FPV’s new Coyote-based force-fed V8 drivetrain is brilliant. It cost the Prodrive/Ford joint venture – small moment of silence – $35 million to develop.
- 2011 FPV GT Supercharged 5.0-litre V8
- 2011 FPV GT-E Supercharged 5.0-litre V8
- 2011 FPV GT-P Supercharged 5.0-litre V8
- 2011 FPV GS Supercharged 5.0-litre V8
FPV’s new Coyote-based force-fed V8 drivetrain is brilliant. There’s no other word for it. And so it should be. It cost the Prodrive/Ford joint venture – small moment of silence – $35 million to develop. Drive it: you’ll be giving it 12 out of 10 – especially considering the price.
It’s a good thing they got it so right. The corporate world often can’t see the lighter side when the ball is fumbled … especially when it’s about three metres in diameter and crammed full of $100 bills.
‘Brilliant’ is a big word; one that demands clarification. It relates just to the drivetrain. This new FPV 5.0-litre sitting in front of the ZF six-speed auto is the Bogart/Becall partnership of local automotive manufacturing. The peak outputs – 335kW and 570Nm – are only part of the story. So is FPV’s turning of the tables on HSV in the battle for peak power bragging rights. Ford’s on top again after trailing the GM empire for, subjectively, eternity. FPV Boss Rod Barrett’s on-the-record position on the Ford-V-GM power race is “the number on the boot is not important to us”. But you can tell they’re not all that cut up about being, as Mr Barrett puts it, “unmatched” locally.
If the Toyota Camry is, as Toyota claims, the most advanced car ever manufactured here, then that 335kW engine and ZF transmission is the most brain-bendingly, perfectly poised power delivery platform that’s ever been mass produced in Australia.
‘Brilliant’, in this case, means German powetrain-rivalling brilliant.
Take the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG – a car with similar DNA, inasmuch as it’s been given the go-faster treatment by the in-house performance division. Most motoring journalists rave about it. It weighs 1730kg and makes 336kW, peak. The FPV product weighs within 100kg of the AMG car and produces essentially the same peak power. However, people don’t drive on peak power (because in practise, you can’t). People drive with mid- to high-range torque.
In this case, AMG claims that the C 63 produces “more than” 500Nm from 2000rpm to 6250rpm, with a peak of 600Nm. Well, the FPV car (in 335kW trim) makes 570Nm from 2200rpm to 5500rpm. Looking at its power curve it makes more than 500Nm from about 1750rpm all the way until you can’t rev it any harder. And that means it’s making more power than the C 63 AMG across most (but not all) of its rev range – because power is simply torque times revs. And a lot of that time it’s doing it where you normally drive – in the mid-rev range.
There is also the small matter of price. A range-topping FPV GT-P or GT-E will set you back $82k (ish). A GS ute is under $52k. That means you could have either one C 63 AMG or one GT-P and one GS ute – plus enough money left over for a decent, though not excessive, holiday. It’s something to think about…
FPV has also managed to produce the gruntiest Coyote-based engine anywhere in the Ford world. The fact that engineering executives from Prodrive even got Ford’s senior execs in Dearborn across the line on this engine speaks volumes for their powers of persuasion. Apparently, according to FPV programs manager Paul Cook, Ford’s senior execs in the US were kept intentionally in the dark on the proposed peak outputs, early on. Only five insiders in Australia were privy to that information.
The engine went together like this: Ford in the US supplies the Coyote (think: Mustang) engine bits. Eaton (think: Audi, Jaguar) did the heavy lifting on the design of what it calls the TVS (for Twin Vortices Series) supercharger. Tricky rotor design allows the supercharger – which pumps almost two litres of compressed air per revolution – to do its thing with a high degree of thermal efficiency.
That meant a compact, in-the-vee profile, as well as less temperature increase in the air as it’s boosted up, which gives the supercharger a bigger rev-based ‘window’ in which it can operate efficiently. It also meant intercooling wasn’t necessary. Finally, it meant the supercharger wasn’t quite as distinctively raucous as the Rootes-type blowers on Seventies street machines and Top Alcohol drag cars. There’s a degree of sophistication, but you can relax – nudge the throttle and there’s no way you will forget there’s a whole lot of crank-driven force-feeding going on.
And, for everyone who failed to pay attention in ‘forced induction’ class, the big advantage of supercharging is that the boost is available, like, now. Throttle response is in practise instantaneous – because the crank is driving the supercharger continuously. It’s only turbos that ‘lag’.
Engineering legend Ron Harrop figured out how to put the rotors into a casing and integrate the manifold, which is why the very impressive cast bits atop the engine bear the ‘Harrop’ brand. And a very tidy job it is, too. A footnote on this for pub trivia nights is that the supercharger actually blows upwards into the black-topped box of the intake manifold just under the bonnet – apart from being kinda cool, in a counter-intuitive way, it also ensures even distribution of airflow (boosted to about 10psi) into each port.
Prodrive fitted into all of this as a sort of quarterback – getting all the players into position – as well as integrating the supercharger drive system into the engine. This includes hi-tech add-ons invisible at first glance – like a torsional decoupler that attenuates torsional vibrations transmitted upwards, via the serpentine drive belt, from the crankshaft. It helps civilise – but not eliminate – the supercharger from the in-cabin aural experience.
Finally, the whole lot is integrated into Ford’s production-compliance system, which validates the underlying engineering by torture-testing it in ways owners can’t – for example by punting the engine between peak power and peak torque on the dyno. Continuously, for 450 hours straight.
Prodrive is pushing like crazy for, and virtually certain of, getting this stove-hot engine into other Ford markets around the world. They’re gagging for it. And Ford, globally, is mad if they don’t go for it. Although nobody at the press conference put it quite like that.
The model range works like this: The GT (about $71k, a $3400 price hike over its predecessor), GT-P (about $81k, up $2800) and GT-E (about $82k, also up $2800) all get the 335kW and 575Nm ‘V2G’ engine. GS models – the sedan at about $57k and the ute at about $52k, both up about $2000 on the past model – get the ‘V2X’-spec engine with 315kW and 545Nm. Prices at this stage in the lead-up to the Sydney Motor Show are indicative only, we’re told.
What’s it like to drive? Once you get over the redundantly hideous red starter button, the new FPV GT fires to life, idling with intent and indicating to anyone within earshot that it means business. The first stint of the national media launch involved putting a manual GT-P through its paces.
Although the six-speed manual gearbox isn’t as tight or accurate as Holden’s six-speed manual, it offers a great level of control over the vehicle’s immediate power delivery. Open up the throttle in any gear and the GT-P returns a menacing howl that is combined with a hint of supercharger whine. Acceleration is immediate and impressive.
Roll the throttle on out of a corner and the rear end buries down with little fuss and fanfare. FPV has raved about the new engine’s bi-modal quad exhaust that offers an extraordinary roar under full throttle and at the top end of the rev range. Behind the wheel, the noise being as good – if not better – than FPV has suggested. Brilliant crackles and pops are heard on overrun.
Power delivery is extremely linear with maximum torque available from around 2000rpm. Introduce the throttle to the floorboard and the GT-P offers German supercar-like torque delivery. It’s addictive.
Where the six-speed manual gearbox can feel a bit arduous at times, the six-speed automatic does an excellent job of reining in all the available torque and power. Left to its own devices in sport mode, the gearbox provides for instant throttle response. It also holds gears for added power and blips the throttle on downshifts brilliantly. You can shift it manually in tiptronic mode if total control is required.
‘Our’ GT-P test car came with FPV’s optional 6-piston Brembo cross-drilled brake package. The brake pedal was very sensitive and offered excellent stopping power. Brake feel was consistent and pedal pressure was always there, despite how much braking was thrown at it. It’s a highly recommended option for those planning on driving hard.
Overtaking is quite simply a non-event. A quick stab of the throttle and slight twitch of the steering wheel has the whole process complete before you can even put your indicator on to pull back in. Or you could just cut out the middle-man and put your licence in the shredder – it’s that quick
At the lower end of the price range, FPV’s GS offers the same mechanical hardware as the GT, detuned by software to 315kW.
Acceleration in the GS is just as linear as the GT, with the only difference being a slightly reduced sense of urgency. It’s still a very quick car. At full throttle the GS feels almost as lively as the GT and offers a similar exhaust note, so buyers are certainly not missing out on much when it comes to the performance driving experience, inclusive of sound.
The GS doesn’t get the hi-po Brembo brakes and has to settle with the same brakes fitted to the XR6 Turbo. The end result is fairly average brake pedal feel. You really have to stand on the brake pedal to get a similar result to the Brembo brakes, with brake pedal pressure non-uniform throughout the braking range. It’s not quite as confidence inspiring at speed.
According to FPV, the GT is capable of a 0-100km/h dash in some 4.9 seconds, while the GS does the same job in 5.2 seconds. You’d need a pretty grippy piece of track underfoot to achieve that. Otherwise all you get is time-wasting wheelspin off the line and a great deal of traction control intervention. If the car could get sufficient grip, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t be capable of a 4.9 second 0-100km/h dash, if not better.
The two engines – called V2X for the 315kW version and V2G for the 335kW range-topper – differ only by calibration. In other words, the 315kW version is a software limitation only. You can bet there will be a tsunami of aftermarket tuners waiting to capitalise on that in, oh, a heartbeat or so after the vehicles first depart the showroom floors. So, for the owners who don’t mind voiding the warranty, the new GS could offer a pretty sharp price point with the prospect of an easy power upgrade just a comparatively minor credit-card swipe away.
This review started with a big word – brilliant – used to describe the new FPV’s driveline, especially the big-power engine joined at the hip to the ZF transmission. There are a few caveats on that brilliance, however. For starters, the TR6060 manual transmission is everything the auto isn’t. It’s an unsophisticated, heavy-handed instrument – especially when you hold it up for comparison against the ZF auto, which is just so right. If you really like changing gears it’ll be fine, but the auto is brilliant where the manual is just adequate.
Paddle shifters would be nice – especially as $40,000 Japanese cars offer them – and FPV simply must lose the awful ‘me-too German’ starter button, mainly because you also need to insert yesterday’s ignition key and turn it to get the damn car started. Finally, on the list of bugbears, the 3mm audio input jack at the foremost position of the centre console is an embarrassment, as is the coiled iPod cable inside the centre console’s lidded bin – and the total absence of a USB input. (At least one we could find.) Bring on an interior upgrade.
Our use of the term ‘brilliant’ unfortunately does not encompass the car in which the brilliant powertrain resides. Perhaps because of the immense performance potential, the car doesn’t feel as well screwed down to the road as it should – the grunt-to-grip ratio is skewed firmly towards grunt. On-centre steering feel is vague – there’s a few degrees of play there – and, if you buy the manual you need to be content with seeing the shifter bounce out of phase with the body whenever you’re on a road rougher than a billiards table. It lacks that rock-solid German supercar feel, and the dynamic finesse.
Ford boss Marin Burela raved about the new FPV’s handling at the press conference. We’re not quite as enthused. It’s handling’s OK, but HSV still has the edge there.
Some of you will doubtless comment that the German supercars are more expensive – a lot more. Noted. But the fact is that many FPV (and HSV) buyers could afford something from the M division or a car with an ‘RS’ badge on the back and the four rings on the front. While these people have the funds, they just love the local product and always have. We’re just pointing out what you’ll be missing out on.
Don’t get us wrong – we understand that this isn’t a $200,000 German supercar. The handling is better – a lot better – than just ‘acceptable’. This is a car you can have a lot of fun in. It delivers breathtaking performance. You won’t be disappointed. At FPV’s pricepoint, however, inequality with cars costing three or four times as much is inevitable. You also have to remember that this car’s basic underpinnings are also used to build taxis. In a car like this, it’s far better to offer a superb driveline, eight-out-of-ten dynamics and a handful of niggling in-cabin annoyances than any other permutation of possible automotive imperfections.
It’s just, if you’re not blinded by FPV or HSV partisanship, you’d want the best of both worlds – FPV’s engine and auto with HSV’s launch control and Magnetic Ride Control suspension. And a German interior. And something a little more low-key externally. That would be some package…
CarAdvice Overall Rating:
How does it Drive:
How does it Look:
How does it Go:
*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer and does not include dealer delivery, on-road or statutory charges.