Meet the final iteration of Ford’s legendary Falcon sedan and ute.
Ford Australia engineers have been caught testing the updated large car in Victoria ahead of its much-anticipated and historic release in November.
Wearing heavy camouflage, our spies have caught a number of Falcon prototypes testing – along with the new Territory SUV.
The heavily disguised Falcons we’ve sprung are believed to be a Falcon XR8 – complete with a bulging bonnet and sporting the supercharged V8 engine previously reserved for the GT.
Also snapped testing is a new mid-spec Falcon, likely the G6E model.
The photographs quash speculation that Ford would not release the heavily updated models due to low sales volumes. Ford reaffirmed its commitment to local manufacturing until October 2016 last week.
As the photos illustrate, the Falcon’s overall profile and shape will be largely unchanged from the current FG model.
The updated Falcon will, however, sport a new front-end design incorporating Ford’s ubiquitous honeycomb family grille, as well as daytime running lights. It’s understood the rear-end will feature a new bootlid, streamlined taillights and new rear wheel arches. The Falcon range will be offered with new-look alloy wheels.
“The car’s very much on track,” a Ford Australian spokesman said of the top secret new Falcon, without confirming any details of the new model.
The updated Falcon and Territory SUV variants will see out Ford’s Australian manufacturing closure in October 2016. The Falcon nameplate will be retired once local production winds up.
Ford will revert to an import only basis thereafter, bringing in fresh models including the legendary Mustang from next year and employing about 1100 people locally in a design and engineering capacity.
Other than a sneak preview of the Falcon last year, Ford Australia has been very scant on details for its upcoming models.
Drive understands some of the most notable changes in store for the locally-produced Falcon will reside under its bonnet and inside the cabin.
The car maker has confirmed it will reinstate the venerable XR8 badge for 2015 as a sole replacement for its soon-to-be-defunct Ford Performance Vehicles offshoot. It’s understood the XR8 will utilise much of the FPV GT’s high performance components, such as its 335kW supercharged V8 engine, Brembo brakes and sports suspension.
It’s understood changes to the existing six-cylinder, four-cylinder EcoBoost and LPG drivetrains will be minor – if at all – with most of the effort diverted to styling, additional features and fuel savings from the more aerodynamic exterior.
Ford is expected to integrate much of its Sync infotainment software inside the new Falcon, which could include adaptations of new technology fitted to the Fiesta ST and upcoming Focus small car.
Ford is yet to begin mass production of the new Falcon, instead focussing on the ongoing assembly of 500 limited edition FPV GT-Fs (the F stands for “final” edition). Those vehicles, powered by a higher-tune 351kW 5.0-litre V8, have already sold out and will be sent out to relevant dealers mid-year.
“We’re focussed on finishing the GT right now, the current model. But as we get closer to the new model Falcon, you’ll hear more from us,” the spokesman said.
“We haven’t given any other details other than the XR8 would be making a return.”
The popularity of the GT-F has opened the door to Ford undertaking special edition models of the new Falcon before the nameplate is retired.
“The GT-F demand was certainly something we noticed,” the spokesman said.
“The 500 units is all we have capacity for in the GT-F, but as we get into the new model we will certainly be open to thinking creatively.
“We’re not going to do another GT, but there are still opportunities for limited edition [Falcon] models. There’s always a possibility.”
Ford announced in May last year that it would close it manufacturing operations following significant losses sustained in its local car making business.
The decision preceded similar closure announcements by Holden in December and Toyota in February this year. Both have indicated they will cease car making in 2017.
Despite Ford Australia’s closure intentions, the Falcon and Territory variants are still pivotal products for the blue oval brand.
The Falcon will be charged with competing against Holden’s resurgent VF Commodore, as well as a horde of other SUV and mid-size passenger competitors.
Last week, Ford reported a $267 million after-tax loss for 2013, driven largely by a $242 million write-down of its local manufacturing facilities.
Production of the current model FG Falcon and SZ Territory models have fallen to 133 vehicles a day, down from 260 vehicles a day in 2010. It is anticipated that those outputs will increase slightly to coincide with the introduction of the new Falcon and Territory variants.
“We’ve got our plan in terms of how many of those will sell based on what we’ve projected demand to be,” Ford Australia chief executive Bob Graziano told Drive.
“The development of both those vehicles is going really well and we’re quite anxious to get both the Falcon and Territory out there towards the end of this year.”
Asked whether the updated Falcon and Territory variants would share the same level of Australian-produced componentry as current variants (about 70 per cent of parts are locally manufactured), Graziano said: “I can’t tell you what the local content will be for the new vehicles – I just don’t have that detail off the top of my head.
“We have fairly high levels of local content on our programs but I can’t tell you what that level will be – whether it’s identical to what it is today or whether it will be slightly different.”
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