Herald Sun GT article
The name says it all. Even better, the 2003 GT does it all. It's not going to blast around Bathurst, but that's about the only missing link in the comeback plan for a Ford that's still remembered as the best of the breed from the hero days of the 1970s.
The new-age muscle car has speed to burn, looks the part and is great value, from $59,850. it also raises the rivalry with Holden Special Vehicles to a new level and confirms Ford Performance Vehicles as a company that's deadly serious.
It took a big decision and a lot of commitment to put the GT back in Ford's showrooms.
But FPV has delivered with a car that's more than a collection of body bits and a big engine.
The 21st-century GT is a well-developed and well-integrated package built around a locally assembled 5.4-litre quad-cam V8 engine.
Its suspension is tweaked and tuned for local conditions. It has good brakes, sports seats that grip and a body kit that says GT but doesn't shout about it.
The GT is running up against a wide range of rivals, though most people will see it as the natural enemy of cars from Holden Special Vehicles.
It undercuts the HSV contenders on price and value, but gives away power to the Gen III go machines.
GT buyers could also be looking at anything from a Lexus IS300 to a compact Jaguar, a big-engined 3-Series BMW or even a sports-focused MG.
First up, Ford had to ensure the GT was a real Falcon GT. It had to give the car the right heart and lungs for the job by developing a V8 engine that produces 290kW of power and 520Nm of torque.
To put it into context, the XR8 Falcon comes to showrooms with 260kW and 500Nm.
The GT matches the HSV starter cars on power and beats them on torque, despite their capacity advantage. But you don't have to go too far into HSV territory to run up against the 300kW motor used in the GTS sedan and the Coupe.
The Falcon GT has a smooth-shifting five-speed manual gearbox. Its tailshaft is two-piece to handle the car's torque and speed, with a limited-slip differential in the tail.
The fully independent suspension is set lower and firmer than the XR's, but it is still not racecar taut, and FPV has developed a brake package with larger grooved rotors and high-performance calipers.
The GT rolls on 18-inch alloy rims wrapped by 245 Dunlop SP9000 tyres.
There are three models in the line-up, with the more extroverted GT-P on top. For $69,850, it gets better Brembo brakes, different seats, six-spoke alloy wheels, automatic airconditioning and better CD sound.
The Pursuit Ute is also part of the program, priced at $54,850.
Despite the GT's premium place in the Falcon family, there are still some options. There is an automatic gearbox (no cost on the GT-P), leather trim, a sunroof and superstar Brembo brakes.
But the GT has all the right gear to set the scene, from its muscular body bits to chromed mesh in the grille and Momo steering wheel.
On the road
WE WERE introduced to the GT during a spirited sprint along the Great Ocean Rd with V8 Supercar ace John Bowe doing the driving.
He made the feisty Falcon sing and dance, covering ground with incredible pace and poise.
Later, we chose a basic GT ahead of the GT-P to see if it was as good as we believed on the preview drive.
First impression? The GT doesn't look as bold as you might expect, but it still turns heads.
The low-key image is a good thing these days, with police curbing keen drivers, but the GT still has enough presence to mark its territory.
It has an old-fashioned V8 rumble, rocking on its springs when you pull up at the lights.
It's a reassuring feeling and proves Ford knew what really counted in the V8 program.
We could do without the silly push-button starter, which is tucked almost out of sight up alongside the dials, but that's a minor niggle.
Plant your foot and the GT feels strong, though not overwhelming. Then the tacho goes past 4000 revs and the engine goes ballistic.
It has a complete change of character and you have to get to the gear lever quickly to stop the 5.4 slapping up against the rev limiter. It's the first Falcon engine that's felt so swift and strong, and we love it.
The FPV V8 also has an instant response that's missing from many of today's high-output motors.
You only have to tickle the throttle to know it's ready to go.
Overtaking is a romp, and it's not too bad at the pumps, with a test average of 15.4 litres/100km.
The five-speed Tremec gearbox doesn't have a trendy sixth speed, but the ratios are stacked close for a strong surge of acceleration at all times. It's a much smoother shifter than the rival HSV six-speeder.
The GT makes its real pace with a well-sorted, neutral chassis. Turn the wheel and it goes where you want. Then massage the throttle to choose your speed and cornering balance.
The fast Falcon has more than enough grip for most people, but the best thing is the way it sits. It's calm and composed, even at silly speeds.
It can feel a bit unstable if you slam on the brakes and jerk the wheel, but basic balance is more neutral than a HSV car, which means it will feel less threatening to most drivers.
The brakes are good, but spirited drivers will probably need the extra power of the optional Brembos.
We were less impressed with the cabin. The seats are great and the car is comfy and well equipped, but it has FPV script on the dials, not GT, and the Momo steering wheel rim has the same centre section as on a Ghia. We'd also prefer a more impressive GT badge and a dashboard with the same carbon fibre-style trim as the doors.
We did some checking and found it would be costly to make a dedicated GT cabin, so FPV had good reason for going the way it has.
The Falcon GT is a massive move by Ford but one that's certain to pay off in sales.
It is a five-star driver's car and, right now, it's our first choice for Aussie performance driving.
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