As a daily drive mostly ferrying the family, the Falcon XR6 EcoLPi manages the gig well. But the devil is in the detail, and in this case, living with LPG fuel.
My 2013 Mars Red (it’s orange if you ask ordinary folk) ride has clocked up 90,000km and never missed a beat mechanically since new. It drives tight – there are no audible rattles, the paintwork still pops, the panels remain tight, and the interior is holding up and presenting well after battling constant attack from carefree rugrats.
A life spent travelling on freeways and country roads, it rides effortlessly at 100+km/h, with its strong locally made inline-six delivering plenty of power when asked. Shift the six-speed ’box into sports mode, nudge the throttle, and things lift a notch, moving the car’s personality from family-taxi to spirited performer. Its steering and handling are excellent, and it tows well too – easily hauling the family pop-top van on regular five-hour trips to the coast and making light work of a wood-loaded 7x5 trailer.
It has plenty of everyday comforts too, like cruise control, auto headlights, Bluetooth and reverse camera that make this daily driver mostly easy to live with. Far from leading-edge tech, but enough contemporary attributes to help punch through the daily grind.
Running on LPG only, fuel is delivered to the engine through ‘liquid-injection’. Supposedly at the time, this was an engineering triumph of some sort. But I don't profess to really understand how this tech works, so I’ll do my best to bust the lab-coat jargon: unlike other dedicated or converted LPG-fuelled engines, power and performance are not compromised. If anything, it’s enhanced.
Filling the fuel tank has its challenges. Firstly, you need to find a servo that sells the right stuff. Plenty do in regional Vic’ and the ’burbs, but often only with one pump available, meaning there’s a fair chance you’ll need to queue for the privilege. Then to add fuel, there’s a knack to align the bulky pump nozzle at just the right angle to allow you to tighten and get cracking – made even more difficult by an intrusive dust cap and tank flap that refuse to give your knuckles fair breathing space to do a proper job. Finally, squeeze the trigger hard and hold on tight for what can feel like an eternity, giving your forearm a gym-free workout. When done, your patience is rewarded with a heart-stopping shhhbang and spray of a Pepé Le Pew-esque vapour.
But this is the sacrifice for lower running costs – right? With LPG hovering around 85c/L, economy is still fair with the car consuming around 13L/100km. In real terms, that’s about $55 for every 500km or so travelled. Though it was only a couple years ago when prices were much lower and you’d regularly fill a tank for $40 or less. So the days of dirt-cheap LPG appeared numbered. Prices are progressively heading north as recent changes to taxation treatment, a falling demand and no real industry development conspire against it. A future value-equation killer at the pump and likely impact on resale too.
The Falcon’s overall design is an exercise in wash, rinse, repeat that ultimately ended with one spin cycle too many. A body shape, interior, and pointless rear spoiler that remained largely unchanged since John Howard was in power. Loved until the end by some, but ending on the nose for many others.
To further nit-pick, the driver’s seating position – the subject of much internet forum derision – is, as others have said before me, poor. It’s an unwinnable ergonomic battle between steering wheel and knees.
Other interior grumbles include the door storage pockets that are wafer-thin wide, so forget squeezing in a standard-sized drink bottle. The touchscreen is easily drowned by sunlight and not well integrated with surrounding buttons, which can leave you frustrated while you search and poke-in-hope awkwardly to complete a task. Then there are the steering wheel buttons – functional, yes, however back-lighting would go along way to improving usability.
Boot capacity is ordinary too. It’s very shallow, so add an esky, travel bags, and a few odds-an-ends for a family weekend away and you hit capacity quickly unless you scale up to roof-racks. And to top it off, there’s no spare wheel competing for boot-space – nup that’s sorted by a tyre inflation kit that could leave you up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
It's been mechanically reliable to date, only the media touchscreen has failed so far – replaced twice within five years. Both units faded to black without warning. The mechanics at the Ford dealership trailed off with answers as to why it keeps happening, other than it’s a common problem for this age Falcons and Territories alike, but it should be right this time.
So fan or not, this dedicated LPG-sucking recent-relic ticks most family car boxes as long as you’re prepared for a daily trade-off between the good, bad and dated. And in general, the ‘good’ triumphs by a country mile, that is until it’s time to fill the tank.