Dec 2003 Madder Mag Ute Comparo – Drive Impressions
Last issue we asked the question:
Is there enough room in the Ford BA stable for both the bold XR8 and the tougher XL One-tonner? The Madder team recently had the opportunity for a back-to-back flogging, now read on….
As I negotiated my way out of the carpark I noticed something shared between the two vehicles is the light steering although the XL felt a more responsive. Turning onto the main road out of the dealer I discovered just how much of a torque monster the new Barra really is. A brief inspection prior to climbing in showed that this vehicle, in line with it’s performance appliques, had tyres set up for the ¼ mile. Pressures were down at 20-25psi as is common practice with the straight-line brigade. I almost expected to see some classification notes scribbled on the side window from the previous visit to Calder. As cluey as this setup was it didn’t stop the copious wheel-spin evident as I cut across oncoming traffic. By contrast the XR8 needs a real kick in the guts to provoke this sort of hairy-chested performance. The XL’s tune for low-down torque was clear once everything was back in shape and I was off down the highway. The XR8 has reputation for feeling a bit soft at low revs possibly to protect it’s touch-and-go driveline including the new and unproven “Sports” Sequential Shift Auto. The XL seems to have a “no-holds-barred” approach, which is a real tribute to the bullet-proof column-shift option unfortunately not extended to the XR series.
In traffic the Barra was a beauty. The drive-by-wire in concert with the good tune of the computer ensured spirited pickup without the peakiness of the XR8. Also noted is the smooth, strong power through the range whereas the XR8 has a kick at 3500rpm or so that can be disconcerting compared to its low rev laziness. This characteristic of the XR8 results in a turbo-lag feel not evident in the XL. The light steering of the one-tonner means that cornering can be a bit violent. Thankfully the fabric trim provides grippiness lacking in the optional leather of the XR8, and this, like the contoured steering wheel, inspires confidence. As the Barra was pushed into the higher-revs there is a pure-bred roughness to the engine note that is literally spine-tingling. The superior wider tray took a bit of getting used to as it protrudes more than the XR’s Style-side box, a small price to pay to carry real loads! While I’m on the subject, one can’t go past the simplicity of the tailgate mechanism on the optional Ford tray. The latch of the XR8 has failed me twice resulting in inconvenient time-wasting visits to the dealer. The economy of the Barra also became apparent over the 20km journey from and to our generous dealer. Initially I was alarmed to see that the fuel level was close to empty. I ultimately realised that this was intentional to demonstrate just how little juice the 6-pot needs despite its performance. I returned it with the needle showing barely less than empty. This would show the dealer that I had every confidence that Ford had built a true environmentally-conscious performer, and that they should have no trouble getting to the nearest petrol station on the fumes left in the tank.
Ultimately my time with the XL was too short and I would have loved to have taken it to Sandown where the XR8 has failed me before. Something tells me that this magnificent piece of blue-oval work, the BA Falcon XL 182kw Auto One-tonner would be up to the task and beg for more.
Possessed by FF and the Silver Devil