Two Years of FG Falcon XR6 Ownership
Two years ago today I became the owner of an FG Ford Falcon XR6. Australian readers will be familiar with these and so will many other people, but if you're not a Falcon XR6 is essentially a 530i M Sport for Mondeo money. The XR6 has been the benchmark of the class it created since 1991, but what are they like to live with.
I bought my Falcon from a family friend who’d had it since new on a 5 year user-chooser lease. Because it was a fixed-term lease I was offered the chance to buy it six months before it would be available. At first I was unsure about it. It was an auto, and it was red. Being on my P plates at the time, my preference was for a more subtle colour to avoid harassment from the police or other P platers. But it was very cheap, about $10,000 cheaper than the dark green or blue manual that I would have preferred. That saving would be more than enough to convert it to a manual if I ever decided to, and I will if the auto gearbox ever dies. As for the colour, the red has grown on me. I wouldn’t have it in any other colour. It has a really nice orange glow to it under yellow street lights or at sunset. If you’re thinking about buying a bright coloured car, but you’re not quite sure, go for it, you won’t regret it.
About two weeks before buying it, I took it for a test drive. I’d already made up my mind by this point, but it’s always a good idea. This was the point where I went from wanting it to feeling like I needed it more than anything else. I’d been driving my parents’ Cruze SRi for the last few months after my Rodeo was written off, and while the Cruze was reasonably fun to drive, the Falcon was a lot better. Over the next two weeks I paid for it and organised insurance. Then on 26th August 2016, it was delivered.
For the next couple of weeks, my car drew a fair bit of attention from family and friends. That’s what happens when a uni student buys a modern car, let alone a bright red XR6. Most people wanted to know how I could afford it. The only negative comments I got were from a couple of co-workers who were one-eyed Holden fans.
The first big drive in it was to the Sandown 500 about three weeks after I bought it. As you’d expect from a large sedan, the Falcon handled it with ease. Quiet and comfortable with excellent high beam headlights. Parking it in Melbourne proved a challenge, but that was as much about the parking spaces being smaller than I was used to more than the car itself. It was at Sandown that year that I got the passenger sunvisor signed by all eight of FPR’s 2014 enduro drivers.
The XR6 is an enjoyable car to drive. Being rear wheel drive it feels balanced, and it responds well to spirited driving. Body control is very good, it’s very stable and planted, the steering feels well weighted, as do the pedals. It gives you the confidence to push it hard. something that you don’t quite get with similar cars. The inline six is smooth and responsive, with a strong mid range, and sounds nicer than a V6. I will admit to having spent some time just listening to it idle. The ride is nice, if a little firm over level crossings, and I've done several long drives (five to six hours) in it and it's a comfortable car to be in for extended periods.
Many people these days are turning to SUVs in the belief that they are more practical. For the majority of the time, this isn’t the case. My Falcon has done three trips to Ikea and counting, it can carry five adults and their luggage, and has been used to move house three times. So it’s practical enough for any everyday situation. Yes I’ve had to borrow my dad’s Santa Fe to shift large items on occasion, such as a fridge or a bed. But that might only happen once a year, if that, and for the rest of the year I have a excellent driver’s car, while my dad has a car that pitches under brakes, has zero steering feel and is about as exciting as vacuuming. The Falcon will also tow 2.3 tonnes if you do ever need to shift something big. Which is more than any SUV, aside from the Territory, it's sister car. A 4WD will tow more though. I will concede that rough dirt roads are out of the question in an XR6, but they're also out of the question for most inner city SUV owners.
There are some drawbacks. At 4.97 metres long and 2.08 metres wide, it is hard to park, and it’s too low for steep driveways and some off-street car parks. The interior could be improved too. The centre cup holders are useless, get a drink at the Macca's drive-through and you'll be driving home with one hand. The glove box lid also has no sides, which can be annoying when you try to close it, there’s no USB port or Bluetooth (both options), there’s only one power supply (annoying if you have a phone, iPod and GPS to charge, you have to use a bulky double adapter), and if you’ve got a shared e-tag, there’s nowhere to put it. I’ve since got my own e-tag on a holder behind the rear view mirror so that’s no longer such an issue. Another issue is the standard 17 inch wheels, which take 245/45 tyres, a size becoming difficult to find in a performance tyre. Luckily the 2016 Motor Tyre Test winning Dunlop Sport Maxx RT tyres are available and were fitted yesterday, putting the problem off for another 18 months or so. Next time I’ll have to think about getting the Turbo’s 18s or a set of TSW Bathursts. And another problem, if you're a P plater, every P plater in a GQ Nissan Patrol will try to race you. You'll also be tailgated frequently. All P platers will have these experiences and that will stop once you're on your full licence, but It is possible that you'll experience this more driving an XR6. In my old Rodeo I had no such problems. The FG XR6 is however more than capable of putting a GQ Patrol owner in their place. It's a nice problem to have, really.
The running costs are reasonable, more than a smaller car, but they definitely won't send you broke. My average fuel consumption is 9.0L/100km, but I do a lot of highway driving and generally walk to work. The previous owner got 10.5L/100km, which is also the ADR 81 average. It takes high performance tyres, which will set you back at least $300/tyre for a good set and most have a treadwear rating of around 300. Serving is typically in the high $200 range, and they do go through bushes a bit. It's a good idea put urethane bushes in as they get replaced to save money in the long term. It makes up for this with it's engine. 140,000km with not one issue. Only oil and filters have been changed. Someone reversed into the back of it at one point, so I can tell you that it costs about $2600 for a good quality panel beater to replace the rear bumper and beaver panel and repair the bootlid. The owner of the other car was the driver's boyfriend's dad, making her excess $3100. Speaking of insurance, if you're young, it will be expensive, but manageable if you can afford the car in the first place. Youi and Budget Direct won't insure you if you're under 30, but whatever your age, having budget insurance is like having a budget parachute.
Ford dealers are a mixed bag in my experience. I’ve had my car serviced with two. One was very good. They were honest and well priced. When they told me I needed two new bushes I got a second opinion and needed five plus a new timing belt. The bushes and timing belt the independent mechanic said needed changing are still perfect. The Ford dealer I went to for the last service however were not so good. They called me and told me it was ready to be picked up, and when I got there I was informed that they were still washing it with who knows what. I only use Bowden's Own and had just washed it the day before, making this service a rare instance where a car is washed and ends up less clean. The also said that it urgently needed two new rear bushes and the tyres only had 2,000km left. I went to another mechanic for inspection. I didn’t tell them what to look for. They said the same two bushes were starting to wear and that they should be changed with the tyres in 5-7,000km. They were also a bit cheaper, and just generally nicer to deal with. On the subject of servicing, and reliability, there has never been an issue with the engine or drivetrain in over 140,000km. I’ve got a mate with a BA and AU with 180,000 and 370,000km respectively and he’s never had anything go wrong. Another mate has a VE Commodore with 150,000km that’s starting to feel worn out. The only parts that have had to be changed are the usual consumables like brake pad and discs, and rear suspension bushes, which have been replaced with nolathane. The shock absorbers will be replaced for the first time next service as per the owner's’ manual.
I can definitely recommend an FG or FG-X Falcon XR6. They’re fun to drive, practical, reliable and an excellent long distance cruiser. Look for one with iPod integration, and be prepared to pay a premium for a manual if you’re buying used. And hurry up if you’re buying new, sadly there’s not long to go. Mine has served me well for two years and I'd like to get a few more years as a daily out of it. It won't be sold.