 2005 was the last of the sixth-generation Falcons. Visually similar to its predecessor the XR8 was the recipient of minor engine mods, to improve efficiency and upgrades to the trim.
This all brings us to the FG that ran from 2008 to 2010 in series I and 2011 to 2014 in series II. Despite all new panels, it looked a lot like its predecessor. The only V8 model was the XR8.
Powering the XR8 was a 290kW/520Nm V8 Boss 290 quad-cam, 5.4-litre V8 with either the standard six-speed Tremec TR 6060 manual or optional six-speed ZF auto.
Variable ratio steering and a new front suspension design, Virtual Pivot Control Link, was employed to work in harmony with an upgraded version of the rear Control Blade IRS, debuted on BAs.
Upgraded brakes were fitted along with styling cues and a price tag of $45,990.
New to this XR8 was an exhaust system with a semi-active muffler, with a valve that redirected exhaust gasses at engine speeds above 2800rpm to give a louder, deeper exhaust note. The FG XR8 was short-lived and was phased out in 2010 due to new emissions regulations.
However, customer demand saw Ford give the XR8 moniker and a V8 engine a phoenix-like rise in 2014 under the series name of FGX.
There was also a more powerful limited-edition Sprint model. Ford Australia aimed to make the last XR8 the very best of all featuring optimal power, ride, handling and stopping power. Under the bonnet bulge of the FGX XR8 was a five-litre 335kW/570Nm Ford Boss engine with a locally-developed supercharger.
The suspension had stiffer springs, meatier dampers, bigger sway bars, revised geometry and heavy-duty bushes, giving it better turn-in, more rear grip and noticeably less body roll. Completing the package were a new rear spoiler, LED taillights, W-shape day running lights, slimline headlights and quad exhausts.
It had 19-inch alloys all-round, eight inches wide up front and nine inches at the back, with Brembo four-piston front and single-piston Brembo stoppers on the rear wheels.
Inside the XR8 were sports seats in perforated leather trim, and luxury appointments including dual-zone air, rain-sensing wipers, sat-nav, a sports shifter knob, sports steering wheel, sports pedals and reversing camera.
Tech included Ford’s then-new Sync2 connectivity system with a digital radio and Wi-Fi hotspot.
The Sprint version, of which 750 were produced, received Pirelli P Zero rubber, cosmetic embellishments and the build number plaque on the engine.
It also came with a six-and-a-half grand price hike and for that you got a power hike to 345kW and 575Nm.
However, the Sprint’s Miami supercharged 5.0-litre V8 with its transient overboost’spiked power to 400kW and 650Nm.
Back in 2016 Motor magazine had this to say about the Sprint, arguably the last fast Falcon: "The transient overboost lasts only 10 seconds but the grunt counter resets whenever you lift off, and get back on, the throttle. And you’ll rarely be full throttle in any gear for 10 seconds straight."
It seemed the extra grunt wasn’t the only highlight Ford was proud of. The suspension changes resulted in an overwhelmingly positive effect on the XR8’s ride and handling.
Motor commented, "While the base FGX XR8 jiggles over small bumps and thuds over bigger ones, making for quite the firm ride, the Sprint is far more calm and comfortable without giving up crucial body control.
"It feels stable and cool in the high-speed stuff and in bumpy corners, expertly works undulations letting you get on with the business of attacking. Importantly, the suspension now feels as modern as the powertrain.
"Obviously, the grunt is spectacular. And from any rpm, down-low to redline, it pulls hard, all the while making the most satisfying racket. Sweet, loud supercharger whine under load transitions to a throaty V8 exhaust note, roaring purposefully before its 6000rpm redline. It sounds awesome. And it can put its power down with a cleanliness and effectiveness unmatched by V8 Falcons past.
"Ford’s not claiming 0-100km/h times as per company policy but they reckon while more difficult to launch, the manual will be faster.
"We’ve been told already if we get a 4.6 from the manual and a 4.7 from the automatic, we should keep trying. To the tune of about another tenth, we may or may not be guessing.
"But we wouldn’t need more time in the car to declare it the best V8 performance Falcon ever. It’s certainly the most polished V8 performance Falcon we’ve driven, with grown-up ride, and serious grunt and it’s more fun than ever, too.
"Those clued in, who see the bigger picture and the forces at play, will applaud Ford for this car. They didn’t have to do it, and who knows if they’ll make their money on this exercise. Who cares, in some respects."
Both the FGX XR8 and XR8 Sprint are the pinnacle of performance and panache. And fittingly the last fast V8 Falcons were promoted in the hero colour, Victory Gold, reminiscent of the original XR GT.
Sprint is most powerful production Falcon
• FGX XR8 more affordable
• Sprint is Exclusive
• Many hidden in collections
• Or have been hooned to an inch of their life
• Sprints harder to find
Ford Falcon FGX XR8/Sprint (2014-2016) specs
BODY: Four door sedan
ENGINE: 4951cc V8, DOHC, 32v, supercharger
POWER & TORQUE: 335kW/570Nm (Sprint 345kW/575Nm)
PERFORMANCE: 0-100 4.5 sec est. (Sprint manual)
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual /6-speed auto
SUSPENSION: Double wishbone virtual pivot control link (f) (r) IRS control blade
BRAKES: Discs(f&r) Brembo 4-piston (f) single piston (r)
WHEELS: 19x8-inch, 245/35 R19 (f) 19x9-inch, 275/30 ZR19 (r)
From Unique Cars #467, Jun/Jul 2022Follow me at: