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BA Ford Falcon MkII: First Look

By Feann Torr

BA MkII Ford Falcon
BA Ford Falcon MkII

BA MkII Ford Falcon
XR6 Turbo and XR8 models
get new 6-speed gearbox

BA MkII Ford Falcon
MkII badging is the best way to ID a 2005 Falc'

BA MkII Ford Falcon
The new 17-inch MkII XR6 alloy wheels

BA MkII Ford Falcon
The Fairmont Ghia sporting one
of the new MkII colour schemes

In addition to being the first update to the Falcon since late '02, Ford's MkII Falcon could also be seen as a response to Holden's new VZ Commodore.

Due in October 2004, there's not a great deal of change to the major aspects of Ford's large car, such as exterior design or power output, but items like new alloy wheels and a cracking new six-speed manual transmission will attract attention.

While Holden's game plan is now clear - a new look, more powerful 6-cylinder engines and new transmissions - the BA Falcon MkII will help keep interest levels from dropping. At least, that's the idea.

Ford's fresh new take on the Falcon will be more about improvement than a revolutionary ream of changes.

As such, the Falcon MkII will offer better value, including standard appointments such as cruise control and automatic headlamps throughout the Falcon range, while power adjustable pedals and side airbags are now standard on the Futura model.

The Falcon Ute range also features heavily in the MkII upgrade, with new creature comforts, alloy rims and new paint colours.

"This update signals Ford Australia's intention to continue providing locally designed and engineered product that motivates people into Ford showrooms," Ford Australia President Tom Gorman said.

Perhaps the biggest change in the BA MkII range is the addition of the new 6-speed manual gearbox in high-performance XR models.

The Tremec T56 six-speed manual transmission has seen service in such vehicles as the Ford Mustang Cobra R and the exotic Aston Martin V12 Vanquish, putting the XR8 and XR6 Turbo MkII models in good company.

The transmission will come with a unique gear set for both the XR6 Turbo and XR8, designed to match each engine's unique performance characteristics.

The final drive ratio in the XR8 has changed from 3.23 to 3.46, while the XR6 Turbo final drive ratio has shortened from 3.46 to 3.73.

The new manual trannie will give both the XR8 and XR6 Turbo models slightly better acceleration and improved fuel efficiency - due to the extra ratio - which was one of the major criticisms of the XR8.

Furthermore, the T56 unit comes equipped with double synchros (synchromesh) in all six forward gears, ensuring a "sweet shifting movement" in Ford speak.

The new 6-speed transmission will also make its way into the FPV range, including F6 Typhoon, which will be shown at the Sydney Motor Show on October 7, 2004.

But why only include the new six cog gearbox on just two general models and a handful of niche performance cars from FPV?

At first glance, such a move could be seen as a very short-term solution to battle Holden's new VZ Commodore range, but this is not entirely the case, as Ford president Tom Gorman explains:

"XR led the showroom charge in the BA range, increasing sales mix from 6.8 per cent of total Falcon sales in 2002 to more than 27 per cent in 2004."

"Now our new Tremec T56 6-speed manual transmission, fine tuned by the FPV engineers to provide optimum performance, adds the final touch to the performance line-up, resulting in improved performance feel," Gorman stated.

That 27 per cent of XR sales equates to almost a third of all Falcon's sold in 2004, so it comes as no surprise that the range-topping XR8 muscle car has also been gifted with a suspension tweak. Performance vehicle planning manager Gordon Barfield talks about the new gearbox and suspension changes:

"The BA MkII XR6 Turbo and XR8 confirms Ford as the manufacturer providing enthusiast cars for enthusiast drivers. Drivers will appreciate the improved performance feel, while still having a gearbox that offers tractable performance through all the gears at typical driving speeds.

"Fifth gear is well suited to the 60km/h speed limit and sixth gear pulls strongly below 100km/h offering peace-of-mind motoring. The close ratios in the new gearbox make it easy to select the right gear for the right occasion.

"Firmer spring rates have sharpened the steering response on the XR8 with a flatter ride and nimbler handling designed to further improve the athletic nature of the car," Barfield concluded.

Other general changes to the Falcon MkII range includes a new set of five-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels on XR6 and XR6 Turbo models, while the XR8 now gets 18-inch wheels as standard, much like the VZ Commodore SS.

The new alloy rims on the XR6 and XR6 Turbo retain the classic five-spoke design while Fairmont Ghia boasts an elegant new diamond turned nine-spoke alloy. The Falcon colour palette has been enhanced by the MkII update, with the addition of four exciting new colours.

Shockwave is inspired by the BA Falcon's successes on the track, adding a "wave of uninhibited excitement" to the clean lines of the Falcon exterior.

Blaze is a rich metallic gold, most likely to be seen on luxury models.

Velocity is a youthful blue epitomising stand-out performance. Expect plenty of XR models to be ordered in this sky blue-ish colour.

Rapid is a searing hot yellow not for the faint hearted (and likely to offend many pairs of eyes).

Falcon MkII customers will also enjoy an expanded range of accessories, with the addition of several roof storage options originally designed for the Territory and also traction control will be offered on some manual models.

The MkII Falcon can be optioned with a bike carrier, canoe/kayak holder, 375 litre or 405 litre roof luggage box or ski/snowboard carrier.

Inside, a practical new 15-litre 'Day Tripper' car fridge is now available, while the addition of a games adapter ensures the optional REX3 DVD system can play the latest Xbox, Playstation 2 or Game Cube video games.

The BA Falcon has made great inroads for Ford in the large car market since its late 2002 introduction, managing to restore the vehicle's credibility after the underperforming AU model Falcon of the late 1990s, and the MkII has a tough job ahead if it's to keep that momentum going.

While the new Commodore may push the Falcon out of spotlight for the next few months, Holden may well rue the fact that Ford upgraded its performance gearbox, and of course the XR8's suspension, as the all important flagship VZ SS Commodore versus BAII XR8 Falcon will be incredibly hard fought.

Stay tuned to the Motoring Channel for full reviews of the VZ Commodore and BAII Falcon models.

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