For Aussie performance enthusiasts, it doesn't get much better than to own one of the last-ever Ford Falcon XR8s. A 5.0-litre V8 donk fitted with a supercharger built locally by Melbourne firm Harrop is just the beginning of what lies in wait – for those who dare to own and drive one of these Australian automotive masterpieces.
In a world where political correctness reigns, driving an XR8 is as fashionable as wearing your old mink coat to a climate-change rally. Sure, the FGX was old in the tooth when it came out in 2014, and by the time 2016 came around it had outstayed its welcome in the majority of garages across the burbs, but fools are those who did not see what I saw. An excellent and well-built car, perfect for the family with all the mod-cons one ever really needs, rear-wheel drive and plenty of performance to satisfy the most demanding drivers.
Before the days of relying on blind-spot monitoring, lane-change departure, auto braking and active cruise control to safeguard our journey, cars were driven by drivers and not computers. The pleasure that is provided by driving a V8 with the windows down, and being seduced by that lovely exhaust note, beats driving some of these new cars, where actually driving the car is more of an option rather than a necessity.
For me, this Falcon is the pinnacle of Australian motoring, and one we all should be proud of. When our car industry died in 2017, so did a little part of all Australians. And for those lucky enough to live through the heyday of waiting for the next Commodore or Falcon to roll off the production line, this is a car to savour.
This is a car that is about the journey and not the destination, and ensures a smile on my face consistently when I turn on the ignition. Like a trusted friend, it greets me each and every time with a magnificent growl of the exhaust and then settles to remind me of its finesse as a family car.
On a practical level, this car gives you everything you can ever need to keep you safe, and is filled with just enough technology to make the journey fulfilling. The car is equipped with airbags all round, ABS, ESP, climate control, DAB radio, sat-nav, auto lights, reverse camera, parking sensors, USB slots, and leather seats, just to mention a few.
The large colour screen is one of the best, even by today's standards. You get Wi-Fi connectivity allowing you to connect your iPad (great for the kids), touchscreen functionality, voice command that covers navigation, phone, climate and radio controls, and has one of the clearest and best reverse camera displays found in any car. For me, these features are more than enough. And when carrying five adults, all travel in comfort with plenty of room to move, which is especially good on long trips.
The seats are like lounge chairs, and even compared to many SUVs, the rear seat has you sitting in the natural position rather than having your knees pointing to the sky.
In all of this comfort and solace, one is awakened when the driver decides to push the throttle, and an instant smile appears on even the most uninitiated of passengers who think cars are made to get you from A to B. The car accelerates and brakes with confidence, and the Brembo brakes reassure you that you will be well looked after should you need to deploy them quickly.
Then there is the style. The last of the FGX XR8s is a GT in disguise, but in my view a much nicer and more contemporary vehicle to look at. Its straight lines, aggressive grille and stance make this one good-looking Ford. They left the best to last, and having owned many Falcons in my life, including a BA and FG GT, this car is the best so far.
The five-spoke 19-inch rims fill the guards nicely, and their design aligns beautifully to the bumpers, front lights, grey side mirrors and side accents. It all works in harmony and looks like it was meant to be.
The final piece of the jigsaw, and what makes this a beautiful vehicle, is its place in Australian automotive history. Much has been written about its brother, the FGX Sprint, and how great that car is – an understatement – but this is truly the last XR8. Ford left its best to last, and for this I am truly thankful.