The Ford Performance Vehicles GT-F is the final Falcon to wear the famed GT badge. James Stanford finds out if it lives up to expectations.
After four days in the FPV GT-F Falcon, I have mixed emotions.
Personally, I would have liked to see the GT live on past the current-generation FG model. It would have been great to see with the exterior upgrades that will come with the final Falcon that will be released this December.
But Ford didn’t want to spend the cash, instead opting to sell a cut-price version of the GT as an XR8, with a 335kW engine and less equipment.
So, it makes sense why Ford tweaked the limited edition GT-F engine to give it 351kW. Of course, there is also the marketing bonus of the 351 number, which, in cubic inches, matches the size (in cubic inches) of the 5.8-litre V8 that powered muscular Falcons from the 1960s through to early 1980s. The torque figure of 570Nm does not change.
But, does the engine feel different?
FPV engineers reckon it is 0.2 seconds faster to 100km/h than the 335kW GT R-SPEC, averaging 4.6 seconds, and I don’t doubt them. To be honest though, I couldn’t pick the difference - the GT R-SPEC felt damn fast and so does the GT-F.
There has been quite a bit of discussion around the overboost function and some people assumed this was only available for the GT-F, which is not the case. The 15 per cent temporary power boost (as well as a torque boost) is a feature on all Miami V8s from 2010 onwards and operates for bursts of 15 to 20 seconds. It doesn’t work in first gear or below 4000rpm in others and will shut off if the ambient temperature hits 40 degrees or so.
Some people argued the final GT should have made even more power and Premcar, which did the calibration for the GT-F 351, had proposed a far more powerful intercooled version with help from Ford tuning legend Rob Herrod, but it got knocked on the head early.
Really though, this thing has way more power than it needs as it is.
Thankfully, Ford fitted the GT-F with the wider 9.0-inch rears from the R-SPEC, instead of the regular 8.0-inch rubber. This means that you can get all the power down in the dry most of the time (unless you are trying to get it slipping), and then it really does sling forward.
If the road is greasy, or wet, then the GT-F is a real handful. The upgraded ESC system works better with the car’s computer to predict and limit wheelspin (for example, if you stomp on the accelerator with lots of steering lock on). However it can till step out in some situations. For those feeling game, the traction control and stability control can be turned off completely.
The GT-F is not just a straight-line blaster as it inherits the same chassis package as the 2012 R-SPEC. It handles the way GTs should have when the Miami engine was introduced in 2010.
The GT-F has firmer springs and dampers as well as a thicker rear anti roll bar and more rigid strut mounts front and rear.
Just like the R-SPEC, the GT-F is a far more focused model. The ride could be a little too firm for some, especially those who might be expecting a cushy GT ride, but it is not at the extreme end of the scale.
The ride quality sacrifice is worth it, because the GT-F, like the R-SPEC, actually enjoys corners. While the regular GT would take a while to turn in and longer to lean over and settle, the GT-F sits flat and settles quickly. It is an all-round sharper car and the traction from the 9.0-inch rear tyres makes for much better corner exits.
The GT-F also gets the six-piston front Brembos (four-piston at the rear), which it needs given the Falcon’s tendency to run out of brakes when pushed hard.
A nice mean soundtrack adds to the enjoyment. Ford has made this car about as loud as it could be, without breaching drive-by noise restrictions. It starts with a nice throaty cough. The V8 exhaust note sounds fantastic when you are standing watching the car, but not so loud inside. You can hear it in the cabin, it sounds better on the inside.
The most dominant sound on the inside is the harsh and brutal supercharger whine. Who needs a boost gauge when the howl of the supercharger tells you exactly what it is doing?
There is a little bit of crackle and pop on gear-change and when you back off the throttle, but it is not as loud as some would like it to be. The GT-F is actually quite refined and sits quiet and still at idle.
Some customers will like this, while some would prefer a hot-cam wobble that suggests this really is a beast.
Buyers of these cars don’t care too much about fuel consumption, which is good because the GT-F’s official average fuel use figure is 13.7 litres per 100km. Our test car indicated a 13.5L/100km average with a mix of highway and city driving.
Ford did what it could to the GT-F interior and exterior on what must have been an extremely tight budget. The changes are limited to things like blacked out door handles, bumper sections, wing mirrors as well as a bonnet, roof and boot stripe. The numbers 351 are on three exterior badges, as well as the seats and the centre display start-up screen.
This centre screen has unique digital dials. Among them is a G-force metre, which is lots of fun for passengers and a boost gauge, which is disappointing as the needle moves in big increments and looks clunky and slow. There are unique plastic trim elements, a new instrument cluster background and special seat trim, which feels nice but looks a bit cheap (especially the stitching).
It certainly doesn’t look like the cabin of a $77,900 vehicle.
The GT-F suffers from many of the same issues that plague the ageing Falcon. It feels old, because, well, much of it is. Many interior bits are left over from 2008 and it looks cheap and dated. Some of the panels and parts of the platform can be traced much further back.
There is also that frustrating super-high seating position, the maximum wheel size is 19-inches, and there are no new tech features such as lane departure warning or adaptive cruise control, as is available on rival high-end Commodores.
Then there is the start procedure that feels like a step back in time.
Getting in the car, you instinctively press the red Start button and nothing happens. That’s because you have to put the key in the ignition, twist it all the way and then press the Start button. This was a bit of fun back in 2002 when it was introduced, but the world has moved on. My wife’s five-year-old Focus has a proper keyless entry and start system.
Ford wouldn’t have been able to fix all these issues without a huge generation change and sadly that is just not going to happen before it is retired in a couple of years.
Not that customers of the GT-F care. Almost all of the 500 that will be built have already been sold. Ford is only letting a couple of people drive this test car as it will be auctioned off to raise money for charity along with another media car and the last ever GT, number 500.
The GT-F is a nice tribute to a Ford icon. In a perfect world it would be better and faster, but in a perfect world, Ford would make Falcons in Australia forever.
So, as it stands, the GT-F is a pretty special car and a good example of a true Australian muscle car. I just hope the owners of these 500 cars get out there and drive them instead of hiding them in a garage hoping to get rich one day.
For those who missed out on a GT-F, there is always the promise of the XR8.