Buying Used: Ford Falcon FG Series (2008-11)

The FG almost certainly will be the last Australian-designed Falcon. With millions invested in chassis refinement and build quality it also ranks as the best-ever big Ford.

It is strange that Ford Australia, having produced the best Falcon in its history and probably the most competent full-sized car ever sold in this country, has let it die of disinterest.

Since arriving in 2008 the FG has struggled to deliver sales in a market that is shunning big passenger cars, but it really deserved to be promoted far more strenuously.

The impending demise of the Falcon is colouring used-market perceptions as well. Early FG models, especially the upper-echelon XRs and G6E, offer outstanding amounts of car for a very reasonable outlay.

HISTORY

The three-tier FG Falcon passenger-car range was launched in April 2008 and introduced new designations that took the place of familiar model names. Prices ran from $37,000 to $55,000 and just one Falcon sedan was now available with the long-serving V8 engine.

XT, G6 and G6E models came with petrol or LPG-fuelled six-cylinder engines that produced 195kW and 156kW respectively. Five-speed automatic transmission was standard in XT and G6 petrol versions, with the impressive ZF six-speed a $1500 option. After September 2008, even the basic XT came with alloy wheels.

Fleet buyers and the frugal who opted for LPG were saddled with the old and ordinary four-speed auto, and, for the first time in decades, manual transmission was not available in a base-model Falcon.

XT equipment included front and side air-bags, ABS braking, air-conditioning, power windows and driver seat adjustment, a single CD player, sensor headlight activation, a trip computer and cruise control. The G6 was $1000 cheaper than the Futura it replaced and added 17-inch alloy wheels, a reversing sensor, trim upgrade and leather-rim steering wheel.

After more than 40 years, the Fairmont was gone; replaced by the G6E that could be specified with a 195kW engine or the 270kW Turbo.

Leather upholstery was fitted to all G6Es and its package incorporated curtain air-bags, dual-zone climate control, a CD stacker and a reversing camera with colour display screen. Six-speed transmission was standard in G6E and Turbo versions, with the higher-performance car getting 18-inch wheels, a brake upgrade and revised suspension settings.

Retained but not especially well promoted were the 195kW XR6, XR6 Turbo and 290kW XR8. The XR6 was auto-only but the Turbo and XR8 could both be specified with six-speed manual transmission.

A new suspension design widened the track and significantly reduced component weight. Up front was Ford’s ‘Virtual Pivot Control Link’ design, with inspiration from the Territory, but avoiding that vehicle’s issues with ball-joint failure.

Rear suspension was an upgraded version of the ‘Control Blade’ IRS that arrived with the BA model, with new bushings and anti-roll bar mounts. The brakes – a point of contention with owners of earlier Falcons – were largely unchanged from the BF II but the parking brake gained self-adjustment.

With its inclusion of Electronic Stability Control, the FG became the first large Australian-built car to score a Five Star rating in ANCAP testing. However, ESC wasn’t fitted to LPG-only Falcons and left cabs and a lot of company-owned Fords languishing in Four-Star land.

Change, minor though it was, came in 2010 via the FG Mk II. A new exhaust system ensured that the FG met Euro IV emission rules that were mandated from July of that year. With the change came improvements of 2-5.5 percent in claimed fuel economy, Blue Tooth and iPod connections and some extra embellishment on the high-end models. 2010 saw Anniversary versions offered across the FG range.

Prices increased, in the case of the Mk II G6E Turbo by $1100, and XR6 buyers got curtain air-bags as standard. They were a $300 option on lesser models, however that didn’t mute critics who believed a full complement of bags should have been standard on the entire range.

ON THE ROAD
It really doesn’t matter which trim level you choose in an FG, these are comfortable cars with all the equipment that most people will want.

In town with the five-speed automatic there’s no lag or confusion while the transmission plays catch-up with the position of the driver’s right foot – and the six-speed is better again. Mid-range acceleration even without the benefit of a turbocharger is strong and you need to punch the cruise control button or risk wafting well beyond legal highway limits. Get into a turbo version and the temptation to flout laws becomes even stronger.

Forget old-school muscle-cars and their six-figure asking prices. The leather-trimmed G6ET, with barely a whine from the engine and barely a chirp – unless the Traction Control is disabled – from the rear tyres, will fling you from a standstill to 100km/h in a blink over five seconds.

The gear-shift has a manual slot but an hour spent playing in there brings the conclusion that steering with one hand while trying to outsmart the ZF is a lost cause and you just let the transmission do its job.  

The G6E suspension doesn’t quite match the XR6 for high-speed cornering grip or feedback, but most buyers won’t see that as a bad thing. The top-spec Falcon still delivers great handling when needed and supple comfort at other times.

Cars with cloth-trimmed seats are less comfortable than some drivers will like, but the leather in a G6E (or other models fitted with the $5000 Luxury Pack) delivers comfort and decent support. Vision in all directions is good and there is no neck craning, as in the VE Commodore, to see past thick and poorly-placed windscreen pillars.

Variable ratio power steering that is light and friendly. FG brakes have their critics but you need to push very hard or tow something heavy to reach their limits.

Changes aimed at significant noise suppression, including new body pressings to minimise door gaps, hydraulic engine mounts and alterations to the engine intake tract and exhaust combine to produce a car that is almost silent. Ford even needed to redesign the turbo exhaust to deliver, in their words, “powerful yet refined sound quality”.

Fuel consumption raises some owners’ hackles for the least logical of reasons. These are heavy, very powerful cars yet even the Turbo six will get into the 7L/100km range when cruising on a flat freeway. Hammer any of these engines or ask them to tow a decent-sized boat and 18-20L/100km is inevitable.

CHECK POINTS

>> These cars display no endemic problems or major design flaws. Owners report few warranty issues and even high km ‘renters’ felt tight and rattle-free.
>> Check the service book to see where to whom the car was originally delivered. A company name and services in quick succession during its first year on road denote a car that may have served on a rental fleet or has done some hard corporate kilometres early in life.
>> FG brakes generally avoid the problems that beset preceding models but there are reports of hydraulic issues that allow the brake pedal to sink noticeably when depressed for a minute or so. Brake rotors subjected to hard use can groove and warp, requiring replacement or upgrades to better quality components.
>> Cars that have travelled more than 30,000 kilometres can suffer differential bush failure which manifests in axle tramp when accelerating. Cars built from 2009 had improved bushes and robust after-market replacements are available.
>> Any noise, vibration or hesitation from the automatic transmission – especially the expensive ZF – needs investigation before buying.

USED VEHICLE GRADING

Design & Function: 14/20
Safety: 15/20
Practicality: 16/20
Value for Money: 16/20
Wow Factor 14/20 (G6E Turbo)
TOTAL SCORE: 75/100

ALSO CONSIDER: Holden VE Commodore, Toyota Aurion V6, Chrysler 300C

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discount new cars  » Get the best price on a new Ford Published : Wednesday, 19 December 2012
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