WITH the Ford Falcon officially finished production, we thought it was only appropriate to take the two quickest Ford Falcons ever made (as opposed to those built by FPV) out for one last blast. What could be better than fanging the XR8 Sprint and XR6 Sprint during Street Machine Drag Challenge?
The XR8 Sprint features a supercharged five-litre Miami V8 punching out 345kW and 575Nm, while its turbo six-pot brother, the XR6 Sprint, makes 325kW and 576Nm. So it would be six versus eight and turbo versus supercharger – and young buck versus the old bear, as it turns out.
Now every review that has compared the two Sprints has put the XR6 ahead of the XR8 when it comes to outright acceleration. Everyone agrees that the XR8 sounds awesome, but they all reckoned that the XR6 would beat the XR8 like a red-headed stepchild when they were matched head-to-head. With this in mind, I handed the XR8 keys to young Aiden and kept the XR6 keys for myself; rank has its privileges.
On the road the XR6 is just exceptional. The four-litre DOHC Barra six is, in my opinion, the greatest engine ever made in this country, and with a turbo hanging off the side the mid-range shove is so glorious that they should write songs about it.
With well over 20 years of drag racing experience, I was pretty confident of 12-second quarters, so I rolled into stage and left the shifter in D for Drag for the first run at Calder Park, just to see what it would do. The answer was 13.1@112mph – quick, but not quite there, so I rolled back around to try again.
This time I shoved the shifter to the left to handle the gearchanges myself, and that proved a lot harder then it looked. To get the changes right you had to shift early, as there was a delay between shifting and the actual gearchange. In first, the shift point was about 750rpm before redline; in second it was about 500rpm; and third about 300rpm. Wait any longer and the engine would smash into the limiter like hitting a brick wall. It took a couple of turns to get it right, but eventually I was rewarded with a 12.92@112mph. So with other duties to perform, I put the XR6 away.
Then Aiden said: “I’m going for a run,” and he jumped in the XR8 for a blat. Leaving the shifter in Drive, he faced the tree for the very first time, and when the green light came on the XR8 fired down the track. My jaw dropped when the time boards revealed a 12.69@113mph; not bad for his first time down the drag strip, and I mumbled something about young bastards under my breath. Then he came back around and ran a 12.63@113mph, with most of the difference in the 60-foot time.
The supercharged V8 ran 1.95 to the 60-foot, while the turbo six was a bit of a slug off the line and only good for a 2.11 to the 60-foot mark. Every time I tried to get some boost happening on the line with the XR6 Sprint, the torque protection would cut in to protect the transmission, and the engine management would pull back the power. Bloody electronics!
The obvious next step was to line the two cars up head-to-head, but with both of us too busy filming and running the event, we didn’t get to match them up until Mildura on the eighth-mile.
The first run saw me cutting a fairly ordinary 0.392 reaction against Aiden’s even slower 0.816, but the XR8 ran the XR6 down for an 8.36 against an 8.81, and a win margin of just 0.022 seconds. That’s just over two-hundredths of a second!
I called out for best-of-three and we lined up again. This time I aimed to drill the tree; the 0.164 light was much better, with Aiden cutting a 0.847 reaction. The XR8 was still half a second quicker over the eighth, with an 8.35 to the XR6’s 8.87, but the better reaction time handed the win to the XR6.
The third run would be the decider, but Aiden was catching on, and he cut a 0.515-second reaction, which might have saved him if I hadn’t nailed the tree with a 0.024 holeshot. Again the XR8 reeled in the XR6 and they crossed the line together, but the timecard showed that the six-pot crossed the line two-hundredths of a second ahead of the XR8.
So the best-of-three win went to the XR6, but the real story is that the XR8 is a bloody quick car, and quicker from a standing start than the XR6, especially over the first half of the drag strip. After the eighth-mile they were evenly matched, but the superior low-end grunt of the supercharged V8 was hard to beat, as long as Aiden didn’t get too enthusiastic and break into wheelspin. Which wasn’t a problem at Calder Park, he reckoned, but more likely to happen at tracks like Mildura and Swan Hill.
In truth, they’re both awesome cars; we were probably the last motoring journalists to ever drive Ford Falcon press cars, so at least we sent them off in style. No fancy GPS measuring devices, or talking about how many cup holders they have – just a good old-fashioned tour through country Victoria and some honest-to-goodness drag racing. Long live the mighty Falcon!