Ford could again drop the V8 engine from the Falcon range in response to environmental concerns, while diesel power will at last be available for Falcon and Territory in 2010.
With sales of Falcon dipping and emissions rules getting tougher, Ford Australia’s recently appointed president Bill Osborne is offering no guarantees a V8 engine is part of the Falcon’s future.
The 5.4-litre 'Boss' V8 has survived into the new FG Falcon line-up – on-sale in May 2008 – but only in one model: the hardcore Falcon XR8.
The 4.0-litre turbo six-cylinder has instead become the more widely used performance engine, employed in both the XR and G6 ranges.
The Falcon's six-cylinder turbo engine also outpaces the Falcon V8, easily besting it against the stopwatch in testing by Drive and other media outlets.
Despite being slower, the Falcon V8 is also thirstier. It slurps a claimed average of 14.0 litres per 100km, 20 per cent more than the turbo six-cylinder's claimed 11.7L/100km.
“Quite frankly we have not sorted out our V8 strategy going forward,” Osborne said at the Ford FG Falcon launch last week. “That is an open question.”
Ford’s quandary over V8s is in direct contrast to Holden, which has employed General Motors' American-sourced V8 family to great effect since the late '90s. HSV will soon begin selling a performance hero with a 7.0-litre V8, the biggest engine in any new production car sold in Australia. Standard HSVs will soon adopt a 6.2-litre V8, codenamed LS3.
The problem for Ford’s Australian division is its parent company’s move away from V8s to a strategy called ‘Ecoboost’ that embraces V6 engines with forced induction and direct injection. The V6 engines are aimed at retaining performance while improving fuel economy and emissions.
Therefore the larder is pretty bare when it comes V8 powertrains going forward. In the short term the current 5.4-litre V8 in Falcon and FPV models is expected to be modified to meet stricter Euro IV emissions levels that become mandatory mid-2010.
Beyond that Osborne confirmed a new 5.0-litre V8 to be developed and built in North America for the Ford Mustang was being examined for possible use in Ford's new Falcon.
“We have taken a look at [that V8] and it looks like it will be a pretty competitive engine, particularly if we decide to boost (turbocharge or supercharge) it as well,” said Osborne.
“We have to decide whether that is suitable for us, but we also have to compare those kinds of alternatives with the Ecoboost strategy. We will have to evaluate whether consumers here are wedded to V8s or to V8 [type] power and torque levels.
“One of the things we will be looking at is the sales mix of the I6 (inline six-cylinder) turbo [versus the V8].”
Osborne is conscious of the negative publicity that Ford Australia created when it dropped V8 engines from its line-up between 1982 and 1991.
While Ford waxes and wanes on V8s, there is no doubt it is progressing on a diesel engine for the Falcon and Territory. Ford is planning to introduce a turbo-diesel V6 in Territory in early 2010. This will follow on from a mild update for the Territory in the first half of 2009.
Both Territory and Falcon will change over from the locally-built inline six-cylinder to an imported petrol V6 in early 2010.
And diesel for the new Falcon? Territory is the priority, but if all goes well Ford would also like to adopt the diesel engine for the Falcon at the same time.
What sort of vehicle are you planning to buy next?Related story: Kiwis like multi-tasking cars
Gear up for that big holiday drive
Tips on how to do a safe river crossing
On the road and prepared for the cold snap