EcoBoost gives Falcon wings - truly

Recall earlier in the year we talked about the forthcoming four-cylinder Falcon, and suggested that it was unlikely to be a lame duck? Because of turbocharging and direct fuel injection technology, we felt it would be about as handy as the 4.0L six, despite being half the capacity. Well, that car has now gone on sale here, the XT Falcon, and we've performance-tested it using the GPS-based VBOX so can discuss it with a bit more perspective.

The old mantra of "there's no replacement for displacement" is just that. In the modern era, concepts like displacement downsizing (along with other innovations like idle-stop, and the like) are reaping all kinds of efficiency benefits, without sacrificing performance. There's really only one area where smaller engines are still wanting compared with larger ones, and that's particularly evident when you first fire up the XT Falcon. Straight sixes play a refined tune, but inline fours? Well, they're the wimps of the motor world, in an aural sense, unless they've had major work done to the intake and exhaust systems. The sound of the four-cylinder 2.0L EcoBoost engine at start-up is something existing Falcon owners may never get used to, unless they're interested in the other aspects of the engine. Which are distinctly impressive. 

As we said before, don't prejudge this little powerhouse. It comes on strong from low revs with minimal turbo lag, and easily outrevs the six, using almost 20 per cent less fuel all the while. Once you get past the noise at start-up, the charms of the four-cylinder Falcon quickly grow on you.

Despite having 16kW and 38Nm less output, the EcoBoost version is as fast as the six-cylinder Falcon. Amazingly, its performance figures overlay those of the 4.0L version. In April this year, the XR6 sedan managed a 6.98sec 0-100 sprint time. The EcoBoost-powered variant matched that exactly. Spooky. So too the 80-120 overtaking exercise, which the four reeled off in 4.66sec to the 4.67sec best time for the six. Essentially, they're identical for performance.

How come? The weight difference explains it. The four scales up at 106kg less overall. It has a better weight split too, with 53 per cent of the total over the front axle, (to the XR6's 55 per cent) making turn-in at least as incisive, even on the XT's eco-rubber.

So you get similar on-road performance for the pair, and economy around one-fifth better for the four. Win-win, except Ford doesn't seem that keen on promoting the four-cylinder concept; the only way you can tell it's the most modern Falcon is by looking under the hood. There's no EcoBoost or Turbo badges externally, and certainly no mention of cylinder count. What you get here is the base XT Falcon with rubber dedicated to economy (Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max). Essentially, then, this is the Falcon aimed at reps. Lucky them, I reckon. Across the ditch there are two more upmarket variants available.

Ford is probably wondering how on earth it can arrest, let alone reverse, the sliding fortunes of the Falcon. As with Commodore, the rein of this type of vehicle atop the sales charts is coming to an end. Large cars will probably never again head the must-have list of the average antipodean family. SUVs and crossovers have seen to that. Pity, but certain sectors go in and out of fashion, as with any consumer area. Witness the slow death of the CD, as an example. Like tape decks, CD slots will surely disappear from the dashboards of cars in the not-too-distant future.

The other reason the XT probably won't boost Falcon's fortunes? The strong Aussie dollar is making imports from across the ditch increasingly expensive. In January of 2009 the XT Falcon with the 191kW six-cylinder engine went for $39,990. Nowadays, the same car with the EcoBoost engine costs $48,490. The XR6 costs $5500 more, at $53,990. You get slightly better specification in that car, but there's little missing from the budget Falcon, apart perhaps from the superior Dunlop SportMaxx rubber. Buy decent footwear for this, and you'd have a roomy, comfy, stroppy, capable and reasonably frugal family sedan that would run circles around SUVs at the same price point. If that's your thing.

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