Sprint finish for final flight XR Falcons

Those Sprint-badged special versions of the XR8 and XR6 Turbo that will see out the Falcon in its final year of production might very much live up to their name in respect to availability.


ON sale no earlier than April, very probably off the shelf by end of October – in car-making terms, the XR special editions that see out the Ford Falcon are the equivalent of a 100 metre dash.

Long-standing rumour about Ford resurrecting the Sprint badge as a farewell to a big Aussie sedan that – going by its already lacklustre sales – is already dead to many has proven spot on.

Talk about the how the cars will fit out is rife in Australia, but the maker is saying very little beyond having confirmed that the turbocharged six-cylinder and supercharged V8 variants will be specials available in limited numbers.

However, Ford New Zealand has at least suggested the models will be a quick trip down memory lane – and into retirement.

The Auckland domiciled brand has told Motoring Network the XR Sprint cars are timed come into the showroom “in the second quarter of 2016.”

That suggests April launch at the earliest and, since the Broadmeadows plant closes in October, well you do the math …

Ford NZ has declined to give any idea of how many examples will be available to New Zealand and how much of a premium they might carry over the regular editions, which respectively sit at $59,340 and $69,990.

A marketing spokeswoman taking all media inquiry simply responded to questions by saying: “Further information will be available next year.”

The main attraction of the Sprint cars is set to be a power upgrade. There’s talk the XR6 Turbo Sprint will produce around 310kW – 40kW up on the standard model - while the XR8 Sprint might pack 351kW, a 16kW step up from the standard car’s output.

Also associated with the special are a unique braking package, wheels, exterior stripe design and interior, while also receiving Sprint badging on both the outside and inside.

The suspension set up is for XR6 Turbo expected to be the same FPV R-SPEC kit as seen on the XR8 with firmer springs and anti-roll bars and revised dampers.

Pre-production mules spotted around Melbourne have also been running with a big disc Brembo brake kit.

It’s thought that while the Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo Sprint will be automatic only (six-speed), the Ford Falcon XR8 Sprint will be available as both an automatic and manual (both six-speed).

The revitalisation of a nameplate first attached in the 1960s and most recently seen in 1993 with a limited edition Tickford-enhanced ED plays as a see-me-out push for the big Aussie on its run to the end of production in October 2016.

Falcon certainly needs a boost but, then, so does Ford NZ’s passenger sales effort in general. This has slipped 14.5 percent over the past 12 months, despite this being a boom year.

Ironically, the one shining star with private buyers has been the Ranger utility, which is topping the one-tonne sector. However Ranger, despite being a popular family runabout, cannot contribute to the passenger count as it is considered a commercial vehicle.

Ford has potential turn-around cars in the pipeline, including the Edge – a crossover out of America that is set to replace the ancient Territory – and presumably will rely far more heavily on that car than on Falcon to lift its fortunes.

Once a stalwart, the Falcon is now a virtual non-entity, suffering from being an aged design that has lacked for significant ongoing development.

It’s easy to see why Ford here shows little interest in promoting the model. As in Australia, or large car sector is no longer looking healthy. These now achieve around five percent of all new car registrations.

Falcon’s annual sales tally at the end of November amounts to just 661 units, of which 41 were utilities and the remainder sedans. In its heyday, that count would have been achieved in a month.

The only Ford to achieve fewer sales this year has been the EcoSport, a Fiesta-based crossover built in India which has been criticised for its poor quality and quirky styling.

An updated EcoSport that addresses many of the issues affecting the car sold here is now being retailed overseas but Ford NZ has always declined to say when the refresh will land here.

What must be hard for Ford to swallow is that arch-enemy Holden is dominating the big car sector; Commodore has more than 70 percent share at, at the end of last month, had achieved 2728 registrations.

However, that count was also 265 units down on the same period of last year and Holden also relies heavily on Commodore being the front-line police car of choice, a contract that was renewed this year to extend to 2020 – two years after Commodore build ends.

Ford NZ’s managing director for the past three years, Corey Holter, has just departed. The American national has been appointed manager, Car Group Marketing, Ford North America. His replacement, Englishman Simon Rutherford, takes over on January 1 and will report directly to Graeme Whickman, Ford Australia’s president and a former marketing manager for Ford NZ.

Whickman said the announcement of the Sprint will put an end to speculation as to how the Falcon will bow out, adding that the company was expecting a warm reception for the final version.

“There has been a lot of speculation around what our plans are for Falcon in 2016 and we’re happy to confirm that Ford will build a special series to celebrate Australia’s large sedan,” he announced yesterday.

“The Falcon XR Sprint is aligned to the understated look of our notable historic performance Falcons; they will be styled with design and dynamic influences that are distinctly different in feel, presence and execution.

“The XR Sprint will be a limited-edition series and one we think will be highly regarded by our Falcon fans. Ultimately too, like many of our performance Fords, we expect it to be a highly collectible car.”

Interiors get Sprint embroidery on the seats and each engine will be capped off with a numbered build plaque, although Ford has not revealed just how high that number will go.

The final special edition project was partly funded by Ford’s 2015 $300 million research and development investment, which has also resulted in a new facility at the company’s proving ground outside of Melbourne.