We drive the final update to the trusty Falcon. New tyres and the adoption of the G6 suspension tune are complemented by more features.
WHAT IS IT?
The cheapest model of the updated FGX range, the last Falcon model before the factory shuts down by October 2016.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
The spotlight has been on the return of the XR8, but the base model is crucial in the Falcon line-up, especially this EcoLPi version. Revised for FGX with more features and revised driving dynamics, the base model – now known simply as Falcon – carries a lot on its shoulders.
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THE WHEELS VERDICT
More of the same, done slightly better. But there’s a good chance the people that once flocked to the entry-level Falcon – fleets and governments – won’t take much notice of the changes. And private buyers won’t appreciate the drab interior, instead jumping up to the sportier-looking XR6.
THE WHEELS REVIEW
SLIDING into the broad, accommodating seats of the entry-level FGX Falcon – which drops the XT moniker and is now known as just plain old Falcon – is an exercise in familiarity.
While the outside has undergone a radical Mustang-inspired refresh (new front design, bootlid, lights, bumpers and wheels), the interior has only been given a minor tweak.
There are some new hues, but the expansive dark grey dash remains unchanged, as does the plasticky steering wheel that rams home the feeling you’re driving the one aimed at governments and fleets.
That level of drabness flows through to other parts of the cabin, from the trio of undamped overhead grab handles that snap back into place to steering wheel buttons that don’t illuminate.
And, while it gets a reversing camera, parking sensors at each end and a colour touchscreen, the base model is the only one in the range that doesn’t get sat-nav.
However, the Sync2 infotainment system brings a clearer colour screen and added functionality, and the much-hyped ability for it to directly call emergency services is a win if you have a big accident.
The eight-inch colour touchscreen breaks into four quadrants for phone, navigation, audio and ventilation. Most are best accessed by the separate buttons sitting below the screen – it’s generally quicker and easier.
But part of the Sync functionality involves voice operation, which is more of a party trick for all but the phone operation (or sat-nav on models that have it), where it’s a useful alternative to drilling into menus.
On the road, the Falcon is as comfortable as ever. Adopting the G6E suspension developed for the FG, it is compliant and supple, disposing of country thumps with ease.
A thicker front stabiliser bar and thinner rear one for the EcoLPi driven here has improved turn-in marginally. Claims of better rear grip were difficult to assess during our rain-sodden drive, but it was enough to establish there’s progression and control.
The suspension compresses heavily over big bumps, but body control is good and the balance as impressive as ever.
The carryover hydraulic steering is light, sometimes too much at lower speeds, but it points faithfully and there’s no kickback or other nasties.
New low rolling resistance Michelin tyres help reduce fuel use, but the 4.0-litre in-line six is still thirsty, with claimed usage of 11.7 litres per 100km.
The lazy, torque-heavy bottom end of the LPG engine means for the most part you can keep revs below 3500rpm. Above that, response is still brisk and performance rewarding.
With 198kW, it’s fractionally more powerful than the 195kW petrol-fed version of the same engine, and the EcoLPi is refined, too. The only indication this is the LPG model is the slight hesitation before cranking over when you turn the key.
It all works beautifully with the latest ZF six-speed auto, which is 10kg lighter and adds additional slip in the torque converter as well as the ability to lock up at lower revs, improving fuel economy by a claimed 10 percent.
Model: Ford Falcon EcoLPi
Engine: 3984cc 6cyl, dohc, 24v
Max power: 198kW @ 5000rpm
Max torque: 409Nm @ 3250rpm
Transmission: 6-speed auto
On sale: Now
Click here to read the full range review of the 2015 Ford Falcon