From The Canberra Times
By PETER BREWER
IN AN image-building move and as a high-profile send-off for the venerable Windsor V8, Ford will build a limited run of 5.6-litre utes called the Pursuit.
The tyre-smoking XR8 load-toter uses the same hand-built engine as the recently-revealed Series Three Tickford Falcon sedans and will be priced from $54,250, which undercuts its direct rival, the Holden Special Vehicles Maloo R8, by $2200.
Ford will build only 250 XR8 Pursuits, which should see out the company's supply of its Windsor V8s before the introduction of a new "modular" 5.4-litre V8 Falcon in early October.
The Pursuit, which was shown publicly for the first time at last year's Sydney Motor Show, is a further demonstration of Ford's intention to deliver Tickford-engineered models which will compete directly with HSV rivals.
Adopting bigger 18-inch alloy wheels and lower-profile tyres for the Pursuit reduces its load-carrying capability even further, down from a modest 530kg in the standard XR8 styleside model to a new low of just 400kg.
Lighter than the sedan, the Pursuit is also the fastest-accelerating production Falcon of any model, the manual version rocketing from rest to 100km/h in 5.97sec and dashing to 400 metres in 14.3sec.
It's also the first Falcon ute without electronic speed limiting, which theoretically permits a top speed of 250km/h.
Like the T3 sedan range, the Pursuit is not so much intended to set performance targets which would have the road-safety lobby up in arms but more about - in the words of Ford Australia president Geoff Polites - giving Ford fans "equal bragging rights" with their Holden rivals.
It's a tribal thing, you understand.
While there's little doubt the Pursuit will be a rapid device, getting 250kW of power and 500Nm to the ground through an old-fashioned leaf-suspended live axle promises to be an interesting experience for many owners.
"The original Pursuit ute (with 220kW). . . was a phenomenal success story for us," Mr Polites said.
"The only feedback we got from customers was the fact that they wanted more power. We think the new Pursuit 250 more than delivers on that front."
The ute's engine gains all the benefits passed down through the engine program for the Tickford Series Three sedans: lightweight pistons, billet conrods, unique high-lift camshafts and heavy-duty valves, and a huge 82mm throttle body.
Like the sedan models, there's so much reciprocating mass inside the engine that the crankshaft requires a special locating "girdle" to keep it rigidly located for long-term durability.
Power is fed down through a Mexico-sourced Tremec five-speed manual transmission to a limited slip-rear diff., via a two-piece tailshaft.
The braking system is of Ford's "premium" variety, although an optional Brembo package (with 355mm rotors up front and 330mm at the rear) is offered for a pricey $5350 extra.
The interior has charcoal leather seats, a 240km/h speedo with blue graphic display, six-stack in-dash CD, air-con, twin airbags, cruise control and a Momo steering wheel and gear knob.
Ford insists it's not making much money out of the Pursuit utes because of the labour-intensive cost of hand-building the engines. The Falcon ute was one of Ford's biggest success stories last year - with almost 17,000 sold - and that momentum continued in January when it outsold the Commodore ute by almost two to one.