Towards the end of last year, on the way to work I passed by two police cars (no, I wasn't in any trouble) – a VFII Holden Commodore SSV Redline parked next to an FG X Ford Falcon. It struck me that I should take a photo, since our Aussie police won't be driving these iconic, last-of-the-breed Aussie cars for much longer.
And seeing two Aussie muscle cars side by side in daily traffic could soon dwindle to a memory, as the future of self-driving electric cars eventually takes hold. I spoke to one of the lucky officers, and when I asked him which car he preferred, to my surprise he remarked it was the Ford.
Coincidentally, as I continued my journey to work, I passed by a Ford dealership that still (then) had a few FG X Ford Falcons in the lot. Then I spotted 'T-Rex' – an immaculate, lightly pre-loved blue FG X Falcon XR8 with bulging bonnet, quad exhausts and some classic-looking custom stripes. I had to test-drive him!
Now, I've owned and driven many performance cars – from stratospherically priced and highly strung mid-engine exotics to some of the best German muscle sports sedans on sale. Cars that cost a lot more. But I knew this car was unique: one of the last and best of the locally produced V8 sports sedans. A car that would not only be fast but practical too – it could easily carry five full-size passengers.
Shhh... Did you know that the last-of-the-breed Miami 335kW supercharged V8 and RPEC suspension in the 2014–16 FG X XR8 is pretty much identical to the last 335kW engine and RSPEC suspension in the pricier FPV GT on sale only a few years prior (2010–2014)? Yet, the FG X XR8 came with a newer, slicker SYNC2 multimedia system and wrapped in the very latest (and indeed last) Ford Falcon body. At a (then) cheaper cost?
After a very short test drive and listening to the whine of the supercharger over the classic V8 note, I realised this car was even more special than I had imagined. At any price – let alone the relatively bargain price it was. So I bought T-Rex.
Driving out of the lot, it almost felt like I was stealing Mad Max's final V8 interceptor – a car that would no longer be built in Australia. One year on, what's T-Rex like you ask? Yes, he's proven to be a very special car.
The supercharged V8 engine is supposed to produce 335 killer wasps, but that's the 'official' number. Every car enthusiast knows it's actually closer to 375kW, if not more on overboost. And yes, you can tell. This is a car that – one year on – still actually feels more powerful than what the higher numbers suggest (a rare experience since it is easy to get used to the power in many performance cars). I've driven other cars that supposedly have more power, but T-Rex somehow feels a lot stronger.
Sure, you get the classic big shove in the back and aqua-planing nose when you sink the shoe in. But it's got so much power and torque available that you don't have to do that: merely squeeze and it dismisses 99 per cent of traffic with contempt. Suffice to say that overtaking in the 80–110km/h bracket still happens in what feels like milliseconds. And thanks to the well-connected hydraulic steering set-up and powerful Brembo brakes, it actually handles and stops as well as it hustles. You do need to respect T-Rex, though, especially in the wet.
And this is indeed a very practical car with enough sprawling space to comfortably accommodate large true-blue Aussies and four of their family or mates. Something that, say, a new Mustang (as awesome as they look) fails to do (have you seen the size of the Mustang's rear seats?).
But what about the negatives of the FG X XR8, you ask?
Okay, there are a few. Predictably, it likes a drink. I've averaged 20L/100km as a real-life figure, which is almost three times thirstier than my thrifty German daily driver hatch. Thank goodness I don't need to drive T-Rex every day in cut and thrust traffic.
Another negative is build quality. Granted, the interior is no doubt durable. However, having owned many German cars, some of the scratchy plastics, the flimsy glovebox and dated interior of the Aussie car are very noticeable. You can tell that Ford didn't care about the details like, say, a German carmaker would.
Fortunately, the car does have luxurious and supremely comfortable leather bucket seats and the new multimedia touchscreen, which do lend the car a premium feel. The driving position to me feels great, despite what some reviewers have suggested is a too low steering wheel and too high driving position.
The stereo has DAB+ radio, a subwoofer and plenty of speakers, but isn't on the same level as a premium German car's finely honed audio. Still, T-Rex has a nice growl and whine to listen to.
If only I could fix the rattling boot, though. No matter how many times I have taken the car back to the (admittedly sympathetic) dealer, the car has an intermittent noise coming from the boot when pressing the boot-release button. Rat-a-tat-tat. Like machine-gun fire. Ah well, T-Rex must be hungry, he does have a massive boot to fill.
One other 'negative' is that T-Rex doesn't have the latest gizmos such as adaptive cruise control. However, I can honestly say that this car (unlike my adaptive-cruise-controlled hatchback) would probably feel out of character with such a system. T-Rex is a leader you see, not a follower.
Back to positives: one surprising thing about T-Rex is how modern it still actually feels thanks to the SYNC2 touchscreen media centre. Yes, T-Rex is a modern dinosaur. The reverse camera is large and slick. Voice control is actually quite decent and picks up an Aussie accent quite well (most of the time anyway).
I love the fact that the system cautions you when approaching fixed light cameras or heavy traffic. The GPS does a great job at re-routing through traffic, but it does get a little frustrating when issuing constant traffic alerts in traffic-infested Sydney. You need to turn off alerts on the touchscreen and the screen quickly accumulates fingerprints.
Petrol-guzzling aside, T-Rex does make a near perfect multi-passenger-carrying daily driver, though. And a perfect long-distance cruiser too – far better than some boring SUV. Also, it's more comfortable than many low-riding sports cars or big wheeled, tightly sprung Euro sports sedans. The smooth-shifting automatic transmission adds to the experience of a refined sports sedan.
But let's be honest, this car is surely destined to be a collectible classic. The supercharged V8 engine and RSPEC handling continue to dominate the experience, and it's one of the last locally made Ford Falcons. Granted, there is one final collectible Falcon after mine – a Sprint model with about 10kW more – if you can notice that – but I still know that T-Rex has basically the same engine and look.
Yes, T-Rex is still the last-of-the-breed V8 Falcon. And yes, I also love the V8 VFII Holden SSV Redlines too, but let's be honest, there's a lot more of them around.
So, although I have enjoyed driving T-Rex (and continue to do so), I am still mindful of not overdoing the mileage. It's not quite a garage queen (yet), but T-Rex has an eye on the throne.
Which brings me back to the start of my review. I'm already starting to notice less and less last-of-the-breed Aussie muscle cars on the road and more talk about self-driving electric cars. So, dear reader, I'll let you in on a little secret. Even if you don't buy a last-of-the-breed Aussie muscle car (whether Holden or Ford), do yourself a favour and at least try to (respectfully) secure a test drive of one while you still can.
At least then you will know what you miss out on in the future. Otherwise, all you will have are the photos.