In the red corner sits the Holden Commodore SS. Using the bigger-is-better school of thought, there's a whopping six-litres of bent-eight under the bonnet making around 260-270kW (depending on your transmission), with six-speeds, limited slip differential and rear-wheel drive. In the blue corner though, is the subject of this review: the Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo. It uses forced induction and a four-litre, straight-six engine to make similar power (270kW), plus it also has the benefit of six-speed transmissions, LSD and rear-wheel-drive.
The climate control and settings menus take a little while to get used to - having the climate control above the stereo controls is a little different - but things like Bluetooth pairing is very straightforward once you work out the scrolling using the dial. When making phone calls, the radio will still remain active, all the way up until the person you call picks up.
The driver has at their disposal drilled aluminium pedals, with a huge brake pedal and decent sized footrest. The driving position is a little high set, though, with the steering wheel feeling like it's sitting in your lap. More height adjustment would be appreciated, or lowering the front seats. At least the steering is quite satisfying.
While some cars would skip about, feeling nervous and twitchy, the XR6 Turbo's suspension took it all in its stride, remaining supple, but enabling plenty of grip. On a country trip, though, the road noise can be quite wearing, with a constant roar over blue-metal. The XR6 Turbo's ride is firm, but it never jolts or jars, even at speed. Around town it's also absorbent enough to remain comfortable; an excellent balance.
The turbocharged six comes into its own while on the move. If you plant your foot from a standstill, not much happens while the turbo is spooling. This is a safe way to set it up, as it's not going to launch sideways from every set of traffic lights. But once's it's past the lag, there's plenty of fuel and air being shoved in and the whooshing sound gets louder, and acceleration gets much more urgent.With 270kW and 533Nm on tap, the XR6 Turbo has got plenty enough grunt for the average punter.
However, quickly backing off partway through acceleration will induce a jolt from the driveline, like the gearbox has locked into gear and the boost hasn't been let off smoothly. You soon learn to drive fluently you can't just hop off the accelerator, you have to ease it off. Once you've achieved this, the whole driveline feels smooth and refined. In normal driving, the ZF adapts to your driving style and quietly slips between gears with a minimum of fuss. It's still no match for the ZFs in BMWs and Jaguars in terms of response, but it matches well with the engine under the bonnet and shows off the straight-six's greatest attribute - its lack of harshness.
It's also satisfying to know that the FG Falcon receives the highest safety rating from ANCAP - five stars.
When the XR6 Turbo was launched, it was praised as being one of the best bang-for-your-buck cars around. It's good to see things haven't changed.
CarAdvice Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
How does it Drive: 4 out of 5
How does it Look: 4 out of 5
How does it Go: 4.5 out of 5