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Falcon Utes hit the road

words - Ken Gratton
The latest load-carrying Falcons have been released to the media

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The second shoe has dropped. Ford executives yesterday presented local media with details of the marketing strategy for the new FG Falcon Ute range and subsequently let the press loose in the cars on a drive program.

In keeping with BF II series, the FG model range will be structured in two streams, general purpose vehicles, comprising the base Ute and R6 model, and a sports-oriented subset based around XR6, XR6 Turbo and XR8.

Also following on from the superseded range, the FG variants are available in both cab chassis and 'styleside' utility configurations -- although the Turbo and XR8 variants are not available as cab chassis variants.

The Utes gain most of the substantial upgrades already previewed in the FG sedan (more here) -- and a few unique changes besides.

Shared with the sedan models are the five-speed automatic option for lower-spec variants, the upgraded engines (six-speed manual is standard), the 'Virtual Pivot Control Link' front suspension and the forward-mounted steering rack. In addition, the Ute also adopts the sedan's optional satellite navigation, iPod integration for the audio system and Bluetooth connectivity.

The base engine is the inline six, developing 195kW of power at 6000rpm and 391Nm of torque at 3250rpm. This engine is the default powerplant for the base Ute, the R6 and the naturally-aspirated XR6. These variants, plus the XR6 Turbo and XR8 all match up their engines with the standard six-speed Tremec manual transmission.

The previously-mentioned five-speed automatic transmission option is available for the naturally-aspirated sixes and the automatic transmission option for XR6 Turbo and XR8 is the ZF-sourced six-speed unit.

As a further option, Ford offers a single-fuel LPG (E-Gas) engine, which develops 156kW at 4750rpm and 371Nm at 2750rpm. This is available as an alternative to the base Ute, R6 and naturally-aspirated XR6. The only transmission available with this engine is the four-speed automatic carried over from the BF II range.

Leaving aside the generational changes which flow down from the FG sedan, the big news for the FG Ute range includes a column auto option with third-seat, plus tweaks to the load-carrying section and suspension.

Ford's clever third seat option converts the centre console and armrest into a seat suitable for smaller adults. This is done by removing the headrest and reattaching it inverted, followed by tipping the centre armrest back against the rear bulkhead to form a seat back. The seat is actually positioned 100mm aft of the driver and primary passenger's seats to reduce interference with the driver.

Unlike the Commodore, the Falcon ute retains a leaf-sprung live-axle rear end. That said, suspension engineers under the leadership of Alex de Vlugt, Ford's Vehicle Dynamics Manager, have worked wonders with it.

It continues to provide hefty payload capacity, but does so without major detriment to ride or roadholding. The leaf spring shackles are now located by three pins, to reduce squirm and improve the distribution of the payload, aiding the car's steering and handling.

There are effectively three levels of suspension: 750kg payload, one-tonne heavy-duty payload and 500kg sports-tune payload. The 750kg payload is standard for the base Styleside Ute, which can be optioned up to the one-tonne suspension. One-tonne suspension is standard for the base and R6 cab chassis variants and -- as well as the base Styleside model -- can also be specified as an option for the R6 Styleside Ute and the XR6 cab chassis model. Sports suspension is standard for the R6 Styleside and all XR models.

Monotube dampers are specified for the rear suspension of the R6 Styleside and XR models (500kg capacity sports suspension), also improving vehicle dynamics. Vehicles configured to carry a 750kg (base Ute) or one-tonne payload, are equipped with twin-tube dampers.

With a heavy-duty towpack option and load-levelling kit, all automatic variants can tow up to 2300kg. The standard towpack allows automatic models to tow up to 1600kg, or 1200kg for manuals.

On the safety front, there's good and bad news. Unlike Holden's VE Ute, the Falcon offers the (optional) safety of side head/thorax impact airbags, but lacks the Holden's stability control.

Development of stability control for the Ute is in the pipeline and the delay is a "resource issue", with the Ute's stability control program development placed on the back-burner to accommodate the full launch of the sedan and the Ute, according to Sinead McAlary, Ford's Manager for Public Affairs.

"We didn't do what our competitors did and launch Ute 18 months afterwards, so we're working on a stability control system for Ute, but [it's] not available at the moment."

Across the range, the Ford is fitted as standard with ABS and EBD. Traction control comes standard with the XR models and the Turbo and XR8 variants are also fitted with a limited slip differential -- an option for all other variants.

Ford has announced that the FG Falcon Ute range will be in dealerships from June and pricing is as follows:

FG Commercials
Falcon Ute Cab Chassis six-speed manual $27,795
Falcon Ute Styleside Box six-speed manual $28,195
R6 Cab Chassis six-speed manual $29,795
R6 Styleside Box six-speed manual $30,195
XR6 Cab Chassis six-speed manual $34,090
XR6 Styleside Box six-speed manual $34,490
XR6 Turbo Styleside Box six-speed manual $38,490
XR8 Styleside Box six-speed manual $38,490

Options
Automatic trans. in lieu of manual $1000
E-Gas (with four-speed auto) $2400
16-inch one-tonne alloy wheels $1000
17-inch alloy wheels $1000
19-inch alloy wheels $2400
Automatic climate control $2295
Traction control $750
Leather seat trim $1100
Prestige sound $700
Satellite navigation $2000
Prestige paint $400
one-tonne suspension $495
Tow pack (1600kg) $495
Tonneau cover (Styleside Box) $270
Aluminium tray (Cab Chassis) $1460
Technology Pack $450
Safety Pack $600
XR Sports Pack $1000
XR Luxury Pack $4000

Look out for out launch review coming soon.


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Published : Friday, 9 May 2008


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