Too Good To Be True?
Falcon hits a six
The Sydney Morning Herald
Friday April 1 2005
A gearbox once exclusive to Jaguars and Aston Martins is destined for locally made Ford sedans, writes JOSHUA DOWLING.
Ford will have the most technically advanced automatic transmission in an Australian-made car when an updated Falcon goes on sale in October.
In a major coup, Ford's performance and luxury models will be available with a six-speed automatic transmission - the first time such a gearbox has been fitted to a locally made car.
Significantly, Ford will leapfrog Holden, which amid much fanfare late last year released a five-speed automatic gearbox for its V6-powered performance and luxury models.
The Falcon's six-speed automatic is being sourced from the respected German transmission specialist, ZF.
Ford Australia will not confirm what changes, if any, are to be made to the Falcon later this year to bring the range into line with the latest emission standards, as well as to give it a visual freshen-up before Holden releases an all-new Commodore in March next year. (An all-new Falcon is not due until 2007).
A number of Ford Falcon GTs with German number plates have been spotted in the car park at ZF's German head office and Drive's European sources have confirmed they are being tested with the new six-speed transmission.
The Falcon's six-speed automatic will be far more expensive than the humble four-speed auto it replaces.
For this reason, Drive understands the six-speed will be reserved for the upstream models such as the Fairmont Ghia, Fairlane and LTD and the performance models such as the XR6 Turbo, Typhoon, XR8 (pictured) and GT. It is expected the rest of the range will retain the four-speed auto.
Other makers to use the Falcon's new six-speed automatic include Jaguar and Aston Martin - brands owned by Ford's luxury division, the Premier Automotive Group.
Drive believes that Ford has used its enormous buying power to lower the costs and enable such an expensive and technically advanced gearbox to be fitted to Falcons.
Ford was forced to fit an expensive ZF gearbox because no other automatic could comfortably and reliably handle the huge power outputs of Ford's latest range of engines.
The shift to a ZF gearbox is certain to take Holden by surprise, in more ways than one: first, that Ford is prepared to get such an exotic transmission and, second, that it can afford it.
Ever since the disaster that was the AU Falcon, Ford has adopted a policy to be a technical leader wherever possible. The AU Falcon was built to a price - and it showed - while the BA was built to a higher standard of excellence at a substantial cost.
Fortunately, Ford's investment has been rewarded with stronger Falcon sales, although the company says there is still room for improvement on the sales charts.
WHO WAS FIRST?
Ford was first to fit automatic transmission to a locally made sedan. The XK Falcon of 1960 (pictured) was available with a choice of "three on the tree" or a three-speed automatic. Holden followed a year later with the three-speed Hydramatic gearbox in the 1961 EK Holden as an option. The R Series Valiant followed with an automatic option in 1962.
Sound very nice, but the date of the article worries me........