Sprint to the finish line

Double-barrel high-performance salute to Falcon with 325kW XR6 and 345kW XR8

TOBY HAGON

HERE they are – the last new models to ever wear the Ford Falcon badge in Australia.

After 56 years of local production, the famous nameplate is getting a 345kW send-off in the form of the V8-powered XR8 Sprint.

The 5.0-litre supercharged engine was a “special project” that involved an extensive development program as part of Ford’s $300 million R&D spend in 2015.

The V8’s 345kW/575Nm output gives it a modest 10kW boost over regular XR8s but sits 6kW below the 351kW output of the GT-F, the last of the FPV Falcons that was launched in 2014. Ford always claimed that GT-F would be the most powerful locally produced Ford, although until now we didn’t know it would be the only car to get that 351kW tune.

The XR8 Sprint will be joined in dealerships by an XR6 Sprint, a 325kW/576Nm version of the XR6 Turbo and the most powerful version of Ford’s much-loved straight-six, which began its forcefed career in the 2002 BA.

The XR6 Sprint’s output is 15kW more than the 310kW produced by the old FPV F6. Many (wrongly) believed Ford would simply slot the F6’s engine into the Sprint.

And there’s even more power available. Both engines have a transient overboost function for short higher-output bursts; in the XR6 it peaks at 380kW/660Nm and in the XR8 400kW/650Nm.

Visual changes to the Sprints are minimal, and surprisingly understated. The massive goldpainted Brembo calipers are the biggest give-away; they’re the same six-piston fronts and four-piston rears used on the GT-F.

Bumpers and panels are unchanged – although the fog-light surrounds within have changed – leaving the new rear lip spoiler and black 19-inch wheels to do most of the talking. The chrome strip across the boot has been painted body colour and the XR6 Sprint picks up the XR8’s wing mirrors with built-in indicators.

The XR6 also picks up the XR8’s wider rear tyres, helping tame its massive torque. It also gets a hockey-stick graphic from the rear wheelarches to the tail-lights, while the XR8 gets a unique black sticker across all four doors, as well as a painted black roof and matching black lip spoiler.

The XR6 Sprint continues with a single large oval exhaust and the XR8 with its quad pipes and bulging bonnet.

Inside, there’s a smattering of Sprint badges, including on the scuff plates, and the seats are a mix of Alcantara and leather.

Just 1400 Sprints will be produced, with 150 going to New Zealand, leaving 500 XR6s and 750 XR8s for Australian Ford faithful to fight over.

The auto-only XR6 Sprint costs $54,990 – $9300 more than regular XR6s, which will only continue for police purchases – while the XR8 Sprint is $59,990 for a manual and $62,190 for an auto. That’s $6500 more than the regular XR8.

Both Sprint models will hit Ford showrooms in May.

Six and out

The 325kW engine in the XR6 Sprint will go down as the most powerful production six-cylinder to emerge from Australia. It will also go down as the most powerful all-Aussie engine ever produced because the V8s that out-thump it these days are local iterations of American designs.

The roots of the 4.0-litre straight six go back to 1960, but the latest twin-cam turbocharged version bears almost no resemblance.

When the 500 XR6 Sprints are snapped up it will be the end of the line for a fantastic engine.

Badge cred

Ford’s Sprint-badged muscle-car heritage began with the ‘63˝’ US Falcon Sprint.

Featuring a 260ci (4.3-litre) Windsor V8, (4.3-litre) Windsor V8, shoehorned into a firstgen two-door body (think XM-XP Hardtop), it was the very first Falcon V8. A new-look US Falcon followed for ’64, carrying over the mechanicals in the youth-oriented Sprint, but its appeal was short-lived. The Mustang launched just six months later, and even a bigger 289ci (4.7-litre) V8 couldn’t save the Falcon Sprint.

It was dumped after the ’65 model year, but its spirit lives on in Jim Richard’s Muscle Car Masters racer (pictured). i t fi