Join Date: Nov 2004
2011 Ford Falcon FPV Boss 335 GT
Ford Australia had an embarrassing problem with its high-performance six-cylinder Falcon sedan: The Ford Performance Vehicles F6 was, er, faster than its V-8-powered counterpart, the FPV GT. The F6's 4.0-liter straight-six might have had the same bore-center spacing as the straight-six fitted to the first Australian-built Falcon a half century ago, but like Grandpa's axe, everything else had been replaced or renewed over the years. With its twin-cam, four-valve cylinder head and Garrett GT3540 turbocharger, the F6's all-Aussie six delivered 415 horsepower and 416 pound-feet of torque. The U.S.-built 5.4-liter V-8 that powered the GT boasted just 7 more horses -- and 10 pound-feet less torque. As a result, the GT was a second slower over the quarter mile and, because it weighed more, less fun in the twisties.
While the GT might have worn one of the most storied badges in Aussie musclecar history, one that dated back to the 289-powered 1967 Falcon GT, local road testers regularly toasted the F6 as one of the best Australian sportsedans ever.
Well, the reign of the turbo six is over. FPV's Falcon GT is under new management, and the new Boss is a powerful straight torquer. Under the hood is a supercharged version of Ford's new 5.0-liter Coyote V-8, developed in Australia by FPV partner Prodrive. You might have heard of Prodrive: It's the Brit-based motorsport shop that, among other things, built Colin McRae's Subaru rally cars and the Aston Martins that race at Le Mans. Prodrive owns 51 percent of FPV; Ford owns the rest.
Kick the supercharged Coyote in the guts, and it settles into a deep, throbbing idle. Spin the crank into the mid-range, and there's a growing, rich swell of thrust on tap, but little else signposting this burbling bent-eight as blown. But offer it a force-fed lungful via a wide-open throttle, and you're shoved down the highway to a maniacal whine from the supercharger as a torrent of torque powers you to an insistent top-end that's part V-8 howl and part blower shriek. This new GT is quick.
We're 300 miles northwest of Sydney, sun blazing and the wide-open expanse of Australia's Outback unfolding before us, when we overtake a woman driving a purple Holden Commodore SV6. Not happy to sit back and watch someone in an F-O-R-D disappear into the distance, she jumps on the gas and blows by at 110 mph, before settling back to a slow cruising speed. We pass her a couple times, and she repeatedly does the same thing. Seems the old Holden versus Ford rivalry is bitter out here.
There's clearly a truth-in-naming policy in operation at FPV these days, because the GT-although rocket-quick when you want it to be-is also the consummate Australian Grand Touring car. Despite a stiffened suspension and low-profile rubber, the ride-versus-handling compromise favors bump-soaking ride comfort, and that's just about perfect out here. Some of the larger details of the road surface filter into the cabin, but the worst bumps are absorbed.
We do have a few complaints: Reflections off the hood hump can be like staring directly into the sun at certain times of the day. The remote-controlled sat-nav system could be more intuitive. And, c'mon, FPV, either ditch the Start button or give us a remote key. However, building on the inherent chassis comfort are the body-hugging front seats wrapped in an equally grippy fabric that looks like it'll wear well; a chunky, contoured-leather wheel with clear, easy-to-use audio and cruise buttons; frosty air-conditioning; and crankin' sound to satisfy your inner rock 'n' roller.
Labeling it a GT in the true sense of the badge is not to say there isn't some Hi-Po lurking within. The Falcon chassis is a beautiful, well-balanced, trustworthy thing. The steering wheel controls a light, slick steering system that offers up ample feel; the well-modulated brake pedal commands powerful, responsive Brembo brakes-six-piston calipers clamping 13.9-inch ventilated discs up front. And the V-8 is mated to the ever-smooth and intuitive six-speed ZF autobox. It all comes together as a terrifically well-sorted muscle sedan that is a treat on Aussie roads.
But a hard drive reveals weaknesses. Ask it to change direction quickly, and there's slight rubberiness of response, rather than the crispness you might hope for. Increase the speed with which you tackle undulations, and the normally controlled body begins to float. And as the front tires near the limit of adhesion-sometimes at a surprisingly early stage-there's a degree of steering kickback.
Back to cruising. The palette on either side of the blacktop is increasingly an iron oxide reddish-brown punctuated by the ever-present purple of the local wildflowers as we jet toward Broken Hill. Some time later, about 15 miles northwest of that isolated mining town near the South Australian border-and about 715 miles from Sydney-we arrive in Silverton, home of the Mad Max Musuem.
Loquacious Brit Adrian Bennett developed an obsession for "Mad Max" after he first saw the movie and its sequel as a teenager in1982 back in England. A panel-beater by trade, he built his own Interceptor, before moving it, an extensive collection of memorabilia, and his family from Yorkshire to the Australian Outback in 2006. He set up the Mad Max Museum in Silverton-the small desert town at the epicenter of the post-apocalyptic locations used in the film-earlier this year.
Those long hours and big miles are worthwhile when Adrian and his Interceptor crest the hill at our photo location, matte black and menacing, crouched over fat tires, whirring blower casting its evil shadow over the hood in the dying amber sun. Up close, it's simply awesome, with its wedgy nosecone, flared fenders, roof spoiler, side pipes, twin tanks, and jutting Weiand blower replete with obligatory in-cabin supercharger switch. It doesn't quite have 600 horsepower through the wheels. It doesn't matter. This thing looks like it would rip your head off.
Standing in that starkly beautiful Outback setting where the opening scenes of "Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" were filmed, the Interceptor hulking evilly on the roadside, was like being on set in 1981, ready to shoot a movie that would become a worldwide hit and make a mega-movie star out of Mel Gibson. Adrian's friend, Ian, who worked on "The Road Warrior" leans in close and says with near-religious reverence: "See that road there, that's Fury Road." Like most sequels, "Mad Max 4: Fury Road," which is currently in the works, will be greeted with great anticipation. But it also has plenty to live up to.
You could have said the same of the new FPV Falcon GT. But with the supercharged muscle to blow the turbo six into the weeds, FPV's V-8 hero gets star billing.
Mad Max Museum curator Adrian Bennett is known to bet the museum itself he can answer any question about his beloved movies, says wife Linda. Chief among the attractions in his museum are photographs, scripts, props, and an extensive collection of vehicles from the "Mad Max" films. You'll find the museum up the hill from the Silverton pub (you can't miss it, because, honestly, there's not a lot in Silverton). And Adrian is always keen to chat. He looks the part driving the tough-ass Interceptor, too.
Giving the Coyote Claws
When Ford's long-serving 5.4-liter V-8 fell afoul of the tougher Euro IV emissions standards that became law in Australia last July, it was a mixed blessing for Ford Performance Vehicles.
The 5.4 simply wasn't competitive against the GM 6.2-liter V-8 powering archrival Holden hot-shop HSV's performance and luxury Commodore variants. The incoming 5.0-liter Coyote was a better all-around engine than the 5.4, but with only 412 horsepower and 390 pound-feet on tap-in Mustang GT tune-FPV engineers knew it was going to struggle against the 436-horse/405-pound-foot V-8s in the hi-po HSV Holdens. Their solution? Develop a supercharged version of the Coyote themselves.
The program cost FPV $40 million and involved housing a set of Eaton TVS1900 four-lobe supercharger rotors-the same as used in the Corvette ZR1-in a locally made casing designed to fit under the Falcon's hood. Other upgrades included stronger sintered-metal con-rods, high-silicone-content pistons to reduce friction, and thick cast-iron cylinder liners pressed into the alloy block. The result? 449 horsepower at 5750 rpm, and 420 pound-feet from 2200 to 5500 rpm.
But that's only the beginning: FPV reportedly has a high-output version of the engine ready for the FPV Falcon GT-HO expected later this year. With a rumored 502 horsepower and 479 pound-feet, it should be quite a ride.
- Angus MacKenzie