2016 Ford Falcon XR6 Sprint Review

This is the last time you'll ever see a new Falcon launched in Australia. What a perfect way to send it off — with almost 400kW of power on overboost, it's the epitome of torque and thrust.
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It's a vivid memory — April 2002 — when Ford Australia launched its 'Secrets Revealed' campaign. Images and details of the BA Falcon were drip fed to the Australian public in the lead up to its final act. That final act was the reveal of Ford's saving grace, said BA Falcon range.

While the entire line-up offered a huge step forward from the AU Falcon, there was one model that really led the way. It was the birth of what is arguably Australia's heartiest force-fed car, the Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo. With 240kW on tap back then, and the option of a clunky five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, it would be the engine that stood the test of time.

Fast forward to today and we've just driven one of the final Ford Falcons ever. It's a special edition designed to stir emotion and bring out the best in the Falcon chassis we know and love. It's called the Ford Falcon XR6 Sprint — and I can't get the smile off my face. There's also a Ford Falcon XR8 Sprint and you can read our review and the full details here.

The XR6 Sprint is the most expensive non-FPV turbocharged Falcon ever at $54,990 plus on-roads ($8900 more than the non-Sprint version) and is limited to just 550 units (with 50 of those being shipped across the ditch to New Zealand) — most of which have already been sold.

Before we talk about how it drives, we need to check out the exterior and interior.

Trainspotters won't have any troubles picking the XR6 Turbo Sprint in traffic. The exterior features a number of unique elements that will set it aside from the regular XR6 Turbo. These changes include:

  • New front fog-light surround, with cut out vent in bumper
  • New stripe decal in signature hockey stick style
  • New Sprint badge (rear)
  • New Sprint mudguard badge (Side)
  • Indicator moved to wing mirror – body coloured for XR6
  • ‘Sprint’ scuff-plates
  • Black headlamp bezels
  • Body coloured deck-lid Applique
  • Staggered 19-inch alloy wheels in black
  • 6-piston (front), 4-piston (rear) Brembo brakes in gold
  • Numbered build plates for each model, both located on the engine
  • Rear deck spoiler in black

It actually looks quite tough from the outside. The black wheels and stripe highlights work in unison with blacked out wing mirrors (which include indicators, relocated from the front 3/4 panel and replaced with 'Sprint' badges) and a modest boot lip spoiler.

The 19-inch alloy wheels hug a huge set of gold-coloured six-piston Brembo brakes at the front and four-piston Brembo stoppers at the rear. The front rotors are slotted and cross drilled and measure 355mm in diameter, while the rear set are equally as impressive at 330mm with slotting and cross drilling.

Tyres have been beefed up thanks to the standard inclusion of Pirelli P-Zero tyres that measure 245mm at the front and 265mm at the rear — making them the widest set to ever live on a turbocharged Falcon.

Colour options include solid Winter White, and metallic shades that include Smoke, Aero Blue, Silhouette, Kinetic and Victory Gold.

That rush of excitement built from the exterior is immediately quashed when you open the driver's door and hop in. The interior is nearly identical to the FG Falcon, which was released in 2008 — eight years ago. Harsh plastics surround most of the interior components, while the steering wheel controls remain without backlighting.

Anyway, we weren't expecting a huge change to the interior with this model, so it's not a deal breaker by any stretch. Thankfully, Ford has spent time engineering some unique items for the interior. These include:

  • Unique Sprint interior – featuring Sprint Seat Package of leather/lux suede trim
  • Interior electro-chromatic mirror
  • Interior Command Centre, including dual zone climate control and high-series audio
  • Unique shifter assembly and surround
  • Unique gauge cluster with “Sprint” logo
  • Sync 2 with satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity

The addition of an electro-chromatic mirror makes night driving easier (previously only available on G6E and G6E Turbo), while the leather and suede trim seats with Sprint insignia make for pleasant viewing.

As with all Falcons, while the seats are comfortable, the seating position isn't. I have long legs (although not abnormally so) and found that I couldn't lift the steering wheel high enough. The issue with this is that wheel rotations become hard due to legs getting in the way.

It also makes you feel like you're steering the car from your lap, which is uncomfortable and awkward.

Powering the XR6 Turbo Sprint is a well known engine that has been boosted sky high. It's a 4.0-litre turbocharged inline six-cylinder that produces an impressive 325kW of power and 576Nm of torque (that's 55kW and 43Nm more than the XR6 Turbo). But, the best part is that it has an inbuilt overboost feature than can increase power and torque outputs to 370kW and 650Nm respectively for ten seconds.

The overboost function works under certain climate and engine conditions. When it does kick in, you'll know about it. Torque is sent through a six-speed automatic gearbox (no manual for the XR6 Turbo Sprint, unlike the XR8 version) with the engine featuring some unique components that allow it to reach such epic heights.

The XR6 Turbo Sprint uses a turbocharger and fuel injectors from the FPV F6, in addition to a larger intercooler, a lower-positioned carbon-fibre airbox and unique engine and gearbox calibration.

Use of carbon-fibre is new to the Falcon, with the change to the airbox reducing weight and allowing the car to breathe easier. The carbon-fibre structure prevents deformation due to suction pressure and heat. It also allows the airbox to be thinner, allowing it to live side-by-side with air conditioning lines that would otherwise be in the way. In fact, it's so good that it reduces the airbox weight by 50 per cent to 235g.

If you've made it this far into the review, I'm sure you are wanting to know how this thing drives. Luckily, we've had the chance to put it through a set of Targa Tasmania roads, along with a stint at Baskerville Raceway.

Before we talk about how it drives, I’m sure you’ll want to know how quick it is. While we couldn’t verify numbers with our VBox due to the uneven terrain at the race track, we understand both the Falcon Sprint XR8 and Falcon Sprint XR6 will do 0-100km/h in around 4.6 seconds, which we plan on verifying once we get the car through the garage.

At idle, you won't find a huge difference between the XR6 Turbo and Falcon XR6 Sprint. And, at low speeds the Sprint remains easy to drive. The steering is responsive and the throttle provides less lag between application and acceleration.

It all begins to really make a difference when the six-cylinder Falcon comes on boost. The engine's 325kW of power and 576Nm of torque hits you like a freight train, with the Pirelli P-Zero tyres offering unheard of levels of grip.

Where the XR6 Turbo would kick sideways and buck about, the Falcon XR6 Sprint hooks up and slingshots. Attack the throttle when overboost is available and that power output figure skyrockets to 370kW and 650Nm. Overboost in the turbo six can only be described as lunacy.

When it comes on boost, you are thrown back into seat and the 10 second overboost counter begins. Grab another gear, listen to the almighty crack from the exhaust and the overboost counter begins again. The racetrack allowed us to really push the car, with the engine remaining totally unrelenting.

On boost there are hilarious whooshing sounds followed by a deep bellowing snarl from the exhaust. Catch the car in a stability control intervention moment — such as full throttle out of a corner when the tyres reach their operational limits — and that bark turns into a manic crackle while the engine management system restricts torque delivery.

Where the Falcon XR8 Sprint feels fast and meaty, the six offers that next level of induction rush that leaves you gushing with a smile from ear to ear. Baskerville Raceway was actually the perfect test for the Falcon XR6 Sprint as it allowed us to use the long uphill curves to test car's limits.

This is where the tyre and suspension combination really shone. Grip levels and width from the Pirelli treads sit at record levels for the turbo Falcon (265mm at the rear), providing it with the traction it deserves.

Ride and handling have been massively improved thanks to new dampers and revised spring rates. The car sits almost dead flat through corners and the revisions to the ride now make it easier to place and push, where previously there was always consideration that needed to be paid to traction and oversteer.

These revisions work well in unison with the custom gearbox calibration that helps deliver a sharper gear change that cracks and pops on upshifts. In fact, the calibration work involved sending the car to Germany where test work was done at speeds well beyond its current 230km/h speed limitation.

The Falcon XR6 Sprint benefits from a new steering rack that essentially eliminates the vague feel and rack rattle you could sometimes get from a Falcon. It teams with the huge Brembo brakes to deliver an all round performance package that can't be matched at this price.

Brake pedal feel could be better, with the pedal still feeling spongy at times, despite the new braking package. But, when you do step on the anchors, it pulls up on a dime and the brakes are capable of enduring a torture session without faltering.

The driving position, like the Falcon XR8 Sprint, is pretty average with the steering wheel sitting low in the lap and the seat sitting too high. But, it's easy to become accustomed to and becomes less of an issue when extra time is spent with the car.

This car is a fitting send off for the Falcon. The Sprint team consisted of 15 people that worked full time for almost two years to create a package they could be proud of. The team of enthusiasts that engineered the car spent two days with us testing and it's clear to see they have passion for the product that has allowed them to bring it to fruition.

Is this a glowing review? Yes. Is it deserved? Yes. This isn't just a sticker package — it's the ultimate Falcon. It's the perfect way to sign off a car that has been iconic in Australia, and the huge smiles I witnessed from the colleagues that were with me clearly indicate how well this car has been received.