Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Ford Falcon Ecoboost 2013

The last of the Falcons.

It's also the de-facto Taxi in Australia and is just about as ubiquitous as the Proton Saga in Malaysia.

...and is the first car I have purchased with my blood sweat and tears hard earned money!

Why buy a taxi?
Read more below:
TL;DR: It's a full sized 1.7 ton sedan with the same torque per kg as a Golf GTI, albeit with more comfortable suspension and far better noise insulation.

I've had a soft spot for full sized sedans for awhile, and after some shopping, I chose a car I would have never considered just a few years ago. The iconic Ford Falcon is a 4.0 litre inline 6 cylinder car with terrible mileage and, being a fleet car, terrible resale value. I was looking forward to a 3.6L Camry V6 (aurion) or Commodore, but in the end the Falcon won. Here's why:

With the declining sales of large sedans, Ford decided to do something extrodinary. They paired the classic aussie sedan with their 2.0 4cyl Ecoboost engine. Tuned to 360NM @ 1750 to 4500rpm, the car has very good acceleration under normal driving circumstances. It never feels underpowered. It does not have any noticeable turbo lag. The engine is matched to a six speed ZF automatic. Pushed, it does 0-100km/h in 6.9 seconds.

This is the same engine/tune used in the base model Jaguar XF/XJ, Volvo S60T, and Range Rover Evoque. To put the numbers into into perspective:
   2.0 Civic: 190NM at 4000rpm, 1.3tons
   2.5 Camry: 235NM at 4100rpm, 1.3tons
   2.5 Mazda3 Sport 228NM at 4000rpm, 1.3tons
   2.0T Golf GTI Mk6 280NM at 1700-5200rpm, 1.3tons
   3.6 Camry (Aurion): 353NM at 4700rpm, 1.6tons

I've been completely spoilt by my girlfriend's Golf GTI. It is the reason I did not consider the (stereotypical asian) Civic / Camry. The Falcon feels just as torquey as a Golf GTI, but unlike the Golf, the Falcon aggressively upshifts (heck, it's branded "Eco"-boost for a reason) while the Golf aggressively downshifts - it's accelerator pedal feels "twitchy" (rev happy) compared to the falcon. The 6-speed ZF does have a performance mode with manual shifting, and the gear knob is perfectly positioned for manual shifting. In performance mode, the torque curve from 2000-5000rpm is decently flat, and the 1.7ton car feels very responsive. I rarely use performance mode though and did not even notice it was there until the third week of owning the car lol.

Note I lose about 20NM of torque by using RON 91 petrol, which the car is designed to use.

True to all falcons, it's a classic well balanced FR (front engine, rear wheel drive) car. Power is delivered to the rear wheels with a traditional rack and pinion steering. It's mechanically a lot simpler than new cars that tend to be FF where power and maneuvering both pass through the front wheels.

I am not an aggressive driver and I will never take a car to the track. That said, the difference between FF and FR was unexpectedly obvious in two common day-to-day scenarios: U-turns, and roundabouts.

A similar powered 3.6L V6 Camry (Aurion) felt less composed coming out of u-turns and roundabouts than the Falcon. Modern FF cars have lots of electronic wizardry and suspension settings that compensate for all the power being delievered to the steering wheels, but the difference is still quite palpable.

I almost bought a FF V6 Camry... Lesson: Always test drive the competition!

Put your foot down after a U-turn and the falcon seems to know where you want to go. Handling is sharp for a car with soft suspension. The nose dips ever so slightly and you feel the car move with precision despite its comfort oriented suspension.

The Golf GTI is just as precise coming out of roundabouts (and is FF), but has really hard suspension compared to the Falcon.

The brakes on the Falcon deserve special mention. These are the best feeling brakes I have ever used period. They may not be the most high performance ones I've used, but they feel just right. Not woody. Not soggy. Just enough give. Gradual increase in breaking as you put your foot down.

Highway Cruising
The Falcon was designed as a highway cruiser, and it shines. Cruise control is above par, with the ability to set speed easily via a digital display that shows both the set speed and the current speed simultaneously. The steering wheel controls are straightforward to use (i've never looked at the manual). Hold to change speed by 10km/h. Tap to change set speed by 1km/h. It also has an inclination sensor to prevent speeding on downhill runs.

The numbers below speak for themselves. (On budget RON91 petrol!)
  1900rpm at 100km/h w 6.5L/100km fuel consumption
  2050rpm at 110km/h w 7.5L/100km fuel consumption

Amazingly, it holds the above rpm at all times. Uphill, downhill, flat, the RPM stays the same. Extra torque is instantaneously available for overtaking. There is simply no turbo lag noticeable.

Fuel consumption 80/20 (hwy/city) will easily get you less than 10L/100km.

Noise Vibration and Harshness
Open the bonnet, turn on the engine and you'll be in for a surprise. The engine sounds terrible when idling especially when cold. It actually sounds bad and unrefined (from the outside). Heck, a Datsun 120Y sounds better than this 2012 Falcon. I suspect Falcon engineers noticed this, and really upped the ante with sound deadening beneath the hood. Acoustic glass is used for the windscreen and the cabin is well insulated from the harshness of the engine.

In day to day driving, that harshness is not audible, other than a soft high-pitched whine from the turbo if you happen to wind your windows down.

The sound deadening in this car is above par. My garage door is noisy as fuck louder than a vacuum cleaner. It's very audible in my (previous) Honda Jazz/Fit and my housemate's Honda Civic. In the Falcon, you could not tell it is being opened or closed.

Drive on a noisy (?concrete) country road and you'll immediately appreciate the sound deadening on the Falcon. Talking to the back seat passengers is easy. Apparently the car comes with additional sound deadening in the dash and floors as well (link). If you are in the market for a 4.0L I6 falcon, it would be a sin to not test drive the Ecoboost Falcon.

AU$25,000 (RM75k) less than one year old, with 12500km on the odometer. Ex Ford dealer's company car. RRP AUD$37500 (RM115k) new.

The Little Things
+ Nice grey/beige/black trim. The ugly fake silver plastic dash and steering wheel paddles are gone (its one of the reasons why i would have never previously considered a falcon)
+ Digital display for three variables in addition to the odo. I typically set mine to current speed, set speed (cruise), and instant fuel economy.
+ Reversing sensors with digital display of four corners.
+ Good built in speakerphone (bluetooth)
+ Built for cheap RON 91 petrol
+ Well tested proven engine. Used in the states since 2010.

The Little (negative) Things
- Terrible quality of some plastic parts. My god the internal door handles feel cheaper than those on a Kancil (daihatsu mira) / Myvi (daihatsu sirion). It's like they went out of their way to find the cheapest plastic to use as a door handle. Lacks refinement and "solidness". You'll feel this the moment you engage gear (compared to the euro sedans).
- Fit and finish is sub par. Panel fit is ok, but the internal fittings are not as well done as your typical euro sedan.
- Retro green dash illumination in the base model. (Hello 1980s)
- The included foldable key has poor quality wireless lock/unlock buttons that are already showing signs of wear.
- Predictably low resale value.

One of the most underrated cars on the Australian market.


  1. Great review Ezra, thanks. I test drove one of these Falcon ecoBoosts yesterday and was extremely impressed. Hope you're still enjoying your car.

  2. Falcons run on 95 octane otherwise they ping like crazy. A Golf GTI is a sports
    version if you compared it to the XR6 Turbo it would get murdered. Your 0-100
    time is also poor as we'll as your like most car journlialists who cannot drive
    and spew 'asthetic' crap. It design is basic and utilitarian and is not interested
    in pretty bullshit features. Its tough enough to be used a cop 'ram car'
    and also a cab car showing how bloody tough it is. Go and review some
    European cars which are so good nowonder the EU is collapsing...
    Give me a trackdrive on a racetrack before you give performance figures.
    Its resale is low as snobs like European cars which also drop like
    lead bricks after 5 years anyway. My Falcon is over 20 years old
    on the same motor. Not one point did you mention the durability
    and toughness of the cars. Your using the wrong oil if the
    motor is making noises and probably have a mechanic who
    takes advantage of your motoring igorance to rip 'car snobs'
    like you blind.

    Yes its underrated and let it always be that way. Looser cars
    need to much marketing as they lack substance. BTW
    the Falcon name is as old as 911.

  3. Figures are as published and verified by multiple car mags and amateur youtube videos. As per the review above, Im not a sporty driver at all ( i got it as a long distance cruiser).

    Been running on 91RON fuel with no issues ever as per the previous owners.

    This is the ECOBOOST turbo not the high performance XR6T turbo. The manual with the car recommends 91RON.

  4. Great review. I've only driven the 6 (an early xt and 2 xr6's) and loved them, especially the base model with its much better ride especially compared to the last xr6 on 18 in rims. Would love to try the ecoboost. Its a very sensible car and i think would be far more fun to drive than what people give it credit for with all thay weight taken out of the nose. I quite like the green dash lighting...

  5. So far , I haven't seen any disappointed owner of Ford Ecoboost . I just bought a FGX Ecoboost 2014/2015 ). What is the point of its low resale value since my old Ford AU 2 has served me well for over 12 years with 300,000 km and still running strong.

    Grab the Falcon Ecoboost when it's so cheap with its reliable quality for another 10 years.