This might be the last iteration ever of the V8 Falcon, but my affinity with the 2016 Ford Falcon XR8 Sprint was seeded long ago on the family couch, while watching the Hardie Ferodo 1000 with the old man each year.
The poster car at the time was none other than the ultimate Aussie muscle car, the all-time-classic Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III – reputed then to be the world’s fastest four-door production car, boasting 280kW of power and 513Nm of torque.
It could go from 0-100km/h in 6.4 seconds and run the the quarter mile in 14.2 seconds, with a top speed of 225km/h. Off the mark, it was considerably quicker than a Ferrari Dino 246 GT and Porsche 911 Turbo of the day – at least in a straight line.
The Ford Falcon XR8 Sprint is a different kind of beast, entirely. It’s the closest thing to a modern-day Mad Max Interceptor, complete with Ford’s version of a 'black pack' that includes black alloy wheels, blacked-out wing mirrors, fog light surrounds, boot spoiler and black-painted roof.
Armed with a bespoke Sprint version of Ford’s supercharged 5.0-litre V8, and helped by an 'overboost' function, it packs up to 400kW of power and 650Nm of torque, though, Ford’s spec sheet quotes 345kW and 575Nm.
But here’s the thing, the Sprint’s overboost function essentially means you’ve got up to 10 seconds of that extra grunt in each gear ratio, which also resets in every gear – meaning it’s on tap practically 98 per cent of the time.
It’s an awful lot of poke for a four-door family sedan, and the performance figures speak for themselves; 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.5 seconds and a limited top speed of 230km/h.
It is without doubt the best bang-for-buck performance sedan in Australia. Bar none. Especially when you factor in the extraordinarily powerful blown V8 engine and $59,990 price tag for the entry-level six-speed manual version (the auto sells for $62,190 before on-road costs).
By way of acceleration comparisons, that’s just 0.2s behind the latest-generation BMW M3 manual, or 0.1s shy of an Audi S6. Closer to home, you’ll need to spend just over $98,000 for rival HSV’s top-of-the-range GTS, which despite packing a supercharged 6.2-litre V8 developing a monster 430kW and 740Nm of torque, is no quicker to 100km/h than the half-its-price XR8 Sprint.
There’s even better buying to be had with it’s own (auto only) XR6 Sprint sibling. Priced from $54,990 (before on-road costs) and boasting Ford’s iconic turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine, with up to 370kW and 650Nm available under the right pedal, it’s also capable of rocketing to 100km/h in the same scintillating 4.5 seconds – but without that glorious V8 snarl.
For those unaccustomed with such Herculean outputs, off-the-line acceleration is truly astonishing. Bury the throttle, and the 265mm-wide, 35-profile Pirelli P Zeros bite almost immediately, before you’re catapulted towards the horizon with seemingly limitless torque on tap. Not sure of the g-forces at work here, but it’s proper 'push you into the seat' stuff.
The added member to the quad-pipe V8 symphony is the accompanying supercharger whine, which is especially songful as you’re punching into the mid-range.
Despite the massive grunt on tap, the XR8 Sprint makes do with a traditional six-speed auto, rather than a tricky dual-clutch transmission. That’s said, it’s quick enough through the gears, given the huge pull available across most of the rev range, but there are no paddleshifters – I know, because I kept reaching for the left-hand downshift paddle while barrelling into a couple of well-chosen corners under brakes.
That said, you’ll want to get on those brakes as quickly as this thing accelerates, particularly when factoring in the car’s 1872kg heft. Not that the six-piston Brembos up front don’t provide stupendous stopping power, because they surely do, and the pedal is naturally progressive for a good solid feel under foot, too.
The car feels reasonably well-tied down, too. New springs and dampers, and more camber added to the rear wheel alignment, mean it's pointy at the front end and well balanced, in concert with the quick steering.
Ride comfort was obviously high on the engineering agenda too, as there’s decent compliance built into the damping, so that most bumps are suitably absorbed by the chassis. It’s not perfect, there are a few moans and groans under high lateral loads, but this is a performance Falcon that doesn’t mind being thrown into a bend or two with a good deal of commitment.
However, beware the high driving position. It’s as if the floor pan is six-inches too high and the seat platform is already at its lowest point. I’m not tall (176cm) and found it impossible to find the perfect driving position. The other problem besides seat height, is the steering wheel adjustment, or lack of – it simply doesn’t tilt high enough, meaning, even for me, it sits in my lap. It’s a significant issue, particularly for a performance-spec model, and I’m not the only one affected either, colleagues in the CarAdvice office who also drove the car had the exact same issues.
It’s the same story with the sports seats too, they’re comfortable - particularly with the Alcantara inserts - but the side bolster, which looks substantial enough, lacks substance, so you tend to wriggle about under lateral loads.
Premium inclusions in the cockpit include an electrochromatic rear-view mirror and Ford’s Sync 2 infotainment system complete with an 8-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation. There’s also dual-zone climate control and a very average six-speaker audio system – but you’re not buying an XR8 Sprint for it’s on-board kit.
It sure does look the part though, with its FPV GT E-style wheels, blacked-out grille, boot lip spoiler, door mirrors, roof and exhaust tips. Add in the XR8’s signature bonnet bulge - which looks bigger than ever before - along with the obligatory Sprint badges, and you’ve got solid cachet.
If you’re after Porsche-style performance in your Falcon V8, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you want ultimate bang-for-buck performance for 60 grand, the 2016 Ford Falcon XR8 Sprint delivers that in spades.
Unfortunately, unless you’re one of the lucky buyers who snapped one up when the model was first announced, you’ll be hard pressed to find one beyond the used car market - and who knows what those will go for...
Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Ford Falcon XR8 Sprint images by James Ward.