The unwritten law that automatics shouldn’t slot behind enthusiastic engines is beginning to change. And so it should.
This review was first published in MOTOR Magazine's December 2005 issue.
More than 90 percent of the volume in the Australian car market is in autos, so you’d expect a few research dollars to be funnelled towards making slushers do everything bar make brekky.
Ford Australia tweaks the bought-in fully developed technology, puts it behind an engine that everybody likes and, presto, Ford’s Research & Development team look like geniuses. So there’s the BF XR6 Turbo, complete with a unique version of the six-speed auto that’s already in BMW’s 5 and 7-Series, Jaguar’s S-Type and XJ, and a host of other big-money cars in between.
Covered in more detail last month, the six-speed tranny is one of the best in the world – and only 1kg heavier than the four-speed auto Falcons have traditionally run. But it’s not the whole story with the XR6 Turbo.
This is a much meatier, refined car and the real genius is that in eliminating a lot of the road and body vibration noise and tweaking the exhaust, Ford has given the Turbo a genuine, peaky angry snarl of an engine note that it didn’t have before. The intermediate and rear exhaust cans are far stiffer, as are the hangers all the way along the pipe.
Besides tuning the noise and meeting Euro III emissions regulations, it’s eliminated a lot of unwanted vibrations, with the remaining noise just “real character”, according to Ford’s product and development vice president, Trevor Worthington. It’s also going to be a faster, stronger car in daily life.
Ford’s new big PCM is a far more capable unit and while the Turbo engine delivers only 5kW more power, torque is up 30Nm, so it’s a better thing for cruising around town and it’s a better thing when punching hard. The ratios are closer together, and first and second are shorter, so that’s a good start.
The other beauty of it is that the next four ratios basically cover the space that used to hold just two, so the shifts are smoother and kickdown is far less jerky. While it pushes 245kW, the engine’s had plenty of tweaks, including the jump to dual independent variable cam timing (the technology wasn’t available at the right money on BA, so each camshaft’s VCT was dependent on the other).
Ford reckons it isn’t choking the car down, claiming the extra 5kW and 30Nm could have been higher but for the need to meet Euro III – yet it still feels like it’s got more to offer.
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A well-driven manual will still be more fun for the skilled – seamless, heel-and-toe downshifting is a skill worth learning – but for 98 percent of XR6 Turbo buyers 98 percent of the time, the ZF six-speed is going to be brilliant.
BF Ford XR6 Turbo Auto specs:
ENGINE: 4.0-litre DOHC intercooled turbo in-line six, variable cam timing