The Paris Hilton of Utes: so wrong, but oh so right.
- 2009 Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo Ute; 4.0-litre, six-cylinder, turbo petrol; six-speed automatic; utility - $43,490*
- Prestige Paint $400 (Dash); Safety Enhancement Pack $600; XR Sports Pack $1000; Satellite Navigation $2290
What started life as a necessary utility for a tradesman has evolved into something of an Aussie icon and status symbol. No longer is the humble tradesman’s utility about hauling tools and goods from worksite to worksite.
Ford and Holden have capitalised on this and now both offer – and sell in great numbers – sports utility vehicles. The main difference between the two though comes down to their rear suspension setup.
Ford still uses antiquated leaf springs, while Holden uses modern independent rear suspension. At the lower end of the model range, this gives Ford the advantage when it comes to load carrying capacity - allowing up to one-tonne of payload.
Shift up in the model range though and it’s the opposite. Holden’s SS Commodore Ute can hold up to 598kg, while the XR6 Turbo Ute is limited to 565kg. Ford’s leaf spring arrangement comes at the compromise of ride quality and handling, making it a one handed victory to the Holden – or so you would think!
What makes this Ute so special is the engine. Ford’s world class 4.0-litre turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine produces 270kW and a driveline twisting 533Nm of torque. Fuel consumption is also quite reasonable at an official 12.5L/100km - easily achieved during our test.
Mated to the sonorous engine in our test vehicle was Ford’s ZF six-speed automatic gearbox. Fitted to vehicles like the Maserati Quattroporte and the Aston Martin DB9, the fluent and accurate gearbox offers precision cog-swapping and a superb sport mode which holds gears and shifts down into high rev ranges during enthusiastic driving.
Once you turn the key, the seemingly quaint engine idles with the hint of a menacing burble.
The full force of this turbocharged 4.0-litre engine isn’t felt until you unleash with a boot full of throttle. Once 2000rpm comes along, it’s every man for himself. The 245mm wide rear tyres are too narrow for continuous traction and begin chirping soon after a hoof of the throttle.
The best part about the turbo rush is the induction and exhaust note. During full-boost the F-16-like induction noise is met with a raspy snarl from the exhaust on the up-shift. While the rev limited intervenes at a relatively low 6200rpm, there’s more than enough of the 533Nm of torque to go around between 2000rpm and 4750rpm.
In addition to the vehicle’s impressive torque, the engine’s electronic throttle ensures that throttle response is sharp and on-tap at all times.
As with all leaf-sprung vehicles, they tend to ride better with a load over the axle, the XR6 Turbo Ute is no different. While it still rides well unsprung, the rear end really drills down with a load over the rear axle.
The ultimate downside to the entire package is the handling. Body roll isn’t an uncommon trait during tight cornering and thus affects the speed you can carry through a corner.
Fitted with the XR Sport Pack and the Safety Enhancement Pack, the ‘Dash’ coloured test vehicle looked the part with its 18-inch alloy wheels.
Ford is yet to adopt a single side panel design and as such an obvious gap between the tray and passenger cab is visible. The flared wheel arches at the rear just don’t work due to the width of the rear tyres not quite making it to the outer edges of the flares.
On the other hand, the front end looks the goods, bearing an exposed front mount intercooler, hinting at the vehicle’s potential performance.
FG Falcon interior has been adopted within the cabin, making it pretty much identical to the sedan variant of the XR6 Turbo. Storage room behind the seats is an impressive and class-leading 235-litres.
Standard features fitted to the XR6 Turbo include: Multi function steering wheel, leather wrapped gear shifter and steering wheel, electric windows, air conditioning, central locking, cruise control, electric mirrors, fog lamps, single MP3 compatible CD tuner with four speakers and auxiliary input, automatic headlights and four way power driver’s seat.
The XR Sport Pack and Safety Enhancement Pack bring the following features to the table: 18-inch alloy wheels, premium sports interior, iPod integration, Bluetooth integration, side head/thorax airbags and perimeter alarm.
Commercial vehicles have always been neglected when it comes to safety features. Luckily though, the XR6 Turbo Ute is graced with life saving technology such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC).
The system allows the driver to maintain control of the vehicle during understeer and oversteer. The system allows braking of individual wheels and torque reduction in an effort to bring the vehicle back into line.
Each manufacturer has its own calibration of the system and they all vary in terms of effectiveness and subtleness. Ford’s calibration offers too much leeway before intervening and when it does intervene it does so with more force than it would if it intervened earlier on in the piece.
Although this doesn’t overly affect driveability, it’s noticed in the wet if the drivers gets on the throttle with too much enthusiasm and the back end begins to wander.
At $41,490* (RRP), it’s priced directly in line with the XR8 Ute, which produces 13Nm less torque and chews through more fuel. The pricing point makes it an affordable proposition for tradies who want the perfect balance between load hauling and embarrassing most other cars at the traffic lights.
The XR6 Turbo is that stunning looking friend of yours who eats anything and everything, and never seems to put on weight. It’s the definition of having your cake and eating it too, and by gee it's a tasty cake.
CarAdvice Overall Rating: How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go:
* Pricing is a guide as recommended to CarAdvice by the manufacturer.