It’s the start of a fabulous few months for Ford.
Following on from a good month in April, according to managing director Richard Matheson, Ford has been “housekeeping” to make way for a quartet of new models.
The Blue Oval brand is riding the crest of a rolling succession of new vehicle releases which started in April with the reveal of the new FG Falcon in Australia.
On the surface, there are only subtle differences from the outgoing BF series, but a longer look will actually reveal more to the FG than first meets the eye.
However, it is a greater level of refinement and sophistication, along with some serious safety upgrades, that really are the high points for the FG, aspects you won’t see just by looking at it.
The FG ute series is made up of a two model “workhorse element” and, of course, the XR range with the Ford Performance Vehicle utes yet to come. These will be revealed at the end of May.
Although these are clear model separations, the line between them is sort of blurred, with the mid-range XR6 model as the point of blend.
Within the workhorse range is a cab chassis and Pick Up Box bodystyle. These replace the XL Falcon ute and draw on the styling cues of the FG sedan.
The XR6, XR6T and XR8 retain their overtly sporty appearance and continues the tradition of an aspirational sports ute.
The FG Falcon ute line-up presents the “tradies” with an affordable yet desirable workhorse, as well as a vehicle that says “works hard, plays harder” with the XRs.
All utes have adopted the styling cues of the FG sedan range, along with the upgraded safety standards and, perhaps more critically, the utes adhere to the new transparent pricing structure which Ford has adopted for the Mondeo, Focus and Falcon sedan range.
This structure moves away from the high price, high discount thinking that has become part of the vehicle purchasing process in New Zealand.
Instead, Ford has adopted a more transparent structure that ensures the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) better reflects what the customer will actually pay for their vehicle.
Ford has recognised that more and more customers are researching their purchase online before visiting a dealership, so it is increasingly important that customers have a real indication of final price up front.
So what does the new ute offer? Well, Ford has developed much more car-like qualities to the working ute, with a low ride height, ease of ingress and egress, broader and more comfortable seating, as well as improvements to the driving experience, combining sophistication and control with a sportier feel.
For those thinking this sounds remarkably like the Territory, you’re not far off the mark. Territory’s front suspension with the virtual pivot control link, has been redesigned and incorporated into the new Falcon ute.
VPCL improves communication with the road, and results in longer and more even tyre wear. Not wanting to blind you with science, the VPCL aids in braking stability and improves driver control.
Rear suspension is a more conventional Hotchkiss suspension (leaf spring) as standard throughout the range. The combined front and rear suspension on the cab chassis and pick-up is suited to supporting a tonne, while the XRs come standard with a half tonne-capable sports suspension, and limited slip differentials are standard right across the range.
We mentioned the XR6 was the blend point for the new Falcon. It’s at this level where you start picking up things like the Technology Pack option, which includes Bluetooth connectivity, iPod-friendly entertainment and the associated factory-fit satellite navigation system option.
Or if comfort is more your thing, there’s the Luxury Pack which takes the conventional air conditioning to dual zone, and gives you leather trim.
Wheel sizes range from 16-inch steels on the entry level vehicle, moving to 17-inch alloys on the XR6 (set of four) and 18-inch alloys (set of four) on the XR6T and XR8, with the option of 19-inch alloys (set of four) on all XR models.
Under the bonnet is the tried and true 4-litre, in-line 6-cylinder DOHC in all vehicles except the XR6T which adds a turbocharger, and the 5.4-litre 4-valve V8 in the XR8.
Power and torque outputs have increased.
The working utes — cab chassis, ute and XR6 — run 195kW at 6000rpm engines with 391Nm at 3250rpm, while the XR6T runs the 270kW at 5250rpm with 533Nm between 2000 and 4750rpm.
The big Boss now comes up with 290kW at 5750rpm, and 520Nm at 4750rpm champions the range.
Power to the wheels goes through a five-speed automatic for cab chassis, ute and XR versions, while the top end utes — XR6T and XR8 — have the advantage of the ZF 6-speed sequential sports shift automatic.
The Falcon ute retains its 2300kg braked towing capacity and, to ensure your onboard loads are well covered, it has a new flush fit soft tonneau cover — no more cotton reels or dome snaps to worry about.
Traction control and ABS braking is available across the range.
Falcon utes now offer cruise control with steering wheel controllers, and this is such a cool cruise control you’ll be using it everywhere you go.
And for those who thought cruise control is nothing more than a gimmick, many manufacturers are using it to assist in fuel economy figures.
Think about it — if the car has a fuel computer chances are it has a better idea than its driver as to the right amount of fuel required to operate the engine at its most efficient levels. It is possible to knock off 0.2 or 0.4 of a litre by using cruise control alone.
For the cab chassis, you’re looking at $33,490, while the pick up wellside is $35,490 — the previous entry level was $36,490.
The XR6 opens the door at $39,990 (was $43,490), while the hair drier version (the turbo) blows in at $46,290. Be the Boss XR8 and you’ll be looking at $49,390.