Price: $20,900 to $26,400
Ford Falcon G6E EcoLPi: $52,890 (manufacturer’s list price)
If you’re anything like me, your memories of LPG-powered vehicles are limited to trips back home in taxis between the hours of 12am and 5am on Sunday mornings. These memories are further diluted by clunky taxis that would vibrate and make all sorts of strange noises on take-off.
While you may not share such memories beyond the 12am mark, the sentiment is still the same. The general image of an LPG-powered vehicle is one of a taxi and one of a vehicle that generally isn’t all that exciting to be in or drive.
Prior to the launch of the EcoLPi Falcon, Ford used an archaic venturi-vapour converter-and-mixer LPG system that was inefficient, troublesome and so 1940s. The old system would convert raw LPG into a vapour that would be mixed with intake air to become a combustible mixture.
The new liquid phase injection (LPi) system works on similar principles to the venturi-vapour system, with the main difference being that the fuel exits the converter at a high pressure to be mixed with intake air and is then electronically injected into the chamber, allowing for greater control.
The end result of this system is a reduced intake temperature, which means more power is available with comparable levels of fuel use. The increase in power was so effective in the Falcon’s case that Ford Australia’s engineers had to de-tune the system so it wouldn’t go too far beyond the current development stage of the Falcon petrol six-cylinder engine.
Aussie engineers were made to work for their money with a new pre-priming system required to stop the traditional extended cranking times associated with LPG vehicles. The system works by priming the LPG fuel line when the driver hits the unlock button, with the final stage of priming activated when the driver opens the driver’s door.
The priming mode ensures that the car is able to immediately start regardless of the system or ambient temperature, a problem that often plagued LPG vehicles of the past. Another system employed to automate the process is single touch start. Instead of needing to hold the key in the start position, the driver can simply click once and the vehicle will automatically crank for the required length of time.
The best part about all of this is the driver can’t feel any vehicle alterations and the car feels just as good, if not better, than the petrol Falcon to drive.
As a Gen Y male, I set off to determine whether LPG is ‘cool’ and whether the new generation of LPG Falcon features the goods to make it a viable option for buyers after a sporty car without the fuel bill.
At the top end of the Ford Falcon range, the G6E features all the bells and whistles and is priced from $52,890. Tastefully fitted out with beige Cashmere Leather, the G6E offers a premium set of features to keep everyone happy, from young to old.
A seven-inch Human Machine Interface sits atop the dashboard and controls everything from climate to audio. The easy-to-navigate system allows the driver to personalise the car’s features, browse a connected music player’s contents (which includes any device with an ‘i’ in front of its name) and pair a telephone for hands-free Bluetooth operation.
Sound is delivered by an eight-speaker 262-watt sound system with sub-woofer. Audiophiles will be bitterly disappointed with the sound quality, though. The sound system distorts and sends nasty sounds throughout the cabin exponentially with volume, making it less than ideal if you enjoy listening to music.
It’s a real shame, considering the extensive audio input credentials, including an in-dash six-stack CD player with MP3 capability, USB connectivity, 3.5mm auxiliary input, and Bluetooth audio streaming.
Cabin interactivity between passengers is helped with excellent cabin noise during highway cruising and on coarse country roads. Cabin noise is only mildly interrupted by the engine at high rpms.
Interior legroom and headroom is absolutely exceptional, making it an ideal choice for those after a roomy sedan, or those with a young family.
To test the Falcon’s size, I loaded four of my mates into the G6E Falcon and went driving. My passengers ranged in height from embarrassingly short to remarkably tall and were all catered for when it came to legroom, headroom and comfort. Falcons have always been known for their plush and soft rides, and the G6E is certainly no exception.
So far, the Falcon is doing most things right.
Any warm-blooded Gen Y male won’t set foot in a large sedan unless it sends power through the rear wheels and shoves you back in your seat off the line. So, to ensure it didn’t drive like the aforementioned taxis of yesteryear, I went for a spirited drive to evaluate the EcoLPi’s performance.
Off the line, the EcoLPi Falcon has a heap of available torque. In fact, the EcoLPi Falcon produces an extra 18Nm of torque and 3kW more power than its petrol sibling (198kW and 409Nm). This continues throughout the rev band and hits a turbo-esque peak at 3250rpm. It’s so fast that during the vehicle’s media launch, controlled environment drag races with a petrol powered Falcon had the EcoLPi variant consistently winning.
Power is sent through the Falcon’s renowned six-speed automatic gearbox from German manufacturer ZF Sachs. The EcoLPi Falcon consumes 12.6L/100km, compared with the six-speed automatic petrol-powered Falcon, which consumes 9.9L/100km.
In reality, you won’t match the luscious turbocharged inline six-cylinder Falcon’s performance. It goes a great deal of the way to offering an exhilarating driving experience, without the fuel bill to match.
Over the period of three years, at an average distance travelled of 15,000km per year, the EcoLPi will cost the owner around $3875 in fuel (including the $500 excess for EcoLPi), whereas an XR6 Turbo will set the owner back $7560 in fuel. That’s a 49 per cent cost saving, for only a 24 per cent torque sacrifice.
The only real downside to the LPG system is the lack of boot room due to the placement of the LPG tank. Buyers have the option of a full sized spare tyre that sits in the centre of the boot on top of the floor, a space saver spare tyre, or a filler system that temporarily patches punctures until the driver can make it to a repair centre. With the full sized spare optioned, boot room is essentially inaccessible due to the tyre’s placement.
Ford’s new EcoLPi dedicated LPG system attracts a $2500 price premium over its respective petrol variant and is available in the XT, G6, G6E and XR6. After a government rebate of $2000, the end cost to the buyer is $500, which is generally earned back within a year depending on the number of kilometres you travel.
I’ve come to the conclusion that advanced LPG-powered vehicles are cool once again and no longer have horrid resemblances to their public transport ancestry. The engineers at Ford have managed to convert the outgoing LPG Falcon from a dud into a performance-revelling lout with some incredible power tuning capabilities. If the Ford Falcon is on your test drive list, you would be absolutely crazy not to tick the LPG box.