Another AV Article
The T-Series Ford Falcon 220kW is a guide to the future of Ford.
- In the face of falling sales, Ford is set to give an old favourite new wings, writes motoring editor ALASTAIR SLOANE.
This time next year Ford New Zealand will be getting ready to launch its new Falcon, the replacement for the present AU Series II. The car, codenamed the AV, is expected to be the most exciting Falcon yet, bringing with it more standard equipment and a new range of engines, including a turbocharged 4-litre straight-six and a 5.4-litre V8.
It will be launched in Australia in September 2002 and is expected to be unveiled here soon after.
The car's profile is expected to remain the same, with Ford hanging on to the existing car's doors and roofline. But there will be extensive styling changes front and rear, including a new assembly for twin-beam headlights.
The bonnet will be bulged to make room for the bigger V8 engine, and the car's interior will move more upmarket and adopt some of the European styling of the Mondeo.
Ford is expected to make widespread suspension revisions in the new Falcon to improve ride and handling.
The long-time live rear axle - standard on the present Futura, Forte, XR6, Fairmont and wagon derivatives - will be gone forever.
A lighter version of the existing independent rear end found on the Fairmont Ghia, XR8 and XR6 VCT (variable camshaft timing) is likely to become standard across the range.
Ford has been forced into making the Falcon a more complete package. The AU's look - mostly the "edge" design rear end and the dated interior - has polarised buyers, especially in Australia since its launch in 1988. Ford's effort to improve the look with the Series II last year did little to change public attitudes.
It desperately wants to lift the car's appeal in a bid to put the brakes on the success of the Holden Commodore and reverse its plummeting market share across the Tasman.
In the early 1990s, Ford had nearly 20 per cent of the Australian market. In 1999, its share had slipped to 16.1 per cent. Last year, when it lost $19.7 million - the first time it had been in the red since 1993 - its share had dropped to 14.5 per cent.
It sold 87,900 passenger vehicles last year, its worst result in Australia since 1991. Of that, 60,460 were Falcons. Holden Australia, meanwhile, sold 83,610 Commodores.
Ford Australia president Geoff Polites has said that boosting sales of the home-grown Falcon was the key to a return to profitability.
In New Zealand also, sales of the Commodore to date this year are running well ahead of Falcon. At the end of July, Ford had sold 2311 Falcons and Holden 3397 Commodores, making the Commodore New Zealand's best-selling car for 12 straight months.
The new Falcon is likely to be a more powerful car-for-car than the Commodore. Much of its appeal centres around the lineup of engines.
The new 5.4-litre V8 replaces the ageing 5-litre Windsor engine. In standard Falcons it will come with three valves a cylinder. In high-performance Tickford (Ford's performance partner) models it will have four valves a cylinder and produce about 260kW. There will be a 300kW version to challenge the best from Holden Special Vehicles.
The 4-litre straight-six engine will be heavily revised and will come with twin overhead camshafts, something that Ford did in-house with the EA Falcon engine in the late 1980s.
The turbocharged version is expected to produce about 220kW and will go into the top-line XR6.
Ford plans to keep interest in next year's Falcon bubbling along with updates of its existing performance models, such as the 220kW XR8 T-Series, priced at $59,990 in New Zealand.
The Windsor engine has been modified to produce an extra 20kW.
Standard features include an adaptive automatic transmission, limited-slip differential, body-coloured rear spoiler and full body kit with 17-inch alloy wheels, power windows, cruise control, air-conditioning and a 100-watt audio system with an in-dash, six-stack CD player.
Yet another T-Series is expected to be unveiled at the Sydney Motor Show in October. The car is still under wraps, but is said to have a Windsor V8 stretched to 5.7-litres and producing 260kW. It is likely to have a new body kit for a more aggressive appearance and bigger, more powerful brakes.
Tickford's role in future Falcons is vital to Ford's success. Tickford Limited is a British tuning house which has mostly reworked vehicles for Ford in Europe, cars such as the Ford RS200 and Cosworth RS500.
Australian subsidiary Tickford Vehicle Engineering is owned 51 per cent by Tickford Limited and 49 per cent by Ford Australia.
It began business in Melbourne in 1991, reworking the EB Falcon range without much sales success.
* The AV model name for the 2001 Falcon is yet to be confirmed. Ford Australia was reminded that AV is short for "average". AW could be used in an "aw, shucks" context, and AX could easily be given an E and the AXE. Also apparently unsuitable is AY and AZ. A designation Ford would never consider for the Falcon is AO, or "adults only".