2011 Ford Falcon G6E (AUS)

There have been Ford Falcons since 1960 and the car was success right from the outset as this large family saloon clearly met, and has continued to meet, the needs of many Australian buyers. Although the very first XK Falcon was little more than an Australian assembled version of the American car of the same name, it did not take long before it became clear that the car needed modification to suit the tougher demands of Australian motoring conditions. In the early 1960s, Ford Australia did sell a larger car, which was called Fairlane, and was simply a locally assembled version of the America machine. In 1967, Ford Australia decided to build their own version of the Fairlane, basing it on their own new XR Falcon design, and for the next 40 years, Fairlane ran as a larger, more powerful and more luxurious model sitting above the Falcon in the range. In 1973 the even plusher LTD model first appeared, and again, although this shared a name with an American product, it was a local design. During the 1990s, a series of mis-judged models meant that sales reduced in favour of the Holden Statesman, and the last Fairlane was built at the end of 2007. What came in its place was simply a posher version of the new FG model Falcon, called the G6 and G6E. These cars are identical to the lesser Falcons except in matters of specification and trim.   
When I was booking rental cars for my recent Australian trip, I selected the five from five different categories, as these seemed to maximise the likelihood of getting five different vehicles to sample. When I first started to look, Hertz presented the Falcon G6E as the sample car in the class above the XR6 model Falcon, though a few days later, I noted that the sample model had changed to the Holden Commodore SV6. With an XR6 and an SV6 Sportwagon already reserved, it seemed likely that whatever I ended up in Adelaide with was going to be closely related to one of the cars from earlier in the trip. Observations in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth suggested that the fleet did indeed contain both cars, so I was not sure what to expect, or if presented with a choice, which to pick. As it turned out, there was no choice, as the only car available in this category in Adelaide when I arrived was a Falcon G6E finished in the same shade of silver as the XR6 model which I had enjoyed in Melbourne.  
Most of the differences between the G6E and XR6 are in the trim, and many of them are visually very obvious. Outside the car, there is more chrome trim around the front of the car, a different front bumper, there are indicator repeaters on the door mirrors and the spoiler that sits astride the boot on the XR6 is not present here. Open the door and you spot the leather seats, which are good, then you spot the application of what pewter coloured  trim around the centre of the dash, the centre of the dash and on the door trims. The word “tawdry” came to mind. I’m not sure why Ford scores so badly with the trim they apply to their cars at present, but having inflicted appalling wood in some top spec European cars, they switched to really nasty quality plasti-minium and ruined the interiors of what otherwise are well screwed together decently designed places. Sadly this horrible cheap looking plastic is not the only crime, as backing the instruments is another type of silver plastic, this time with a sort of corrugated effect which also looks just dreadful. The XR6 suffered from none of this, even though it did have some silver plastic trim in some of the same places, but there was far less of it, and it was a true silver and not the sort of horrid pewter effect. The blue concentric ring around the main dials of that car are clearly deemed too sporting for the luxury model, so this does not feature in the G6E. The remaining trim indiscretion is some high gloss ebony plastic that pretends to be wood on the doors and glovebox. So that what was different and bad about the G6E, but you do gain some additional equipment that is good. There is a reversing camera which projects a clear image onto the display screen otherwise used for the audio system. Annoyingly, selecting reverse cut the sound to the audio system, presumably so you are not distracted, but with it starting up again as you select a forward gear, when manoeuvering, this means you get sound bites literally. The door mirrors dip down a little when you reverse, too.
Mechanically, the G6E is identical to the XR6, so you would expect it to be similar to drive, and so it proves. Having castigated the unpleasant trim changes, this is where things get good again, as this is a very agreeable car to take to the road. The 4 litre V6 engine, developing 261 bhp, sounds good, is smooth and provides the G6E with brisk acceleration. A six speed automatic gearbox is standard on this car, and it makes completely seamless changes between the ratios. You could easily pootle around in this car and find it smooth and relaxing, but if the mood takes you., press the accelerator harder and it proves quite agile and lithe. When I collected the G6E, the fuel gauge was not showing full. On pointing this out to the Hertz agent at the gate, he asserted that these Fords often have gauges showing the car is not full even though it is. Needless to say, when I returned the car, and tanked it, the needle went all the way beyond the full mark, so it clearly was not properly full. As I used less than a tank, it is hard to judge the actual economy. I know that I put in 51 litres having driven the car 590 km. I persuaded Hertz that the car was short of 7 litres, so if you assume I used 44 litres, which is pretty much near 10 gallons, that equates to an average of around 35 – 36 mpg, which is very impressive for such a large engined car. As this is a similar figure to that which l obtained with the XR6, it would seem credible. Thank Australia’s low speed limits, a plethora of speed cameras and relatively untraffic-ed roads for such parsimony. Whilst the XR6 has sports suspension, the G6E does not, though it does differ from the standard XT models as well. I found it quite hard to tell the difference and would guess that you would need more extreme conditions for it to become really obvious. Although lacking the precision of Parry Jones tweaked Euro Fords such as the old Focus and Mondeo, the steering is good, with just the right amount of weighting to it, and the car rides and handles well. It avoids the temptation for floaty wafty suspension which some markets think characterises a luxury feel. It stops readily too, and there is a pull up handbrake between the seats. All round visibility is good, with the reversing camera making it even easier to judge the back of the car than using the spoiler on the XR6.
Get past those special touches that distinguish the G6E and the cabin of the G6E is well presented. The basic materials are actually of a decent quality, and comprises soft touch plastics which fit together well. The overall design is cohesive, and unfussy. It is all but identical to the XR6. The dials are grouped together under a single binnacle, with large speedometer and rev counter joined by smaller fuel and water temperature gauges. A digital display area sits in the middle, and is separated into three separate regions, showing the odometer in the bottom, and with a large display in the middle which can show a number of different stats including a digital representation of your speed which I found useful, as thanks to using this in the Audi, I find this easier than reading the conventional dial. You select between the functions by pressing some of the buttons on the side of the instrument nacellel. You also find repeater buttons for the audio unit and the cruise control on the sides of the steering wheel central boss. As with all Australian market cars, the column stalks are set up to operate indicators from the right and wipers on the left. Lights are operated by twisting the right hand stalk. The centre of the dash contains the display screen for the satellite navigation which is set high up and deeply recessed. Below this are a series of buttons and knobs for the audio unit and the climate control. Both proved easy to use.
Despite the questionable interior trim upgrades, there is no doubt that the cabin of the G6E is a comfortable place in which to spend time. The seat proved very comfortable, and it can be adjusted in every direction to get the right position. The steering wheel could usefully have gone a little higher, but I soon adjusted to the driving position, and was able to take the car on one long trip and felt suitably relaxed when I arrived. Rear seat passengers should have no complaints either as there is ample space for even the largest passengers. The boot is enormous, with a very deep well in the central part of the boot which accommodated my suitcase so that it was then just about flush with the higher parts at each side of the boot. It stretches back a long way, too, and as if this is not enough, the rear seat backrests can be folded forward to create even more carrying capacity. Inside the cabin, there is a modest glove box, door bins, a cubby under the central armrest and cubby area on the bottom of the centre part of the dash.
G6E is the top model in the Falcon range. Along with the cheaper G6 model,  it  is only available with the automatic gearbox that is an option on XT and XR6 cars. G6Es get 18″ alloys, with a different design to those on the XR6, whereas G6s get 17″s. Both get what is called Luxury Sports Control Blade independent rear suspension. Mechanically, the G6 models are identical to the XR6. Standard on the G6E is a sports leather wrapped steering wheel, leather seats, leather seats with 8 way electric adjustment, dual zones for the climate control, an upgraded 6 CD audio unit, with the same MP3, iPod and Bluebooth that features on lesser models, along with a colour display screen which is also used for the satellite navigation and the reversing camera. All the other comfort and convenience features are included on G6 and XR6 models as well. List price for the G6E is currently AUS$ 50,860, as compared to $44,783 for the G6 model and $43,911 for the XR6. Were it my decision, I would struggle to see why paying the extra for the G6E made much sense.
Hertz would seem to be phasing out the G6E from their fleet, replacing it with the Holden SV6, at least for now. If that is the case, then choosing your Australian rental car becomes a lot easier as the Falcon XR6 and SV6 will be in different groups. That will take away the dilemma as to whether it is worth paying the small premium extra per day for the G6E or not. Whilst I still like the basic Falcon experience, I struggled to warm to the differences of the more expensive model, and would save the holiday budget and stick with the XR6.
2012-04-13 18:34:15

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