Ford Falcon AU-BAII XR6 - Buyer's Guide

By: Cliff Chambers

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ford falcon xr6 ford falcon xr6

Savaging of AU styling echoed earlier responses to Holden's HD - but like GM-H, Ford's follow-up model silenced the critics

 

Ford Falcon AU-BAII XR6

When Ford announced its AU Falcon, buyers were underwhelmed by the design of basic models and appalled by the four-headlamp XR. The new shape with its random curves and hunched appearance was repellent even to Falcon fans and it was done no favours when the characteristic XR front was added to the mix.

Output from the 4.0-litre six hadn’t improved since back in the EF days and power was still sent roadwards via a live rear axle. Five-speed manual transmission helped the AU XR6 deliver decent performance figures (0-100km/h in 8.2 seconds) but a shape that was anything but aerodynamic ensured it wouldn’t reach peak revs in top gear. 

Stung by market reaction to its Millennium Falcon, Ford sent the stylists and engineers back to their respective drawing boards to produce a car that the AU could and should have been.

| Buyer's Guide: Ford Falcon ED-EL XR6

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The BA shape was smoothed in all the right places, with styling less distinctive and far less divisive. If the new nose raised minimal comment then the revamped rear certainly did. The BA rear pillars were more angular and sensible and beneath new sheet metal sat ‘Control Blade’  independent suspension.

Requiring a body structure more than 60 per cent more rigid than previously, the BA rear end reduced weight and offered greater stability than the AU’s double wishbones.

The double overhead-camshaft ‘Barra’ engine owed its basics to the earlier Falcon six but took versatility to new levels. It would run on any grade of Unleaded fuel and also on LPG. In XR6 tune the non-turbo engine produced 182kW but with a turbocharger attached that jumped by 58kW.

| Video: Ford Falcon BA XR6 Turbo

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Five-speed manual transmission was standard in the BA XR6 however a peek at the current market for these cars will find almost all of the survivors are four-speed automatics with manual over-ride.

The standard suspension is adequate in cars used as daily transport or weekend cruisers. Get more serious about your motoring or start having hankerings for some ‘track day’ experience and a BA with modifications is preferable.

For this kind of treatment the standard brakes will not go the distance and, quite possibly, the standard clutch in a five-speed car won’t either. Fortunately there are XR Falcon clubs with advice forums and links to businesses that can help with uprated parts and modifications.

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It’s a sad fact that these XR6s have little chance of achieving collectible status. What they do offer is affordable, interesting transport with a good chance of surviving until such time as the petrol to run them becomes unaffordable.

VALUE RANGE FALCON (BA XR6 Auto):

FAIR: $2400
GOOD: $5000
EXCELLENT: $7500

(Note: exceptional cars will demand more)

BUYER'S CHECKLIST

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BODY & CHASSIS

 

Well-kept cars, unless suffering the effects of poor crash repairs, should not show any form of rust. Those with bubbling around the wheel-arches or rusty window apertures very likely aren’t worth fixing. Beware damage and broken locating clips on the one-piece bumper/air-dam and look underneath for ‘kerbing’ as well. Boot seals leak so check for dampness which can promote rust and affect operation of the rear lights. Replacement headlights come as high/low beam pairs at around $300 each. Higher wattage bulbs will improve night vision but generate more heat and fail more frequently than the standard bulbs.

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ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

The SOHC motor was a habitual oil leaker, however AUs were an improvement on earlier versions.  Make sure the car isn’t overheating, especially with the air-conditioning running, and there is coloured coolant in the system to protect the alloy cylinder head from corrosion. Twin-cam 4.0 litre engines are considered good for 300,000+ kilometres, provided services occur on time. Most XR6s of this age will be automatic; the four-speed very reliable if a bit harsh and cheaper to replace than rebuild. The five-speed manual can suffer premature clutch failure if used harshly or asked to tow something heavy.

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SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Brake problems are endemic in Falcons and despite its huge advances, this issue is one change the BA upgrade didn’t fix. Discs shudder, squeal and warp but better-quality rotors aren’t expensive. Check that the handbrake holds the car on a decent hill and doesn’t require brute force to release. Also find a stretch of empty road and try out the ABS. Look carefully at alloy wheels for cracks and buckling, especially to the inner edges. Standard shock absorbers don’t last long but again better-quality replacements aren’t dear.

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INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

The problem which proves insoluble for many owners of older Fords involves the central locking. Once known as Smart Lock, the system was rubbish from inception and failures in BAs remained endemic , despite Ford claims to have fixed the issue. Dash creaks and rattles are common and can occupy an entire weekend of home adjustment for no improvement. Make sure the air-conditioner cools the car quickly and the fan can be run at high speed for extended periods.

The trip computer and cruise control need to be tested as well.

1998-2006 Ford Falcon AU-BAII XR6 specs

NUMBER BUILT: N/A
BODY: all-steel unitary four-door sedan
ENGINE: 3984cc in-line six-cylinder with overhead camshafts and fuel injection
POWER & TORQUE: 182kW @ 5000rpm, 380Nm @ 3250rpm (BA)
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h  8.1 seconds, 15.8 seconds (BA Auto)
SUSPENSION: independent with coil springs, struts, wishbones &  anti-roll bar (f) live axle/ independent with multi-link location, coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: disc front/disc rear with power assistance and
ABS TYRES: 235/45 R17 radial

 

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