2016 Ford Falcon XR6 Review

A fond farewell?

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The last Ford Falcon has rolled down the Broadmeadows production line. But are we sad to see it go?
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So, this is goodbye. The Ford Falcon – an Australian icon with a history dating back over 56 years – is no more.

With Ford’s Australian manufacturing running from Thursday August 20 in 1959 to its conclusion on Friday October 7 of this year, the Falcon nameplate - one of the longest running badges in the world - has also had its day.

The last ever Aussie-made Falcon has rolled down the line at the Broadmeadows production facility, one of 4,356,628 vehicles to have made their way down Australian production lines for the brand, including sedans, utes, wagons, panel vans, convertibles, hatchbacks and SUVs.

When it rolled off the line, there was a realisation that not only had the last Ford car been built by Aussie hands, but also that the final Falcon badge had been applied; the final blue oval badge had been stuck to a big four-door sedan; the final nuts tightened; the final clips clicked, and the final checks made.

It also means the end of engine production locally – the last V8 and six-cylinder petrol engines were completed on September 26 at the Geelong Powertrain Operations centre.

It was the latter – a 4.0-litre in-line six – that was under the bonnet of the last XR6 sedan we’ll ever have through the CarAdvice garages, not to mention the same 'Barra' powertrain fitted to the last Falcon down the line. This wasn’t the go-fast XR6 Turbo version, but just the regular, run-of-the-mill bulk seller that looked like a sporty sedan when it came out a few years back. Whether you still think it looks that way is subjective.

The ancient locally-built powertrain that has kept people in work for years, hasn't really seen any major advances in that time. That's not to say it's a terrible engine; you need only look at the used car market to see just how many ex-taxis have racked up hundreds of thousands of kilometres.

There were plenty of good drivetrains over the years, including the last of the XR8s, which had a stonking 5.0-litre supercharged V8. And, of course, the 4.0-litre turbo was a weapon.

The most shameful part was that the impressive 2.0-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost turbo engine – which was labelled a sacrilegious introduction by some loyal Blue Oval fans – never succeeded to the degree it really should have. It's just a shame that Ford didn't push the non-performance turbo idea more. That drivetrain was arguably the best fit for this application: it made the nose of the car lighter, aiding agility, unless you wanted performance. And that's what many buyers did want.

No matter the engine, the Falcon never disappointed in terms of the way it drove. It had decent road manners in most situations and good steering accuracy too. It would lap up highway kays with ease, while in traffic it wasn't a hassle either – although, there's a good chance you've paid too much money to sit in one with sticky vinyl seats at some point...

But while it has been a fine car for a while, there have been common complaints made since this generation of Falcon – which launched back in 2008 – came to be.

The vast majority of testers have found the driver’s seat to be an uncomfortable place to be. You sit quite high, while the steering wheel is quite low. Anyone who is tall will likely hate the fact they feel like their head is always too close to the ceiling as a result. There’s not enough reach adjustment for the steering, either.

The interior finishes and the media system are old. Sync 2 was at the peak of its game a few years back, and while it was never going to be the case that the updated and considerably more user-friendly Sync 3 system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity would find its way to the cabin of the Falcon, the interface looked a bit awkward.

Speaking of, the stack of buttons below the screen are hard to discern at a glance, and while you do get used to the placement of the plethora of push switches, it is this part of the cabin that has perhaps aged the most poorly.

The cabin plastics and trims fall short of modern quality and presentation, making it feel old inside the Falcon.

At least the sedan has remained a practical family option in a world where these types of vehicles have fallen by the wayside, largely replaced by SUVs and value-packed small cars, which often offer similar levels of space despite smaller exterior dimensions.

The Falcon’s back seat, however, is easily big enough for three adults across, and the boot is decent, too, despite its uneven floor.

Look, there have been good Falcons over the years, and others that haven't been quite so impressive. And there's no denying that this locally-made large sedan has deserved its place in Aussie automotive folklore up to now.

But – with all respect to Ford and its employees – it doesn't anymore. Put jingoism aside, the automotive game has moved on. The world has changed. It is, therefore, something of a "fond farewell", but also a "thanks for coming".

Of course it's sad to see local manufacturing shut down: people who have dedicated their working lives to one company have lost their jobs, punched their final cards, got their final pay cheques from the Blue Oval brand. You can't help but feel for them.

Click the Photos tab above for more images by Sam Venn.

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