Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo - Buyers Guide

By: Guy Allen, Cliff Chambers, Photography by: Ellen Dewar

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ford falcon xr6 onroad 2 ford falcon xr6 onroad 2

For many, the Australian inline six really came of age with the release of Ford’s Barra 182 (aka Barracuda) engine in the BA series, from late 2002

 

Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo

Finally, we had a twin overhead cam alloy unit, with four valves per cylinder, and variable cam timing. It represented a huge technological leap for the firm’s ‘bread and butter’ powerplants that at the time gave it a significant head start over rival Holden.

Add a turbo to the recipe and you get the Barra 240, which turned out to be a serious performance player that arguably picked up where Holden’s VL Turbo left off and advanced the game several steps further.

| Video: Falcon XR6 Turbo

In line with the ‘great leap forward’ in basic spec, a lot of the ancillaries were shifted up a gear, such as the inline ignition coil packs. It comfortably rated as the most sophisticated engine to come out of Australia. To get the extra mumbo, the engine copped a Garret GT40 turbo, running at a reasonably conservative 0.4 bar boost. As is typical for a turbo motor, the compression was dropped, but not to ridiculous levels: from 9.7:1 to 8.7:1.

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Performance? Power and torque numbers in the stock Barra were boosted from 182kW/380Nm to 240kW/450Nm. It was flexible, too, with peak torque chiming in as early as 2000rpm. Testers at the time reported no turbo lag It’s justifiable to label the Barra 240 as the most sophisiticated engine produced in Australia to that point, with inline coil packs, fly-by-wire throttle, a DOHC four valver with variable valve timing.

| Market review: Ford Falcon AU-FG XR6 Turbo/XR8

We went digging into the test archives of sister mag Wheels to see what the road tests of the time had to say. In August 2002, the mag enthused: "As soon as the engine lights up, you’re aware it’s like no other Falcon six you ever sat behind. At idle, the turbo twin-cam is so discreetly quiet and silky smooth that there’ll be times you’re glad the Smartstart system prevents you re-keying the starter.

Ford -falcon -xr 6-wheel

"Next you’ll notice the stark absence of any drivetrain wheezes and whines that always identified the previous Falcon sixes when accelerating through the gears. And believe me, no previous Falcon six, indeed no other Aussie six and precious few V8s, can match the BA turbo for getting through the gears."

Perhaps counter-intuitively, the mag also recommended opting for the four-speed auto rather than the five-speed manual. Why? "Because the four-speeder delivers a more enjoyable driving experience. Sure the manual has an extra ratio, but the surge of torque from the best-sounding Falcon six ever built is easily able to cover the wider gaps between the gears. What’s more, the auto’s tipshift mode is a pleasure to use. Much nicer than the manual, in fact." The tester also noted there were no ‘dopey’ mode switches, simply a sport mode that enabled driver shifting and five software maps that could adjust the transmission’s response.

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While the mechanical package impressed, the handling also scored highly. "The handling is the real deal, too, with a crispness that’s pretty remarkable for a thing this size and weight. Confidently poised yet light on its feet."

Owner and Unique Cars mag senior staffer Angelo Loupetis bought his example, an auto, back in 2010.

"It’s a good family car that we could fit everything in, with a bit of punch, and it met the budget at the time," he says, explaining the choice of an XR6. "At the time, I was also considering an SS Commodore, like a VX or VY SS or a couple of Sportswagons.

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"I always liked VL turbos and wanted the equivalent, but newer. I looked for a BF initially, but ended up buying a BA because of the Citric Acid colour, which struck me.

"I’ve had it eight years now. A the time it was a one-owner with 70,000km, immaculate, except for a couple of kerbed wheels which I soon had fixed up.

As the car has aged, Angelo has experienced a raft of issues with ancillaries, but the engine itself has been impressive. At 160,000km, "I never had to put oil in it once, apart from servicing, which I think is fantastic."

Ford -falcon -xr 6-engine -bay

As for the dramas, the list includes a string of brake woes, including shudder that has taken time to sort, electrics such as the body control module for central locking, ignition barrel (which seems to be common on BA/BF it collapses internally), door actuators, plus the coil packs twice over. The latest addition to the list is the roof lining is starting to come away from its fixings.

Glitches aside, what’s it like to drive? "It’s really nice to drive. My dad had an EA S-pak and it has that same initial sluggish feel to it, but when you get onto it and it gets a bit of boost it’s still quite exciting to drive day today.

"Handling is good for what it is, and what you’re using it for – it’s fantastic.

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"Part of the thinking when I bought it was that one day it might have a bit of collector interest. We (Unique Cars) did a story years ago about Australia’s greatest car and the XR6 turbo was in the ranks.

"I felt it would have a bit of a fan club, but didn’t realise the Barracuda motor would get such a massive following. There will be a market for it in the long term. Most of them have been modified, so it’s hard to find a clean standard example in a hero colour."

Does that mean it will eventually get parked beside his T-bird when I’s relieved of daily driver duties? Angelo laughs. "I don’t know, that’s what has been going through my head. We’ll see what happens…"

Ford -falcon -xr 6-grille

Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo market

Falcon is gone forever but which models will maintain its legacy is still open for discussion. Among the most unresolved of issues is whether any models from the 21st Century be regarded by future generations as ‘classic’ Aussie Fords?

Mass-produced performance models like the XR6 Turbo remain common and liable to be treated as consumable. There is a real risk as evidenced by the near extinction of early XR6 models, that high-end apathy might see Turbos also gone within 20 years.

With so many cars available there will be many you absolutely do not want to own. Patience, a clear idea of what you want in your Falcon and professional mechanical advise close to hand are indispensable. Even cars with the proverbial ‘full service history’ will be suffering inherent design flaws and some may display owner abuse. Impending mechanical catastrophe is a frequent reason for apparently excellent cars being thrust into the used market so don’t rely on appearance.

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BA Turbos in usable but not brilliant condition begin below $5000 and people have snapped up decent cars at auction or via private sales for even less. You do need to have confidence in your ability to spot and avoid a dud though.

Shopping in the $10-12,000 price range delivers plenty of very good BF manuals or autos and potentially collectible BAs with very low kilometres. Add $5000 for a BF II in equivalent-condition.

Body & Chassis

Cars that have been around for less than 10 years should not be suffering serious rust or body plastic deterioration but crash damage is an issue. Look at panel gaps front and rear, bumper attachment points for broken clips and stone-damaged or loose headlights. More serious after a major front end hit are kinked front rails and inner wheel-arches. Check the boot channels and panel below the rear window for rust then lift the boot carpet looking for water that has slipped past the seal.

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Engine & Transmission

The 4.0-litre Falcon engine dominated the local cab market for 15 years and is inherently reliable. Some early engines did suffer premature camshaft wear, with replacements under warranty required. Cylinder heads can leak oil but the source can be difficult to spot. Avoid Turbos that blow exhaust smoke of any kind and insist on seeing records of servicing to ensure oil-change intervals have been observed. T5 manual transmissions are noisy and rough even when in good condition so try for a BA II or BF with the six-speed manual. Early autos can have major issues with their heat exchanger, as did the later ZF six-speed. Avoid any car that displays transmission shudders under acceleration or won’t shift quickly from a forward ratio to reverse.

Suspension & Brakes

Check for warped rotors which are a common Falcon fault and be prepared to fit some uprated discs. Perhaps if the car is excellent in other respects spend $2500 on a complete brake system upgrade. Rear suspension bushes collapse and leave tyres running on their inner edges. Shock absorber bushes wear quickly as well and create knocking noises over bumps. Creaks and groans from the front when turning at low speeds are typical Ford and signify that ball joints and bushings are past their use-by dates. Look for power steering fluid leaks as the cost of a rebuilt rack can add 25 per cent to the price of a cheap car.

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Interior & Electrics

The bugbear of centrally-locked Falcons continued even into the improved BA-BF series. UC’s Chief Designer Angelo has owned a BA Turbo for years and twice replaced faulty door actuators. Add to that a Body Control Module that takes out the entire locking system and you understand the frustration of owners and service personnel with Ford’s inability to get a simple system to work. Make sure the headlights aren’t fogged and that the battery doesn’t show signs of overheating. Ensure that the display screen (where fitted) performs all of its functions, that the air-conditioning delivers proper cold air and all power windows move without sticking or shuddering.

VALUE RANGE: BA-BF XR6 Turbo

FAIR: $5000
GOOD: $8500
EXCELLENT: $13,500 (BF manual)

(Note: exceptional cars will demand more)

Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo

NUMBER MADE: N/A
BODY: all-steel combined body/chassis four-door sedan
ENGINE: 4.0-litre inline six-cylinder with overhead camshafts, fuel injection and turbocharger
POWER & TORQUE: 240kW @ 5250rpm 450Nm @ 2000rpm (BA)
PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h
6.0 seconds, 0-400 metres
14.3 seconds (BA manual)
TRANSMISSION: five or six-speed manual, four or six-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: Independent with struts and coil springs, upper and lower wishbones and anti-roll bar (f) Independent with multi-link location, coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: disc (f) disc (r) with power assistance and ABS
TYRES: 235/40ZR17, 245/40ZR18 radial

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