Ford's V8 sedan is not dead -- it's just having a break. That's the good news... The bad -- the return of the Falcon XR8 to the Ford line-up could be at least 12 months away with development work yet to start.
"Regarding the XR8, all I can say to you is: 'stay tuned'. It is very much part of the Ford line-up and it will be for many years to come," the boss of Ford Australia, Marin Burela, said at the launch of the supercharged FPV GT in Melbourne this week.
"We need to make sure we don't let go the things that actually work for us. So we're working on some exciting things and we'll have more to talk to you about next year."
Emissions regulations killed the current Falcon XR8 in June this year and Ford Australia currently has no replacement.
The Carsales Network understands that Ford decided two years ago to not replace the XR8, and leave the V8 business to Ford Performance Vehicles and its new supercharged V8-powered Falcon GT. But Ford Australia apparently had a recent change of heart after angry XR8 owners contacted dealers and head office pleading for a new model to be built.
The XR8 does not sell in huge numbers, accounting for less than 5 per cent of total Falcon sales. Its single biggest buyers are police highway patrol fleets. But it is an important flagship model for the mainstream Ford brand, asserts Burela.
Media outlets have had bets each way on what engine will power the next XR8. At times it's been reported the XR8 will get a de-tuned version of the FPV supercharged V8 while the Mustang's non-supercharged 5.0-litre V8 has also been mooted.
The Carsales Network has been told the decision has not been made. Indeed, Ford is yet to start development work on the new XR8. However, we believe the new XR8 will go the Mustang route.
This makes sense as the engine will be cheaper and easier to install than the supercharged FPV unit. And while it ensures a performance and price gap between FPV and XR8, the 5.0-litre Mustang unit already has more power and torque (and better economy) than the old XR8's 5.4-litre V8;
"We thought it was the right thing to do, to bring out the FPV first and get that established and moving without going through the process of crowding the information out there too much... With the Focus RS, the FPV range, the motor show, the XR8 all coming at the same time. We just need to do this in a very well managed and staged way," Burela said.
Perhaps the change of heart came about after Ford announced a "global commitment" to performance cars.
"The Ford company globally has for the first time in many years come out and said we will have performance cars formally placed on our cycle plans around the world," Burela said.
"Derek Kuzak, our group vice president for product development, has come out and publicly stated that performance cars are part of our heritage and it's something that we're committed to and something that we will continue to develop and invest in.
"Jost Capito, our global performance director, who I worked closely with on programs in Europe on the Fiesta, and some work we did on the [Focus] RS and the XR5, is now leading the global initiative on behalf of Ford Motor Company bringing together all of the resources and experts that we have around the world to ensure that we are always on the front edge," Burela explained.
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